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"Two of these fellows you must know and own; this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine."

William Shakespeare

The Tempest, Act V Scene I


"I came that they might have life and life to the fullest."

John 10:10



Being a professed Trekkie, I remembered one particularly interesting episode in old Star Trek series where the good Captain Kirk is split into "good" and "evil" halves as a result of some ‘space-time dimensional distortion.’ The good half becomes physically and mentally weak; the force of his once-whole personality has evaporated; he is unable to make decisions or will anything to happen. All his vitality, energy (‘libido’), physical strength and decisiveness have been captured by the ‘bad’ half. But without the ‘nice guy,’ the bad Kirk is brutal, abusive, and given to throwing childish temper tantrums. When the two halves are eventually reunited, Kirk is restored to his normal ‘good’ but powerful self. The lesson is that nice guys who have no connection to their instinctive energy (the very energy they fear so much) become listless and ineffectual.


A similar split is the basic premise of the Superman character, from comic books to movies. Much of our pleasure comes from knowing that "mild-mannered" Clark Kent is secretly a "man of steel." We are frustrated (and some may even be amused at its possibility) when he does not reveal his true identity. In the movie Superman II (Yes, I’ve seen the prequel and the two sequels), the duality between between Clark Kent and Superman is brought to its logical conclusion. Exposed to radiation from mutated kryptonite (and we know what this mineral does to Superman), we find Superman renouncing his Clark Kent aspect and become sadistic and destructive. He has gone to work for the villain whose goal is to take over the world. He meets with the dispossessed Kent in a junkyard after having gleefully ripped a hole in an oil tanker to pollute the ocean. When Kent tries to reason with the ‘evil’ Superman, Superman decides to get rid of Kent once and for all. He bashes the wimpy Kent into jagged piles of wreckage. He hurls against the walls of rusting cars. He even puts Ken through a huge trash compactor. The strange thing is that Kent (minus super powers) does not die! In fact, with every blow he becomes stronger, until finally he punches his way out of the trash compactor, his strength now equal to Superman’s. From that moment he fights as an equal. In the course of the fight he forces a reintegration of the composite character. The reborn Superman, we can safely imagine, is a much better integrated, and hence an even stronger version of the old split Superman. The Kent side of the equation will no longer be inept weakling in Superman’s eyes. And the Superman side, with a greatly strengthened Kent beside him, will never fall prey to his sadistic rage again. This myth is repeated in the life stories of most comic-strip superheroes who are constantly struggling to reconcile their ordinary identities with their superhero alter-egos. Characters such as the Incredible Hulk reminds us of the consequences of non-integration.


We are not and yet are in way Captain Kirks, Supermen, and Incredible Hulks. When confronted with the possibility of having a dark side that lurks beneath the surface of our idealised consciousness, most of us are at lost with the appropriate response. There are several possible reactions to the shadow. We can refuse to face it; or once aware that it is part of us, we can try to eliminate it and set it straight immediately; we can refuse to accept responsibility for it and let it have its way; or we can suffer it in a constructive manner, as part of our personality which can lead us to a salutary humility and humanness and eventually to new insights and expanded life horizons. We already know that when we refuse to face the shadow or try to fight it with will power alone, saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan," we merely relegate this energy to the unconscious, and from there it exerts its power in a negative, compulsive and projected form. We need to reclaim what was lost, reintegrate what is found and ultimately restore what is believed dead, but now we know to be alive.



Reclaiming What Was Lost

There is simple moral in all these stories. If we reject or ignore any part of ourselves, that neglected or unaccepted part will revenge itself. Instead of working with us, it will work against us. If, on the other hand, we receive and even befriend our wounded or unloved parts, they will gradually gain the confidence and ability to work with us. In this the shadow may be compared to a child who is inept. The child needs patience and acceptance, and so does the shadow. We have already established in the last chapter that the shadow is not so much evil; it is rather that which is rejected, unowned, repressed and unloved. When consciousness begins to own it, something good happens, perhaps compassion towards the weaker parts of our ourselves, or the recognition of a destructive pattern.


Many fairy tales give us a key to the nature and preciousness of the shadow. One such is the well-known story of the princess and the frog. You may remember how the princess was playing with her golden ball one day when she lost it in the pool. She was very distressed, for it was her most precious possession. An ugly old frog hopped up to her and offered to retrieve it, but only on condition that she let him come into her castle and live with her. We all know the rest of the story – the ball is retrieved, the princess receives the unexpected guest for dinner, the frog insists on sharing the princess’s meal and even her bed. The poor princess! She cried and had a tantrum, but no matter what she did, the frog would not relent. Eventually, worn out, she surrendered. And, amazing moment! When she surrendered (and kissed the frog), the ugly old frog became who it truly was, the most handsome prince. Of course like all fairy tales, they married and lived happily ever after. It is never an easy task to accept the inadequacy and inferiority the shadow represents. But if one has the courage to accept this other side of oneself, the outcome is not always what one had expected. It seems as if to accept one’s shadow would put one inevitably in the wrong with the result that the external situation would be burdened with an evil that one had always kept carefully under repression. But this is not what happens. Strangely enough, when we take up the shadow side of our own personality, renouncing the silent claim to be entirely white, immaculately moral, the effect we produce on our environment undergoes an unexpected change. The frog is transformed into the prince.



Integration to Wholeness – Befriending our Shadow

In a previous chapter, we have already acknowledged the importance of recognising our shadow. As a reiteration, the reason we try to make our shadow conscious, to get to know it, is not to rid ourselves of it but rather to integrate it. Holiness and wholeness are not to be achieved by cutting away an essential part of the self. We cannot get rid of our dark side; we have seen the consequences of someone trying to repress and reject their dark side. It is human to have hateful, lustful, or envious thoughts and feelings. If we had no shadow at all, we would be flat and dull, without substance or personality. Ironically, it is the shadow that gives us depth and character, and integrating it has the effect of filling out our personality, making us fully human and alive. Confronting the shadow and coming to terms with is has a transforming effect, because when we deal responsibly with our dark side, we are freed from its negative power.


As we have seen earlier, Jung called this movement towards wholeness "individuation," and felt it was the source of all true health. Individuation is the process that moves one to become a completed, unique person. This means the synthesis of the conscious and unconscious personalities, reintegration of the shadow, and the establishment of a relationship between the ego, as the center of consciousness, and the Self, which is the whole personality and which functions like our inmost center. Individuation is a living process that leads toward wholeness but, at least in this lifetime, is never completed, for the whole personality is never actually reached. Wholeness calls for the fulfilment of our potentiality, but this can never be achieved, for human potentiality is too rich, and the demands of life upon us are constantly changing and calling forth new responses. Sanford tells us, "The whole person is an ideal that can never be realised. Nevertheless, what it means for us to be the whole seems to be known in the unconscious Center of our being, and it is from this Center that the process of individuation is begun. We do not "decide" to become whole; rather it is thrust upon us by the life force within us." So to speak of individuation is to give a scientific name to a process that is at work in all of life. Every living organism seeks its proper goal, and this is individuation. The sago seed has it inner pattern and if it develops into a shady and mighty sago tree we could say that is has individuated.


The individuation process did not wait for psychology to come along before it happened; it has always been recognised by perceptive spirits of all time. The great religions of the world are deeply concerned with individuation, each speaking in its own way, using its own cultural forms. It has been called nirvana by Eastern religions and the resurrected life by our own Judeo-Christian tradition. In one sense, each person who walks the path of wholeness walks a familiar path trod by all those men and women from untold thousand of years who have become what they were meant to be. This is the stuff of saints, buddhas and sages. So we find the trail is there for us, and there are signs and guides on the way, but at the same time each of us is one of life’s experiments. Our particular personality, our particular way, our particular set of life circumstances have never been tried before. "Life experiments with us," writes Sanford, "in its ceaseless attempt to bring about new and unique forms. In this way evolution continues."Individuation and maturity becomes the goal of every person and its message is recounted in endless stories. The eternally youthful Peter Pan never got round to integrating his shadow. He is always losing it, fighting with it and getting into trouble as a result of it. Because he and his shadow have not come to realise that they are indeed one and the same, Peter Pan remains everlastingly immatured. Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, too, had to find out in a miserable ending that eternal youth can never be guaranteed by denying one’s ugliness. Our projections (appearing to be a fountain of youth) will eventually take its toll on us.


We have already seen in an earlier chapter how the shadow is always close at hand influencing our perceptions, our decisions, our relationships with others, even our relationship with God. In community or family life, where people live closely together, shadow problems are likely to be more common and subtler than in other types of relationships. The seminary is one such environment where shadow projections can cause arguments, misunderstandings, and various other relationship problems; this is especially so because the seminary is made up of an all male community, where the shadow of an individual may be easily projected onto another of the same sex. Jung speaks of the relevance of the shadow archetype in terms of relationship: "Recognition of the shadow … leads to modesty we need in order to acknowledge imperfection. And it is just this conscious recognition and consideration that are needed wherever a human relationship is to be established. A human relationship is not based on differentiation and perfection, for these only emphasise the differences or call forth the exact opposite; it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless and in need of support – the very ground and motive for dependence. The perfect has no need of others, but weakness has, for it seeks support and does not confront its partner with anything that might force him into an inferior position and even humiliate him. This humiliation may happen only too easily when high idealism plays too prominent a role."

Noreen Cannon provides us with three examples where problems may arise in community living:

  1. Scapegoating – This is the identification and labeling of one person in the group as the problem. In fact it is a well known phenomenon in the Judeo-Christian heritage and a common problem in contemporary group life. In my three years here in the seminary, I have personally witnessed (and at different times had taken one the role of both victim and co-victimisor) and experienced this in both living and work situations. Scapegoating is the result of shadow projections: one person or several persons in the group are the objects of the negative projections of the group, and the group believes that this individual or individuals are to blame for whatever problem the group has. If only the person would leave or change in certain ways, then everything would be fine. The irony is that when people live closely together, their projections or expectations inevitably influence each other, for good or ill; we cannot remain neutral to others’ projections, but must either live them out or react against them.
  2. Perfectionism – In religious communities and seminaries we occasionally come across someone who seems to have no shadow. He or she is like a saint, the ‘Mother Teresa’ of the community, without obvious faults or weaknesses, always able to do the right thing, consistently generous and kind, never uncharitable toward anyone. We would tend to conclude this is that rare person who is better than human, "the perfect religious" or "the perfect seminarian." But perfection is not humanly possible, everyone has faults, even saints. Where, then, is this person’s shadow? Most likely, others in the group are carrying it for him or her. When the person represses his or her dark side, others are compelled to express those human reactions that the "perfect religious/seminarian" denies. In other words, the darkness that I refuse to accept as my own becomes the burden of the group. People who are "too good" irritate us with their goodness. Many, if not most, such people are often not truly free of negative thoughts and feelings but are merely hiding them, fearing that openly expressing the emotions they consider unacceptable would make them less perfect and too human. Their "goodness" makes us feel inferior because it magnifies our own weakness, and at times even seems to draw out our own dark side. We might find ourselves watching for such a person to make a mistake. And if he or she does make one or suffers some misfortune, we may fin that we are secretly pleased, because this humanises the person or brings him or her down to our own level.
  3. Inferiority – This happens when a person disowns and projects the positive aspects of his or her shadow. In our culture many people suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. In religious and community life, such people are generally passive and dependent on others, see themselves as not having much to offer, and generally feel sorry for themselves. Although they belong to the community, they do not contribute creatively to its life, thinking that they are not "good enough." This is a shadow problem, but in this case, it is not their undesirable qualities but their undeveloped gifts and talents that are repressed and attributed to others. Unaware that inferiority feelings stem from failure to develop unique gifts, they are sensitive to other’s achievements. They tend to overvalue the gifts of others, admiring them and wishing to be like them. Instead of fulfilling their own potential and making creative contributions, they put the people they admire on pedestals, burdening them and distancing them with their idealised expectations. Thus, projection of the "bright shadow" can become an easy way out of the responsibility we each have to develop and use our God-given talents for the service of others. Inferiority can also lead to the projection of a dark shadow onto to the others – this is the projection of all those qualities which I consider inferior and bad. It is usually expressed in form of belittling others, insulting them and their works and ideas so as to lower them in our estimation. Ultimately, this is with the intention of boosting our own self-worth (unfortunately this need is never satisfied with this self-defeating mechanism).


It is because of the adverse consequences that may result from disavowing our shadow that we always need to strive to discover it. Apart from the consequences that may result from projecting one’s shadow on the community, one may also suffer from several other unhealthy psychosis or neurosis. Jung proposes several possibilities. One is that the individual will be overpowered by the unconscious and will take flight into psychosis where he no longer has to deal realistically with the morbid ideas, or into a suicidal depression. A second possibility is that the individual may "accept credulously" the contents of the collective unconscious. Then he may become obsessed with certain strange or eccentric ideas, probably ideas of apparently cosmic significance: he comes to feel that he is miraculously the possessor of a marvelous truth that no one has ever realised before. This may lead to eccentricity with prophetic leanings, childish petulance and gradually make him become a social isolate. This reemphasises the need to commit oneself to a life of continuing confrontation with the unconscious within because this will enable one to confront the unknown in the world at large with an open mind, and what is more, a heart of wisdom.


How do we befriend our shadow? Pat Collins proposes two ways, both are ultimately linked by their emphasis on growing in intimacy. Firstly, we can reveal the darker side of nature to a trusted friend or confidant. Our Catholic faith has institutionalised this in the form of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Secondly, we can tell the Lord about these things in prayer. As we find that we are understood and loved as we are, and not as we have pretended to be, we can begin to understand and to love ourselves in the same way. Through the grace of God, experienced in this manner, the dividing wall of division between acceptable and unacceptable, the conscious ego and the unconscious self is breached. Having learned to love the beggar, the tyrant, the green-eyed monster, the offender and the enemy within, we learn to love them in the community also. As this healing process takes place, we begin to withdraw our negative projections from other people and groups. In this way the causes of a lot of misunderstanding and conflict are overcome. They give way to mercy, compassion and a spirit of reconciliation.


There is a wealth of energy, bound up in the shadow. When it is made conscious, that energy is available to us to use as we choose. We gradually discover that our faults and failings are not as threatening to our self-esteem as they once were. We find that we are able to love and embrace more of ourselves, to reach out in love and compassion to others; we are less likely to be self-righteous and judgmental, because we know who we are. We may even find that our relationship with God changes. No longer needing to deny our sinfulness, we are more open to and aware of our need for God’s healing presence. Even the most shameful sins can be redeemed by a God who sometimes chooses to act where it is dark. In Psalm 139 (my favourite) we are told that for God "even the darkness is not dark … and the night is as bright as day … darkness and light are the same." The shadow, that dark side of us that we avoid and fear, is a place where we can meet God.



Walking Close to our Shadow – Wholeness to Life

There is a story among the Navajo Native Americans about a wise man who had to go on all fours because of a congenital lameness. His people called him "He-who-walks-close-to-his-shadow," a name that does indeed denote a wise man. If we would only walk close to our shadow, it would not cause so many difficulties in our daily life, nor would we remain at the mercy of the unconscious. For it is when we walk close to our shadows that is when we carry the burden of our own human weakness consciously thus relieving others of it.


It is impossible to summarise the way a person becomes whole; not in this brief paper and most probably not in any voluminous writing that will ever be produced. It is, for one thing, an individual matter, differing with each person. But it can be said that to become whole we must be involved with life. This earthly existence appears to be a crucible in which the forging of the whole person is to take place. The metaphor of "gold refined by fire" readily comes to mind. Our life must have a story to it if we are to become whole, and this means we must come up against something; otherwise a story can’t take place. People who undergo the individuation process find themselves constantly thrown into doubt. But if we wish certainties in life, we should not seek to become whole. Those who are convinced they possess the whole truth are precisely those who will miss it, for only those who know they lack the truth will seek it. And where shall we find a part of this truth? Some people seem destined to become whole by combating outer life circumstances, some through encountering the inner forces of the unconscious, some through involvement with both. But if we stand on the sidelines of life, wholeness cannot emerge. The painful truth is that if we are to become whole, we will have led a life in which darkness has been faced, and an encounter with evil has been risked; and what better place to find both is within our very selves.


This paper inevitably leaves us with a startling conclusion. Good and evil will be curiously intermingled in any meaningful life process. The shadow cannot be eliminated. It is the ever-present dark brother or sister. Whenever we fail to see where it stands, there is likely to be trouble afoot. For then it is certain to be standing behind us. If we are to become whole, life will send us, not what we want, but what we need in order to grow. The forces of evil will, in a paradoxical way, have to touch our lives. The road to wholeness, to reintegrate our shadow, to reconcile the darker side of our psyche with the one exposed to light, is a work, a life opus, a task that calls upon us not to avoid life’s difficulties and dangers, but to perceive the meaning in the pattern of events that form our lives. In order to savour the entire fabric of our human existence, we must be prepared to view the intricate inter-weavings of both the dark and lighter threads.


The deep desire of the different parts of us is to befriend us. But sometimes they are not able to befriend us, perhaps because consciousness fears being invaded or overwhelmed, perhaps fears or is unwilling to change certain attitudes, or simply likes control or safety. Yet, if we evade or avoid our shadow when the time is right for it to come into the light, we are evading an essential component of the journey to the fullness of who we are. Indeed, we will never come to know who we are. Becoming whole does not mean being perfect, but being completed. It does not necessarily mean happiness, but growth. It is often painful, as I have shown with examples of my own life story, but fortunately, it is never boring. It is not getting out of life what we think we want, but is the development and purification of the soul. To be healthy, then, has nothing to do with serenity, and less to do with adjustment; to be healthy means to become whole. To be wholesome is to have life, and to have life, as Jesus would intend for each of us, is to have "life to its fullest."


Our shadow is the key, the cornerstone, the hundredth sheep, or the coin that is lost. There is truly great joy when the shadow comes into light and we claim it as our own.


"Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive the insult, that I love the enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?"


Carl G. Jung


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