Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Shadow

Originally posted on November 1, 2017

My wife and I just gave a workshop on “The Shadow,” for students in the Drama Therapy Program at the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS), in San Francisco. (It was a fitting presentation for Halloween). The Shadow is (among other meanings) Jung’s term, translated into English. He means by it all the elements that are disowned, all to which a person may think that he or she is not— mainly evil, sadistic, or in other ways susceptible to “the dark side.” The fact is that for most people (other than, perhaps, saints—but here I’m talking theoretically—  might be tempted even a little bit to react with less that saintly behavior? Of course you would not, but just maybe if circumstances were right, and you had a couple of drinks or whatever, maybe a little.

Jung called the source of that streak of potential evil “the shadow.” It is psycholog-ically wise and morally humble to realize that you have that potential. Gandhi did. However, for most people the Shadow is deeply repressed. (Repression is when a person pushes an unconscious impulse away and won’t even let him- or her-self know that this pushing-away happened.)

Indeed, many people in the USA (and elsewhere) don’t believe that they are even capable of doing evil. The think they mean well, and one cannot do wickedness if one means well. President Trump certainly thinks this way. Just getting people to the level of psychological mindedness where they might even dare to consider that they might be capable of acts for which they may be later guilty is itself is great barrier. I think warming people up to this possibility is a multi-generational challenge of psychological-mindedness. This seems like wisdom if one knows little of psychology.

Psychology is still lumped with esoteric elitism in the mind of many people, and it may take a few generations before one is capable of evil. To acknowledge that one is even capable of evil is difficult if not impossible while thinking noble thoughts—one thinks.  But self-deception is pervasive.

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