shadow

SHADOW: the image Jung used to describe those qualities in ourselves that we repress because they are unacceptable to our ego ideal. Jung once called the Shadow “the thing a person has no wish to be”; it is the opposite of the conscious personality (see Wehr 59). The shadow personifies the contents of one's personal unconscious but also has a strong archetypal component.

Symbolism in dreams and narratives: The Shadow is occasionally an animal or part-animal figure, but usually a person of the same sex as the ego-bearer (dreamer/hero/heroine) but with opposite qualities (dark, shady, dangerous). This figure is usually a peer figure closely associated with the ego-bearer—a dark or evil twin or sibling, a double, etc. If the ego-bearer identifies with qualities that society rejects (i.e. is a criminal or the like), the shadow can carry positive qualities (see Edgar Allen Poe's short story “William Wilson”), but more typically the shadow carries negative or evil qualities.

SHADOW POSSESSION:

shadow possession

This involves being taken over by the shadow, “acting out” in the voice of the shadow without consciously choosing to do so and often without realizing that one is doing this. A person is especially vulnerable to shadow possession when under the influence of mob psychology, alcohol, drugs, etc. (see Wehr 62).

SHADOW PROJECTION:

shadow projection

Individual: we usually project shadow qualities on to others (especially peer figures) of the same sex, who may or may not “really” have the qualities we are rejecting. The mark of shadow projection is compulsiveness and intolerance, because we are really rejecting qualities that we have but can't acknowledge as our own (see Wehr 60).

Collective: the “in” group frequently projects its collective shadow qualities on to the “out” group: e.g. capitalists vs. communists and vice versa, Jews vs. Arabs, etc. (see Wehr 61-62).

SHADOW INTEGRATION: we can avoid shadow possession and withdraw shadow projection by recognizing that these qualities are really part of ourselves and by attempting to channel their negative aspects in positive directions. In narratives, this is often symbolized by acknowledging one's kinship/friendship/close bond with the personified shadow and sometimes working together with him/her to achieve a goal.

February, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
Proceed to Anima/Animus
Back to Topics, Assignments, Notes