Not all shadows are harmful. We each carry them around inside us, wherever we are, even at night. (Perhaps, especially at night.) Some would call them our subconscious. Others might call them our Angels and Devils. Most would acknowledge that we each have these unleavened, unfulfilled, unrealized wants and needs that drive us habitually to repeat the same kind of actions, over and over again. The shadow does not necessarily always follow. Often, it can lead.
It's the Jungian shadow I'm talking about (hereby made up by me as an A and C side, with a B and D underside of the self). It is one's Attractiveness and one's Character that another sees, (and that we somewhat see in ourselves too.) And if my A and C sides resonate with yours, we easily may make friends, companions, lovers. Yet beneath each of these obvious precepts lies the shadow, that which drives my subconscious, my B and D undersides. I may be developed or mature or insightful or perspicacious enough to divine much of my inner shadow-self, and thereby my B side may become Bountiful, instead of Bad; as may my D side become Dauntless, instead of Deathly.
Now, since I am the one writing, I get to create at will the terminology to explain the Jungian concept. His actual precepts are fairly easily understood. We have an established A side, and a usually somewhat hidden B shadow-side. The A is that which you see (and like, or dislike.) Her A is 20, blonde, female, articulate, and attractive. His A is 23, male, tall, educated, a stud, and keen for a date. And off they go into the sunset to live happily after ever. But, there's a catch.
Our B sides, the shadow sides, are not yet (if ever) unleavened, realized, fulfilled. The blonde did not have a daddy and always is looking for an older and wise(r) man. The stud happened to have a shrew for a mother and so is hyper-sensitive to the slightest of criticisms. And so forth.
Complex, ain't it?
Yet we can see that our B sides are not necessarily ‘bad’. We may find ourselves always wanting to be the very best we can be; always trying to prove ourselves; and always feeling insecure as a result of the lack of parental unconditional love. And the things we therefore ‘do’ are (and can be) so good because of it! Then too, we may find ourselves always shopping; needing more; cramming our spaces with things we really do not need; all because we did not receive these things as children; or they were taken away; broken by others; ruined. And though not ‘bad’, we do find ourselves overspending on things that might more readily have gone into something, well, grander than what we actually have, had we only saved sufficiently, or invested, but...
And then again, we can see that out B sides might be very bad indeed.
Like the man who killed the Canadian Mountie this month. What awful hole in him needed to be filled before he chose such an action? On scales of predominant sole-survivalist living; or feeling bound by family constellations and expectations; or feeling the self aggrandizement necessary to compete just to win; or feeling the pain-body of a cultural composition so strongly that the wrongs of history cannot be overcome; or needing to manage and dictate to others the ideals held within the self; or even of determining that everyone who does not think like oneself is an idiot; what great hole in this fellow needed so to be filled that he would choose to shoot up parliament?
Guy Fawkes bears a long shadow. So does Benedict Arnold. Yet we harbour shadowed ‘things’; he; she; they; and us. We each know somewhere deep in ourselves there is a want that may even become a need that we keep trying to feed, albeit but a nameless shadow that creeps and slinks and heels at our sides, whether or not in the full light of day. And we stand on guard, glorious and free, or not. Our shadows indeed may be beautiful, or not. At issue is our bringing them to light.
[photo by Len Wagg as posted on Facebook]