There was this cool shrink, Carl Jung. One of the biggest concepts that came from him was the shadow. The shadow is an extension of the ego. If you look at the ego as the focal point of your consciousness, and especially as a sort of moral regulator, then the shadow is supposed to exist subconsciously, and is the fall-out of all that regulation. The shadow becomes those darker networks of reasoning and perception beyond the ego’s scope. If you hate the idea of being physically lazy, your shadow darkens over those moments when you give yourself permission to be physically weak. Perhaps it doesn’t let you see that you actually have given yourself permission to be physically weak – again, it’s beyond your consciousness, and not brought to light.
In real life, if forward is defined as towards a source of light, we almost never pay attention to our shadow.
When this concept’s brought up as some sort of popular idea
it’s usually more associated with negative things. Anger. Violence. Grief. Hurt. Selfishness. Things we rationalize. Things we respin. But easily, we could have all been raised in strange ways that put things in this theoretical shadow. Sometimes we raise the young so that they’re not too generous or nice, parents might overteach something to protect their kids from being taken advantage of, this happens with almost all of us. But in this way, we can learn to identify reasonability, kindness, warmth, masculinity or femininity with the negative. We can put that in the shadow too. No you’ve never had a moment of same sex attraction, look at the disgust it brings. Hell no don’t even listen to their point of view, that’ll mean you’re rolling over again, you weak-ass pushover. No you weren’t a selfish twat, you did that because it helped X. Sure you cheated, just like everyone cheats. Sure you got angry and punched a hole in the wall, but it is normal to be angry when someone Y’s your Z.
Are we defense mechanisming, yet?
There is an idea of shadow work that I sort of suspect ALL assholes and dicks have done, or do regularly. (It kind of comes with the territory of being able to self-identify as someone who can be an asshole or dick.) And I think shadow work used to be a much more popular term before the 90’s. There’re characters in pop culture who wholly embrace their darker side whom we love (Dexter, Darth Vader, Rocket Raccoon are popular ones) who do shadow work constantly, without calling it that. Shadow work is really self-awareness combined with self-analysis, and evaluating our permissions settings.
And for myself, I’ve realized pride can and has made me a little dumb to bad things I’m doing, or rather, things I could easily do much better, or give a response that could mature way harder.
I’m just making this up, but good questions to ask ourselves seem to be along the lines of “Something I admire most about myself is _____” and “Something I’d change most about myself is _______” and “I wish I ______ more” and “I wish I ______” more. Should reveal lots about anyone’s ego and the values behind it.
I don’t need to get all full-detailed on a big blog, but I certainly do myself a favor to recognize I’ve had a few authority figures in my life who gave me LOTS of options to decide what I do and don’t give myself permission to live by. Lots. As in, so many perspectives. The sucky thing about being sentient is, we usually don’t consciously choose these values. More often than not, we don’t.
There’re reasons some of us prioritize not being physically ugly more than others, and it has less to do with how aesthetically hot we actually are.
Under my dad’s wing, I was more likely to try to get to an intellectually designed result than say, next to Jaidree’s influence, who makes me feel much more like being a benevolent mammal is just correct. (Let’s just say, some scientists have to crush some of that benevolence, or rationalize it super hard to excel in their field. They’re sometimes exclusive.) Both of these put different ideas in my head as to what impulses are ideal, and which ones to be somewhat hypocritical about. Both of those influences, without me understanding myself, can lead me to be a little more neurotic — again, unless that understanding happens.
There’s personal value designation too. You can consciously evaluate people and weigh how they feel to you, you can dissect that person’s personality and see what rubs you the right or wrong way and if it should. I suppose you can also live in a vacuum and constantly meditate on what you think you think is ideal. That might work too.
But what I think is most useful, is thinking about your REAL tendencies and reactions
Your REAL wants
and what you recognize as your ideals.
Whatever is your ideal, look at the negative and see if maybe there’re times you act on hypocrisy about those ideals. Give yourself permission to be imperfect, give yourself permission to be a learning individual, and see if maybe you could have given a better response. For example, I actually like violence. I’m never violent against people (because that’s dumb) but I sure like my punching bag, I sure like learning about it, I sure like some of it in fiction, or my games. I like violence. I just temper that against other values too, like a normal person.
But if I was in denial, if I was all “I am absolutely not violent!” not only might that help me be a coward or twist events in all sorts of ways which’ll suck, but it’s also a step towards saying anything that escalates to violence is bad. Heck, let’s say my force of denial gets so powerful that I never check it, and that gets twisted into “if anything, I’m always positive!” which eventually puts me into the territory of “Anger is bad.”
Well, you know what happens when you don’t give yourself permission to be angry, ever? Bullshit. Lots of bullshit, that’s what.
I feel the same way about profanity. People who think they’re too good to use profanity? Watch ’em. I’ll bet you 20 bucks that they profane something. It’s part of human nature to evaluate something with contempt. I think this’s probably why it can feel damn therapeutic to let yourself give out a few fucks.
All I’m going to end with is, I think it’s extra important to think about these permissions in times of high pride. For me I’m sending query letters to agents again. I take that seriously, which means pride comes into play. These permissions affect what I’m able to see in the work. I’ve also got to manage property strangeness in tough times with tough people. Again, pride. Pride can make people full of their own virtue, but it can make ’em full of their own bullshit too. It can make that shadow 10x longer. It can make your subtle permissions that much more important. It can make your self-awareness help you, or a shroud over it screw you that much harder.