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The psyche is the world’s pivot: not only is it the one great condition for the existence of a world at all, it is also an intervention in the existing natural order, and no one can say with certainty where this intervention will finally end.


C. G. Jung


Before we consider Jung’s conception of the Shadow, it we would be necessary to summarily explain his theory and structure of personality. Being a former student of Freud, many of Jung’s concepts found its origins in Freudian psychoanalytical psychology, yet have met with great modifications and changes at the hands of Jung. However, I must add a caveat at this point. Any attempt to present a systematic survey of the theory and practice of analytical psychology – that approach to depth psychology which is based upon the discoveries of C.G. Jung – is from the very outset confronted with a paradox. On the one hand, a theoretical presentation is vitally necessary to enable any person to appreciate the meaning of Jung’s contributions. On the other hand, an adequately logical and systematic presentation is next to impossible because of the nature of the subject matter. The psyche does not operate along the lines of our accustomed rationality. And so any claim of objectivity must always be qualified by my own subjectivity.



The Structure of the Personality

In Jungian psychology the personality as a whole is called the psyche. The psyche embraces all thoughts, feeling, and behaviour, both conscious and unconscious. It functions as a guide which regulates and adapts the individual to his social and physical environment. The concept of the psyche affirms Jung’s primary idea that a person is a whole to begin with. He is not an assemblage of parts, each of which has been added through experience and learning. Man does not strive for wholeness, he is already born with it. What he must do throughout his life span, Jung says, is to develop this inherent wholeness to the greatest degree of differentiation, coherence, and harmony possible, and to guard against it breaking up into separate, autonomous, and conflicting systems. A disassociated personality is a deformed personality. Jung’s work as a psychoanalyst was to help patients recover their lost wholeness, and to strengthen the psyche so it could resist future dismemberment . Thus, for Jung, the ultimate goal of psychoanalysis is psychosynthesis.


According to Jung, the psyche is composed of numerous diversified but interacting systems and levels. Three levels in the psyche can be distinguished:

  1. Consciousness – this is the only part of the mind that is known directly by the individual. It possesses four mental functions which assist in its growing awareness, namely, thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. In addition to the four mental functions, there are two attitudes that determine the orientation of the conscious mind, extraversion and introversion. The ego is the name Jung uses for the organisation of the conscious mind; it is composed of conscious perceptions, memories, thoughts, and feelings. Although the ego occupies a small portion of the total psyche, it plays the vitally important function of gatekeeper to consciousness (unless it acknowledges the presence of an idea, a feeling, a memory, or a perception, it cannot be brought into awareness). The ego provides identity and continuity for a personality because by the selection and elimination of psychic material the ego can maintain a continuous quality of coherence in the individual personality. What determines what the ego will allow to become conscious and what it will reject? Partly it is determined by the dominant function of the personality (see above). For example, if a person is a feeling type, the ego will permit more emotional experiences to enter the consciousness. Partly it is due to the level of individuation reached (the process of individuation will be discussed below). The ego of a highly individuated person will allow more things to become conscious. And partly it is due to the intensity of the experience (very strong experiences can batter their way through the gates of the ego, whereas weak ones are easily repelled).
  2. The Personal Unconscious – Freud used the analogy of the tip of the iceberg to describe the size and importance of the conscious in relation to the unconscious. All the experiences that fail to gain recognition by the ego are stored up in the personal unconscious. This level of the mind adjoins the ego. It is the receptacle that contains all those psychic activities and contents which are incongruous with the conscious individuation or function. Or, they were once conscious experiences which have been repressed or disregarded for various reasons. All experiences that are too weak to reach consciousness, or are too weak to remain in consciousness, are stored in the personal unconscious. The personal unconscious may act like an elaborate filing system or memory bank. One interesting and important feature of the personal unconscious is that groups of contents (feelings, thoughts, memories) may clump together to form a cluster or constellation. Jung called them complexes. Based on his research, he discovered that these complexes are like little separate personalities within the total personality. They are autonomous, possess their own driving force, and can be very powerful in controlling our thoughts and behaviour.
  3. The Collective Unconscious – Jung contended that there was another level of the psyche which Freud overlooked. The discovery of the collective unconscious was considered a landmark in the history of psychology. According to Jung, the material in the collective unconscious is shared by all human beings and is part of our biological heritage. In other words, he believed that the mind of man is prefigured by evolution. What are the characteristics of this collective unconscious? It is that portion of the psyche which can be differentiated from the personal unconscious by the fact that its existence is not dependent upon personal experience (and therefore its contents may never have been conscious). The collective unconscious is a reservoir of latent images, usually called primordial images. They are predispositions or potentialities for experiencing and responding to the world in the same ways that his ancestors did. The contents of the collective unconscious exercise a performed pattern for personal behaviour to follow from the day the individual is born. The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes or prototypes (which will be explained below)



Archetypes – Imprints of the Generational Past

As was mentioned above, the contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. The word archetype simply means an original model after which other similar things are patterned. Jung wrote, "There are many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the forms of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action." These archetypes are not to be regarded as fully developed pictures in the mind like the memory images of past experiences in one’s life. It is more like a negative that has to be developed by experience – it is determined as to its content only when it becomes conscious and is therefore filled out with the material of conscious experience.


Although archetypes are separate structures in the collective unconscious they can form combinations. Since the archetypes are capable of interacting with each other in various combinations, this also becomes a factor in producing personality differences among individuals. Archetypes are universal: that is, everyone inherits the same basic archetypal images. Jung does note, however, that when racial differentiation took place, essential differences in the collective unconscious of the various races also appeared. The archetype is also considered the nucleus of the complex (which was discussed above). The archetype, acting as a center or nucleus, functions as a magnet, attracting relevant experiences to it to form a complex. After gaining sufficient strength from the addition of experiences, the complex can penetrate into consciousness.


Among the numerous archetypes that he identified and described are those of birth, rebirth, death, power, magic, the hero, the child, the trickster, God, the demon, the wise old man, the earth mother, the giant, many natural objects like trees, the sun, the moon, wind, rivers, fire and animals, and many man-made objects such as rings and weapons. Some archetypes are of such great importance in shaping our personality and behaviour that Jung devoted special attention to them. These are the persona, the anima and animus, the shadow and the self. Let us now consider some of these that play such important roles in everyone’s personality.



The Persona - The word persona originally denoted a mask worn by an actor which enabled him to portray specific role in a play. In Jungian psychology, the persona archetype serves a similar purpose; it enables one to portray a character that is not necessarily his own. The persona is the mask or fašade one exhibits publicly, with the intention of presenting a favourable impression so that society will accept him. It might also be called the conformity archetype. The persona is necessary for survival. It enables us to get along with people, even those we dislike, in an amicable manner. A person may have more than one mask. At home he may wear different mask than he wears at work. Collectively, however, all of his masks constitute his persona. Notwithstanding the above advantages, the role of the persona in the personality can be harmful as well as beneficial. If a person becomes too involved and too preoccupied with the role he is playing, and his ego begins to identify solely with this role, the other sides of his personality will be shoved aside. Such a persona-ridden person becomes alienated from his nature, and lives in a state of tension because of the conflict between his overdeveloped persona and the underdeveloped parts of the personality.We will later see how the Shadow is seen as the reverse side of the Persona. Together, the persona and the shadow can be recognised and seen in the homely folk-saying, "Angel abroad, devil at home." The stronger and more rigid the persona, and the more we identify with it, the more we must deny the other important aspects of our personality thus resulting in a stronger shadow. The persona is usually represented in our dreams by some piece of clothing, armour, veils, shields; or they may take on the characteristics of a profession or trade, as tools, equipment of various sorts, certain specific books; or they may be reflected in some instances in a house, apartment or automobile. One of the most frequently recurring dreams as a teenager was to picture myself as going to school and then discovering to my embarrassment that I was only dressed in my underwear. Upon reflection I recognised my great need then (and sometimes even now) to feel accepted and therefore the necessity for mask. However, a fear of being unveiled and exposed was unconsciously emerging.



The Anima and the Animus – Jung called the persona the "outward face" of the psyche because it is that face which the world sees. The "inward face" he called the anima in males and animus in females. The anima archetype is the feminine side of the male psyche; the animus archetype is the masculine side of the female psyche. If the personality is to be well adjusted and harmoniously balanced, the feminine side of a man’s personality must be allowed to express themselves in consciousness and behaviour. The projection of the anima or animus on persons of the opposite sex is one of the chief reasons for passionate attraction and aversion. Obviously, the anima or animus of a person would be represented as a person of the opposite sex in our dreams. A person’s individuation is reflected in how he or she relates to a person of the opposite sex. Identification with a negative anima appears in man as moodiness, obstinacy and oversensitivity. Identification with the negative animus can cause a woman to be inflexible, opinionated, and disputatious. There were several occasions when my anima had shouted cries of help through the dreams I was experiencing. In one series of dreams, this lady of my dreams, despite my better attempts to understand her, kept trying to commit suicide. Could I be unconsciously suppressing the anima aspect of my psyche? Or was this my identification with a negative anima that was causing me to be oversensitive and thus resulting in my ‘psychological suicide?’



The Self – The concept of the total personality or psyche is a central feature of Jung’s psychology. The organising principle of the personality is an archetype which Jung called the self. The self is the central archetype in the collective unconscious and is concerned with order, organisation and unification; it draws to itself and harmonises all the archetypes and their manifestations in complexes and consciousness. It unites the personality, giving it a sense of "oneness" and firmness. When a person says he feels in harmony with himself and with the world, we can be sure that the self archetype is performing its work effectively. The ultimate goal of every personality is to achieve a state of selfhood and self-realisation and this is accomplished through a process called individuation. According to Jung, individuation plays a major role in psychological development, where the consciousness of a person becomes individualised or differentiated from other people. The goal of individuation is knowing oneself as completely as possible, or self-consciousness.


I’m a sucker for fantasy fiction and movies. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of myth, fantasy and magic in story-telling. They possess the creative power of articulating our inner most desires, our greatest fears and our highest ideals. There is a terrifying scene in the movie Dragonslayer after the young hero descends into the dragon’s cave. The hero is standing on a rock in the middle of a fiery lake that covers the floor of the huge cavern. With his sword and shield in hand he is scanning for the monster. Behind his back a dark form rises from the water. The form is so huge it blocks our view of the cave beyond. For the first time in the movie, we get a look at the size of the hero’s foe. Our instinct is to shout a warning to him to turn around, see the danger and to get the hell out of there! Gasps and screams rise from the floor of the theatre. Just in time, he hears the terrible sound of the dragon inhaling (or could it be our warning screams) as it prepared to blast him with its fiery breath.


This scene has such a frightening power because it is a true representation of several aspects of the psyche. First, the danger of proximity to archetypal energy is far greater than we usually realise. Our immature Ego is woefully unprepared to deal with an archetypal presence rising from the fiery depths of the unconscious. Second, the Shadow aspects of the archetypes are always positioned in our blind spots, just as the dragon is in the scene. They strike at us from the exactly the direction we least expect. But interestingly, if our hero had the courage to turn around and face his foe and attempt to understand it, he may truly discover that the dragon is not made out to be the diabolic and destructive creature of medieval legends. In another ‘dragon’ movie, Dragonheart, we find our common perceptions of the dragon (conditioned by bible and fairy stories) challenged to the core. The Dragon in this story is not some fire-breathing, child-eating monster or ogre but a wise and benevolent creature that was prepared to offer up half of his heart to save the life of a human being.


Courage is needed to embark on the journey inwards, into the lair of the dragon. We have to be prepared to encounter our inner pain, to face challenges to our idealised self-image, and to let go of egocentric attachments. We have to take up the challenge posed by Teilhard de Chardin, to "penetrate our most secret self." Like the hero of our dragon story, he writes: "For the first time in my life perhaps, although I’m supposed to meditate every day! I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupation and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my innermost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent, a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration, because the path faded beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came – arising I know not from where – the current which I dare to call my life."


In the next chapter, our discussion will attempt to peel away the reptilian fašade of the dragon (our Shadow) so as to expose his inner core. And perhaps we too may discover that we have received the gift of the Dragon, half of his heart, beating vigorously as our very own.


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