“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have you, to sift you like wheat, but I have pleaded in prayer for you that your faith should not completely fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up the faith of your brothers.”
Simon said, “Lord, I am ready to go to jail with you, and even to die with you.”
But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Between now and tomorrow morning when the rooster crows, you will deny me three times, declaring that you don’t even know me.”
(Luke 22: 31-34, The Living Bible)
None of us know what we will do or are capable of doing between now and tomorrow morning. The apostle Peter did not know he cast a dark shadow until after he had denied Jesus three times; and neither did this writer, who had a similar and sobering experience. Until the Holy Spirit reveals our shadow to us, we cannot see it, and therefore cannot repent and change. Others may be able to see it, but we are blinded to it, because we like to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. If we honestly reflect upon the life we have lived thus far, all of us can recall at least one fateful moment that we wished we could undo but cannot—without Jesus’ help. More accurately, none of those fateful moments can be undone; but they can be forgiven and redeemed. The apostle Peter was boastful and became humble. He was a “man-pleaser” and became a “God-pleaser.” He was a wimp and became a warrior.
I write these words to you, my brothers and sisters — far and wide, because Jesus said to me, “When thou art converted, Peter, strengthen and build up the faith of your brothers.” He spoke these words to the apostle Peter, to this Peter, and to all the other Peters that have preceded us, so that we would not despair, commit suicide, murder, or adultery, would not violate or abuse our spouses, children, friends, or be ashamed to speak the name of Jesus in private or public. But if our shadow did push us over the edge and into the abyss of despair, hopelessness, and insanity, we, like the apostle Peter, would also have the same High Priest to call upon. Without that High Priest, without Jesus, this Peter would be dead, insane, or in prison.
William A. Miller, in his book, “MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR SHADOW” writes about this subject without a trace of condemnation. I recommend his book but don’t care for the title. “GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH YOUR SHADOW” would be more accurate and descriptive. The book was published in 1981 but is currently out of print. A few used copies can be found via the internet. Should none be available by the time you read these words, please let the Publisher, Augsburg Publishing House, know and please let me know. I have purchased a few extra copies and would be happy to loan them out.
Anyone who feels the need and has the courage to become acquainted with his shadow will be embarking on a worthwhile and yet dangerous journey of discovery. Becoming acquainted with the evil that lurks within the basement of our lives, or that we conveniently and often quite innocently project onto others, can be a painful ego experience. However, we may also be pleasantly surprised and discover a rich treasure of untapped potentials that need to be mined. A few encouraging words and a good coach can make all the difference in the world in bringing these treasures to the surface.
The author of the above-mentioned book suggests we take a trusted friend and or counselor along on this journey. I would like to be more specific. Don’t venture into the dark forest of your shadowy nature without a “flashlight.” Unless you have a firm grip on the hand of Jesus, don’t go there. What does it mean to have a firm grip on the hand of Jesus? It means that you know Him, love Him, and are willing to trust and obey His Word. It also means that you have divorced yourself from every other guide or guru who does not acknowledge that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Going into more detail about the book or our shadow would be redundant and like reinventing the wheel. The author, William Miller, has done a superb job in identifying our shadowy nature and the importance of becoming acquainted with it.
Rebekah and I published our autobiography in 1983. In it, I explored and laid bare my own shadowy nature and my pilgrimage towards wholeness. The book is currently out of print, but an electronic copy will be sent free of charge to anyone who requests it. The title of the book is, “THE WOOD BLOSSOM.” It is a search for sanity in an insensitive world.
I am including Chapter 8 of William Miller’s book. By the time you finish the chapter, you will know if the book is for you or someone you know. It was not by accident that you accessed this particular web page. I believe the book is a real treasure. That is the only reason I am eager to share it. My heartfelt prayers are with every person who reads these pages. Time permitting; it will be my joy and privilege to respond to your letters and questions.
Three birds where sitting on a fence. Two of them decided to fly away. The question is, “How many birds were left?”
The correct answer is: “Three!” You will say, “But why? There should only be one bird left.” Two birds decided to fly away, but they never flew away. There is a world of difference between “thinking about it” and “doing it.”
IT’S TIME TO FLY AWAY – “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Psalm 91:4). I assure you, it will be a safe flight and the biggest adventure you’ve ever had. Your shadow will be redeemed and the glory and presence of God shall become your garment. It will bring healing and life to others just like the apostle Peter’s redeemed shadow did some 2000 years ago. “Sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow would fall across some of them as he went by” (Acts 5:15).
FLY AWAY TODAY!
Peter D. Laue
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR SHADOW
BY William A. Miller
SHADOW AND DISCOVERY
As usual Carol Bryce was on time for her appointment. Even though it was only 7:30 AM she was bright, alert, and ready to take on the day. At least that was the way she appeared. Carol preferred early morning appointments because she did not feel comfortable taking time away from her job, and this way she could meet with me before starting her workday.
We had met together for several months and over that period I had come to know Carol as a sensitive, conscientious, and interesting person. She was a physically attractive woman of 38, single, had never been married. She was always well groomed, and dressed to accentuate her natural beauty.
She had moved to Minneapolis some months before coming to see me so that she might, she said, be closer to her mother who was “getting up in years.” That was partially true, but Carol had also left the western town where she had lived and worked for several years because she felt herself falling in love with a married man and decided the best way to deal with that situation was to leave it.
Carol told me she had experienced no real desire for lasting male companionship or for marriage, home, and family. She had sublimated her sexual urges and focused her energies on the development of her career as a teacher, which she identified as being fulfilling and rewarding. But, she said, at this point in her life she was becoming aware of needs and desires, changes in attitudes, reassessments of values – “rumblings within” which were disturbing her tranquil life. The relationship with the married man had both frightened and excited her; it took her by surprise and that concerned her. After thinking through the ramifications of that relationship she decided to leave, move to Minneapolis, and take a job as a private secretary.
She first came to me complaining of vague dissatisfaction with her job, the new city, her roommate; time as always moving on and she seemed to be standing still. She was not satisfied with herself or her life; it seemed to be slipping away from her much too quickly. She was much more interested in male companionship than she had ever been before, but felt rather “out of it” in terms of how to relate to men. She came wanting an opportunity to explore what was going on in her life and what some possible paths into the future might be. She was dissatisfied and wanted to do something about it.
Her story was really quite complicated, but a significant aspect of her growing up process was that her home environment was one that fostered suppression and repression of feelings. It was a religious atmosphere, quite genuine and nonjudgmental, but to please her parents Carol had masked her feelings with consistent neutral pleasantness. That was why, when she would appear at my office promptly at 7:30 AM for her appointment, she would consistently appear bright, alert, and ready to take on the day, regardless of how she felt inside.
In the course of our meeting together Carol began to look more closely at the “rumblings” she had been experiencing in her inner self. In her exploration she bumped into some severe anger for having been underpaid for many years as a teacher and having played the role of the martyr. Then she brushed past avarice and discovered lust. But these things couldn’t be there—she was a Christian woman and they were all contrary to what she believed herself to be. We talked about the persona and the shadow, the repression she had achieved for so many years, the ability to mask true feelings and play an “acceptable” role, and how at this point in her life the dark sister was beginning to clamor for equal time. Intellectually it all made sense, but it was more than she was willing to accept emotionally. Becoming aware of her other side seemed to excite her, but she resisted any kind of befriending it.
On this particular morning she seemed to want to get “right to it” as she sat down. “I had a dream last night,” she said in a somewhat staccato voice. “It was scary, but I think I did the right thing.”
“Sounds interesting,” I said, Tell me about it.”
“I was in a hotel ballroom,” she said, “one of those old types where there is a high ceiling and a sort of balcony running all around the big room. There were a lot of metal chairs set up at random throughout the ballroom, but I was the only person in the room. I went under the balcony at one end of the hall and saw a big mirror almost covering the end wall. I saw a reflection in the mirror; I don’t know, I guess it was my own image, but I guess it wasn’t either. It was all black and scary like a witch. I really couldn’t clearly make it out. All I know is, when I saw it I was frightened and I slowly backed away. But I bumped into the chairs and turned my back on the mirror to move the chairs out of the way. When I turned around again the image had stepped out of the mirror and was slowly moving toward me. I kept backing away and the image kept coming. It didn’t seem to be chasing me, just coming toward me. But I still couldn’t make it out. I turned around and looked and the image was just going through the chairs, but was a solid thing. I was very frightened and ran almost the length of the ballroom. Then I stopped in a little clearing of the chairs and I turned around and stood there facing the image. It was just two dimensional; I could see it was flat like a poster. I stooped down and started to roll it up from the floor, sort of like a roll of wallpaper. I rolled it up into a tube and lit a match and set fire to the end of the tube and held it while it burned up.”
“And that was the end of the dream?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “I woke up and I thought about it, and I think I did the right thing, don’t you?”
“What do you mean,” I said, “you think you did the right thing?”
“I destroyed it. I know what it was, and I destroyed it.”
After a moment I asked, “Do you know why you destroyed it?”
“Of course,” she said. “I was afraid of what it might do to me.” Then she waited, and when I didn’t respond, she said, “Well, what do you think?”
“I have a suspicion,” I finally answered, “that you didn’t destroy it at all, but like a phoenix it will rise again out of the ashes.”
Make no mistake—looking into your own shadow is no Sunday afternoon picnic in the park. It is exciting, but it is scary. It takes nerve, determined nerve, not to flinch at the sight or be shocked or terrified by the image of one’s shadow. It takes courage to stop projecting and accept responsibility for one’s own inferior and evil self. Jung has said,
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance.
Carol Bryce was not at all unusual in her resistance toward owning her shadow side. She simply did not want to believe that she could be other than she believed herself to be. But it is not until we see ourselves as we truly are instead of as we hopefully assume or wish we are that we can make any movements toward wholeness and completeness. Carol felt increasingly incomplete. But she was not ready to believe that that which would help her towards completeness was that which she held to be undesirable, offensive, and certainly frightening. Best get rid of it—so she tried doing that, even in her dream.
To discuss making friends with your shadow is one thing; to do it is quite something else. Imagine drawing your mouth together gathering a pool of saliva. Now gently spit that pool of saliva into a drinking glass. Then do it again, and continue to do it until you have accumulated, say, half an inch of your saliva into a drinking glass. Now look at it, study it, contemplate it—and then drink it.
Most of us have the same type of reaction to our shadow—the very thought of this is repulsive. It is truly my own; it is a part of me. But drink my saliva! Make friends with my shadow! Yech! Get rid of it!
Seeking to get rid of the shadow is certainly one way of dealing with it. But as we have seen, this means only repression and projections. That is why I said to Carol her “annihilation” of her shadow was only temporary; it certainly would resurrect and incarnate. Continued repression only gives more power to the shadow. Our projections transform the world we experience into a string of frames showing us our own pictures—our own faces— only we do not recognize them as our own. As repression and projection continue we can become increasingly isolated from the world we experience; instead of relating to it out of authentic humanness and reality of personality, we relate only through an illusion—a persona, a mask. And the world we experience is not the world as it is, but the wicked, evil world which our shadow projections produce
Another possible way of dealing with the shadow is simply to let it have its own way—to act out the darkness, to assume no responsibility for what it does, but secretly or not so secretly to enjoy its mischief. Some people who do this like to claim that they are free agents, liberated from the inhibitions and taboos of a repressive society. They “let it all hang out.” They are “ultimately aware” (whatever that means). But this is demonic. It is a rationalization for license. Such people range in their behavior from social boors to Hitlers. The end result of this way of dealing with the shadow is always destructive.
Neither of these ways of dealing with the shadow is constructive because both are one-sided and tend to cause dissociation between conscious good and unconscious evil. Too much morality and too little morality are both antithetical to the Christian concept of wholeness and completeness.
The third possible way of dealing with the shadow is contained in the thesis of this book: Accept it and take its existence into account; learn its qualities and intentions; realize that in its ambiguity and paradox it is to be “suffered” and used constructively.
To each of you setting out on this journey, this pilgrimage into the shadow, on to wholeness, I sincerely and strongly suggest engaging a traveling companion to accompany you along the way. Let this person be a friend—a trusted friend who will be able to understand your endeavor and who will accept and support you in it. This companion may be a professional counselor/therapist or not. That is not nearly as important as your companion being a person with whom you can feel confident; one whom you can trust. Let this be a person who will neither condemn you, scorn you, nor excuse you. Let this person be nonjudgmental and empathic. Negotiate with your companion an arrangement whereby you can “talk through” your progress with him or her as you proceed along your journey, sharing your growing awareness, asking for objective assessment (another’s opinion) of your insights.
Not only is it a good feeling to be aware of the presence of a trusted friend on an exciting but scary journey, it is also advantageous to your goal achievement. Your dark side will become more real when it is exposed to another person—one who “knows” you. As we shall see, this is one of the most effective ways of learning what your shadow looks like.
Furthermore, the traveling companion provides an image of solidarity and security as you make your pilgrimage. This is important because encountering the shadow always means a certain amount of dissociation of ego and shadow; you, though you are one, tend to become two. When we look honestly at our dark side we sometimes lose confidence in our light side. This is natural and need not be alarming. Having a shadow in no way cancels our good qualities. Doubts may come, and on the journey we may become uncertain as to how life is to be lived. We may resolve one issue only to find two more in its place. This can be discouraging and depressing. But we can be confident that we will come together after we have come apart. This is the process towards wholeness.
Thus it is well to have a traveling companion who carries the projection of inner unity— of wholeness—so we may look to him or her for support and assurance when we feel “divided” within ourselves.
Insight has frequently been described as an “Aha!” moment. In becoming acquainted with our shadow it is more often an “Oh, no!” moment. Once at a conference a woman told me that she was quite sure she did not have a shadow side. It was a Sunday afternoon in midwinter and we were talking during a coffee break. A man who apparently was her husband came up to us, excused himself, and said to her, “I’m going to leave now; I’ll see you at home.”
He left and she said to me, “That’s my husband.” Then with mouth slightly turned down she added, “He’s going home to watch the football game.”
“You sound a little disgruntled,” I said.
“Well, I certainly think he could gain more from this conference than from watching a football game. Sometimes I think he’s addicted to it.”
“It’s that bad?” I said.
“Oh, at mealtimes it’s impossible,” she complained. “I call him and call him, and go into the den and just about have to physically drag him away from that tube. And all he says is, “One more play; just one more play.’”
“Gee,” I said, “that must be maddening.”
There were sparks in her eyes as she said to me in quiet, deliberate phrases, “Sometimes I would like to go into that den, take that can of beer out of his hand, pour it over his head, and crunch the can on his miserable skull!”
“Well,” I said, “for a woman who has no shadow, you certainly seem to be in touch with yours.”
I realize that what I said to her was not all that “nice.” But I consciously decided to let my shadow have a fling and I embarrassed her. She turned scarlet almost immediately and looked at me as though I had just caught her with her hand in the jam jar. Her insight was not an “Aha!”; it was a definite “Oh, no!”
Nevertheless, there was insight.
There are a number of ways of getting acquainted with your shadow. One of the most valid and valuable is to listen to feedback from people who are close to us and know us. It is often the case that the shadow to which we are blind is blatantly visible to others; they can clearly see the qualities which are totally invisible to us. Spouses, children, and close friends, colleagues and work associates are usually the best sources of feedback, but are at the same time the most difficult to listen to. Our children are especially good resources because they are generally frank and open and are not governed by adult “propriety.” In our more honest moments we believe these people are sincere in telling us (reporting back to us ) how we come across, how we behave, how we appear, but we tend to discount their feedback saying that they are only projecting, or they have an axe to grind, or “Look who’s calling me manipulative!” Listening to someone report on the shadow qualities they have observed in you can be rather threatening to your ego and can consequently arouse considerable defensiveness.
Driving home from a weekend seminar some years ago, my wife, Marilyn, and I were discussing impressions of the people we had met. The seminar involved several small groups and she and I had not been in the same group. I asked her if she had had a chance to meet George somebody-or-other—I couldn’t remember his last name—a fellow who had been in the same group as I. She said she had.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“Oh . . .” she hesitated.
“Well, he just about drove me nuts,” I said. She wondered why. “I don’t know,” I said, “but he really got on my nerves.”
Then she laughed and said, “He is an intelligent person, but he likes to talk a lot, and pretty well monopolizes the conversation in the group.”
“Yes,” I said. “So? . . . “
“Well,” she said, “you have a tendency to do the same thing yourself. That’s probably why you can’t stand him.”
A nation’s defense system is built on the volume and sophistication of weaponry amassed, readiness to activate the system, and early warning of the necessity to activate. It is essentially the same with individuals—that is where we learned it. I was under attack. The enemy was right next to me in the car seat. Alarms sounded, red lights flashed, and my computer printed out: Activate defense! She had barely finished her sentence and the words were in my throat. All systems were “go.” Heart rate increased, respiration up, blood thickening, stomach clamping shut, etc. Ready to fire. Fire one!
“Alright,” I said, “just what do you mean by that!”
Two centuries ago Robert Burns wrote:
O was some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.
Critics can do us a lot of favors if we can only talk down our narcissism which wants to cry out every time we are “wounded” in an “attack” by those who would hold up our weaknesses for us to look at. Of course criticism is often painful—a person would much rather receive positive, complimentary feedback. So we can avoid the pain by silencing the critic either through refutation with competitive power or through subtle manipulation. Whatever, every time we choose to react in this way we lose an opportunity for the possible new awareness that the critic, whether friendly or hostile, may well be offering.
As I mentioned in Chapter 4, theological students and professional clergy often come into a program of clinical pastoral education declaring the vague goal of wanting to grow. Elaborated this usually means developing skills in the doing of ministry in a clinical or critical setting as well as increased self-awareness and self-understanding.
Though students are quite sincere in declaring the latter to be a hoped-for expectation, it is often a different story once the opportunity for it presents itself. Increased self-awareness does not come readily from a book; it offers itself through human interaction with peers, staff, and supervisor. And a student will gain it only to the degree that he or she is willing to suffer a view of the shadow.
The person wishing to discover his shadow will want to test out feedback which identifies shadow qualities which have been surfaced. If I had inquired among friends and colleagues about how my behavior appeared to them in small groups and not one of them agreed with Marilyn’s assessment, then in all probability her observation would be inaccurate and would be coming from some other dynamic (it would be “her problem,” so to speak). But if a half dozen assorted persons from time to time directly or indirectly (and most of the time it is indirectly) let me know that I talk a lot in small groups and tend to monopolize the conversation, then I would do well to believe that there is truth in Marilyn’s observation and I am indeed looking into the face of my dark side. I can no longer go blithely wandering into a small group, ready to “chat away,” naively believing that the people in the group are just waiting for me to come in and take over the conversation. My ego will wince at that, but I will have moved ever so slightly forward in my journey toward wholeness.
Let me say here by way of illustration, it would be possible for me to slip into despondency over this insight—this view of my shadow. It would be possible for me to review my life and assess how many people I had offended; how insensitive, even rude, I must have been; how egocentric; how often people must have tolerated me to my face and behind my back said, “Good grief, what a bore.” Here my traveling companion can help me quite substantially in reevaluating my self-image in light of my total personality rather than establishing it on the basis of one observation of my shadow side. He will not discount my sincere sorrow over past behavior, but will be able to help me celebrate the fact that I no longer need to perform this behavior because I “know better.” Doing it (that is, restraining my urge to monopolize the conversation) will be something else—that is the matter of control, that is to “suffer” my shadow, because the next time the opportunity presents itself I will still want to monopolize the conversation; the shadow does not die. But my new awareness (consciousness) will allow me the opportunity to use constructively in the small group what prior to my awareness I used egocentrically.
Have you ever caught yourself saying or doing something contrary to what you intended to say or do or what you usually say or do? If so, you have experienced another valid and common way of becoming acquainted with your shadow side. Slips of the tongue are often humorous, sometimes embarrassing, and occasionally downright disastrous. Suppose you invite a female friend to your party, not because you want to but because you feel a social and moral obligation. You would rather not invite her because she is quite tedious and artificial and is known to “get on people’s nerves.” Consequently you are delighted (internally, of course) when you phone her to invite her and she tells you that she will be “tickled pink” to attend, but will “unfortunately” have to leave early for another engagement.
On the night of the party she is present, tedium and all, and about midway into the evening she approaches you in the midst of your conversation with friends, and says, “Oh, darling, thank you so very much for such a lovely party, but I really must be going.” And with ever so slight an expression of sad pain on your face you reply, “Do you have to stay? Can’t you go?”
I once heard a young woman introduce a high school choral group as they were about to present a Christmas concert in our church auditorium. The group processed in and took their places on the risers. The young woman stood up and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce to you the West High School Choral Group who will now present a program of sacred and sexual music.”
Anytime you experience such a slip, gaffe, faux pas, blooper, typo, whatever you choose to call it, you can be relatively sure that your shadow has brushed by and you would do well to look at it. You may declare, “That is the absolute last thing I wanted to say; my brain played a trick on me.” Perhaps. But perhaps also that was the absolute first thing your shadow wanted to say and it was the trickster.
Slips of behavior are not unlike slips of tongue; they, too, can help us get to know our shadow. Again there is probably not one among us who has never said, “I don’t know what came over me!” or “I wasn’t myself!” or “It was like a dream!” or “I just had no control!” or “I never do that.” When your action is contrary to your intended behavior, your shadow side has called the shot. That is distressing enough, but we are not always even aware of this happening. For example, if you are driving home from a party and your spouse says to you, “Whatever got into you tonight?” and you honestly don’t know what he or she is referring to, be prepared to meet your shadow, because your spouse is about to introduce you to it. If a friend or colleague tells you, “You haven’t been acting like yourself,” and you honestly are not aware of acting any differently than usual, don’t ask him what he means unless you want to face your shadow.
Anytime you are perceived differently than you intended to be perceived, chances are you have been in the company of your shadow. If you are surprised to find that you have had a different effect on a person than you intended, your shadow has been manifested. People are sometimes shocked at the images others have of them when they learn them. “Where did you ever get that impression?” they ask with incredulity.
In these situations, where a slip of the tongue has occurred or where behavior was contrary to the person’s persona or where the person produced an effect which he had no intention of producing or where he stumbled over some task which he expected he would perform easily and correctly, the speaker—the performer—has been not the conscious ego but the shadow. If you wish to become acquainted with your shadow, take the plunge and explore these phenomena in yourself. Otherwise you will simply continue to use phrases such as “Oh, how silly of me, I never do that” and “I simply wasn’t myself” to keep yourself blind to what everyone else sees and to perpetuate your own delusion of living up to your standard of perfection.
If you choose to project your shadow then examine your projection and you will surely find your dark side. If, for instance, it seems as though everyone you are having dealings with is looking for a fight, ask yourself what you are so angry about. Your ego doesn’t know, but your shadow does. Take a piece of paper and write down everything that is offensive to you in other people. Write in capital letters those things that are particularly offensive. Underline those particularly offensive characteristics that are simply despicable. Include everything in others that makes you angry and outraged; everything that you absolutely hate, loathe, despise, and abominate.
After completing such a list you will probably be rather worked up, but you have in all probability painted a fairly decent picture of your shadow. This would be especially true of those qualities which you capitalized and particularly true of those capitalized and underlined.
This exercise is accurate because of the ease with which we throw our evil and evil potential onto others and mistakenly believe we have gotten rid of it. Projection is an efficient mechanism because it succeeds in deception. It therefore requires substantial courage on the part of any human being to look at such a compilation as this list of attributes and be willing to own it as representation his shadow.
The converse of this proposition is equally accurate: the opposites of everything which I admire, respect, and envy in others help constitute my shadow. We have seen that if I despise Mr. X’s greed, I can be sure that greed is real in my shadow. Likewise if I strongly admire Mr. Y’s philanthropy, I can be sure that its opposite, greed, is real in my shadow. Furthermore, since the opposites of our persona qualities are constellated in our shadow, if I am socially charitable and generous I may be sure that greed is real in my shadow. In addition, the greater the intensity of the quality (i.e., generosity) in the person, the greater the intensity of its opposite (i.e., greed) in the shadow.
Literature and drama provide countless characters with whom we can identify. Looking at whom you identify with in novels, plays, movies, and television productions will give you insight into your shadow side. Is there anyone who has never rooted for the villain or secretly hoped the crook would get away with it? I remember reading once about a man who got so caught up in his identification with the “villain” of a stage play that he ran down the aisle of the theater, hurled himself up onto the apron of the stage, and attacked the “hero.” He was arrested and fined.
Dreams, daydreams, and fantasies also present us with shadow material that can help us know our dark sides. Many people claim that they never daydream or fantasize, but again, this may only be their perception and not in fact the case. Does your mind not have any idle moments? What do you think about when there is nothing to think about? Where do your thoughts go when not directed by your consciousness? Granted, our society’s preoccupation with activity and busyness does not cultivate “idle moments”; still, none of us is devoid of them. Look into them and you may discover shadow aspects.
Dreams may provide us with further encounters with the shadow. Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language by John Sanford (Lippincot, 1968) and God, Dreams and Revelations by Morton Kelsey (Augsburg, 1974) are interesting books which may be helpful in understanding dreams.
When one’s shadow appears in a dream it is a figure of the same sex as the dreamer, usually dark and sinister, perhaps a hunchback, a witch or wizard, not always clearly distinguishable. Sometimes he or she gives the impression of being criminal or outlawish. Often when a person has proceeded along the journey of becoming acquainted with the shadow it will appear as a figure which generates fright in the dreamer but which in some ways helps the dreamer in the dream.
After surveying this roster of ways of becoming acquainted with one’s dark side, it should be profoundly clear that the task is no simple one. Still the desire for wholeness and completeness compels us to make the pilgrimage—to refuse to go on any longer unconscious of this vital part of ourselves, our shadow. In the encounter with the shadow, as we come face to face with it, we need to yield to the experience and be open to our insights. There is always the great temptation to resurrect all kinds of defenses so that we may technically and intelligently analyze the experience. But all that will do is successfully sidetrack the process, and protect us from “knowing” our dark counterpart; wholeness will always remain only something wished for, even longed for.