As dance partners, shadows can be great fun. Yet my relationship with my shadow has often been dark. May I remember this recent brief and lovely relationship with my shadow as I continue to face C.G. Jung’s archetypal “Shadow,” the part of me that represents all my disowned, despised, and repressed traits. Buried in the subconscious mind safe from judgments, my shadow is grounded in fear and plays out in drama and competitiveness. Sometimes it casts its darkness over other people, projecting traits that are more about me than about them. Each time I approach my shadow with curiosity and acceptance, my reactions soften, allowing me to be less heavy handed.
And now that Corky and I are again in relationship, protecting us is high on my list of priorities. And I agree with her that it is in our best interests for me not to get so angry when my feelings get hurt that I lob an empty plastic water bottle at her the way I did in the parking lot when we went to Ashland several years ago. We’re going there in June, so it makes sense that she would remind me of that episode. Part of protecting us will be recognizing when I am dealing with my shadow projection rather than with the real Corky, who, like me, just wants to be happy.
This time in our relationship I want to see and appreciate her without reading in or acting out when I am scared or intensely emotional or getting my competitive feelings stirred up. I’m guessing my shadow is in play, and this is where I can look for clues into that unskillful behavior.
Jung says the higher purpose of the shadow is to help us transform into our fullest being. He calls it “our sparring partner,” the opponent who exposes our flaws and sharpens our skills.
I know it takes a lot of honesty to face traits in myself I hate and can’t help but notice in others. I have to acknowledge they exist in me. Actually, over the two years that Corky and I were apart, Buddhism, meditation and therapy have made me more familiar with parts of my psyche that were damaged or hadn’t matured. I have learned that shame shows me where to look. I am more familiar with the strategies that keep me from feeling pain from my disowned parts. I want to continue to accept my shadow and the fear and rejection it holds, so they won’t need to be acted out so dramatically.
Like with the shadow in the parking lot, light shining on one side reveals the dark side, allowing for the dance. As for Corky and me, I hope we both learn to express our true feelings, and we make it safe to see our shadows, to forgive ourselves and each other, and to learn to accept, again and again and again.