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No. 47 – Meeting Our Shadow

November 9, 2011

Zweig and Abrams* tell us that meeting our shadow is very difficult because our ego tells us that it is dangerous. All of the feelings and capacities rejected by our ego are repressed into our shadow and contribute to the dark side of human nature. We all have attributes of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, but we cannot focus on both at the same time. Thus, we only allow ourselves to see our shadow indirectly in the traits and actions of others.

Although we cannot see our shadow directly, we meet our shadow unknowingly every day. We may see our shadow in our humor. Our shadow may come out in dirty jokes or slapstick humor that express hidden, inferior, or feared emotions. If we look closely at what we find funny, such as taboos on sex, parts of the body, or bodily functions, we may find an active shadow. The part of us that laughs at such jokes is usually our shadow. A person who appears to have no sense of humor, has a very repressed shadow. There are six other ways that we may meet our shadow.

1) In exaggerated feelings about others (“I can’t believe he was so careless!”)

2) In negative feedback from others who serve as our mirrors (“You just don’t listen!”)

3) In those interactions where you have the same troubling effect on several people (“We both feel that you have been insensitive!”)

4) In our impulsive and inadvertent acts (“That isn’t what I meant to say!”)

5) In a situation in which we are humiliated (“I am ashamed about the way he belittles me!”)

6) In exaggerated anger about other’s faults (“He just can’t do the work as required!”)

When we are aware of surprisingly strong feelings (not normal for us) or when we find our behavior off the mark in some way, our shadow is surfacing unexpectedly. Usually it recedes just as quickly as we regain a grip on ourselves. We may also shift into denial, because meeting our shadow can be a shocking experience. We reject the notion that those sudden feelings of rage or fear could be any part of us.

Men, in particular, are inclined to repress feelings because they cannot be explained or understood logically. Then when men are confronted with strong feelings (their own or others) they feel overwhelmed and out of control.

*Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams, Editors, Meeting the Shadow, Penguin Press, Inc., New York, NY 1991.

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