Here I am, co-hosting a three session series in December with my colleague Tenneson Wolf on Engaging Shadow, and Donald Trump wins the presidency of the United States. Tenneson and I joked during our Skype call on election day that we would be getting a chance to explore shadow in our own lives before our offering in December, knowing how things work.
And boy howdy, has a whale of an opportunity presented itself!!
* * *
So what exactly is Shadow? Wikipedia defines it as “an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. . . Carl Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality.”
Wikipedia goes on to say that the shadow is “prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else.” Meaning, the stuff you’ve stuffed into your unconscious about your own personality is the stuff you can’t STAND in someone else.
Hmmmmm . . . so who is someone I can’t STAND these days??? Who do I reject as someone who embodies all I find repugnant? Who do I refuse to have any contact with (like, reading any of his speeches or watching him on TV at all)? And who do I consider to be the now exposed shadow of the collective, of the American psyche?
The soon-to-be 45th president of the United States.
* * *
Luckily, I’ve been practicing leaning into my own Shadow the past few years. When I get that tight, constricted, upset feeling in my body because of something my husband or family member says to me, for example, I’ve learned to take a breath and not immediately punch the person out — though admittedly I can’t always catch myself and refrain. But I have learned to recognized that feeling in my body and know that what I need to do is to turn toward that very uncomfortable feeling rather than run in the other direction, and open myself to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that contraction is my ego protecting itself. Protecting me. Then with a little space, I can feel safe enough to turn inward and ask myself if maybe what they said has a grain of truth in it. I consider it honestly. And often I find that well, heck, they are kind of right.
It is scarey and it literally hurts to do this. But I’ve learned that there is a reward.
FREEDOM. [A real American value!!]
When I can sit with my hurt feelings and fear, and consider that there could be something icky about me that this other person is reacting to, and then identify it and OWN it, it’s like some energy is released and I feel lighter. I feel more clear. I feel empowered.
It’s a spot on case of The Truth Shall Set You Free.
So what am I going to do with Donald Trump? This is my plan.
I’m going to read his acceptance speech. I am going to listen to any Trump supporters who might cross my path (super scarey). And I am going to look inside myself to see if maybe, just maybe, there are parts of who I am that I project onto this bizzare man. Even little bitty parts.
Who knows what I’ll find? Maybe nothing. But the prospect of this project actually excites me. Like a grand adventure to free myself . . . of fear and trepidation, if nothing else.
Let me be clear: this is not to discount the seriousness of the situation and the potential damage that an unbridled far-right Republican administration could do to the progressive agenda. But I'm not going to spend my time or energy wringing my hands about all the possible catastrophic scenarios.
No doubt I’ll have a lot to report in December at our workshop. You are definitely invited to join us, if engaging shadow strikes your fancy.