A Perspective on the Shadow

The world is a projection of our individual psyches, collected on a global screen {Marianne Williamson}        

          As you may have gathered by now, I am fascinated by the  universality of human behaviour patterns. Generally we do not take much note of them. We remain largely unconscious of not only how we each add to and amplify the good in the collective, but also about our personal contribution to making the world turn in ways we don’t like.

    Look at the Clown. Did you not immediately conjure up an image? His attire and appearance speak a universal language. We do not need words; we can tell immediately who this is. But generally aspects of self do not ‘dress up’ in universally recognisable attire. They are hardly discernable, and in any event we are not inclined to ‘own’ them.  It’s much easier to label others, assign blame and find fault with them for our own words, actions, liability and flawed character. We disown our 'shadow' and project it 'out there'. When it comes home, we play victim.

     Certain habitual individual and collective behaviour and reactions – sometimes perceived and described as national or cultural characteristics – are observable universally (archetypal).  When their dark tendencies are unleashed it can generate xenophobia and racism, repression, ethnic cleansing and genocide, terrorism, war and all the other miseries that blight our world. 

The ‘Shadow’ is the topic of this post because I have referred to it in passing without being explicit about what I mean, and because a colleague encountering some difficulties with a co-worker was having a bit of a vent.  She is the devil incarnate he said; too bad she can’t afford Prada. We both fell about with laughter.  At least he could see the funny side of it. But who or what is this devil that we are talking about?

       Some friends and a few extended family members go on endlessly about this devil ‘thing’.  As far as I am concerned there is no devil 'out there' - "We have met the enemy... and he is us - I Go Pogo".  Creating this devil 'out there' distances us from our own shadow behaviour.  The atmosphere becomes fraught with tension whenever I say this to certain people.  It is as if I had blasphemed in some way, wrongfooted and fooled by the devil!

          The madness of our daily lives is reflected back in the face of the paranoid schizophrenic. We abuse our children, keep them hungry and in poverty. They are used for the satisfaction of our sexual predilections even in our own homes, and as slave labour to provide the clothes we wear. The abuser turns up in society as the paedophile and people trafficker, and those employers who don't pay the minimum, never mind a living wage. We destroy our own dreams and that of others and it is reflected back in the face of those we call terrorists – the destroyer archetype. 
         Our universal (archetypical) behaviour patterns are Janus-faced or bi-polar: light/shadow or true/false. They represent both the duality within the human soul and in the world. The Shadow in our psyche represents both our unlived potential and disowned aspects of individual and collective personality projected on the world for good or ill.  And so life not lived in the light does an about face and becomes devil.  This is classical Jungian interpretation of how the shadow operates. I like that; good one Jungians.

          Knowing ourselves more deeply enables us to discard aspects of our perception, response and behaviour which no longer serve us and cause discord and disharmony, not just in our lives but also in the world, given that each one of us make up the collective.

Related posts: a) Archetypes...Politicians...and Tricksters (December 2012)/b) An Encounter with Archetypes (January 2013)


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