Stalking the Shadow – Part 4
I chose this picture today for another post on shadow for a few reasons, one of those reasons being the idea of the ego at the centre, ego being light. As one looks out at the world, the further one gets from the immediate centre surrounding the conscious self, the less clearly, the less conscious one is with regards to what is out there. Looking out from the conscious centre, one sees others, but doesn’t see that behind these others lay shadows that reach into the depths where there is nothing but darkness. One could turn that conscious gaze inwards and get to meet ephemeral images of what are best described as archetypes, presences in the collective unconscious, primordial images that arise from the energy that associated with humans and humanty. If this image tells it like it is, then even these archetypes lose their distinctness in the darkness of what is, perhaps the cosmic unconscious, the unconscious that so many religions and philosophies have called God, the chaos from which all that is both animate and inanimate have arisen.
While conscious, awake with eyes open to the light, it is next to impossible to see one’s shadow. It is only as we cast furtive glances out of the sides of the eyes that we sense that we see something there. We have only what we know exists. We know we exist – our ego tells us us this much. We craft and control disguises that we present to the world as we relate to others, disguises called persona. And, we know, but can’t quite seem to prove that there is a shadow lurking, stalking us seemingly waiting for us to let go of control before it overtakes us. Who is stalking whom?
“Let’s look at the overall picture. Ego, persona, shadow. In Jung’s model of the psyche, these are three major complexes among a whole lot of others. Each has a say in what we are, the way we function, the way we move through the world. The big question is, what do they have to do with psychological relationship? [Sharp, Getting To Know You, p. 43]
I think it is rather obvious to almost all of us how our ego [consciousness] has a huge role to play in how we relate to others. We choose who we relate to as well as how we will relate to them. In our various life roles [father, husband, colleague, boss, employee, etc.] we moderate the way we relate, we limit and control just how much of us we will allow others to see of our true, authentic selves. Not so obvious is the role of shadow. Somehow, beyond my control, and your control, without our even being aware of what is going on, the shadow puts in an appearance in our relationships. We do things and say things that we have no intention of doing or saying. Sometimes we don’t even realise that we have done and said these things after the fact, we deny them vigorously wondering why these people in our lives would tell us these lies.
“Why did you do that?” the wife asks her husband.
“Do what?” he responds confused about what she is talking about.
“You know very well what I am talking about. Why did you do it? You knew it would upset me.”
Even more confused and beginning to be a bit angry at being accused of some unknown crime, he answers, “I don’t have a damn clue what you’re talking about. Stop talking in riddles. What the hell am I being accused of doing now?”
The shadow had put in an appearance and both the husband and wife are left to sort through the litter left in its wake. They are confused and begin to doubt the quality and the strength of their relationship, and at the same time begin to self-doubt. Both Jung and Sharp have nailed it. We are very complexed beings and that complexity shows up in relationship with others who finally give us a chance to see an image of the shadow through the eyes of a person with whom we engage in relationship.