Something is puzzling me.
On a Facebook page I follow, I came across this picture and quotation. By the way, I do like Carl Jung's face — full of intelligence and vitality.
Underneath the picture, the organisation (Tao and Zen) posting had added, along with a link to this website about the Shadow, the following words:
"Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western [thinking], but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." ~ Carl Jung
"The shadow is simply the dark side of someone's personality. And what is dark is always known only indirectly through projection. That is, one discovers his dark side as something belonging to others: friends, relatives, fictitious characters, etc."
I don't know who the second paragraph italicised there is quoting — if it's Jung again or someone commenting on Jung, but I've kept it in here because it says the thing that snagged my attention.
Now, I try to be cautious about what I write on this blog about my personal relationships, but the best examples of what's puzzling me come from that sphere, so I'm going to tell you about just one — my apologies if what follows is a bit cryptic, I want to be circumspect about what I say in public regarding other people.
I have a difficult relationship with a member of my family of origin; not a bad person — a passionate, intelligent, intensely loving and protective soul with a tender heart and a keen sense of justice, who can be very kind, and there are many ways I think highly of this person. Nonetheless our relationship is fraught with problems that I won't go into here.
About a year ago, something happened in my family of origin that was unacceptable to me and weighed so heavily on my mind that it began to make me ill, to the extent that withdrawal from certain relationships seemed to me the most prudent way forward. Yet I don't like to leave any situation with a flavour of acrimony or antagonism; I just didn't want to participate in what I was being asked to do, and some choices had been made that I considered unwise and unjust, and I felt very upset.
So, in withdrawing from the situation I wrote a letter copied to each of two people involved, explaining that I felt the need to do this, setting out what my concerns were (without hostility or discourtesy), and ending with a paragraph assuring the people concerned that I loved them very much, thanking them for all they were and had done for me, saying sorry for any way I had personally contributed to the difficulties, and asking their forgiveness for that. The letters reached them through my husband, and the responses came back to me through him.
The responses did not surprise me, being consistent with our journey together through life to date. One, having read the letter, simply set it aside with no comment, changed the subject and never mentioned it again. The other sent a note in return, describing me as having all my life seen myself as the heroine of my own histrionic drama, and dismissing the contents of my letter in this terms.
Now, what's puzzling me is this; who's projecting the Shadow?
Surely, in any given interaction there is an objective reality to be reached — not everything is subjective, is it? But look, if one's Shadow is apparent to oneself only in what one observes in others, how is it possible to tell what's them and what's oneself?
I mean, do I see myself as the heroine of my own histrionic drama, and am blithely unaware of this and projecting it on to the other family members — or is the person who said this to me the one with that exact characteristic (which observation tells me may be the case) and projecting it on to me? Or are we both people who think we are the main protagonist in our respective histrionic dramas, projecting our Shadows on to each other? How could you possibly tell? How can you learn and grow?
Further to that, if I accept the other person's definition and dismissal of what I wrote in my letter, surely it would follow that my concerns were merely me acting out, and (as the response strongly suggested) were without foundation and not to be taken seriously. And yet, to my mind, my concerns were valid — I had actually, I think, been asked to do something both wrong and unwise, and declining to do so was what made that particular conflict arise in the first place. I had been asked to acquiesce to a fait accompli, in a situation where it would have been appropriate to consult me first and where I strongly disapproved the proposed course of action, and I would not comply.
In all honesty, I do not see how this is me projecting my Shadow onto the other person — but then I wouldn't, would I? That's the whole point about projection; you think the problem is in fact the other person when all along it's really yourself. So how is it possible to get an objective perspective on the scenario, and so get enough illumination to make progress?