Shadow

by Pat Cochran, PsyD

“. . . [F]or the inferior and even the worthless belongs to me as my shadow and gives me substance and mass.  How can I be substantial without casting a shadow?  I must have a dark side too if I am to be whole, and by becoming conscious of my shadow I remember once more I am a human being like any other.  At any rate, if this rediscovery of my own wholeness remains private, it will only restore the earlier condition from which the neurosis, i.e., the split-off complex sprang.  Privacy prolongs my isolation and the damage is only partially mended.  But through confession I throw myself into the arms of humanity again, freed at last from the burden of moral exile.  The goal of the cathartic method is full confession–not merely the intellectual recognition of the facts with the head, but their confirmation by the heart and the actual release of suppressed emotion.”  (Problems of Modern Psychotherapy, CW16, para. 134)

This quote of Jung’s is meaningful in a number of ways, but foremost among them is the way in which Jung focuses on the positive, or purposive, aspect of the shadow.  I grew up believing the “inferior and worthless” things about myself were shameful and therefore needed to be hidden from others.  But here Jung speaks to how engagement with the shadow is necessary for wholeness, and further, that when one gains an emotional connection to those unwanted parts, the result is a restoration of relationship to one’s self, others, and indeed to all of humanity.  The cathartic method he speaks of here is the process of analysis, through which I have personally experienced such a restoration, and in being an analyst, have been honored to witness my analysands’ journey into wholeness and relationship as well.

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