Another long hiatus, for a very busy week in Los Angeles at another training. My computer died again, also, so it is back in the arms of Compaq, hopefully getting a complete redo from which it will emerge victorious. Why am I skeptical?...

This has been one of the best weeks of training I've ever experienced, and it's the more amazing because it is so hard to talk about. I'm not usually at a loss for words, as you might have gathered. But when you do something that requires that you reevaluate almost all your adult experiences and see them in another light, that really kind of blows out your linguistic ability.

I have been interested in Jung's idea of the Shadow for almost a decade. I had no time for Jung when I was young. But as I approached 50, I started finding ideas of Jung and books by contemporary Jungians were really starting to speak to me. And the idea of the Shadow was the most interesting and compelling part.

Jung felt that, in the process of growing up, we had to give us parts of our potential so we could develop other parts. Perhaps we gave up drawing or singing or dancing or doing mathematics or being athletic, either because other things attracted us more or because our parental and school environment did not encourage or allow certain activities. Jung called those parts of ourselves our Shadow.

Central to Jung's ideas is the idea that we are striving for balance unconsciously. So if we bury or repress something, we look for things in our environment that will provide balance. So we often marry our shadow.

Everyone knows couples like that. In fact, the show The Odd Couple is a perfect example, with one person neat and compulsive, and the other messy and exuberant. Jung would say that the neat person had repressed his exuberance and messiness, and his uncoscious mind, in an attempt to find balance, was attracted to a messy, exuberant person.

Even better, when we are sufficiently out of balance we will do an operation that Jung called Projection, where we project (kind of like spray painting) attitudes onto others in our world so they will balance us. In the Odd Couple example, if the neat guy was sufficently compulsive, he would have seen his roomate as messy even if most people would consider the roommate to be normal. His need to be balanced led to his projecting his repressed messiness onto the world.

Projection is rampant. Jung felt we all do it. I think he's right. I'm sure you all know a sexually repressed person who is disgusted by all the filth in the world. And they are able to see filth where nobody else sees it or would be bothered by it (e.g., a couple holding hands). Or to hit a bit closer to home for me, someone who is on the face of it a pretty easygoing guy getting involved with a series of judgmental women.

So this class spent a week studying the Shadow and projection. Among other things. Another Jungian idea, archetypes, gives the key to this study. Every culture has developed mythic figures that represent fundamental building blocks of their culture. Greek Gods, Mother Goose, Luke Skywalker. And every culture has felt that it improves you to make deep contact with these archetypes--Astrology, Tarot, I Ching, The Kabalah, the Lives of the Saints.

For example, there are several generic archetypes for women: Little Girl, Maiden, Mother, Crone. And then there are other archetypes like the Greek goddesses Diana the Huntress and Athena, goddess of wisdom.

Why does it help to study these archetypes? Because it helps you to know and own your shadow. And why does that help? Because then you will be conscious of things within yourself, and no longer need to attract other people to do your work for you, or try to force other people into roles (such as messy person) that they may not want to take on.

So a woman might seriously consider how much she expresses and is conscious of Little Girl, Maiden, Mother, Crone, etc. in her life. If there is something she is not expressing and conscious of, you can be almost certain that it is in her Shadow. And as a result, she is attracting people into her life to manifest these qualities. Or projecting these qualities onto people in her life.

On aspect of projection--it's hard work! It takes a lot of energy to spray all those expectations on everyone you meet, and to deal with the psychic strain of distorting the evidence to fit your needs. When you can own a significant projection, your energy level takes a big shot upward.

Enough generalities. What did the week do for me personally?

I became aware that I was projecting rejection onto other people, because I was not conscious of it in myself. That is, I was setting myself up to be rejected by others. We did a visualization of our shadow figures, a man and a woman. What emerged for me is sort of a country club version of my mother and father. Handsome man, buxom woman, well dressed, man with golf clubs. And they didn't want anything to do with me! Critical, aloof, rejecting.

So I started to investigate that attitude in my life, and found it everywhere. The way my boss treated me at my last job. Responses to former co-workers and potential partners and employers and clients. My relationships with women.

Most amazingly, I saw it within myself in my relationship to my body. My attitude towards my body was, yes, aloof, critical, and rejecting. All that fat. Yuk!

After a week of this work, I feel at home in my body for the first time in decades. My energy level has soared, and I'm enjoying just moving and walking. I'm excited about moving into the next phase of my life.

And I'm aware how my expectation that I would be rejected has hampered my dealings with everyone I work with. Little problems got bigger, and my attempts to deal with them were weighted with the sure knowledge that the likely end was rejection. And of course, with that outlook, it often was.

So the proof of the pudding is in the living! Look out, world, here I come!

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.