“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.” Dr. Carl Jung (1875-1961)
The darkness that lurks within us was described as “the shadow” by Dr. Carl Jung. The shadow is an unconscious complex that contains the repressed (intentionally forgotten) aspects of consciousness.
Every experience we have is important in our spiritual growth. Knowing the shadowy tricks of our egos can take our lives to a deeper and a higher level. However, freedom from ego requires us to be willing to stay awake, alert and demands perseverance. As Dr. Jon Mundy says, “once we have demonstrated our willingness to face any problem, and be honest about our part in misperception, things change. In order for a tree to grow tall, its roots must go deep.”
So what do we watch for as we awaken on the path of the spiritual warrior? One of the things we watch out for is denial which is one of the subtlest and therefore trickiest parts of our various defenses. The reason it is so tricky is because when we are in denial, one of the qualities about being in denial is that we deny we are in it! When we are in denial we often project onto others as a form of defense. We have to claim our projections and try to understand what is going on in our own unconscious. Because, the dynamics of the unconscious are controlling our behavior when we are in denial.
Reclaiming our projections can lead to transformation and redemption, individually and collectively. Well-known Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman, reminds us about a statement Mikhail Gorbachev said to president Ronald Reagan in the early 80s. “I’m going to do something terrible to you; I’m going to take away your enemy.” And, Gorbachev did! As Woodman points out, once Russia was removed as a country for the United States to project its own “aggression and subterfuge on” the U.S. was then forced “to look at its own filthy backyard.” As Jungian therapy asks us to do – we study and claim our projections so we may transform them.
So, how does Woodman define the word projection for us? She states: “A projection is like an arrow. Unconscious content in ourselves sees someone or something in the outer world to which it says Yes or No. The arrow flies to its target. Part of us is then hooked into that person or thing. (Other names for the phenomenon are “falling in love” or “adoring my guru” or “mad about Bombay Sapphire.”) The ego, unless it is very conscious, has no control over the content or the direction of the flight. If the arrow carries big voltage (archetypal projection) the dynamic between arrow and target may be electric… if the arrow is rejected by the target, such rejection has created some of the greatest love poetry, music, art, drama, ballet in the world. Individuals who are attempting to find themselves by withdrawing a projection and mining its resources write in their journals, paint, dance, compose, until they bring to consciousness attributes of themselves that are being sent out in the arrow onto someone else.” (THE MAIDEN KING)
Gary Zukav explains in his book SPIRITUAL PARTNERSHIP that what we find too painful or shameful to acknowledge in ourselves – we ‘see’ in others and do not like it. Zukav says that “the most rigid, righteous, virulent crusades… are examples of projection. As many crusaders have discovered, they are attracted to what they hate, and they are so terrified by their attraction that they cannot consider the possibility of it in themselves. The more they battle what they hate outside of themselves, the stronger their attraction to it becomes.” Zukav makes a distinction that whether or not the person you push away is actually the way you think he is or not – a painful emotional charge tells you that a frightened part of your personality is active. In other words, “recognizing a frightened part of your personality in the personality of another individual is not a projection. Reacting emotionally to it is.”
Woodman, in the MAIDEN KING, co-authored with storyteller, Robert Bly, gives us a fascinating analysis of our projections onto Diana, Princess of Wales, whom she says “refused to be the Prisoner of Wales.” Woodman starts her analysis asking the question what did we project onto Diana? Woodman says that when the shy 19 year old whose prince had come, married, she carried the hope, faith and love that most brides yearn to carry and that marrying a prince who would one day be King – making her the mother of Kings – she “carried the dreams of a nation. The pomp and pageantry in London sparkled with hope for a new dawn in depressed England.” Woodman elucidates how the fairy tale continued and how Diana became the “ideal cherishing mother” who chose to travel with her son/s rather than leave them at the palace with strangers. “Here was the genuine feminine feeling breaking the royal coolness of the Queen and her severe Prince.” The media gave us delightful images of the bubbly mother with her young and handsome princes whom she hoped would “sing their song.” The Prince, however, was missing. A stubborn husband he preferred to work alone. Maybe because he had “grown up pinned in royal privacy.” Rumours spread and stories abounded of Diana’s lonely childhood at the aristocratic castle of Althrop. Diana too was born of the great king-makers of England. “They made and broke dynasties, as now a dynasty was being threatened. This princess was not blessed with parents who loved each other.” As a child, travelling back and forth between stepmother and tutor with her little brother beside her, Diana’s “subjects who loved her would look into Diana’s eyes and see their own abandoned child, even their own divine child, mirrored in those sparkling vulnerable depths.” As Woodman continues her analysis she indicates that “whisperings were not all friendly toward the beautiful princess. Indeed many suggested that the fragile woman knew well enough how to climb the rungs of patriarchy, knew exactly how to manipulate the hierarchy of the palace in order to have her own way.” Having borne 2 princes, heirs to the throne, Diana was no longer a necessary “womb for the monarchy.” Husband, Charles, nearly 13 years her senior, was in love with another woman, Camilla, who had been present even on the day that he and Diana had walked down the aisle. “Rumour has it that he had a private telephone line to Camilla from his grandmother’s palace, the grandmother who conspired with her lady-in-waiting, Diana’s grandmother, to bring about this marriage in the first place – two fairy godmothers with pins in their pockets.” Into the arms of James (“an untrustworthy horse trainer who called her Squidgy”) and later, Gilbey, fell the “psychologically alone” Princess. “Now, natural as shadows are, many of her subjects had husbands who had a Squidgy in their lives, or wives who had a James, and knowing that their princess was as unhappy in marriage as they, united them with a velvet chain. Their suffering was no longer hidden under the rug; their suffering was the suffering of the royal princess.” Here, in her analysis, the brilliant Jungian analyst, Woodman, pauses to tell us about her own projections onto Diana:”Even as I write this, I can feel myself being taken over by the fairy-tale language, entering the fairy-tale world. Like so many others at the time of her death, I began to recognize my projections onto Diana, began to experience the unreality of the world she found herself in.”
Continuing the analysis. Regarding Diana, Woodman says, “in the eyes of many , she was a simple, sweet girl, simple enough that anything could be projected onto her.” And, of course, it was. However, Woodman states: “Diana was not simple,… She could have remained silent, carried her own guilt and shame and disillusionment in silence, as women have done for centuries, and appeared as the perfect princess, mother, lover of good works.” Aided by the media, Diana “rejected the projection of perfection.” Hundreds of photographs and that famous post-separation interview with the BBC documented the truth: “In putting on her black widow’s weeds and extra-black eyeliner… and speaking with her head somewhere between shy tilt and defiant set, she spoke her truth. All her pinned listeners were so shocked they didn’t speak much about it. But, they heard, and their unconscious heard, and the anguish that poured out at her death was the repressed anguish of centuries that was punctured open that night. Many of the women at the funeral brought their young daughters because they wanted them to remember they were here. They were at the funeral of the princess who gave them a tongue. “Maybe I’ll never know freedom,” they said, “but I hope my daughter will.” Woodman indicates that Diana is very much alive. She reads the story of Diana, Princess of Wales, as a time where “the consciousness of the world shifted… what was missing was in the coffin at the center. What was not missing was the living image of a new feminine – mother, lover, seductress, humanitarian, with strength to articulate her values, and courage to defend them.” In Diana, Woodman saw her “more and more at home in her own body and in the values that she honoured. Proclaiming that she would be true to her own heart rather than a patriarchal arrangement.” Woodman recounts that she heard one woman remark, “Was there ever before a woman in history who gave up her Queendom because she would not accept a fraudulent relationship?”
Most of us remember where we were when we heard the news about Diana’s car accident. I was driving my family back to Victoria, through some narrow mountain roads in British Columbia after holidaying in Penticton. I immediately began praying for her, as did millions of people across the world. I remembered that a few weeks before she had told a reporter that in a few weeks she would have an announcement that would shock everyone. I speculated, as did so many of us, that it was regarding her relationship with Dodi. Pictures had shown her looking so happy. When she died, my daughter, who was almost 12 then – asked if we could buy a bouquet for the princess and lay it down at a spontaneous makeshift memorial that had sprung up near the Empress Hotel where people gathered in shock and grief. We did this together, joining so many others. You could hear a pin drop.
Woodman continues. “She lived on the razor’s edge between life and death. She died on that edge. She gambled for the whole of life – beauty, wealth, fame, happiness. In the crowning moment of her gamble, she trusted. She failed to ask, “Who is driving this car?” She died in a tunnel in Paris on what was probably the happiest day of her life. Personally and culturally, she was at her peak. Something in her shadow must have been shouting, “What a way to go!”
Understanding our shadow and the Law of Projection offers us enormous opportunities for both personal and spiritual growth.
Love & Light, Monica