It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster. ~ Carl Jung, “On the Psychology of the Unconscious.”
If you’re truly honest about self-exploration during your journey of Involution, you will come across many aspects and traits about yourself that you will find difficult – if not completely disturbing – to accept.
In the domain of psychology, renowned psychologist Carl Jung devoted a lot of thought to this problem of the “Shadow Self”, being deeply invested in the research of ancient esoteric knowledge and spiritual scriptures to not only treat the mind of man, but his soul as well.
In response to his serious preoccupation Jung created the Archetypes model, a concept wherein he believed our unconscious minds are fragmented or structured into different “selves” in an attempt to organize how we experience different things in life. Two of Jung’s major Archetypes are The Persona and The Shadow Self.
The Birth Of The Shadow Self
So what exactly is the “Persona” and “Shadow Self”? Well the Persona, according to Jung, defines what we would like to be and how we wish to be seen by the world. The word “persona” is derived from a Latin word that literally means “mask”, however in this instance the word can be applied metaphorically, representing all of the different social masks that we wear among different groups of people and situations.
On the other hand, the Shadow Self is an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. Jung believed that these latent dispositions are present in all of us, in many instances forming a strong source of creative energy.
We are all born pure, like blank canvases. But at some point during our childhood development, we learn knowledge that teaches us to separate things into good and evil. The moment we eat from this tree of knowledge, our shadows are born and we begin to divide ourselves. Furthermore, in our cultural ‘socialization’ process, we begin to sort out those traits within us that are acceptable in society, and those unacceptable traits that aren’t (which are later hidden away). As Jung said:
What we call civilized consciousness has steadily separated itself from the basic instincts. But these instincts have not disappeared. They have merely lost their contact with our consciousness and are thus forced to assert themselves in an indirect fashion. This may be by means of physical symptoms in the case of a neurosis, or by means of incidents of various kinds, or by unaccountable moods, unexpected forgetfulness, or mistakes in speech… modern man protects himself against seeing his own split state by a system of compartments. Certain areas of outer life and of his own behavior are kept, as it were, in separate drawers and are never confronted with one another.
Thus, the dark shadow traits that we all possess accumulate in the corners of our unconscious minds, never becoming adequately integrated into our conscious minds because we never see our split state in the first place (due to our psychological ‘defence mechanisms’). And so we continue on accumulating these dark desires, motivations and fears.