Owning My Collective Shadow

collective shadow

Shadow is a term that was first introduced in 1912 by Carl Jung, a psychiatrist/psychotherapist, and founder of analytic psychology. He used the term shadow to describe all parts of the human psyche which exist in the subconscious mind or outside of the light of the conscious ego. He explained that each individual has a shadow, and the cumulative effect of all these individual shadows is the collective shadow. By suppressing my own internal darkness, I inadvertently add to this collective shadow. Today I’m going to take ownership for this collective shadow by translating a quote from the book, Meeting the Shadow.

The original quote was written using the pronoun it, by translating this externalizing pronoun into personal pronouns which promote ownership I can really start to see what I’m working with here and take ownership. I’m going to break down this quote and see if I can own what is revealed through this translation. Here I go…

1) “My collective shadow–human evil–is staring back at me virtually everywhere. I shout from newsstand headlines.” All of the bad stuff which I read in the news or watch online is a reflection of what the dark aspect of my nature is capable of. I’m repulsed by these actions, and demonize those that commit these atrocities in an effort to not have to acknowledge that I too am capable of these evil acts.

2) “I wander my streets, sleeping in doorways, homeless.” This one is actually pretty close to me since four years ago I quit my job, gave away my possessions and set out on an adventure to find a different way to live. I have been homeless, granted I slept in National Forests instead of doorways, but the stigma still followed me. I know what it feels like to not know where I’m going to sleep at night. Homelessness is now a part of me, I have embodied this aspect of my shadow…and truth be told it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

3) “I squat in X-rated neon-lit shops on the peripheries of my cities.” While I’m not a big proponent of pornography, I am a female living in a hyper-sexualized culture and I know that I have played my part in perpetuating this culture. I have put on the makeup and the mini-skirt and hit the bars, trying to validate my own self worth through adding up the number of men that found me attractive.

4) “I embezzle my money from the local savings and loan.” To embezzle means to steal or misappropriate funds often from the place of ones work. I read a statistic the other day that stated the average employee only works three out of the eight hours in a work day. I know when I have found myself in 9-5 jobs I have been guilty of misusing my time, embezzling from local savings and loans is not too far off.

5) “I corrupt power-hungry politicians and pervert my systems of justice.” They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. By participating in these systems and giving my power to those individuals who hold positions of power in politics and justice, I’m dangling the bait of power and essentially asking for them to take it. I’m corrupting them by giving away my power.

6) “I drive invading armies through dense jungles and across desert sands.” Why is it that those armies are trucking across the jungles and deserts? Hmm…could it have anything to do with that prized resource called oil? Which I use ever time I drive in my car, fly in a plane, use plastics, heat/cool my house, use lights…Yep, that’s me driving invading armies, I’m doing it because of my addiction to fossil fuels.

7) “I sell arms to mad leaders and give the profits to reactionary insurgents.” My country, the United States, is great at this. By paying taxes, I’m directly supporting this conflict generating machine. It’s time to acknowledge my role. By supporting both sides with my tax money, I perpetuate conflicts and then I pay troops go in to save the day (and take some oil while I’m at it).

8) “I pour pollution through hidden pipes into my rivers and oceans.” That pollution is called industrial waste, a negative externality generated by many manufacturing processes. Who buys the stuff that is manufactured? ME! Yep that’s right, by participating in this consumer culture I’m helping pollute the waterways of the world.

9) “poison my food with invisible pesticides.” What? Not me! I have made the commitment to shop organically…unfortunately the truth is that my precious organic vegetables are delivered to me from far away and use lots of oil in the process. In this oil is ethanol, which is derived through corn…likely GMO corn, which uses massive amounts of pesticides and often cross contaminates organic fields. So in a round-about way I am poisoning my food and the larger environment with invisible pesticides.

Whew! There it is. Owning the collective shadow—human evil. How did that make me feel? Well, my ego was squirming the entire time, but in the end it actually felt empowering. It’s a bit of a relief to step off of my soap box and examine the hypocrisy of my moral superiority. I’m not perfect…no one is. By owning this side of myself I can really begin examining my actions. I’m no longer a victim to the evil in the world around me, because that evil is me, I’m the bad guy. Now I can begin to honestly look at my actions and decide how I can change myself. Through this work I see that I can be more aware of how I use my sexuality, I can be more conscious of my activities at work, I can come into self control instead of relying on the government and justice systems to control me, and I can be more mindful of my consumption of oil and material goods. And you know what? These are all steps that I’m currently taking in my life. I’m doing it…and it’s working. I feel less guilty, less judgmental, and more empowered to be the change I want to see in the world.

This is Language Yoga. Instead of pointing fingers and externalizing the problems onto everyone else, I take ownership. This is a revolutionary act and I believe it can radically transform the world. Please join me in transforming the collective consciousness by following these four simple steps. Step one: find material (it’s everywhere)…do the translations! Step two: take ownership, how does what is reveled apply to me? Step three: How can I change? Step four: make the changes necessary to make this a better world. Imagine a world where this idea of owning rather than projecting took deep root in the culture. This is the world I want to live in, please help me make this vision a reality!

By Sarah 

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4 thoughts on “Owning My Collective Shadow

  1. In the year i have seen the world through different eyes, mostly within a child some throughout the animal kingdom, both have not forgotten how to play.

    Within play breathe’s creativity….

    i would also like to thank you for dropping by to have a read.

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