Creative Interactions With The Shadow January 18, 2013
“Vessels we create via creativity, dream work, shamanism, and so on, are of value to us and the world soul to the degree that they give form to the religious instinct that connects us with the original spirit, the mediator of the opposites, the god of change and renewal.” Monika Wikman
I absolutely love this quote and think it’s one of the wisest things I’ve read in a long time. When our egos cooperate with our imagination to give creative shape and form to our inner contents, the latent Self (the archetype of our religious instinct or god-image) incarnates. In turn, the incarnated Self connects our egos with the sacred realm beyond the personal psyche (Jung called it the psychoid) whose energies stimulate uniting, renewing changes in us and the world.
But why, you might ask, do we need imaginative inner work to do this? Why not use logic, reason, intelligence and will power to renew ourselves and the world? The answer should be painfully obvious to anyone who has peered through the veil of cultural conditioning. For thousands of years cultures throughout the world have insisted that “we”, with our heroic egos, brilliant philosophies, and correct religions, know how to create the best of all possible worlds.
If we know how, why haven’t we succeeded? Because, my dear friends, we have individual and cultural shadows which interfere with our best intentions. These cannot be kept in check until we see them for what they are, and we can’t see them if they don’t have recognizable forms. I’m not dismissing the value of ego, reason, or willpower. I’m just saying we need to partner these left-brained strengths with our right-brained powers of mythos: imagination, creativity, emotion, symbolism, feeling, personal meaning, and myth-making. This is the soul’s language, and without positive change at the soul level, we cannot effect lasting positive change in the world.
In my last post I explained how we might discover a shadow of self-critical thinking by noticing our body language, emotions, and thoughts and then reflecting on them. Highlighting a shadow is essential, but it’s not enough. Once we know we have a shadow complex we need to work with it in imaginative ways that will make it easier to recognize in the future. Since the Self is our core and circumference, it contains unconscious shadows as well as conscious egos. Giving form to a shadow is therefore a way to incarnate another aspect of the Self. (If you don’t understand what the religious instinct has to do with dark shadows, think demons and devils.)
You can start giving form to a shadow by naming it. Dr. Jekyll called his shadow Mr. Hyde. Mary Shelley called hers Frankenstein. Organized religion calls its shadow Satan. In mythology and folk tales our shadows take such imaginative forms as dragons, ogres, witches, wicked step-mothers, wolves, vampires, monsters, golems, zombies and so on. I call my self-critical shadow Spiritual Bully. Now that s/he has a name, I can identify him more quickly in my habitual self-criticism and critical attitudes. Seeing him makes it easier to rein him in before he does any damage.
Monika Wikman notes other ways to incarnate the Self: “We can learn to draw forth the light in our life through individually-honed media (for example, dance, poetry, art, play, chant, active imagination, meditation, music, nature, sports and sexuality) that encourage spontaneous relationship with the Self and the numinosum [a term for the concept of “holy“].”
I hope you’ll share how you’ve used creative interactions with your shadow or other inner contents. We who are committed to self-knowledge need all the help we can get!