Through a Jungian Lens

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Hidden In the Shadows of Depression

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Hidden behind tree branches.

Hidden behind tree branches.

I want to begin today’s post with a few quotes from James Hollis’ book, Why Good People Do Bad Things. Hopefully, what follows will explain the choice of these quotes.

“The shadow is composed of all those aspects of ourselves that have a tendency to make us uncomfortable with ourselves. The Shadow is not just what is unconscious, it is what discomforts the sense of self we wish to have.” [p. 9]

What version of my self do I want running around in the world? Ideally, it would be the version of self that lives in harmony with the people who come into contact with me, the version of self that deserves respect and unconditional regard. Anything within me that works to disturb others and the harmony then becomes the enemy.

“The . . . healing of the world, begins with ourselves, begins with what we do not wish to know about ourselves.” [p. 23]

It has been a while since I last brought words here. Why? Likely because I am hesitant to expose too much of myself at this time, a self-protection kind of response that doesn’t make sense when I consider all that I have written here in the past, all of the disclosures. Also figuring in on the hesitancy to post has  been another round of depression and the fall out in my life that comes with its re-appearance. I am not Mr. Nice Guy when depressed, when I lose the energy to hold onto carefully constructed masks that attempt to keep peace with my outer world. Another factor that has been playing a significant part in this has been the writing of my history as a child, youth, and young adult before I got married.

As I have been writing, I have been able to watch the life of a young Robert move through events which served to create and empower complexes as well as the attempts by his attempts to protect himself on his journey toward adulthood. Dissociation, excessive pleasing, caretaking of others, numbing of body and mind, retreat into music, retreat into safe places such as closets or into the words of dead authors or into empty spaces in nature – empty of powerful adults. All of these strategies helped me navigate through a life where control in the hands of a variety of adults – my strategies were my efforts of having some control on an inner level. I learned to craft a Robert that was presented to the world that wouldn’t cause anger, disappointment or offense to others. I believed that to allow the authentic Robert be seen was only to invite anger, abuse, rejection and a host of unnamed fears.

Adult life has been easier for me. I worked hard at being a nice guy. I worked hard at putting a lid on all of those things that I believed (wrongly or rightly) would make adult life too difficult to live. It wasn’t that I was living a lie, that the adult Robert was a fiction. Rather, it was simply that this visible adult Robert was just a thin sliver of the whole Robert. However, when the veil that I had put between the whole Robert and the outer world began to disintegrate – think of it as tears in the costumes and masks that I wore – and part of that long disowned self began to emerge, life began to be problematic. As in the world of the young Robert, it appeared that the leakage was disappointing, confusing, upsetting, and offending others.

Yet, for all of this, I have no one to blame for my depression. I can’t really blame parents for being dysfunctional. I can’t really blame the broken people who abused me as I made the journey from birth to adulthood. I can’t blame anyone in my adult life who feel that I have betrayed them by not being the person whom I had taught them I was. There is no blame to be laid on anyone’s doorstep.

So now, I find myself stuffing the bits of shadow, those things about me that cause unease, dis-ease in others back into the cubbyholes that were built within a long time ago. Thinking about it, it’s easy to see that I am not really into the real work of “healing myself” as Hollis tells us. I am not ready to sacrifice, to risk sacrifice of relationships with others. So, it’s back to the old strategies and restoring an outer world of calm harmony. It’s hard work, somewhat like trying to stuff one’s intestines back into the stomach after spilling one’s guts out into the world. And with a bit of time, the world will feel some relief as the good old Robert returns – at least until the next time that shadow decides it has been held back long enough.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

May 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Robert,

    Just today I watched a video called “God is in the Neurons” which addressed the ups and downs you’re undergoing from the purely scientific perspective of brain physiology and neuroplasticity. Although I don’t have deep depressions, I have, of course, experienced the same dance, especially when it comes to my self-confidence, self-image, and self-trust, and my need to express my individuality versus my need to please and gain approval. This video makes the case that this swinging back and forth, this sense of constant change in my inner climate, is, in fact, the way our brains operate, and that the only thing that can ease it is greater consciousness, i.e. self-awareness. I found it helpful to see my mental states not as character flaws or the result of not working hard enough, but as the universal human dilemma. Perhaps you will find it helpful.

    My only other thought is pure projection on my part. I know that when I’ve felt “shot down” for being myself, or blown up in anger because of some underlying self-pity, I have sometimes reacted in a passive/aggressive manner toward the one that I felt was shaming me, a la: “I’ll show him/her! I’ll be perfectly understanding and compassionate all the time, no matter what!” (meanwhile feeling secretly angry and bitter, and without realizing what I was doing, retaliating with an “attitude” —sometimes a rather condescending one—that belied my good intentions and positive self-image.) I don’t have the slightest idea if this applies to you or not, but in my case, I’ve had to look closely at the truth of the attitudes and feelings I’m experiencing beneath the outer impression I’m trying to make. If I can see the truth, I can do my best to express it honestly, and this often defuses my sense of helplessness and hopelessness and makes me feel a bit better about myself.

    Of course, I know you know all this, but maybe being reminded of it might help nudge you out of that dark place you’re in now. I do hope so.

    Jean Raffa

    May 28, 2014 at 5:53 pm

  2. Robert, your stark honesty and openness is such a gift to those who visit here. Tucked away between the lines is the sacred mystery of being human. It evokes pride in me rather than shame that I am human in all my limitations.

    Thank you.

    Rita Kowats

    June 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

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