Are you ready and eager to dive deeper into the geography of your Unconscious, and meet all “indigenous” who live there? If that is so, just jump on board and let’s go for an amazing ride…
This post is the continuation of the last post. So, if you haven’t read the first post I urge you to do so. Follow the link to read the post The Spiritual Explorer’s Guide to the Mind – Part 1.
The Spiritual Realm – The Realms of the Unconscious
It was S. Freud who discovered the Unconscious Realm, but it was his student Carl Jung who gave a new dimension to it. C. Jung came up with two levels of the Unconscious:
- Personal Unconscious
- Collective Unconscious
Although these two levels are connected, they are distinct in relation to the content they carry. Let’s first explore the Personal Unconscious.
The Personal Unconscious
So, what is the Personal Unconscious? According to Carl Jung, it is all the information present in the mind of a person which is not readily available to conscious recall, i.e. memories that have been forgotten or repressed.
What we are most interested in here, and within the scope of this article, are all the repressed experiences, parts and information related to it. The following quote from Campbell gives a taste of this:Gods suppressed become devils, and often it is these devils whom we first encounter when we turn inward.
- Joseph CampbellClick To Tweet
I have to say that I love this quote from Campbell. When he mentions “Gods suppressed” he is referring to psychic elements of our own psyche that went rogue.
Imagine that when you were quite young someone made a judgement about you being fat. Now that you are an adult, you have that emotional repulsiveness towards other people that are overweighted, and perhaps you develop a very critical judgement of your own body in the form of personal opinions or internal negative self-talk. In plus, when you have to engage with overweighted people you might feel uncomfortable, bothered by them, angry or even anxious without a reason. Deep inside, you are comparing them to the acceptable standards of perfection that you came to idealize due to something that happened to you a long time ago in your past.
Going back to Campbell, your potential to like your body the way it is was suppressed by early judgement and went inward not to be displayed again, turning into something sour. Now imagine that the same happened to your ability to think or your ideas, your sexuality, your personal value, and so on. Those parts become repressed and are sent into exile, sinking into the abyss of the unconscious for no one to see them again, afloat remain anxiety, guilt or shame that will be triggered by the slightest innuendo from life, a stranger or a friend, exploding like an emotional landmine on the surface of the plain Conscious field, and making life difficult to bear.
The repressed parts remain down under lurking in the shadow, distorted and waiting for an opportunity to strike back when you least expect. They might retaliate during sleep in a nightmare, or through an inconvenient slip of the tongue, or by exhibiting the wrong body language in a crucial moment, or through those sharp words liberated by sufficient alcohol at an inappropriate time and place. It is also very common to meet them in real life through those persons that “push your buttons”. Not to mention the judgmental inner self-talk that can drive you “mad”.
The sum of all those parts is in general called the Shadow. In very simple terms, the Shadow is the opposite of Ego.
Meet The Shadow
At the door of the Personal Unconscious stands The Shadow. The Shadow is the guardian of this realm, and it scares you because it is the exact opposite of what you consider to be you, being the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality. It is all that you consider yourself not to be. It is mainly composed of the repressed material, like memories, ideas, emotions, desires, impulses, ideals, uncontrollable power urges, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage. All this, lurking under the radar of your Conscious awareness.
The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself” and represents “a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well”. If and when ’an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others—such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions—…painful and lengthy work of self-education.
– Carl Jung
For instance, if the Ego of a person is identified to be the one of a kind and good-natured person, the Shadow stores the inconsiderate and mean aspects. Or reversely, a person with a brute and bully Ego will have a balanced Shadow storing the sensitive and fragile aspects (interesting to notice that the brute and bully aspects will hunt down people who are sensitive and fragile. It is far easier to find external “enemies” than to try to deal with all that hate stored inside).
A good example of this opposition is the following chart:
|Great Mother||Terrible Mother|
|Old Wise Man||Trickster|
The Shadow and the Golden Shadow
There is more to the Shadow then meets the eye. The Shadow is not just one-sided bad. This is far from the truth. The Shadow is double-sided.
What is repressed and becomes the Shadow is not just the negative aspects, especially the ones not validated by society. There are other aspects that are repressed too, and here is where lays your “Gold”, your “Treasure”.
Imagine that when you were quite young someone made a judgement about your ability to sing and you took it personally. Now that you are an adult you still believe that you have no aptitude for singing, and you avoid every instance where you are invited to sing in public, feeling uncomfortable, anxious or even ashamed. In plus, you feel personally bothered by people who don’t sing according to certain standards of perfection.
You could have the gift to sing, the potential to develop a magnificent voice, and enjoy beautiful harmonies, but at young age you accepted the idea that you are no good at singing, and you threw the “Gold” away into the dark pit of the Personal Unconscious, to become a part of the Shadow.
Perhaps now you go about your life enjoying and loving others who master the “Gold” that you have thrown away, in this case, a singer or singers who have become your Idols. What is happening is that you are projecting your tiny Gift reflection from your Shadow into the magnificent singer in front of you. By doing this you are living your Gift through the other until, hopefully, you start believing in yourself and become that what you see in the idol.
As you see, the Shadow can also store the most amazing unrealized potential of your life, until you are able and ready to liberate it.
The Power of the Shadow Side
Now you begin to have a complete idea of what the Shadow is, actually encompassing both all these nastiest and dark aspects of you, and/but also the most amazing, unimaginable potential for success and greatness.
Let me better explain this by resorting to Western mythology. It is common to find fairy-tail stories about dragons that stand guard to a treasure or a damsel. Now imagine that the Shadow is both the dragon and the treasure that it is protecting.
Your idea of yourself is an Ego identification, which on the Conscious level excludes and denies you to be both the Dragon and the Treasure (the Shadow) that includes all the nastiness, but also the most amazing Gifts that you have.
Don’t you believe me? Ok, just try this. Do you recall when you negate things about yourself, things like “I never lie” or “I don’t have a voice to sing, I will never be like ____ (the name of your favourite singer)”. What happens is that on an Ego conscious level you are negating the evil parts and also the golden parts of yourself. What you are saying is that you are not the Dragon and you are also not the Gold or Treasure (your gift). After this explanation, the following quote of Joseph Campbell makes perfect sense.
The Dragon part of The Shadow is the struggle to regain Personal Power, to be able to be Fearless. The Gift / Treasure part of The Shadow is the struggle to accept your personal Gifts that you do not yet believe to possess (remember when you say “I will never be like that” or “I don’t have that in me”). So there you have it. The Shadow is composed of the Darken Shadow and the Golden Shadow.
Following the mythology thread, when you are able to confront the Dragon (Shadow) and better than to kill it, befriend it, the power of the Dragon will flow in you (libido, Chi, Kundalini). Only then will you start to believe in yourself, begin to accept that you are worthy of the Gifts that you have in you all along.People who didn’t confront themselves with their most inner fears are unable to grasp their inner Personal Power and Full Personal Potential (Gifts). Success only comes when you are able to be a victor over yourself.
- Jaime GraceClick To Tweet
Personal Unconscious as a Spiritual Gate
The Personal Unconscious is the real entrance to the spiritual world. This is the realm that many true Spiritual Seekers find first, and scares the sh*t out of them. Many bad trips, scary meditation episodes and uncontrollable Kundalini, are the proof of this.
In a spiritual sense, the Shadow is the gatekeeper to higher spiritual dimensions. The Shadow represents the crucial test for the spiritual seeker (an essential part of any rite of passage). You see this expressed in many temples and cathedrals around the world. This symbolism is expressed on stone sculptured snakes, gargantuans and demons, protecting holy places on the outside against unworthy low-level people and entities.
If you think a bit about this, it is almost like a cosmic joke to ask people to face their worst fears, in the form of their personal Shadow, in order to have access to the journey ahead. Only the ones who are able to stare this tremendous Fear in the face will be granted access to the realm. These journeys are not for the faint of heart.
On the other hand, don’t be discouraged, others have done this journey before you, so you know it is possible! Remember, if you don’t succeed at first, you can always try later. Perhaps it is for the better. Perhaps you are not mature enough and ready to go. Remember, if you are really engaged in the process a day will come when you will feel ready to face your personal demons and move through them, untouched. Just keep on working and you will get there.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
– Psalm 23:4, Bible
Although I am not a religious person I like this quote as it encapsulates the victorious confrontation with the Shadow, a victory over personal fear.
My point is that you need to be prepared to travel the land of the Personal Unconscious in order to safely access higher dimensions of Consciousness. Psychological even psychotherapeutic deep inner work is necessary to grant a safe passage.
The Collective Unconscious
After the Personal Unconscious and the Shadow, if all goes well and you harness your Personal Power (facing Fear) and assume your birthright Gifts, you are granted access to the Collective Unconscious, of the Bliss Fields as I like to call them.
My thesis, then, is as follows: In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.
– Carl Jung, “The Concept of the Collective Unconscious”
Click on the following link to read the third part THE SPIRITUAL EXPLORER’S GUIDE TO THE MIND – Part 3