Silhoutte of person waving US flag

US and Our Shadow

These are dark times. Do you know where your shadow is?

With Groundhog’s Day approaching and the current state of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about Carl Jung’s description of the shadow and the ways we project our own unconscious tendencies onto others. This video describes how the shadow, when “ignored or misunderstood,” can appear as a hostile enemy. Or, for “the person who lives out his natural and feelings,” the shadow can appear as “a cold and negative intellectual.” It is all too easy to imagine liberal and conservative ideologies as reciprocal shadows. As we fight against each other, we become more polarized. To simply win the fight this way is to repress the shadow for the short term, and thereby condemn our future selves to repeating history (yet again) in the not so distant future. While politics take the spotlight, the battle in the shadows — in the hearts and minds of individuals — can only be truly won by cultivating and sharing a much deeper (and darker) understanding of what it means to be human.

If people observe their own unconscious tendencies in other people, this is called a “projection.” Political agitation in all countries is full of such projections, just as much as the back-yard gossip of little groups and individuals. Projections of all kinds obscure our view of our fellow men, spoiling its objectivity, and thus spoiling all possibility of genuine human relationships …

Whether the shadow becomes our friend or enemy depends largely upon ourselves … The shadow becomes hostile only when he is ignored or misunderstood … [T]he function of the shadow is to represent the opposite side of the ego and to embody just those qualities that one dislikes most in other people …

If the shadow figure contains valuable, vital forces, they ought to be assimilated into actual experience and not repressed. It is up to the ego to … live out something that seems to be dark, but actually may not be.

Carl Jung – Shadow Projections | Jungian Maps
Man and His Symbols | Carl Jung