Through a Jungian Lens

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Stalking the Shadow – Part 3

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A Jungian attempt to diagram the shadow in relation to the ego

A Jungian attempt to diagram the shadow in relation to the ego

“Everything about yourself that you aren’t conscious of is shadow, which means that before unconscious contents have been differentiated, separated out, the shadow is in effect the whole of the unconscious. The less you know about yourself, the more unconscious you are, and therefore the more of you is shadow.” [Sharp, Getting To Know You, p. 34]

Daryl Sharp is a Canadian Jungian analyst whom I have come to respect over the years. We both lived in the same prairie town in western Canada though at different times, a good enough excuse for us to initiate a dialogue together about fifteen years ago. Sharp is a prolific writer on Jungian themes, an analyst that fits into the “classic” stream. Pick up any of his books and you will find so many things resonating, things you didn’t consciously realise that you were aware of in the first place. I find myself returning over and over again to his books always discovering new precious gems for my effort. Each little bit adds just another morsel of self-awareness and in the process making me realise just how little I truly know about myself.

Freudian image of the ego and shadow

Freudian image of the ego and shadow

And that is the key, getting to know oneself. If we are honest, when no one is looking or listening, each of us asks the agonizing question, “Who am I?” And it seems the more we discover the more we realise how very little we know. I am reminded of one of my first introductions to psychology more than forty years ago when the instructor presented a visual image of the unconscious. The model was based on Sigmund Freud’s understanding. Jung, as a colleague of Freud was strongly influenced by this idea of ego and shadow. Regardless of who was right, both Jung and Freud show clearly how large the unconscious [shadow] is in relation to the known self [ego]. No wonder we begin to agonize over this basic question at that moment in life when, if anything because of the years lived, we should be comfortably sure of who we are.

I do know adults who are sure of who they are, people who don’t suffer the torment of “Who the hell am I?” They are rare and I do wonder if they are just simply unaware of the depths of themselves because of their attitude and place in life. I am not such a fortunate man. I am always questioning, always alert for the shadow of my self, wondering.

“Not acknowledging your shadow makes you prudish and self-righteous. You are above it all, godlike. Your motives are pure, your conscience is perfectly clear. It’s everybody else who’s at fault.” [ibid, p. 35]

Yes, I have met these insufferable people at times. I can even hear the echo of some of my neighbours and relatives. And, to be honest, I do see that at times, this is one of my own self-portraits – “Guilty as charged!” And so I continue to ferret around the darkened corners of consciousness, in hopes of bringing to the edge of consciousness one or two more bits that I can acknowledge in my quest to “know myself.”


4 Responses

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  1. I just had a quick look at Daryls books on amazon – is there oneor two you would recommend? live your nonsense appeals to me?
    Bob from down under! as in Australia – the northerners subconscious!

    Bob cvetkovic

    January 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    • Just looked at Amazon to see what is there. I haven’t read Live Your Nonsense. It will be on my desk in Canada about three weeks after my return. I buy Daryl’s books directly from Inner City Press as I get discounts. Daryl is the editor and publisher of Jungian books by Jungian analysts such as James Hollis, James Hall and many others. I don’t know of any particular book to recommend as I find value in all of them. Happy reading.


      January 21, 2013 at 5:40 am

  2. I haven’t seen the ‘iceberg’ graph in a while- brought back memories of school.


    January 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    • First year psychology – Psych 101. 🙂


      January 21, 2013 at 5:41 am

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