Chapter 15: Overcoming Shadows – Part One
“Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” – Jung.
I love this quote by Carl Jung in which he addresses the importance of knowing yourself in order to have a fulfilling life. In the Hero’s Journey, the Hero (or Heroine, in Meylyne’s case), has to overcome myriad external obstacles (demons, curses, hurricanes, etc.) in order to reach their destination. But often those external obstacles are not nearly as tricky as the internal obstacles they have to overcome, such as fear, jealousy, a lack of self-worth and so on. For these latter obstacles, it is essential to face up to one’s personal demons and that is a lot easier said than done!
Carl Jung said that we all have a shadow—a part of ourselves that we refuse to accept. Often this is because we are ashamed of it. Maybe it’s a longing to be adored by our peers or family. Maybe it’s a desire for revenge. In fairy-tales, the shadow is often represented by the ugly crone that does not get invited to the party, so she places a curse on the parties’ hosts, like in Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast.
Similarly, when we refuse to accept our shadow … refuse to invite a part of ourselves to the party that is our life, our shadow curses us. This usually shows up in bad, self-destructive behaviors like deliberately doing badly in school, bullying, smoking, vandalism and so on. Do you know anyone like this?
I had a friend who went through a shop-lifting spree when she was in high-school. She had plenty of money so it wasn’t like she couldn’t have bought the items she stole if she’d wanted to. And this wasn’t all she did. It was like she was compelled to break rules whenever she had the chance. She heaped drama onto herself. Somehow she made it to adulthood without ending up behind bars and, as she did, she faced up to the shadow that had driven her all those years—deep feelings of shame around the fact that she was gay.
In other words, her shadow (feeling that being gay was wrong) cursed her until she faced it (and ultimately dissolved it).
In Chapter 15 of The Thorn Queen, Meylyne frets about Glendoch’s secrets—its potential shadows—but what about her own? Her entire predicament stems from her trespassing in the Above-World. She was so desperate to impress her mother that she broke a First Rule. Her feelings of worthlessness got her in all sorts of trouble.
So, I think we can figure out that these feelings of inferiority are part of her shadow but what we don’t know yet is what else might be lurking under the surface.
According to Freud, 95% of our mental processes (i.e., knowledge, memory, judgment, decision-making, comprehension, etc.) come from our unconscious mind, leaving only 5% to our conscious mind. That means that most of our emotions and behaviors are driven by thoughts we know nothing about! Some of these thoughts are embedded into our unconscious minds from the time we are very little and we hear our parents talk about their beliefs around money, religion, education, people—anything and everything.
As much as we think we know our own minds, it is impossible to know all the secret thoughts that hide there.
These unconscious beliefs show up in all sorts of ways. For example, do you know anyone (perhaps it’s you), that wants to achieve a goal and should be able to achieve that goal, yet for some inexplicable reason just can’t seem to get there? That’s usually because they have some unconscious beliefs getting in the way. For example, I was never any good at sports growing up. Looking back, I realize that in school and at home, academics were king. Stressed above all else, my studies left no room for sports to be anything but a sideline—a leisure activity. Deep down, I saw no real value in them. But I didn’t know that. I hated being spectacularly bad on the court and on the field! But did I spend any time practicing netball or rounders or what-have-you? No. Why would I when deep down I believed they were unimportant?
So whereas Meylyne knows that she longs to impress her mother—that’s an internal obstacle of which she is aware—she might also possess other unconscious beliefs of which she is unaware. What do you think those might be? Whatever they are, they will make it impossible for her to achieve her goals of finding the cure for Prince Piam unless she uncovers and dissolves them, so she’d better figure them out on this journey of hers!
How about you? Do you have anything going on like that? Something that you want but you just can’t seem to get there? Tell me about it—I’d love to hear from you!
And in the next part of this article, I will talk about how you can overcome your shadow even if you can’t figure out what it is.