Monday evening, Jan and I were walking to our car in the garage when Jan noticed that the side mirror on my truck, which was parked next to the car, was dangling, obviously having been struck. I was caught completely unaware, blindsided in more ways than one. Just an hour before I had driven home from the office. How could I not have noticed? Could I have done it myself while parking? Could I be that unconscious? Upon examination, it became evident that I couldn’t have done it while pulling the truck into the garage. Might somebody have struck the mirror and elected to drive off while the truck was parked at the office? I might have, at this thought, gone to a vulnerable, victimized place, but instead I found myself deeply pondering—how could I not have noticed, no matter what happened? What does it mean when the mirror that alerts you to what is coming up upon you is knocked out and you don’t even realize it? Welcome to shadowland.
Within twenty-four hours of this incident, having temporarily taped the mirror in place, Jan and I were together in the truck on a mission I had reluctantly agreed to. I stewed within, with feelings of anger, frustration, helplessness, powerlessness, and suspicion. I had indeed been blindsided. Welcome to shadowland.
Twenty-four hours after that, as I drove home alone from the office in my truck, listening contentedly and distractedly to NPR, the radio suddenly turned to static. All stations were lost. I turned off the radio; time to tune inward and shed light on shadowland. Jan and I later processed our drama, and the projections receded. With new awareness, we moved forward, enlightened by our excursion into shadowland.
Synchronistically, possession by and projection of, the shadow had been the theme of the week for many people I encountered, and it was my intention to write about it for this blog. It wasn’t until Thursday evening that I had the opportunity to read Jan’s blog from Wednesday, Recapitulation & The Shadow. Indeed, shadow is the energy of the week.
In his frustration with his students, who always tried to pin down his tentative concepts into final definitions, Jung is said to have remarked, in an exasperated state, that the shadow is the whole unconscious. In the broadest sense, the shadow is the part of us that stays in the dark. We may be completely unaware of this part of the self, though others might see its effects upon us quite clearly in our daily functioning. We may be somewhat aware of our shadow, but nonetheless, be completely rejecting of it, mortified and shamed by this inferior, under-socialized, underdeveloped aspect of ourselves.
Shadow requires light and an object to exist. When light encounters an object, it casts a shadow. If we understand consciousness as light and object as ego, we can understand shadow as intimately connected to ego, as the rejected or unknown, cast off part of it, which is sentenced to live in darkness. In the darkness the shadow exists as a living personality, an alter ego with a life of its own that is often experienced in the blindsided moments in our lives, when we become beings not in our right minds.
When we are born into this world, we are all socialized as we go through the various stages of development. We quickly learn what behaviors and traits are acceptable and those which must be repressed or abandoned. This necessary socialization causes a core fragmentation in the developing self. Traits and instinctive reactions, like strong emotions such as anger or intense expressions of basic needs, may be met with frowns. Interests and potentials might be discouraged for the sake of a standard curriculum or conventional wisdom. Hence, our shadow self contains many unlived potentials as well as basic instincts. Shadowland is also the container of traumatic experiences that are imbued with all kinds of intense energies awaiting the recognition and reconciliation that only consciousness can provide in some form of recapitulation.
In the meantime, these rejected siblings of our egos combine their energies and seek opportunities for recognition and life outside of shadowland. Freud identified verbal faux pas, what we call Freudian slips, as opportunities the shadow seizes to insert its point of view into our lives, much to the shame of the ego. Projections onto others, whom we don’t like yet find ourselves hopelessly, energetically bound to think and feel about, are other opportunities for our inner shadow to find a place in our lives. These attachments give our shadow vicarious life, as our ego remains unidentified with them yet, nonetheless, compulsively bound to include them in our lives. Finally, there is direct possession of our ego by our shadow self. This can happen when we alter consciousness through substance or lack of sleep, or simply through direct ambush by the shadow, as in the case of an intense mood, emotion, or unshakeable belief that takes possession of consciousness. At these times, we feel compelled to act out, live out, the personality of our shadow, as our ego is completely blindsided.
It is only with great effort that we might restrain ourselves in times of possession, yet until we can, we will not have the necessary energy to begin a process of recapitulation where we discover the deeper truths of the self. This recapitulation process opens the door to acceptance of the shadow, without judgment. This acceptance depotentiates the volatile energies of the shadow, born of rejection from consciousness. This process also opens the door to new possibility for life, as the deep well of energy and creative potential contained in the shadow may find new forms of expression.
Ultimately, developing a relationship with the shadow is the key to a fuller, richer life where the deeper resources of the self can be accessed and lived in an individuated state. Failure to do so results in fragmentation and extremist tactics on the part of the shadow, which is forced to become a terrorist who must blindside us to make its truths known. Would that we might comprehend the role of the terrorist on the world stage at this time. Would that, both on an individual and collective level, we would voluntarily visit our own shadowlands and reconcile with our own darker truths, rather than continue to project and war with our disowned shadow selves.
If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.
Until we meet again,