Confronting the Shadow

by | Nov 12, 2007 | Psychotherapy | 0 comments

The Shadow is a concept which is pretty much unknown in mainstream psychological thinking. This is a result I think of the general avoidance and suppression of Carl Jung’s work which arose as a result of the split between Freud and he in the early days of psychoanalytic history. I want to give here a brief look at this idea, and to point out its utility and descriptive power to some who may not have been exposed to it previously.

In brief, the Shadow consists of that part of our psyche which conflicts with our persona (which is the side of ourselves which we prefer to see, and which we want other’s to see). We suppress or repress this part of ourselves, and so generally the drives and desires which make up the Shadow become unconscious. It becomes apparent at times in our dreams as a particularly distasteful person, and at other times can be seen in unexplainable negative emotional projections which we sometimes have towards other people.

Much of the work of psychoanalysis can be explained in terms of becoming more and more aware of the shadow aspect of ourselves, and the process of owning and acknowledging one’s shadow can be very helpful in helping us to understand that much of how we interpret the actions of other’s, and in fact how we view the world, is determined by this “Shadow’s” remaining just out of our conscious awareness.

This also ties in with the idea of projection, in the sense that projection is typically an unconscious process. Things in ourselves of which we are conscious we are more likely to “own” as our own “stuff”. Things in ourselves of which we are unconscious we tend to project onto others, and call “theirs”.

Thus, much of the hatred and distrust which we aim towards others (and which is aimed towards us) can be explained as a lack of awareness of our own Shadow.


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