In Carl Gustav Jung's analytical psychology, the shadow as a concept comprises everything the conscious personality experiences as negative. In dreams and fantasies the shadow appears with the characteristics of a personality of the same sex as the ego, but in a very different configuration. It is presented as the eternal antagonist of an individual or group, or the dark brother within, who always accompanies one, the way Mephistopheles accompanied Goethe's Faust.
The role of the shadow within is sometimes hidden, and sometimes rejected or repressed, by the conscious ego. In the latter case it is pushed into the unconscious, where, because of its energy, it acts as a complex. People can, for example, be fully aware that they are avaricious, greedy, or aggressive and still manage to hide these truths from others beneath the mask of the persona. But they can also repress those characteristics. Then they are no longer conscious of them at all, and their moral ego is reestablished.
The shadow in everyone varies considerably depending on the guidelines in force within the family, the community, and the culture in which they grow up. Moreover, the shadow is not only made up of aspects of personality experienced as disagreeable or negative, but it can also have a positive side.
When the shadow is not integrated into the conscious personality and remains unconscious, it can manifest itself in two different forms. On the one hand, it can project itself onto another person in one's immediate or distant circle, leading to serious conflicts among siblings, couples, or colleagues that have a tendency to recur and lead to lasting misunderstandings. On the other hand, it can also cause deflation, so that those involved find themselves subjugated and thus inferior, bad, or clumsy. In fact, the shadow corresponds to what one does not want to become but still is, within the self. It is even something necessary, for just as a painting needs shadow to give it life and depth, each human needs a shadows illustrated by Peter Schlemihl de Chamisso (1824)o become a true human being with all the genuine weaknesses and defects, qualities which can even make them likeable.
Jung developed and enriched the concept of the shadow throughout the 1930s, when he began studying closely alchemical literature and iconography in relation to his experience and conception of the process of individuation. He compared the "black work" of the alchemists (the nigredo) with the often highly critical involvement experienced by the ego, until it accepts the new equilibrium brought about by the creation of the self.
In the work he did after World War II, Jung developed the distinction between the personal shadow and the collective shadow, emphasizing the fact that while recognition and analysis of the shadow lead to a confrontation with the drives and the most intimate representations, they also lead to a confrontation with the collective unconscious. It is this that gives rise to projections of the shadow onto other cultures, other peoples, and other racesomething that occurred during the twentieth century to an alarming extent.
See also: Analytical psychology; Collective unconscious (analytical psychology); Ego (analytical psychology); Jung, Carl Gustav; Projection and "mystical participation" (analytical psychology).
Jung, Carl Gustav. (1921). Psychological types. Collected works, v. 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press (Bollingen Series).
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