The importance of understanding and healing one’s “shadow” is a prominent fixture of contemporary groupthink among followers of the work of Carl Jung, innumerable other contemporary popular teachers, and plays a major role within the Integral AQAL model. How did Carl Jung understand this concept and what is its relationship to Integral Deep Listening (IDL)?[i] The following is an excerpt from Words and Concepts that Are and Are Not Conducive to Enlightenment, “and the interviews referred to in the text may be found therein.
Jung develops the concept of the shadow” for good and important reasons. For example, in “The Philosophical Tree”[ii] he says,
“A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor.”
In Psychology and Religion: West and East,[iii] Jung says,
“If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world.”
There are four basic assumptions about “shadow” that Jung makes
First, “shadow” refers to aspects of self:
“To become conscious of (the shadow) involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.[iv]
The function of this concept is responsibility through ownership, based on the idea that we are empowered only by that which we take as self-created, as a part of ourselves.
Second, “shadow” indicates dark, or unwanted aspects of self:
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”[v]
“Taking it in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him.”[vi]
Jung is saying that the shadow is an evolutionary throw-back, a burden to be cast off:
“We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow.”[vii]
The darkness of the shadow is not petty; it can be demonic:
“It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism.”[viii]
Not only can it be neurotic and demonic, but also pathological and psychotic:
“If the activation is due to the collapse of the individual’s hopes and expectations, there is a danger that the collective unconscious may take the place of reality. This state would be pathological. If, on the other hand, the activation is the result of psychological processes in the unconscious of the people, the individual may feel threatened or at any rate disoriented, but the resultant state is not pathological, at least so far as the individual is concerned. Nevertheless, the mental state of the people as a whole might well be compared to a psychosis.”[ix]
Third, “shadow” indicates repressed aspects of self:
“Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.”[x]
Jung finds good reason for man’s repression of his shadow:
“The change of character brought about by the uprush of collective forces is amazing. A gentle and reasonable being can be transformed into a maniac or a savage beast. One is always inclined to lay the blame on external circumstances, but nothing could explode in us if it had not been there. As a matter of fact, we are constantly living on the edge of a volcano, and there is, so far as we know, no way of protecting ourselves from a possible outburst that will destroy everybody within reach. It is certainly a good thing to preach reason and common sense, but what if you have a lunatic asylum for an audience or a crowd in a collective frenzy? There is not much difference between them because the madman and the mob are both moved by impersonal, overwhelming forces.”[xi]
What Jung means, when he speaks of “losing one’s shadow,” is its repression:
“No, the demons are not banished; that is a difficult task that still lies ahead… Every man who loses his shadow, every nation that falls into self-righteousness, is their prey…. We should not forget that exactly the same fatal tendency to collectivization is present in the victorious nations as in the Germans, that they can just as suddenly become a victim of the demonic powers.”[xii]
“If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”[xiii]
Here we see Jung’s basic theory of his method. You can’t fix personality dysfunction unless you bring repressed shadow to the surface:
“… if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.”[xiv]
Fourth, recognition of one’s shadow involves confrontation.
“Whenever contents of the collective unconscious become activated, they have a disturbing effect on the conscious mind, and contusion ensues.”[xv]
“Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness.”[xvi]
“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”[xvii]
Notice that Jung’s “holy grail” is the finding and integration of “the self.”
Let’s look at how IDL (Integral Deep Listening) looks at all four of these aspects of Shadow described by Jung.
First, IDL does not recognize any self to which “shadow” belongs. It does not belong to waking identity, for it is repressed, or disowned by it. To whom, then, does it belong, if it is not an aspect of who you think you are? Is it a part of who you are but you do not think you are? Jung’s classical answer, following Freud, is that it is part of an expanded, disowned identity that is then projected outward as delusional and conflictual relationships with the world.
This theory is put to the test by IDL, as we have seen in numerous interviews and which you can determine for yourself by interviewing dream characters and the personifications of life issues of your choice using the IDL Interviewing Protocols. Indeed, you are strongly encouraged to do so; otherwise much of what follows may so contradict assumptions you make as to sound like nonsense.
Take any of the words and concepts discussed in “Words and Concepts that Are and Are Not Conducive to Enlightenment, or any demonic dream character, “shadowy” characteristic of yourself, such as an addiction or something you are ashamed of, or some major world event, like 9/11. Interview it, using either the IDL dream or life issue protocol.
If you do so, what you will find is that yes, the character or element most likely does personify some aspect or aspects of yourself. However, as you get into the interview, you will most likely find that the interviewed element embodies potentials that you do not possess. For example, when the “ego,” was interviewed, in the above-mentioned text, I could see how it is a part of me and could respect it, but could not bring myself to feel intimidated or controlled by it. So yes, it is a part of me, and no, it is not a part of me. Nor is it accurate to say it is a disowned part of me. It is much more accurate to say that what was proximal self is now a distal self, a role with which I now have the freedom to identify with or disidentify with. Similarly, in an interview with “the Unconscious,” I could see how the interviewed “Unconscious” personified aspects of myself, many of which are unrecognized or disowned. However, as it transformed itself into Life, it became clear that it so completely transcended who I think I am as to no longer be considered a part of me and to make sense at the same time. As Life, it was neither a proximal nor a distal aspect of myself, nor did Life define itself as some “super self” that I would grow into. The only way it could make sense at that point would be for me to experience myself as a part of it. Rather than Life being a self-aspect, I am experientially, phenomenologically, in the interview, an aspect of it. If this is so, in what sense is this or any element “shadow?” In what sense does an object of awareness belong to you, if it insists on its otherness when identified with and embodies potentials that you do not possess? Does it not make more sense to say that you belong to it, that you are an aspect of it? Does it not make more sense to think of yourself as a “shadow” of it?
Like you and me, these interviewed dream and waking elements, together referred to as “emerging potentials” by IDL, have a sense of self, a sense of identity. They have a beingness which generally proves to be not only relatively autonomous, but highly relevant and meaningful. Interestingly, like you and me, they also make projections, in the form of their interpretations when interviewed. Doesn’t this also imply that they have a “shadow,” or repressed, dark, disowned sense of self? If so, is that not strange to contemplate that “shadow” has its own shadow? How could that be?
The self-sense of these interviewed emerging potentials is authentic and at times quite powerful, but ad hoc; that is, their substantive, nounal ontological reality is highly state-dependent. However, when they are allowed to speak they are as authentic as you and I are; their perspectives are as valid as yours and ours are. This is a testable, empirical claim; you not only do not have to take it on faith. IDL insists that you do not. Test it yourself. From our perspective, these interviewed elements are imaginary perspectives that embody certain combinations of qualities and characteristics. We conclude that they are indeed self-aspects. However, this is a perspective-dependent conclusion. When “shadow” elements themselves are interviewed using IDL, they are found to be as much “not-self” as they are “self,” as much not self-aspects as self-aspects. We are as likely to belong to them as they are to belong to us. This is the first major way that IDL differentiates itself from Jung’s understanding of shadow. Through duplicatible empirical experiments anyone can discover for themselves the relative autonomy of these perspectives. You will find that at least some of them insist that they are not aspects of yourself and therefore cannot be classified as shadow, according to Jung’s definition.
Jung’s second point involves the supposed darkness and demonic nature of these shadowy “self-aspects.” IDL interviewing generally demonstrates that such assumptions are waking projections, even while dreaming (as the perspective you take while you dream is generally that of your waking sense of self), and are not substantiated either by interviews of the character itself or by other interviewed elements from within the dream or associated life situation. On the contrary, their intentions are generally in the service of shocking waking identity awake. This is hardly a dark, demonic, neurotic, or psychotic intention. When you practice deeply listening, in a respectful and empathetic way to this or that personification of what you consider to be your own shadow, you will generally conclude for yourself that from its perspective it rarely fits any of the above characteristics ascribed to Shadow by Jung. We will address this issue in our interview with the Shadow, below.
Jung’s third point involves repression and disownership. IDL recognizes both, but shares the focus that interviewed dream and waking elements emphasize in countless interviews: what is important is not what is repressed and disowned, or what is not yet recognized or owned, but whether or not you respectfully listen to and take the perspective of whatever you choose to interview.
Typically, in Shadow work, focus is placed on what we have repressed or disowned. We might call those elements “repressed shadow.” By doing so, we amplify whatever is repressed or disowned, in the hope that by doing so you we overcome the repression and generate an “integrated self.” I heartily support this process, as it turns feared or disowned aspects of the proximal self into objectified distal selves which therefore have less ability to disrupt and interfere with development. This is, of course, an intermediate step into the re-integration of these distal selves into a broader, healthier, thinner sense of self.
Rather than looking at life or one’s life issues from the perspective of that which is repressed or disowned, Shadow work, as defined by Jung, is based on the perspective of self. The object, after all, is to integrate these elements into a self, not to have who we are, our self, integrated into these repressed or disowned “Shadow” elements. As such, it is psychologically geocentric.
What generally happens when integration is approached from self-centered perspectives, whether they be ego or Self, is that you get a socially enculturated self that is a thoroughgoing product of the best of prevailing groupthink. You get validation of your own world view. We can see this even in Wilber, who has had many non-dual meditative experiences and is an adept in addition to being a “pandit” and scholar. “Integration” ends up meaning “normal,” as defined by your own particular version of how the world “should” function, which is a frightening thought, considering the state of reality generated by contemporary “normal” humans, including the best and the brightest.
Is there a realistic alternative? Experiential multi-perspectival approaches, such as IDL, are not interested in constituting reality around any definition of self because this is not what interviewed emerging perspectives do. Apparently, it is not what life itself does. This is not to deny the reality of selves, but only to point out that there is no definition of self whatsoever that can or will ever adequately describe life itself. It is and forever will be, larger than any definition or single perception, because it is the set, holon or context that includes all other sets, holons and contexts, including all definitions, which are, after all, merely expressions of the cognitive line. IDL interviewing allows that which is feared to be heard on its own terms without labeling it as repressed, disowned, dissociated, or an aspect of self. If an interviewed element wants to transform, that is respected; if it wants to stay the same, or become even more fearful, that is respected, even honored. There is no attempt in IDL to “integrate” it into some expanded sense of self. To do so is an extension of our childhood scripted mandate to take control of our experience and to colonize all other states of consciousness. How has that project worked out for humanity so far?
Interviewed emerging potentials themselves do not focus on the feared, repressed, or disowned. Even when they are stuck in the Drama Triangle, (that is in roles of Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer), they rarely see themselves as Persecutors, but instead as angry or depressed Victims. They typically personify what is not yet recognized or owned and what is attempting to be born into awareness.
Jung’s fourth point about the shadow is that it requires confrontation. IDL has found that respect, as demonstrated by deep listening, in an integral way, eliminates the need for confrontation and the defensive, fear-based stance that confrontation implies. IDL takes a playful attitude toward nastiness of all sorts. This is because it does not identify with any self that needs to be protected or expanded. Again, this is not simply a theoretical preference; it is a perceptual stance that is developed over time by identification with many, many perspectives of all sorts that cannot die and therefore do not fear. The consequence is that life drama, including a sense that things are good or evil, to be accepted or confronted, is approached with what IDL calls “cosmic humor.” Without identification with a self, there is no sense of threat. Instead, there is clear witnessing, of a quality not unlike that experienced at causal or turiya. This is another reason why IDL is a transpersonal integral life practice.
While it is theoretically possible to confront, as Jung recommends, and to do so without fear or defensiveness, it is not easy, nor is it likely. Most of us imagine we are confronting without fear or defensiveness, but that belief rarely bears up under close examination. Waking up and enlightenment involve growth into the core qualities and perspectives of life; these usually do not require confrontation, other than the challenging of the logic of the statements elements make when interviewed or in questioning the nature and purpose of a character’s recommendations.
As an example of how a transpersonal multi-perspectival, LL quadrant approach works, let’s hear what Shadow itself, or at least my fantasy of Shadow, has to say about all this.
What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?
1 What does Shadow think about what I have written?
2 How do I best help the integral community grow into its own emerging potentials?
3 How do I help the larger “spiritual elites,” of which Integral is a subset, grow into their own emerging potentials?
Remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor? It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind. If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!
Shadow, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?
Shadow, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
I like that I am largely invisible, unnoticed and attached to you. You can’t get rid of me!
Well, not exactly true, Shadow. There are a lot of ways I can get rid of you. For example, I can go into a place where there is no light. I can go to sleep. I can evaporate so I cast no shadow. I can become you, and you yourself don’t cast a shadow.
Clever! But you and I know you don’t do most of those things and those that you do, you rarely do them with me in mind! I’m there and you don’t realize it! Ha ha!
Shadow, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
Not really. I can disappear, but I will always come back. You can’t avoid me forever!
Shadow, what aspect of me do you represent or most closely personify?
Stuff he wants to avoid! Stuff he needs to look at but won’t or doesn’t!
Shadow, you are defining yourself as broader than Jung’s definition of you when you say you represent stuff he needs to look at. That could be stuff that he isn’t or hasn’t yet become – very different from Jung and Wilber’s definition of shadow.
I get to define myself however I want!
Shadow,, what aspect of you do I represent or most closely personify?
You are the modality by which I find expression. I need you to give me voice, shape, form.
Shadow, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
I would have a definite form so that I wouldn’t be dependent on you. I don’t like being thought of as being subservient to you because I’m not!
Shadow, so what kind of form do you want?
Multiple! All forms! Any form! Why limit myself? If I have to choose, why not be a nice, friendly multi-headed, multi-armed blue Shiva? Maybe carrying some severed heads! Ha ha ha!
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Shiva, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence, 0-10. 10 Why? If you were a multi-headed, armed Shiva, carrying severed heads, wouldn’t you be super confident??
Empathy, 0-10. 0 Why? I am too busy having fun being all-powerful to give a shit about you or anyone else! Why should I care? What’s in it for me?
Wisdom, 0-10. 9 Why? I’m wise enough to know I’m a delusion, a fantasy of your mind! Ha ha!
Acceptance, 0-10. 9 Why? You listen to me, then I’m gone…such is life!
Inner Peace, 0-10. 9 Why? What’s there to get stressed out about??
Witnessing, 0-10. 9 Why? I may not see everything, but I see enough.
Shiva, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?
Nope. I’m eternal; I stay the same!
Shiva, how would my life be different if I naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
You would, at some stages of your development, view everybody and everything as aspects of yourself. Then, at other stages, you would view yourself as an aspect of everybody and everything else! Then, at other stages, you would give up being any self!
Shiva, if you could live my life for me, how would you live it differently?
I would give up this mythology that I am a part of you. It’s grandiose. It’s what you call “psychological geocentrism.” It makes reality derivative of your precious sense of self, which is a legend in your own mind.
Shiva, if you could live my waking life for me today, would you handle my three life issues differently? If so, how?
1 What does Shadow think about what I have written? Like you say, the concept of me is helpful for those who need to take responsibility for stuff. But it is grandiose to think you are responsible for what other people do or say, right? I am no help for those that already take too much responsibility or who don’t have issues with responsibility. Keep me, but recognize the limitations to my usefulness.
2 How do I best help the integral community grow into its own emerging potentials? Hmmmm…Respect them. Ask questions. Call them to their own potentials, not yours. Help them get in touch with those innate potentials.
3 How do I help the larger “spiritual elites,” of which Integral is a subset, grow into their own emerging potentials? No different.
Shiva, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of my life?
I personify cosmic humor, that is, not taking yourself seriously, like you really are someone or that what you say or do actually matters. You matter. Take your mass and multiply it by the speed of life squared; You energy. So don’t personalize stupid shit. Most everything is stupid shit. I also personify unlimited abundance. You will notice that when you are aware of unlimited abundance stuff like your shadow doesn’t matter. You don’t feel anxiety or depression or get lost in drama, either.
Shiva, in what life situations would it be most beneficial for me to imagine that I am you, become you, and act as you would?
Only when you want to feel like a multi-armed, multi-headed blue Shiva carrying a bunch of severed heads! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Give me a break, Shiva! I know that is only one of the forms you can take!
So be whatever form you want to be, moment to moment, only fully embody it!
Shiva, why do you think that you are in my life?
To help you wake up and become more alive! To outgrow yourself!
Thank you, Shiva! Now here are a couple of questions for me:
What I have you heard myself say is that the concept of Shadow can be helpful for people who need to learn to take responsibility but for people who have already learned that lesson, not much so. A lot of people need to learn not to make themselves the center of their reality, a concept that the concept of shadow assumes.
If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?
Find out where people are with taking responsibility in their own growth process and respond accordingly.
Look back over the interview and list the specific recommendations that were made:
Become Shiva when you want to be absurd!
This interview will hardly be evidential to you; you have to do your own on your own personification of “shadow” and draw your own conclusions. Go back through Jung’s four definitions of shadow and consider what this shadow thinks about them, and why.
Regarding the interviewing process itself, the reason it may seem simplistic and of no significant consequence is because it has been refined over forty years to look that way so that it is accessible to children and people still at prepersonal levels of cognitive development. If you look at the interviewing structure associated with Dream Sociometry, you will begin to appreciate something of its understated depth.
[i] Integral Deep Listening (IDL) is an expansion of multi-perspectivalism from the cognitive realm of maps of consciousness to an experiential, transpersonal integral life practice. It de-centralizes and expands the self through identification with both “WEs” and “ITs” in the LL and LR collective quadrants of the human holon. The “WEs” in the LL are the intersubjective perspectives of interviewed dream elements, both animate and inanimate, while the “ITs” in the interobjective LR are drawn from interviewing the personifications of the perspectives of waking life issues, objects, states and people. IDL is based on Dream Sociometry, developed in the early 1980’s. Both are dream yogas that emphasize waking lucidity as a key to waking up in all states. IDL is a transpersonal practice in that it deconstructs dualities of all sorts, as discussed in Healing Integral, Pt. 2. For more information see IntegralDeepListening.Com and DreamYoga.Com
[ii] Jung, C.G. in CW (Collected Works) 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335, 1945.
[iii] CW 11: P.140.
[iv] Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
[v] Psychology and Religion (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131
[vi] The Integration of the Personality. (1939).
[vii] Answer to Job (1952). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.1
[viii] “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35
[ix] “The Psychological Foundation for the Belief in Spirits (1920). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.595
[x] “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35
[xi] “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.25
[xii] “The Postwar Psychic Problems of the Germans” (1945)
[xiii] “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131
[xiv] “Answer to Job” (1952). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.1
[xv] “The Psychological Foundation for the Belief in Spirits (1920). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.595
[xvi] “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
[xvii] “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872 Integral Deep Listening (IDL) is an expansion of multi-perspectivalism from the cognitive realm of maps of consciousness to an experiential, transpersonal integral life practice. It de-centralizes and expands the self through identification with both “WEs” and “ITs” in the LL and LR collective quadrants of the human holon. The “WEs” in the LL are the intersubjective perspectives of interviewed dream elements, both animate and inanimate, while the “ITs” in the interobjective LR are drawn from interviewing the personifications of the perspectives of waking life issues, objects, states and people. IDL is based on Dream Sociometry, developed in the early 1980’s. Both are dream yogas that emphasize waking lucidity as a key to waking up in all states. IDL is a transpersonal practice in that it deconstructs dualities of all sorts, as discussed in Healing Integral, Pt. 2. For more information see IntegralDeepListening.Com and DreamYoga.Com  Jung, C.G. in CW (Collected Works) 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335, 1945.  CW 11: P.140.  Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14  Psychology and Religion (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131  The Integration of the Personality. (1939).  Answer to Job (1952). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.1  “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35
 “The Psychological Foundation for the Belief in Spirits (1920). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.595
 “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35
 “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.25
 “The Postwar Psychic Problems of the Germans” (1945)
 “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131
 “Answer to Job” (1952). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.1
 “The Psychological Foundation for the Belief in Spirits (1920). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.595  “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
 “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872