The Shadow: June 25, 2001
"Are you ready to talk about the 'shadow?' asked Fear, much to my surprise."
"If you are."
"I brought it up, didn't I."
"Yes… I seem to remember that you did, the last time we talked. So, go ahead."
"Well, the 'shadow' was Carl Jung's idea. He called it the shadow because it's that part of the human psyche into which people shove all the personal stuff they don't want to deal with, and it follows them all through life, like an unwanted shadow. Or at least until they deal with it, or they die."
"Such as," I prompted.
"Such as anything you're afraid to deal with, anything you hate about yourself."
"Such as," I prompted again.
"Such as your emotions. How many people do you know, especially men, who are cut off from their emotions to the point of not being able to show them or even talk about them?"
"Many. Probably most," I answered.
"And do you know what happens when you're cut off from your emotions that way?"
"You can't express Love," I ventured tentatively.
"Love!" snorted Fear. "What on earth has Love got to do with me?"
"Why are you asking such a foolish question?" I queried.
"Because," snapped Fear, "I don't have 'emotions' just 'logic,' and if I did have emotions, Love wouldn't be one of them!"
"Who said anything about you and Love?" I asked in surprise.
"You did!" Fear shot back, "When you said: 'You can't express Love'—that's who!"
"I meant 'you' in the collective for heaven's sake, not 'you' in the personal!"
"Well then, say what you mean," bellowed Fear.
"Geez Louise," I chuckled, "I didn't realize you were so sensitive. Why, I'm beginning to think you must actually have emotions hidden in there somewhere."
"Well I don't," snapped an unamused Fear.
"Okay! Okay! You don't!" I acknowledged.
"So, tell me more about the shadow."
"The shadow is where you send the wholeness of your psyche to die, that's where you become divided against yourself," said Fear.
"Whenever you deny some part of your makeup, such as a weakness for alcohol, you've told a lie that becomes a secret you must defend, a secret that won't go away, but rather joins with other secrets that lurk in the dark corners of your personality. When they've been hidden long enough in that despised corner of your psychological basement, they take on a life of their own. With time, they accumulate more energy than your ego and eventually erupt as rage, depression, or some other attention-getting devise.
"Each denial adds strength to your shadow until it crosses the threshold of autonomy, much like an adolescent becoming an adult, at which time it becomes a horrific monster in your psyche, a monster that I control, but you feed."
"What do you mean, 'I feed'?"
"I mean each time you deny the truth, your lie becomes a little easier to tell, a little easier for you to believe, and the truth a little easier to avoid—that's what I mean by 'feeding' your shadow. Then, as each lie becomes easier to tell and believe, the truth becomes harder to protect and more damaging to your credibility and dignity when it comes out. And, each time your fear of discovery grows, you again feed your shadow, which in turn gives me more control of your psyche—and thus of you."
"Look around you! You've got all kinds of juicy examples among members of your U.S. Congress. Even your presidents and vice presidents.
"This is the 'dark' shadow of which I speak. It's the one I like best because, as I said, it sooner or later erupts into uncontrollable negative behavior that I find must satisfying. But there's also a 'golden' shadow, the color of which I find repugnant, despite its usefulness."
"What about the dark shadow? Are we done with it? You really haven't said much about it."
"I don't want to talk about that any more. Everybody already knows about it anyway. If you don't, read Robert Johnson's book, Owning Your Own Shadow."
"Then, what about the golden shadow? Do you mean the color is useful? I don't understand."
"No, I don't mean the color is 'useful,' you imbecile. I mean the concept is useful."
"Why? Why? Because it's still a form of denial, of self-defeat, of self-flagellation, of…, of…."
"Of what? What's the golden shadow?" I asked as Fear fell silent.
"The golden shadow is what you'd call 'hero worship.'"
"Hero worship? What do you mean by 'hero worship?' I don't have any heroes."
"I know," said Fear, "but you did as a boy. Remember Roy Rogers?"
"Oh, you mean that I had to be Roy Rogers whenever I played cowboys?"
"Precisely. He was your hero because you thought he was the best and the bravest, but you didn't see yourself that way, did you?"
"No," I answered thoughtfully. "My father, as you already know, raised me to think of myself as a lazy failure who was also a coward."
"Good. Now, how would you have felt if RR had turned out to be a crook in real life, or even in the movies, instead of the shining example of all that you thought was good and just? Would you have given him the benefit of the doubt because he was a fallible human like yourself?"
"I'd have been bitterly disappointed and would've turned to my number two hero—Gene Autry."
"Of course you would," agreed Fear.
"And you know why?"
"No," I conceded. "Why?"
"Because," Fear began to explain with ever so slight a hint of gentleness, "you believed your father and thus thought of yourself exactly as he told you to. Therefore, thinking you couldn't possibly be as good as you perceived RR to be, you projected onto him the responsibility of living out that part of yourself for you.
"So, if he had fallen off the pedestal you put him on, you would have abandoned him as your hero because, in your mind, he would have proven to be no better than you thought you were. A pedestal, after all, is a very small place to move around on!"
"You're right, I hated myself all of my early life because I saw myself as my father saw me. I…"
"I know," interrupted Fear. "Those were glorious times!"
"What was so 'glorious' about them?" I asked, ignoring Fear's incorrigible rudeness.
"You weren't always challenging my authority, like you do now."
"Authority? What authority?" I countered. "You're just a want-a-be apparition I humor, and to which I give slightly more credence than you deserve. Authority? You don't have any authority. By your own admission, you're an 'emotion.' An emotion that only has audacity, because Love—your twin—has all of the real authority."
"Well…! And you call me rude!" chided Fear with righteous indignation.
"Come on, Fear. Can we please get on with our conversation? Although I think I understand what you mean, how come I don't have any heroes today."
"That," replied Fear with its usual superiority and bravado, "is, for a change, a good question. You're heroless today because you've taken back your projections and are living out your own life and keeping your own score."
"Look at it this way. You're no longer living your life vicariously through someone else's accomplishments. You're living it through your own, so you no longer need heroes. In a sense, you're your own hero in that you're fulfilling your destiny under your own power."
"That sounds somewhat grandiose and conceited," I objected.
"Well, unfortunately, in your case it's not," said Fear. "But just don't let it go to your head and put on airs of false modesty!
"No! On second thought, I take that back. By all means, let it go to your head."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you."
"I'd revel in it!" grinned Fear.
"What else can you tell me about the golden shadow?"
"Not really much," came Fear's reply.
"That's not very enthusiastic," I observed. "So, am I to take your apparent lack of enthusiasm as a sign that we're through with this conversation?"
"Ya, I guess so. I'm tired of this. You ask too many questions. And besides, you apply what I tell you, which is hardly to my benefit."
With that, Fear faded into the ineffable.
© chris maser 2001. All rights reserved.