We All Have A Shadow: Let’s Own It

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Dave:  A good friend and talented colleague in Syracuse, Christine Matteson, a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist and Mental Health Counselor, sent me a copy of her recent newsletter: Creative Arts Counseling and Consulting.

Chris has a number of titles,  but her dancer/dance therapist self is a version of her I find particularly intriguing. In recent years we have had many interesting conversations about Dance and Therapy and she has done some seminars for my students on that topic. She and some colleagues do creative dance groups at a nearby state hospital. Dance brings out a blend of vitality and imagination, that helps patients to dance away briefly from their patient roles. This dancer side of her particularly enjoys dancing with the always stimulating set of ideas that come from Carl Jung

In this piece of writing she deals with an issue that has been troubling me ever since Trump showed up as a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make me much different from millions of others. But it is not just his grandiose, self-serving duplicity that upsets me. There is something more complex and elusive having to do with the fact my attention to him sends my attention toward my inner Trump. He reminds me of my inner Trump; that narcissistic grandiose pretentious fraud who I wish wasn’t there. He reminds me of my fears of being a truculent deceptive fraud.


by Christine Matteson

I wanted to write a bit about how the election has ignited and spurred on activism and peaceful resistance.  Without talking specifically about “sides”, I think the coming together of people for the Women’s March on January 21 was truly remarkable.  To see people standing up for what they believe, getting clear about their values and beliefs was wonderful.  The Women’s March was a peaceful coming together of women and men and children to express themselves and advocate for equality, human rights, universal healthcare, and social justice. I haven’t seen anything like it in my lifetime, for sure!

No matter what side of the aisle you are on, you have to admit that
“Peaceful protests are the hallmark of democracy!” (This was an actual tweet from President Trump.)

At least 3.3 million people participated in the Women’s March across the country.  People across the world marched in sister marches in solidarity with the United States.

And..this is no “alternative fact”:  There were zero arrests during the Women’s March on Washington.

So how does the women’s march relate to psychology and
Creating your health?

With the division in our country, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Jungian concept of the shadow.  The shadow is an unconscious aspect of personality which our conscious ego doesn’t identify in itself. Basically it’s the part(s) of ourselves that we tend to reject.

When we become conscious of our shadow, we begin to integrate these
aspects of self.  In other words, we become more authentic, more genuine. We then have the capacity to make conscious decisions around how we respond and behave to both internal and external stressors in our lives.  Facing our shadow, we bring awareness and light to these “negative”, dark aspects of our psyche.

The shadow plays a huge role in not just the United States but
in all political conflicts.

When we reject certain parts of ourselves, we often project these parts outward onto others. When we notice other people who seem to be embodying our own shadow qualities, we typically have a very strong negative reaction to them.

In politics, we can make these “others” into our enemies.  Think about the hostility today that exists and is fostered by the current administration.  You have to ask yourself, who benefits from seeking to further divide us from each other?

When you make somebody or some organization your “enemy”, you are identifying your own shadow side with that “enemy”. While the shadow is mostly representative of our dark or negative side, it can also include positive qualities we push aside and refuse to acknowledge about ourselves.

Everyone has a shadow.  A friend and I got talking recently and she told me about a conversation where she recognized her own shadow was showing.

The other day, she said she attempted to have a conversation about certain news outlets that were not allowed into the White House press briefing.  When the person she was talking with began to degrade those news organizations, she asked if he had evidence of “fake”stories that they printed.  He did not.  She said she understood that his opinion was that he didn’t like those publications. She then said she didn’t understand why the man began to degrade and discredit those news outlets when he didn’t have any evidence.  She remained calm and was genuinely curious at this point. Well, the discussion took a sharp turn…and she was called some choice names and accused of  being unkind and calling anyone who supported Trump, half the country, he said, of being ignorant.  He also stated that she just needed to accept that she lost the election.

So here’s where she recognized that her shadow emerged…She said that she responded by saying, “I didn’t lose an election, because I didn’t run for office.  I said that the behavior of trying to discredit an organization without evidence was ignorant, that I certainly didn’t mention you specifically or half of the country.”

For this woman, she admitted being sarcastic in her tone after being called names. She talked about the smugness and recognized that she didn’t particularly like her inner “snarky” shadow.  While it sounds clear enough that she was being verbally attacked and that it may be a natural defense to meet some of that projected anger with sarcasm, she said, “That’s my go-to defense”.  She then recognized other times where her use sarcasm fueled further division in relationships as she defended against genuine intimacy. This interchange helped her to bring awareness to her shadow.  She said, “Ouch!, My ego doesn’t like being called out, but it’s good to see and acknowledge all of who I am, and not just get into thinking I’m just some nice person with the best of intentions all the time”.  We laughed at this as we both recognized of our many flaws and imperfections.

Further, she said that when someone is projecting a lot of anger towards her and she knows that it is the result of some shadow aspect of that person and not her, that she felt it would be easier to either refuse to engage or to disengage earlier.  By acknowledging her own shadow she felt better able to make choices about future behavior.

The Women’s March and other protests of resistance can remain peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations of support and solidarity.  When they are conducted with intention and awareness of our individual and collective shadow(s), we can continue to make decisions about how to message others from an integrated place of consciousness.

So I hope you are beginning to see the benefits of doing shadow work and working with those unconscious parts of ourselves.  It serves you to face your own shadow and bring awareness and light to the dark side of your own personality.

Be brave enough to look within, risk letting some of the air out of ego’s balloon, so that you are better able to look inward to do so.  When we feel the projections of others upon us, we need to make conscious choices to engage or disengage, (and there will be times to refrain from engaging!). Become mindful of your own shadowy aspects so you can have more genuine and authentic relationships with others and begin to recognize our sameness and acknowledge our differences with respect.

Jung said it best:

“Projections of all kinds obscure our view of our fellow men, spoiling all possibility of genuine human relationships.  And there is an additional disadvantage in projecting our shadow. If we identify our own shadow with, say, the Communists or the Capitalists, a part of our own personality remains on the opposing side. The result is that we shall constantly (though involuntarily) do things behind our own backs that support this other side, and thus we shall unwittingly help our enemy. If, on the contrary, we realize the projection and can discuss matters without fear and hostility, dealing with the other person sensibly, then there is a chance of mutual understanding or at least of a truce. (pg. 182)”.
~C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols
We all have an inner Republican and Democrat. Can you recognize the parts of yourself that resonate with both sides?

How can you begin to bring your shadow into the light of awareness?

Check out Christine Matteson at: http://www.christinematteson.com



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