Romancing the Shadow – Get to know that shady dude!

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” – CG Jung

I chose this book because today, I gave in to the shadow. You may have noticed that I skipped a couple of days writing and then yesterday, had what can only be termed as “a yucky day.”

See, it all began several weeks ago…

“Sheryl, can you work full-time while I’m on holidays?”

“Um,” I said.

I’m sure my face did that… twisty thing… the kind of look that someone not planning an exotic vacation might have noticed.

“Sure, I’ll work twice as long as usual and also on my day off so you can lounge, frolic and enjoy drinks with little paper umbrellas in the sun,” I said in my head.

“Okay, I guess,” I said out loud.

I might be jealous. Maybe.

“Dark side of the soul,” indeed. Ahem.

Aside: I’m sharing this because the extra hours have draped a pall over me for the last week. My schedule is disrupted. I’m writing after dinner instead of my usual 3pm sit-down and it’s difficult. It takes time to go through the books, choose quotes, read, research and write. You know? Anyway, about today… I was snarly and snippy at work. I said some things I’m not proud of. I complained. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t like who I was today. That’s all I mean to say. 

Romancing the Shadow by Connie Zweig, Ph.D. and Steve Wolf, Ph.D. was groundbreaking in the 1990s. To suggest that we should coax out the darkness within? Romance it? That’s crazy-talk! But yes, that’s what this book asks you to do.

I will tell you that it’s NOT easy reading on ANY level. The writing is clear and smart… it’s not that… it’s everything else.

Let’s start with the shadow…. the dark side of ourselves… the ugly underbelly. Most of us spend a lifetime dodging that jerk. And here’s this uppity book, asking us to not only acknowledge it, but bring it to the fore and look at the darned thing!

Now you want me to romance it? NO NO NO NO!!!! Everything feels wrong with that!

It’s not. Wrong, I mean.

So, what is “the shadow”?

‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung (1963), is ‘‘that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious’’ (cited in Diamond, p. 96 – from this Psychology Today website)

You can see why the natural inclination is to turn away from it. But when we turn to look at it… study it… we realize:

The shadow disguises itself in our projections, when we react intensely to a trait in others that we fail to see in ourselves. -Connie Zweig

Oh God, that.

On the book jacket, it calls the shadow, “The soul’s hidden face.” Yes, it is that, too.

This is huge. The book’s scope is, too. From our family at birth until our last dying breath, the shadow is present, as both a group dynamic and a personal one. Healing family patterns, personal relationships and self are covered here, along with a healthy dose of mythology and archetypes.

One final note: It’s not too difficult to imagine that Shadow has a big part in the uglier side of our social concerns like racism and violence. Will this book help to save the world? Maybe not. But if each of us were to take responsibility for our own shadow… see it for who and what it is… and bring light to the darkness… that would be a good start. Don’t you think?

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