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No. 49 – The Shadow and Risk Perceptions

November 23, 2011

Because our shadow is all that we have tried to avoid our whole lives, it is not easily recognized or understood. When we try to look at our shadow, our ego says, “That is bad, put it away.” And yet, a right relationship with our shadow can be a great gift. By owning our shadow we can learn to recognize projections (negative qualities perceived in others) that color our opinions and begin healing relationships through communications.

Recognizing the influence of the shadow is the first step in learning to communicate with the anti-nuclear public. Until we recognize how we are perceived by others, rather than the persona we believe we are, we are not ready for effective public communications. The world shows us our faces, but we do not recognize them. We then become isolated as we relate to an illusory world of our own projections.

We lament the wrongness of the public’s perception of radiation risks and think our challenge is to correct the wrong perceptions*. We resist any ideas that the wrongness may be in us. We like to see the problem as pseudo scientists (activists) preying on the gullibility of a fearful public. As long as we continue to see the problems with acceptance of nuclear technology as problems with a corrupted and ignorant world, we cannot begin to bridge the gap. The answers are beyond just telling the truth, as we see it. We cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. But, this is very difficult when we believe we are right and the rest of the world is wrong.

We cannot eliminate the effects of the shadow in ourselves or in others. The question is not, “Do we have a shadow problem?” But rather, what is it doing right now? When we cannot see it, that is the time to beware. When we assume that we do not have it, then it has us. Good intentions will not protect us from the shadow. St. Paul said, “For the good that I would, I do not; but for the evil which I would not, that I do.” Is it time for us to admit that our traditional approaches to technical communication are not effective with the public? Are we ready to make difficult changes in ourselves for the goal of more effective communication?

* I like to suggest that perceptions are what other people have and they seem misguided. Isn’t it comforting to know that we are not subject to perceptions, because we are the holders of the truth?

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