The Shadows Tug (Jung)

The fear of not being accepted by our peers drives us to repress the aspects of ourselves we are ashamed of, pushing them into a dark recess of our unconscious, an area he called the “Shadow.”

Throughout our lives the Shadow accumulates, gaining influence over our conscious mind every time we refuse to engage honestly with an emotion or desire (usually because we fear retribution from our peers for appearing ignorant or flawed). Overtime, an ignored Shadow can become so strong that it begins to spontaneously lash out, overwhelming our conscious mind and forcing us to commit deplorable actions that provide a release for our inhibited desires.

“..if [the shadow] is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected and is liable to burst forth suddenly in a moment of unawareness.” — CG Jung

This is how Jung might’ve explained a husband who, after constantly feeling powerless in his professional settings, ends up raising a shadowy hand against the woman he loves; or why a celibate priest might eventually become a sexual predator.

But it doesn’t stop there. Jung believed all kinds of persistent neuroses — perfectionism, cynicism, depression, etc. — result from a disharmony between the unconscious and conscious minds. Like a desperate puppeteer hiding behind the curtains of reality, the Shadow’s tug can be felt in all actions we take.

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