Shadow Origins

April 12, 2006

Since I attended the Sweet Darkness Intensive with AVI I am diving into the unknown and devouring anything and everything on this idea of Shadows as projections of my disowned parts.

Excerpts From Robert Bly’s book. … indicates text that was snipped.

A Little Book on the Human Shadow (1988)

When we were one or two years old we had what we might visualize as a 360-degree personality…

A child running is a living globe of energy. We had a ball of energy; all right; but one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball. They said things like: “Can’t you be still?” or “It isn’t nice to try and kill your brother.”

Behind us we have an invisible bag, and the part of us our parents don’t like, we, to keep our parent’s love, put in the bag.

By the time we go to school, our bag is quite large. Then our teachers have their say: “Good children don’t get angry over such little things.” So we take our anger and put it in the bag…

Then we do a lot of bag-stuffing in high-school. This time it’s no longer the evil grownups that pressure us, but people our own age…

So…out of a round globe of energy the twenty year old ends up with a slice… [and] the rest is in the bag… We spend our lives trying to get them out again.

Robert Bly

I was 45 before I heard the story of Procrustes Bed. It blew the roof off of my skull! It was around this time that I first learned of the Judgement of Paris and Who gets the Golden Apple. Another skull shattering experience for me. I think each of those stories stirred me because they spoke of the parts of us that favor and allow to develop and the parts of us that we disown and lock away – sometimes forever.

Imagine yourself at 2, or 10, or 20, taking a beautiful, energetic part of yourself that someone doesn’t like, so you you lock it away in the deep dungeons…. for years it lives in the dark, unfed, unseen, unloved, and it begins to regress… and become more infantile and it develops resentment and hatred towards you for locking it away…but it bides its time – waiting patiently in the dark, locked away – waiting… waiting… waiting… when WHAM! here walks someone into your life and you hardly know him or her and you instantly DESPISE her. Carefully you catalog all the things about her that you hate – and exactly how you hate them… and you become the judge, jury, and executioner and you dismiss he – because she is so unlike you… And as long as she carries these horrible attributes – you can feel smug and superior – because she is so __________ and you are never __________.

Congratulations! You have just had a shadow encounter. All those attributes you despise in her – are the regressed, parts of yourself asking to be seen.

No, no, no, you protest vigorously. I hate people like her! I would never do that to anyone. I despise women like her. She is less than nothing and I pity her.

The more you defend yourself from being like her – the clearer the message is that you have encountered a missing piece of yourself. The less you can see yourself in her – the more gold there will be for you when you reel that projection in – and own it as your own.

Have you ever met someone – and just the way she moves, or talks, or gestures makes you take an instant disliking to her?

I am deeply grateful to Dianne Timberlake, Bill Plotkin, and Angeles Arrien for their compassionate teachings on this subject.


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