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No. 44 – The Shadow Knows*

October 12, 2011

If you were to describe the most difficult person you have ever attempted to relate to or communicate with, the most unbearable, frustrating, aggravating person you know, this would likely be a good description of your shadow. Each of us has a shadow that represents all of the qualities that we find unacceptable and we have repressed in ourselves. We unconsciously project these qualities onto others whom we dislike dealing with. That which we cannot accept within ourselves, we find impossible to live with in others.

The shadow is our experience of the “other person” whose strangeness is always suspect. The shadow is our source of urges to find a scapegoat to blame in order to justify ourselves. We operate under the illusion that we know ourselves and have adequately dealt with our own problems, therefore blameworthiness always points to the other person. To the extent that we have to be right and good, others become the carriers of the negative qualities that we fail to acknowledge in ourselves.

We encounter our shadow in our projected view of other persons. Such projections, however, give us a blurred view of reality. It is as though we were wearing dark red glasses and driving down a street of traffic lights. Since everything looks red, it will be difficult to distinguish the red, yellow, and green traffic 1ights. The danger to us is due to our inability to distinguish between reality (some of the lights are red) and what our “red projection” imposes on our view. Where our shadow projection occurs, we cannot differentiate the reality of the other person from our own repressed qualities.

We see our shadow in antinuclear activists when we see them as irrational, illogical, absurd, emotional, disturbed, unethical, unscientific, unprincipled, unscrupulous, corrupt, and operating with hidden agendas. All that we can’t stand (or can’t understand) in such people is a projection of our own shadow.

Thus our shadow knows the answers for dealing with such activists. However, our shadow will not reveal those answers easily. As the qualities of our shadow are revealed to us, we quickly push them back into the shadow where they continue to operate out of our awareness. Our shadow is also our source of biases and prejudices, as we will see in future articles.

* Whitmont, E.C. The evolution of the shadow. In: Meeting the shadow, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams, Penguin Putnam Inc. New York, NY 1991.

  1. Jean Staton permalink

    Excellent, thoughtful.

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  1. No. 50 – The HPS Has a Shadow « Radiation Safety Forum

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