The Shadow is a concept that explains something embedded deep within my own psyche and mind. Carl Jung first described the Shadow through his works with numerous patients, but even more through his work on himself in early life. Jung found that when he sat with his own internal darkness long enough, he started finding deep, dark thoughts, desires, emotions, resentments, angers, projected out towards others. He ultimately concluded that these deep thoughts within were something common to all humans, a dark aspect of ourselves we do not wish to look at. The Shadow represents humanity’s fears, and is a disconnection between Spirit and Matter.
But the Shadow represents a way to bridge this gap, by staring at it. This may be important for the future of humanity, since the gap between Spirit and Matter is widening. It will not go well if it continues widening.
In my life the Shadow is very real, and I can point to numerous events affirming how it has manifested outwards. The Shadow, in some sense, is being afraid to speak my truth, engaging with others. In real terms, it has been sheer cowardice.
Two Giants, Two Sides of a Coin
In this artwork by Francisco Goya, the giant can hardly bear to look back for others to see him. Rather, he would rather be immersed in his own personal suffering. This giant is wallowing in self-pity, which is Depression. His back is hunched over, and he seems beholden by fear.
The other aspect of the Giant is seen next; rather than wallowing inside, he spreads his hate outwards by rampaging across a countryside. This giant, like the other, has avoided his Shadow, and now spreads havoc, destruction, everywhere he goes.
These are two aspects of the same concept, of avoiding our Shadow or Ego. In one we self-destroy, in the other we destroy outwards.
In very real terms, I contrast myself as both the same and opposite of Donald Trump. His ego is gigantic yet he externalizes his blame outwards, never taking responsibility for himself. In this sense then he wreaks havoc on the world, blaming anyone but him for the problems of the world. In my life, I have internalized this, though I still have blamed others my entire life. A few times I have lashed out externally to others, my family most of all, blaming them for my problems. Most often, however, I have internalized this blame, thinking those same thoughts Donald seems to think, yet keeping it contained.
Yet, in changing my perspective to I am to blame, the thoughts control me just a little less, and my Ego’s hold relinquishes just a little more. In so doing I hope I can be a little less like Donald Trump, even though my Ego remains gigantic.
The opposite form of this destructive giant is Atlas. The symbol of Atlas is to bear the world’s suffering, our world’s suffering. Notice how below Atlas lies those immersed in pure pleasure, lost. This is to shrug away the struggles of the world and give in, to temptation, clinging to this material world which is finite. Atlas as symbol is the same as to Carry our Cross, to responsibly bear alone the conditions of our personal suffering, our sins. For me it is to say I am to blame for the ills in my life and, ultimately, the ills of the entire world in some small. Way. Examining our suffering places the responsibility on our shoulders, like Atlas does with the weight of the world. We are all Atlas.
My Solitary Path
My life has been more or less some personal quest for truth, for finding my own spiritual path rather than adopting the truth of false churches in our world or others who only say what is true for them. For some reason when I engage with others I get completely sucked into their worldview, their truth. In a more tangible sense, when I have been around others, I then repeatedly return home to be alone for awhile, something I have done my entire life. Every time I return away from social contact spending time alone, be that for several hours or even a few days or more, I have dark thoughts that manifest as resentments towards others, blame. In real terms, this is blaming someone else for how I feel.
At home, the emotions I detect, which all humans detect in their own subjective way, then develop into thoughts which spin in seemingly random directions—yet with underlying patterns, stories. This occurs because, whenever people are alone and not distracted by things or activities, we are in a kind of meditation, sitting with something inside ourselves. Generally the modern world does not want this to occur, so we distract ourselves with television, the internet, work, drugs, alcohol, or endlessly engaging others in social activities. While the latter is likely healthy, it is unhealthy when it becomes a codependency of constantly needing validation from another human being, as it was when I tried to be in relationships and failed to be a loving partner. When we distract, humans are distracting themselves from something dark inside popping into existence: out of sight, out of mind.
Carl Jung found this within himself, and I found the same thing in myself. I have been distracting myself from my own internal darkness and dark thoughts, which I always could only believe were true. Although I cannot know what form this takes for others, I know it appears as always blaming someone else for not reaching out to me, for having thoughts about what others think about me, for making excuses for why did not want me around, why I felt forced to spend that time alone. These were fictions, and in retrospect I only see I was spending that time alone because of my choices, my personal demons.
My Time in the Gig Harbor House
Living in Gig Harbor at my former house, I would spend days, actual whole days, always alone, grappling with these thoughts which would overwhelm my Mind. Without me making any effort to reach out to others, I spent many days actually staring at blank walls, outside windows, or otherwise lost in thought. In a sense, swallowed up by my Shadow, it was like the anti-hero Rust Cohle from True Detective. Notice the cross in the background, for he has surrendered to his Shadow at this point. Only in the end of the first season of the show does he find salvation.
Although the internet and even games occasionally held a distraction, I would always return to the state of contemplating what was going on inside. I stopped watching any television and changed my diet significantly, as though being led to face something inside, with fewer and fewer distractions.
After selling the house, and continuing to explore this concept inside since, I see these dark thoughts as indisputably the same idea that Carl Jung reached, which he overcame within. Instead, however, I am now trying more to reach out and be more engaged. The Shadow is an overwhelming force, but having seen it, examined from so many directions, if I remain isolated then I have still become beholden to it, or in worse terms have realized it but chosen to not share my truth with the world. In my life, the choice now remains, as it always has, to emerge from my own demons by shining a light; my own candle, made extremely dim by not manifesting anything outwards, but which can always burn brighter, no matter how late in life we find ourselves.
Where is the Shadow in Daily Life?
Carl Jung believed that the Shadow exists in everyone, and understandably many would not want to look at their Shadow, a reflection of the many material distractions our world has created to avoid it.
This video is one of the best speeches about the Shadow concept I could find. The speaker has a very slow way of talking, which is important and very helpful since these ideas are very abstract.
The Shadow is hidden in our personal suffering, it is the reason why we are suffering. Yet, as the symbol of the Cross shows, there is little desire to face our suffering. The Shadow is also our guilt, the memories of the past we regret and thus also do not want to think about. Would you want to think about those mistakes you made in your life? I certainly haven’t, in mine. Yet, humans are just a collection of our memories, and when something happens out here which triggers, brings out the Shadow again through resentments and anger and blame I project out onto others.
For example, when I meet with someone and then have feelings of anger, rejection, sadness, resentment, jealousy or happiness, the Shadow concept taught me that those are my feelings, not others. My whole life I thought I was detecting the feelings and thoughts of others, not knowing they were always mine. Thus, as emotions turn into thoughts, the thoughts become a kind of story that we tell ourselves, the same story since childhood. The Cross, as symbol, teaches humans to take responsibility for ourselves, to Carry our Cross, become accountable for our own baggage and thoughts and out of control emotions. The Cross is symbolically the same as facing our Shadow.
Facing my Shadow involves facing my guilt, those many events in my life I regret and wish had turned out differently. Guilt, when it is ignored, becomes shame. Guilt means “I did something bad,” whereas shame means “I am bad.” By ignoring my guilt I have internalized this view that I am a bad person. The only means through which I can imagine to face my guilt is by righting those wrongs about which I am most regretful. In very real terms this has been military and veterans that I feel the most guilt about. There are a number of other things I carry around which I feel guilty about, as well. Among these were a refusal to love my father, Don Haacke. This is the same truth seen in Star Wars, when Luke see his father, which is himself. So too must many young men face this challenging truth.
The Meaning of Love in my Life
Love is something transformative for others, but it starts within. If we do not feel love from others, it is because we do not love ourselves. The common forms of feeling this love, contentment, is to work ever harder as a workaholic or grasp onto others thinking they can make us feel love, which is an illusion since love comes from within. In other ways, feeling love might be alcohol, endless technology like television or video games or social media, or addictive drugs or smoking or endless amounts of Cannabis. For many men this addiction is endless use of internet pornography.
Finding love means facing the Shadow within us. If you do not feel positive, warm feelings very much, like I do not, then this is the answer to this age old human problem. My feeling from Carl Jung is that love results from this unification of the disconnected human psyche. Without love we manifest hate. Like the Shadow, the ego, we cannot see how we manifest hate into the world, since the world a projection of ourselves, a mirror which reflects who we are within. In my life it took me until 31 to finally start to understand that I have unconsciously been manifesting this hate outwards. If only I could see the true reflection in the mirror.
Looking for the Shadow
If you regret something, there the Shadow lies; so examine your regrets. If you feel guilty about something, likely you regret something related to that guilt. I feel guilty about my military service and about not helping veterans, and that guilt goes extremely deep for me. I regret that, yet if I ignore it the rest of my life and go off to be alone, that regret, sin, will consume me. At the end of my life, I will have to face my regret in some way large or small.
The Shadow lies in our resentments. Listen to your thoughts in emptiness for even 5 minutes, closing your eyes. 10 minutes or 15 minutes is better. What do your thoughts tell you? Specifically, what do the negative thoughts tell you? For looking at the Shadow is not obsessively clinging onto those positive, happy thoughts, but calmly sitting with the negative ones. In meditation the goal is to let them pass, yet if you wish to resolve something within, the answer is to examine them. Ask, “Why do I think this way about such and such or this event?”
Another question might be, “What am I using to distract myself, to keep myself locked in this material world? What am I addicted to?” We are all addicts of a form, if only we could see it.