“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” ~ Carl Jung
It is a sad day — when you discover people aren’t as good as you imagined.
Sadder still when you discover — neither are you.
I know when I saw my father display his ferocious temper and my mother her debilitating depression — it shattered me. There was so much about my parents I didn’t know: deep sadness, dark insecurities — stuff that as a kid I could never understand, only fear.
Then, when I discovered my own shadow, I really wanted to jump out of my skin. I wanted no part of my dark side.
When, at fourteen, I discovered alcohol I thought I’d found a way to outrun my shadow, but I never did.
I wasn’t the only one on the run.
My neighbors were, too — not necessarily with alcohol, but other forms of mind-numbing, emotion-stifling, soul-killing practices.
Always to the to same end: to keep consciousness — unconscious.
“A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor.” ~ Carl Jung
Indeed, the only time I shared my dark secrets was with a priest, cloaked in the anonymity of a confessional. Even then I’d often run from the church for fear of being identified.
But my shadow never left me and that fact puzzled me. Why, if I were a child of the light, was I chased by darkness?
Everywhere I went — there went my shadow.
“Depression is like a woman in black. If she turns up, don’t shoo her away. Invite her in, offer her a seat, treat her like a guest and listen to what she wants to say.” ~ Carl Jung
Then, in college, I made a remarkable new discovery. A course on Jung offered a different perspective.
“The shadow self is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.” ~ Carl Jung
Wow. My brain just exploded.
Self knowledge begins with my first acknowledging the dark aspects of my personality. Now, that wouldn’t come without pain.
”There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~ Carl Jung
I’d spent so many years running, how could I now just stop?
Well, it happened — precisely at the moment:
- When NOT facing my shadow was way more painful than facing it.
- When I could not live for one more minute like a caged lion.
If getting out meant making peace with my darkness?
SO BE IT.
My incentive was overwhelming. I wanted the hell out of my cage. So I lit up my darkness with the truth about myself.
I wrote a narrative of my whole life, whole kit and caboodle, faults, warts and all, from A to Z, beginning to end. I called my story Evening Prayers Morning Promises.
It turned out to be one the most exhilarating exercises of my life. I thought acknowledging my shadow would break me down but it didn’t.
It broke me open.
I know others have discovered equally powerful ways to shed their fear of shadows and come to accept what they find — the good, the bad and the ugly. They discover, as I did, a wholeness, a reuniting of body, soul and spirit.
For me, the real upside of embracing my shadow was having my craving for friendship satisfied beyond my wildest imagination. I had been so lonely while on the run. I found a community of other souls willing to lay open their shadow selves.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” ~ Carl Jung
I was lonely no more.
Just a thought…
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