Through a Jungian Lens

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Stalking the Shadow – Part 1

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shadow

The Shadow

In Carl G. Jung’s words, “the shadow is the “apprentice-piece” in the individual’s development.” An apprentice is someone who is engaged in learning to become a master. When one enters into the process of personal development, a process called individuation in Jungian psychology, the first task is to understand that an individual is more than his or her ego. There is a significant lack of awareness of self. We all know this as there are so many glitches in our lives that we can’t explain nor can blame on others. When we dare admit it, we realise that we are basically strangers to ourselves.

Who is this stranger in darkness? When I took this photo one day as part of my exploration of photography techniques in the 70’s I was surprised at the results. Rather than a clear reflected image of me, I saw a dark shadow in my place. It was unnerving. I did include the photo for evaluation and then forgot about it until two years ago when I was sorting through my old black and white film negatives. The negative was damaged beyond repair. Through the use of a scanner, I was able to capture this frayed version of the original. Now, as I look at the image, I begin to wonder if this is a better portrait of my shadow.

This person is a stranger. I remember taking the photo and where I lived and the photography class that I was taking during the spring session of 1974. I remember the facts of my life, but the person who I was then is not the person I am now. For the most part, I had blocked out so much of my early life being very selective of what I held onto and what I would disclose to my wife. Other than some trivial stories of my past, all was buried. To be honest, I had even buried them deep enough so that I couldn’t tell my stories if I had found the courage to tell them. They had been swallowed into a dark hole.

This is the stuff of shadow, stuff buried and denied beginning from our first glimmerings of consciousness. But, it isn’t the whole of the shadow. There is more, much more. I want to close this opening post on the shadow with some more words from Carl G. Jung:

The naive reader may imagine that when the dark aspects disappear they are no longer there in reality. But that is not the case at all, as experience shows. What actually happens is that the conscious mid is then able to free itself from the fascination of evil and is no longer obliged to live it compulsively. The darkness and the evil have not gone up in smoke, they have merely withdrawn  into the unconscious owing to loss of energy, where they remain unconscious so long  as all is well with the conscious. But if the conscious should find itself in a critical or doubtful situation, then it soon becomes apparent that the shadow has not dissolved into nothing but is only waiting for a favourable opportunity  to reappear as a projection . . . ” Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par 477)

 

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Written by Robert G. Longpré

January 5, 2013 at 5:31 am

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