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No. 48 – Dealing with Our Shadow

November 17, 2011

Our shadow represents all of the qualities which we have disowned and repressed as not acceptable. We see these qualities in others, by projection, as the dark side of human nature and we do not recognize them as our own. The news media often emphasizes the dark side and leads us to conclude, “Ain’t it awful!” One could even conclude that the definition of news is “bad news.” When is radiation ever reported except as “deadly radiation?”

The world has a collective shadow which screams out from the headlines. It commits crime in the streets, embezzles money, corrupts politicians, causes philandering, perverts justice, drives armies, pours out pollution, and exposes us to deadly radiation. Most people learn to identify with what is socially acceptable and live accordingly. Others seem to live out the socially disowned (shadow) parts of life. When these shadow qualities become the object of negative group projections, the collective shadow takes the form of scapegoating, racism, and enemy-making.

Shadow excesses are evident everywhere in 1) power drives for knowledge and domination, 2) self-righteous compulsion to help and cure, 3) fast-paced dehumanized workplaces, 4) maximization of business growth, 5) materialistic self indulgence, 6) desire to control lives, and 7) the ever present fear of death.

What Can We Do?

How can we protect ourselves from the human evil which the collective shadow portrays? There is only one weapon and that is increased individual awareness. It is easy to see others, individually or as groups or organizations, as evil when we do not know them personally. We see them only as projections of our own shadow. As the cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” Furthermore, if we fail to act on this insight into human nature, we forfeit our power to alter ourselves and our world.

As long as we see those who are opposed to radiation as wrong, we forfeit opportunities for common understanding or agreement. When we see anti-nuclear sentiments as wrong ideas, wrong attitudes, wrong understanding, wrong conclusions, etc. these are projections that we do not accept for ourselves. When we push against the perceived wrongness, we are destined to fail. What can we do? Next post we will look at how to own our shadow and applications to radiation risk communication.

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