Just as Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole and encountered a whole new world, so you will someday descend the manhole. Or, at least, I hope you will. You never really become an adult until you wade through the sewer of your being.
When you descend the manhole you come face-to-face with the ignored, rejected, and repressed parts of yourself, what Carl Jung called the shadow. Here you confront those attributes that you’d rather not see. These may include your immaturity or selfishness, your anger, jealousy, laziness and the like. But the shadow is also the storehouse of great treasures, for much that we have rejected or left undeveloped can enhance and deepen our life. For example, your repressed anger may have a message or perspective you need to hear. It can also give you the motivation to change an unhealthy situation. Likewise, contact with your suppressed instincts can bring you more energy and reconnect you to the wisdom of your animal nature. Perhaps most importantly, the shadow contains undeveloped interests and potentials that can become your gift to the world.
It takes courage to enter the manhole. Wading through, sorting through, and refining what you find there is often disgusting, slow, repetitive work. It takes humility and builds humility at the same time. It reconnects you to your humanness while it solidifies and adds depth to your personality. It is an essential part of your path to God. Although paradoxical, it is true: enter the manhole and emerge a whole man......
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D. Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.
Thank you, this is so well expressed in few words. The paradox is beautifully stated.
Thank you, Susan. It was fun to write.
I had the following dream a few nights ago-
I have entered the community gate where I live & am approaching my apartment building. Near the garbage dump collection area I see my ex business partner & he sees me. He is at the door of his car (Mercedes) & is getting in. I wonder if I should smile at him (acknowledge) or not & if he will acknowledge me first. I don’t & nor does he & I am ok with it. I notice he is wearing a light shirt & I get concerned if my shirt is clean. I am wearing a white shirt which is spotless & I am quite pleased with that
Part 2 (couldn’t recollect if part 1 & 2 were of one dream sequence but they were around the same time)
I open the door to my home & see that the power is off. My neighbour’s apartment door is open & he says that his power was off earlier too. I check & see that the mains have tripped & turn them on again.
I would describe my ex business partner as a manipulative, shrewd, power-hungry, arrogant, dominating, selfish & greedy person. I realise that these are my shadow qualities. How do I embrace them?
Well, I wouldn’t say you should “embrace” these negative qualities that you see in your ex-business partner, and which you infer are also aspects of yourself. You are both wearing light shirts; yours is white and spotless. Probably this represents your persona and his. You both want to appear spotless. But, ironically, you’re both by the garbage dump area. That’s a good metaphor for the shadow. You are both hesitant to acknowledge each other, to acknowledge your shadow. And yet there you both are. You guys are tied to each other in mutual projection (?). But perhaps it is good you are at the garbage dump. It might be a good place to discard some of the negative attributes. Which brings us back to the idea of what to do with the shadow. You don’t really want to embrace these attributes, as in cultivate them in yourself. But you do want to know them, to see the reality of them in yourself. You want to do the difficult and humbling work of seeing how these negative shadow elements operate within you and by what values, beliefs and attitudes they are sustained. You must see the stark truth of them in yourself, and recollect and reflect on the many times they have had their way with you. This takes courage, brutal honesty, but also self-compassion. Don’t go into a negative inflation, don’t beat yourself up; but do be honest and objective about things. Your ego will want to slip off the hook. Don’t let it. An honest and authentic confrontation with the shadow is an opportunity for great growth, an opportunity to add substance to the personality. It can have a very positive grounding effect as long as it doesn’t digress/deviate into a worthless negative inflation or self-flagellation. (See my King Midas post for an example of negative inflation.)
After you have made an honest appraisal of these shadow attitudes, habits, etc., then you begin the process of challenging, disputing, shooting holes into them. You can’t just tell yourself, “Okay, I’m just not going to do that anymore.” or “I’m not going to think that way anymore.” You can’t just change attitudes through force of will. You must go into them and wrestle with them. You need your feelings here. You must understand the beliefs, values, and goals that undergird them, that brought them into existence and which continue to sustain them. There will be a clash and battle of values and worldviews. And what the result will be can only be determined by the level of your moral courage and the depth of your desire to live a truly quality life.
The fact that the light does not go on in your apartment may reflect the lack of consciousness (light) in your perspective/attitude in that part of the dream. You are pleased with yourself that you are wearing a spotless shirt, but such self-comfort can keep you blind (unconscious) of the shadow side of you that your unconscious wants you to face. However, it sounds like you have already made a good start, for you acknowledge in your comment that you know these aspects of your ex-business partner to be reflections of your own shadow. Good for you.
Thank you for elucidating the shadow & its purpose so wonderfully. I had misunderstood how to handle shadow attitudes (prefer to see them as reactions/responses delivering values relevant in our early environment) etc. all along & my dilemma was in how to act outside of these subconscious attitudes and partly in how to cope without them.
I have been through a cycle (or two) of psychological inflation & self-flagellation in the past decade & have become mindful of that.
I can see that there is a lot of work that I must do in deflating my shadow attitudes and in developing underdeveloped values at my core that will drive my behaviour. But for the first time I feel like I am in the correct lane 🙂 Wish me luck!
Once again, thank you for the explanation & tips.
Thank you for your response. It does sound like you are in the correct lane.