Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Dynamics of Shadows and Projection
Jung's theory suggests that shadows are generated when we exert energy to hide and repress undesirable or frightening qualities in ourselves... aspects that we do not see or want to see as part of our persona, the personality-image that we present to the world. These may be traits that we've been taught to fear, or dislike (i.e. neediness, emotional vulnerability, sexual urges, jealousy, the "Seven Deadly Sins," etc), or perhaps they are traits that lie in potency but that we have yet to recognize and develop (personal power, independence, charisma, sociability, the "Seven Virtues," etc).
Whether in the case of the traits we have disowned out of fear or dislike, or the case of traits that we have not yet discovered, when we encounter people who trigger our shadow, we tend to project our disowned traits on them, with the effect of exaggerating their own traits. In other words, a person may have their own share of vanity, or materialism, but we add ours to theirs and all of the sudden they seem to embody these shadows for us (often to the exclusion of other aspects of their personalities). If our projection upon them involves our "negative" traits, this usually generates some degree of aversion to this person. If our projection upon another person involves our undiscovered "positive" traits, we may find ourselves unusually enamoured, fascinated by, envious of, or dependent on them.
Here are some examples of what symptoms we might report, and what is going on at the subconscious level of our shadow.
Examples of Symptoms and Shadows
Symptom Shadow Form
Rejection (nobody likes me) Rejection (I reject them)
Guilt Resentment of another’s demands on me
Sadness (women) Anger
Feeling Mad (men) Feeling Sad
Obligation “I have to” Desire “I want to”
Envy “I’m better than I realize”
Notice that in the case of some of the symptoms, there may be differences based on gender socialization, for instance, in many cultures, men are discouraged from expressing sadness, and instead, manifest a more socially acceptable emotion, anger. By the same token, women are often socialized in such a way that discourages their expression of anger, or of power, and in turn, they manifest sadness, even depression.
Stay tuned for ways of integrating these shadows for the sake of greater personal wholeness and healthier interpersonal relationships.