When I say “I think this…” or “I feel that…” and “I will do such and so…” a basic psychological consideration arises: Who exactly is the “I” that is presumably the subject behind these experiences? While one may suppose that there is only one subject, one “I”, it becomes clear upon deeper examination that the psyche holds a multiplicity of separate selves, rather like splinter personalities that drive the direction of psychic energy. The following examples illustrate how the human shadow phenomenon in a depth psychological inquiry bring the light of consciousness into those darker, more shadowy realms of our humanity:
__ A female manager prides herself on strong leadership skills and her fair, affirming treatment of her employees. One of her workers, who happens to be particularly attractive, draws considerable attention and favor from male coworkers. When the manager conducts performance evaluations on all employees, she judges the attractive employee more critically than the others doing the same kind of work at a comparable level of quality. She is unaware of her jealousy of the attractive worker since she herself has experienced painful rejections from a number of men in her personal life.
__ A prominent pastor portraying publicly behaviors of the highest moral and ethical level is discovered viewing child pornography on the internet in the early hours before dawn. The pastor is suddenly confronted with a darker part of his sexuality which now demands his attention.
__ A quiet, modest man toils at a low paying factory job. He is often ridiculed by others who see him as an ignorant and unskilled grunt. When he retires at age 62, his family members discover in his work shed a large collection of his oil paintings all of which show a striking quality of artistic talent and depth. The outward modesty and lowly patterns of labor of this quiet man is contrasted by his evolving gift of expressive resources which urge towards realization.
The very heart of a serious therapy commitment requires a person to bring a moral courage to face those aspects of one’s being which often is at odds with how one ideally professes to be. An openness to the shadow and the necessary work of its transformation, underscores the true task of individuation.