Last updated 9/2/2020 at 5:22pm
Mark Twain said, “Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
Carl Jung, the founder of depth psychology, called this dark side the “Shadow.”
The Shadow includes thoughts or feelings that are morally unacceptable, unbounded power aspirations, lustful fantasies, inferiority complexes, vulgar ambitions, secret faults and a whole host of “skeletons in the closet.”
The Shadow can become repressed to the point that it is denied. We hide it from ourselves. Shadow denial is the lie we tell ourselves because we want to appear holy and morally superior to all those “bad, wicked, evil people out there.”
Jung coined the term “Shadow projection” to describe the tendency in all of us to find some one or group of people who will carry our Shadow. Like the scapegoat ceremony described in the book of Leviticus (16), we put our “sins” on the heads of others and relieve ourselves of bearing the burden of responsibility. We blame and fault others for our mistakes and hate in others what is really a part of who we are. Racism is a broader manifestation of Shadow projection.
Jesus instructed his followers not to look for the speck in the other’s eye but to examine the log in their own; in other words, to engage in honest, self-reflection.
It takes courage to remove the log, face the Shadow and admit that we are not as perfect as we’d like to pretend. Yet when we acknowledge the Shadow, we disarm its sinister effects.
Consciousness of the Shadow grounds us in our humanity. Like the roots of a tree that ground it in the dark soil (humus = humility), recognition of our Shadow grounds us in humility. We recognize our absolute dependence on the grace of God to deliver us from the evil effects of Shadow projection.