Monday, October 15, 2012

The Shadow Effect - film and reflections

"Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."   Carl Jung

"You must go into the dark in order to bring forth your light. When we suppress any feeling or impulse, we are also suppressing its polar opposite. If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty. If we deny our fear, we minimize our courage. If we deny our greed, we also reduce our generosity. Our full magnitude is more than most of us can ever imagine.”    Debbie Ford

I attended "The Shadow Effect" last night (see trailer  below about the movie), which was mostly narrated by, and based on, the work of psychologist Debbie Ford, who wrote "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers", a book I've liked since I discovered it in the late 90's.  I enjoyed the movie, particularly the appearances of Deepak Chopra and James Van PraaghI admire Debbie Ford's work, although I have to confess, all that hugging in the workshops would no doubt drive me up a wall.  I'm just not a hugger.  And sometimes I get annoyed by the "do these exercises, make this realization, and you'll fulfill your destiny and be all you can be" idea..........I don't really believe in destiny any more, and trying to "be all you can be" can have some serious setbacks, like exhaustion, arrogance, and self-delusion.  Sometimes the prize is not about getting richer, more love, or a better job, not about "getting" anything - it's about deepening our souls, and in the end, that's all that matters.  But I'm a crank sometimes, and what this movie has to say is nevertheless vital, pragmatically, personally, and collectively, because it's about the essence of integral consciousness. 

"The well of your joy is as deep as the well of your sorrow" 

 Kalil Gibran

 I've often written about the importance of the The Dark Goddess, and the importance of the Dark Goddess to all of planetary life now.  In other words, it's urgent that we develop true compassion for ourselves, and thus, each other, holistic compassion.    As individuals, the scales of Maat tip when too much of ourselves are unconscious, hidden away in the so-called "shadow" aspects of psyche. That's the true meaning of balance.
 Perhaps I should begin with one of my own "shadow" aspects, the "victim" archetype. I felt like sharing the following quote from Carolyn Myss because I agree with some (not all)  of her observations about what she called "woundology".
"One day, in passing, I introduced a friend of mine to two gentlemen I was talking with.  Within two minutes, my friend managed to let these men know that she was an incest survivor. Her admission had nothing whatsoever to do with the conversation we'd been having, and what I realized was that she was using her wounds as leverage. She had defined herself by a negative experience.  In workshops and in daily life I saw that, rather than working to get beyond their wounds, people were using them as social currency.  They were confusing the therapeutic value of self-expression with permission to manipulate others or define themselves with their wounds. Who would want to leave that behind? Health never commands so much clout!"

Carolyn Myss,  Why People Don't Heal and How They Can
  I want to comment first, as she does, that actual victimization, and the psychic wounds that arise from these experiences, should not be negated, nor should the "blame the victim" phenomenon ever be allowed to occur  Further, a sense of victimhood can be learned from our parents, and can have roots that extend far back into family and cultural history.  Having said that, I also believe, from my own experience in therapy, that healing and self-understanding comes from being able to tell our painful stories, and by the telling we can integrate those stories into the larger story, developing compassion for ourselves and strength from those experiences.  We "fore-give", and move fore-ward.  The question of whether this role is a shadow issue arises when one lingers in the role of "victim" because it is familiar,  allows one to avoid responsibility, and even provides a kind of social currency with others.
"The secret is out: all of us, no exceptions, have qualities we won't let anyone see, including ourselves---our Shadow. If we face up to our dark side, our life can be energized. If not, there is the devil to pay. This is one of life's most urgent projects."....Larry Dossey, M.D.
In the past few years,  entering my 60's and becoming a SAGA (no "crone" for me.  Saga is so much better, a Finnish derived word that means both "old woman"  and "long story") I've been noticing how much the "victim" or "wounded" archetype has big real estate in our world, as well as my own past persona.  It's a shadow aspect that is rarely spoken about, because, frankly, it has so much leverage and ambiguity attached to it.  I've also had to notice that there are individual interactions with people and groups that are about supporting each other's insecurities - and success, leadership, or individual accomplishments can be punishable by ostracism.  Believe me, I've been in circles with "victims" (myself included) that could deflate any natural leader or brilliant contributor in no time flat, and continually reduced the group to a comfy  "circle of mediocrity". 

Shadow Work is harsh.  I think a stubbornly internalized and unrealized  need to retain the role of  "victim" is on the same page as the unconscious need to dis-empower or denigrate the perceived gifts and strengths of others.  We cannot afford to genuinely victimize ourselves by clinging to the exhaustive role of  "victim" at a certain point in the quest for maturity - equally, we cannot afford to "make ourselves small" and hide our light so that others will "like" us, nor unconsciously coerce this tyranny on others so we won't feel "threatened".  Empowerment is like the symbol of the Tree of Life - as above, so below, as without, so within. The roots run deep, into dark waters.

 "He governs the flowing of all waters, and the ebbing, the courses of all rivers and the replenishment of springs, the distilling of all dews and rain in every land beneath the sky.  In the deep places, He gives thought to music great and terrible; and the echo of that music runs through all the veins of the world in sorrow and in joy; for if joyful is the fountain that rises in the sun, its springs are in the wells of sorrow unfathomed at the foundations of the Earth."   J.R.R. Tolkein, "The Silmarillion"


Gail said...

I suggest to anyone doing shadow work to keep a detailed dream journal. I was going over mine after several months of intense shadow work and noticed dream themes. (several dreams about the same thing) In many of my dreams I was out without my makeup or not able to find my mask or costume, all symbolic of hiding behind masks in life. Many of my dreams were about locks and keys. I even had a dream that I was looking into my neighbor's yard and seventy black puppies and dogs were swimming in, jumping out of her pool and she had a whip and was trying to get them back in the pool. She wasn't hurting them and I actually felt sorry for her in the dream. Upon analysis the dogs were 'shadows' surfacing the pool of my subconscious. My neighbor was my ego trying to get my shadows back submerged. Carl Jung says that surfacing our shadows allows our soul to take charge of our ego.

Lauren said...

Thank you Gail for your insight. Wish you were around to discuss dreams with me. I agree......keeping a dream journal is very useful. I've never been one who dreams much, although every so often I do have a dream that demands my attention.

A few years ago I had a dream in which I became a man called "Shane", and was preparing to go forward on a new trail. "Shane" is the name of a man I intensely disliked, someone I felt I had given away my power or resources to. I now understand that the dream was a perfect "Animus" dream, about entering a phase of life where I was integrated with my masculine self and my shadow. The "Shane dream" ended up being a powerful affirmation for me.