I am going to try to keep this as authentic as I can, because I don’t want awareness to interfere with what comes up and out here [safely]. With this, I am hoping to share the eye-opening experience I had with this writing prompt.
As such, I have decided to divide this into two prompts. An explanation is coming, so if you are open to creative exploration, please give this a try.
Writing Prompt, Pt. I:
Write however much you need to about someone you really don’t like. No need to get into the nitty gritty about whatever has happened between you. Rather, describe their character. Write out their qualities, without the need to be forgiving. Nobody has to see this but you. Focus on whatever it is that irks you, and get it out on paper.
[Please pause here. When you’re ready, scroll for some more information about what we are accessing, including an explanation for what I have asked you to do.]
Carl Jung, like other psychoanalytic theorists, proposed that the psyche was a multi-dimensional structure composed of conscious and unconscious material. As such, that which is conscious may house our awareness and our ego, but it is not representative of the whole. Meanwhile, the unconscious houses dormant values, beliefs, and experiences; however, it extends past the individual to all of human existence. This is known as the collective unconscious, a universally understood, ancestral tie to the human experience.
This universal understanding incorporates significant and often symbolic imagery, known as archetypes. It is the stuff of myths, legends, and values, passed down over generations and still pervasive now. Some examples of these universally significant human concepts include love, the temple, the hero, and the mother.
Jung viewed the collective unconscious resting beneath the individualized unconscious, resting beneath the conscious. With this in mind, these collectively understood concepts can have both broad and individualized meanings.
Enter, our topic for today: the shadow archetype. Jung posited that the shadow stemmed from our early-in-life repression of our true selves for survival purposes. We may read this as socialization. For example, a child born into a family that values etiquette may have been forced to reject wilder urges in order to fit in. Over time, these urges or qualities become the denied part of the psyche, pushed down into the unconscious in order to function in the world.
Of The shadow, kim krans says,We often think that The Shadow can be purified, illuminated, and made right through effort and achievement. However, it is typically the case that our lofty pursuit of ascension and perfection is the very source of shadow material itself. By rejecting parts of ourselves and the world we begin to separate from the whole.
The ego does whatever it can to protect this rejected part of ourselves. As such, it does not like anything that reminds it of the shadow. It is believed that anyone that inspires a fierce reaction is mirroring back the shadow self. This means: whatever we see in a person we truly despise is reflecting something back to us about ourselves.
Now, this may not mean that you possess the exact traits you wrote about. There may be something about your exposure to that person with those traits that has dug up the shadow. For example, perhaps it digs at an insecurity you have. Perhaps you envy how boldly and without abandon they are themselves, despite the external destruction*. Perhaps there is opportunity for your own personal growth somewhere in your interactions with this person.
You can think outside the box here. Nobody has to know but you. We can be our own safe space for discovery. This brings us to our next prompt.
Writing prompt, Pt. II
Read through what you wrote before. Take a moment to consider what it is about you that is mirrored back to you. Approach yourself with kindness and compassion here. Consider how you might befriend your shadow. What can you do to hear it, understand it, accept it, and rewild yourself?
Keep in mind: transformation occurs when we radically accept the parts of ourselves that have been denied, silenced, rejected, made small. Thus, the key to shadow work is compassion.
Thank you for your vulnerability. Wishing you the best in all work, but especially shadow.
*It took me a while to realize that this is what came up for me with this prompt. I wrote about one of the worst-for-me people I ever met, and I was shook to find out afterward that Jung posited that I had shared my shadow on the paper. Surely, I could not be this person! This is not to say that there aren’t aspects of my character that are undesirable–I am not perfect. My point is, consider your distaste for the character you wrote about from all angles. It does not have to be obvious one. But, if it is the obvious one, great. Discovery is discovery is discovery. Just take this time to discern the angle that is true for you.