Why Good People Do Bad Things – Part 2
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the Shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.” C. G. Jung, CW 9ii, para. 14
“What is not made conscious will continue to haunt our lives – and the world. In our short transit on this earth, there is more within each of us than we can ever make conscious and assimilate And yet our quality of life is a direct function of the level of awareness we bring to our daily choices.” Hollis, p. 5
It took a long time for me to eventually realise that I had a shadow that was actively making my life miserable. I blamed all the things that haunted my life on my parents and the abuse they unwittingly visited upon me and my siblings. There was more than enough abuse to last several lifetimes of hauntings and I believed that I didn’t have to look any further than to my childhood and youth. I worked with myself using self-psychology, self-analysis only to find that things weren’t getting all that much better. So I got professional counselling help. However, it seemed that with even more help, I was still finding myself haunted more than ever.
Turning in desperation to a Jungian analyst, things began to improve. It wasn’t so much that the analyst did some magic, rather it was the analyst’s ability to tap into my intellectual understandings of psychology and bring them home to my heart. I had learned so much theory, but it had remained lodged in my ego which had built defenses against my own inner world. Knowing facts does not equate with consciousness. It was a shift into art that finally broke down my defenses and allowed me to see a reflection of my own shadow. At that point, I had little choice in what I had to do. It was my own shadow that was haunting me. It then became my moral duty to become more aware of that shadow and thus not be a victim of that shadow. By moral duty, I don’t mean moral as in church, law or social conventions. I mean it in terms of personal honesty and avoiding dumping my shadow onto others in my family, in my community or even upon those who are strangers, different from me.
“Expressed in its most functional way, 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. It is not synonymous with evil, thought it may contain elements that the ego or culture considers evil.” p. 9
This was the hardest lesson for me to learn, that my shadow wasn’t just my personal unconscious. It also contains some of my ego self, the self I know, those things I don’t like about myself. I don’t know anyone who is fully content and satisfied with who they are. Everyone wants to be a better person in some manner though many would never admit it to others. As I listen to other people I often am presented with the fact that some of these people have a wonderful life with great kids who are the best at everything they do including being at the top of their respective classes. I get to hear how their lives are exemplary with them being pillars of their communities and extremely well respected and liked. Yet, for all of their perfection and perfect lives, they are miserable people who need reassuring, constant reassurance from others about these carefully constructed beliefs. They live outwardly with certainty about who they are and with pride about who they are. Yet, inwardly certainty is missing.
When the cracks appear in out carefully crafted bubbles of identity, we all engage in diversionary tactics so that others don’t see the cracks. We hope that we can somehow cover up the cracks so that life once again becomes the way we want it to be.
I will be back with more thoughts on James Hollis’ book.