What We Resist Persists
We all have a shadow side, and often we avoid it because we wish to only see the good in ourselves. It is our allegorical "dark" side; a universal, or archetypal, feature of every human's psyche for which we must bear full responsibility to cope with as mindfully as possible. Darth Vader is the perfect embodiment of this shadow aspect - that primitive or negative part of human impulses such as lust, power, anger, selfishness, greed, envy, or even rage; due to its unenlightened nature, it becomes completely obscured from consciousness. We all have a Mr. Hyde within us, and no one can fully claim the saintly nature of Dr. Jekyll .
‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung (1963), is ‘‘that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious’’
This shadow side can also be projected, an unconscious casting of shadow aspects onto others so as to avoid confronting them in oneself, in a need to only talk about the good or focus on only the good, when we are in and of ourselves uncomfortable facing our wholeness, both dark and light, the yin and yang present in all. Whatever we avoid and deny in ourselves, then deem as evil, inferior or unacceptable, becomes part of our shadow. Our life history ultimately becomes our Personal Unconscious, which holds all of our experiences, repressed memories, traumas, and simply forgotten memories. Ultimately, the body becomes the storehouse for your Personal Unconscious; even though you cannot recall all of your personal history, your body holds a memory of these events, and does not forget. This is one way in which hands on therapy can help heal from trauma as it allows the body to release the memory while in a safe and supportive therapeutic space.
Aniela Jaffe, a Jungian analyst, refers to the shadow as the
‘‘sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life’’.
We all have aspects of these Archetypes in our personalities, yet we are easily able to recognize them in others yet readily over look them in ourselves. These Archetypes are fundamental personalities and roles that represent the history of mankind, and which we draw upon to develop our own unique personalities. Conscious awareness of when they are influencing our behaviour is the key to personal awareness.
Facing and embracing all that is, in our own selves, shadow and light, is the only way to evolve individually, and collectively, because it is here where that which is in our shadow, unrecognized, controls us. The "Law of Attraction" also occurs within those aspects of ourselves we don't wish to see, face, or even acknowledge, and perhaps even more so than that which is consciously acknowledged. The psychological adage "what we resist persists" is ever true in this aspect even if it doesn't possess the magical life altering abilities the book and ideology promises to provide. The expectation that we can control the world around us by our thoughts and/or the energy we create in ourselves, is a way to create a sense of control in a world that is frequently lacking in control-ability.
‘‘Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life and you will call it fate."
~ Carl Jung
Native American lore views good and evil as two wolves, and that the one we feed is the one that grows
stronger; this is certainly true for conscious intent, and reflects the basis for the "Law of Attraction", but it neglects the power of unconscious beliefs and vows that carry their influence in our lives and actions, as well as the inherent nature of our shadow self. True internal power comes when we are freed from old beliefs, vows, and the residue of past unpleasant experiences because they no longer hold power over us. This can only occur if they are witnessed.
The dark wolf, our shadow aspect, is most destructive, insidious and dangerous when habitually repressed and projected. Like any force, it will eventually manifest as emotional and psychological disturbances ranging from behavioural patterns, irrational interpersonal hostility, and even to catastrophic international clashes when the shadow manifests on cultural levels.
"Knowing your own darkness
is the best method for dealing with the darkness
of other people"
~ Carl Jung
The goal is not to repress, evade, avoid, or project, but to observe and visit, and to not live or react from these aspects of the shadow self; it is not "evil", and as such awareness and acceptance of it's presence provides us with a process of growth and maturation, balance and integration, wholeness and individuation as well as mutual respect. This is where the choice lies in which wolf we feed as we cannot force that dark wolf to leave as it is ever present in all of us: When we are free to choose consciously, instead of reacting from the unconscious, we are making an evolutionary step towards no longer engaging as a society from our basic human inheritance, that primordial aspect which can never be truly evaded, only consciously navigated.
Becoming conscious of our shadow self requires recognition and acceptance of the inherent dichotomy posed by these internal opposites, but it also can simply be standing up to its destructive influence. At times, it may also mean a conscious allowance of a measured and appropriate outward expression. The dark wolf is to be always as respected as the white one, perhaps even more so because of it's destructive tendencies.
Speaking of Dark, Light and Genetic Inheritance
I do believe that Dr. Jung would have eschewed this New Age concept of the "Law of Attraction", in it's current incarnation, as a collective avoidance of the Shadow. It also has no capacity to allow for the influence of the Collective Unconscious, which predates individuals and is a repository for all religious, spiritual, and mythological symbols and experiences. It is the accumulated universal human experiences that every human inherits. The discovery of Epigenetics, which is the passing down of trauma and history from previous generations to their progeny, provides further substance to Jung's theory, even though this cannot be scientifically quantified at this point in time.
I truly believe that any authentic spiritual connection requires a conscious acceptance of our shadow selves so that we can objectively and consciously relate to it as opposed to repressing, denying, projecting, enacting while rejecting, vilifying, and disavowing it's presence and nature. In and of itself, this yields a sort of precarious pseudo-spirituality that is based in imbalance and cannot possibly produce the ever sought after "Enlightenment". How much hate is enacted in the name of "love", when it has really been directed by the shadow aspect of the Ego, is astounding.
‘‘Bringing the shadow to consciousness,’’, Liliane Frey-Rohn (1967) another Jungian analyst, ‘‘is a psychological problem of the highest moral significance. It demands that the individual hold himself accountable not only for what happens to him, but also for what he projects. . . Without the conscious inclusion of the shadow in daily life there cannot be a positive relationship to other people, or to the creative sources in the soul; there cannot be an individual relationship to the Divine’’.
Embracing all that is, shadow and light, is truly the path of peace, acceptance in oneself and others, as well as to the Divine. It is a process of awareness, and is as relevant at this point in history on a personal and collective level, as at any time I can imagine. At a point in time where more and more people appear to be choosing to embrace and feed the dark wolf consistently and at a greater level which is leading us down a path of destruction on a greater level than ever in our history, it is no longer a luxury to examine this aspect or nature in ourselves;
It is a necessity.