Monday, September 21, 2015

Only the Shadow Knows, part 1

What evil lurks in our hearts?  
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed the concept of the Shadow.  He believed that our shadow resides deep inside us, rich with life, and on occasion our shadow pokes up through our psyche.  Many of us subvert our shadow, hiding it deep inside. Jung cautions “…the less embodied [the Shadow is] in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”  

The “Other”
We may deny unpleasant impulses, the evil, hidden in our shadow by attributing them or projecting them onto others. We do this to keep ourselves from owning them.  

I can feel my shadow rising when my reaction to something is much larger than it should be.  A poke from something in my shadow tempts me to tarnish those whom I have named “other,” somehow different from me. This poke is my unconscious well of own disowned darkness, my shadow. 

The “Enemy”
Projection can lead to identifying what you fear: your “enemies.”  The enemy is something or someone who reflects our disowned darkness. When we react intensely to a quality in an individual or group--such as lethargy or ignorance, assertiveness or success, sensuality or spirituality--and that reaction consumes us with great loathing or admiration, this may be our own shadow showing. We have all done this. 
The Critic
Have you said at one time or another:  "I don't know how she could wear that outfit." "This is the third time you arrived late without calling me."  “You look like something the cat dragged in—just kidding.”  If you feel an overwhelming, powerful–though not always negative—emotion, this could be your shadow.  You can choose to not let it control your reactions, and you can take the opportunity to reflect on the experience, putting light into your shadow. 

Our Secret “Wrongs”
As we grow up we develop our ideas of right and what is wrong, what acceptable behavior is and what is not, what is okay to think or say and what is taboo.  As we decide, we put certain aspects of ourselves into some place deep inside ourselves—in our shadow.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, ". . . the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"   

At some point we may hear a message that causes us to some part of ourselves into the shadow.  It is not about what parents, teachers, authorities say; it is about how we hear and how we make sense of what we hear.

We try to hide away our aggressive impulses, our violent rages, our selfish needs, our deepest insecurities, our paralyzing pain.  Some of our aspects may truly be evil or destructive to others or ourselves but many of our shadow aspects are our submerged shame, dreams, fantasies, even talents.

To Be Whole is to Honor the Shadow
In order to honor the shadow, to integrate our whole selves, we need to find ways to develop awareness of all aspects of ourselves.  To develop awareness of the shadow calls for breaking old habits and cultivating dormant talents. 

The shadow reveals itself again and again, in our visceral responses to external or internal stimuli or cues, and gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and grow emotionally and spiritually.  Our task is to refrain from becoming reactive or destructive when our shadow rises, and instead notice it, learn from it, and integrate our shadow into our conscious being in order to become more whole. 

Embrace and Walk with Your Shadow
If you seek out what is in your shadow, if you watch for it whenever it erupts, and then embrace it,
you can be the redeemer who can provide the redemption you need. 

I urge you to courageously search for the emotional and spiritual nourishment, enlightenment, passion, and redemption that is within your shadow. 

Walking with your shadow, intentionally and consciously, is an act of beauty and courage which can lead to loving your hidden self.   
Search your shadow despite your fear, for the light of compassion, friendship, and love is always with you.

Blessings, Rev. Tom

Click here for a transcript of Rev. Tom’s full Sermon (

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