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Monday, May 28, 2018

Role of the Shadow in Our Lives

There is Sufi story with which I would like to begin this article.
A man entered a village and went to see the Sufi Master. The visitor said "I'm deciding whether I should move here or not - and I'm wondering what the people here are like?" The Sufi Master said "Tell me, what kind of people live where you come from" The visitor said "They were robbers, cheats and liars" The Sufi Master said "You know, those are exactly the same kind of people who live here" The visitor left and never came back. Another visitor entered the village and asked the same question of the Sufi Master "I am thinking of moving here - can you tell me what the people are like?" Again the Sufi Master asked "Tell me, what kind of people live where you come from?" The visitor said "Oh, they are the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, loving people. I shall miss them terribly" The Sufi Master said "Those are exactly the kinds of people who live here too"
There is a practice in the native tradition of an African tribe called “Ubuntu”.
A human being from an Ubuntu perspective should be kind, generous, friendly, living in harmony with himself, the environment and others, and at one with the creator. “This is what Africa can teach the world,” said Credo Mutwa, the respected Zulu Sangoma, “We have forgotten how to be human beings, and we must remember quickly if we are to save the world. Life is an instrument and we have lost the ability to play it. People live but they are not alive. We must use life and play it like an instrument and make beautiful music.”
If a person in the tribal community commits a grave mistake, this person is brought to a common area where all the local community gathers around the offender and starts reciting all his good qualities and deeds. This is the process of immersion of the person in all his goodness so that his negative elements which were responsible for his wrong doing is washed away. There is no blame.
We have examples in the lives of great spiritual masters of this method of removal of all negativity from society. Christ when the woman caught in adultery was brought before him to be stoned as per the law of Moses, reveals the negativity in each person in the crowd who are calling out for the woman’s punishment by saying: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all went away starting from the oldest first and Christ says to the woman: ““Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” ……….John 8: 3-10
It was Carl Jung who stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality. According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections remain hidden, "The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object—if it has one—or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power." These projections insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world.
If we develop a position of constantly projecting our shadow, all perceived objective attributes, irrespective of their inherent qualities, becomes negative in nature. This type of feed forward and feedback in our daily relational transactions strengthens the individual ego complex and plays havoc with our emotional intelligence.
A typical example is the life of Adolf Hitler. whose personal shadow aspect of the psyche was strengthened towards anti-Semitism due to his own early childhood perception of his ancestry.  Even before Hitler came to power, there were rumors that he was of Jewish descent, a detail of personal history that would be highly damaging, even humiliating to him, and which he went to great lengths to quash. The idea was primarily derived from the fact – not a secret – that his father, Alois Hitler, was illegitimate. Early childhood of Hitler was spent in Vienna which had open anti-Semitic atmosphere.
We are shaped by our social, religious and knowledge environment from early childhood and undoing many of the damages which build up our shadow side of our psyche is a spiritual exercise.
Now the opening Sufi story bears its full meaning when we realize that we bring to our table of transactions what we inherently qualify to be our perception of the objective world through projected attributes of our psyche. This knowledge is the feedback in the process of stabilization of relationships in a mode for empowerment and not unidirectional unqualified control.
Love to you all.


  1. We lost this idea of admiring qualities of a bad human, making him/her top deviate from doing bad things long back. This is one of the reasons in our Sandhyavandana which brahmins are supposed to do 3 times a day, has made them to confess to the SUPREME that his deeds by body,mind and sins are all sacrificed to the SUPREME itself, because, there was no other way of confessing and society was ready to narrate the Good aspects of one self. Good Blog TIBU-Mama

    1. Thank you Mama, for your comment and appreciation.

  2. How essential it s to be positive and move away from the shadows?! beautifully presented!