Shadow Dancing
From Meeting Your Secret Self and Becoming Whole
By Robin Robertson - "A Jungian Approach to Unity with your Shadow Side"

We are all born whole, and let us hope, will die whole. But somewhere early on our way, we eat one of the wonderful fruits of the tree of knowledge, things separate into good and evil, and we begin the shadow-making process; we divide our lives.
----Robert A. Johnson

Psychologist C. G. Jung once said that all change is experienced by the ego as a death. It's a long, slow process to develop into the person we are. Abraham Lincoln once remarked that he didn't like a man's face. When his companion criticized him, saying "he can't help his face," Lincoln answered calmly that "after a certain age, every man is responsible for his face." In other words, we are each responsible for our lives; the moral choices we make throughout the course of our lives are reflected in us so deeply that others can see them in our face, our voice, our walk, our every action.
Psychologist Wilhelm Reich's clinical studies confirmed Lincoln's astute observation. Reich found that our bodies are literal mirrors of our souls. Our muscles set in patterns which are indicative of the choices, good or bad, we have made in our lives. We develop body armour to protect us from life. We become rigid and unyielding. In order to make changes in life, we have to break down that rigidity and become flexible once more.

The person we are is the product of many choices which we have made along the course of our life. We each begin with a unique set of possibilities determined by our inborn abilities and our outer circumstances. These provide the material with which we can paint the portrait of our life. However, it's the choices we make in life which actually paint the picture.

Over the course of our lives, each of us has taken paths that others haven't taken. We have each accepted certain ways of doing things because they fit us, and denied other ways because they just were not us. Over time, those paths, those choices, have made us the person we are, and that person is less and less likely to change. When we are confronted by a new challenge, we are prone to fall back on solutions which have been hard-won in past struggles.

However, inevitably life presents us with problems which can't be solved with old answers. These are the problems that demand a change in our life. We know it, but resist knowing it. We force an old solution onto a current problem, pretending that, while it might not fit perfectly, it's close enough. Of course it doesn't really. We're just applying the ostrich principle of sticking our heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. If, through fear or rigidity, we continue this behaviour long enough, we begin to cause ourselves real suffering.

It seems too much to expect that we have to change still one time more; after all, haven't we changed so many times before? We feel unfairly treated by life. However, as Robert Green Ingalls said: "in nature there are neither rewards nor punishments--there are consequences." We aren't being singled out for punishment, we are merely experiencing the consequences of our own rigidity. If we choose security over change, we have to suffer the consequences. As Gail Sheehy summarizes succinctly: "If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security."

We can learn how to recognize our own rigidity and how to correct it. It takes honesty and courage, but the rewards are immense. First, the suffering stops. This is the surest sign that we have chosen the right path again: the unnecessary suffering stops. More importantly, new possibilities open up everywhere in our life. Where everything seemed sterile and barren, and there seemed no possible answers, now everything seems possible. The possibilities may be scary, because each offers a path that we have never taken before, but it's a good kind of fear, like the fear that a fine pianist experiences before a concert. Hello Darkness My Old Friend.

[Jung] told me that he once met a distinguished man, a Quaker, who could not imagine that he had ever done anything wrong in his life. "And do you know what happened to his children?" Jung asked. "The son became a thief, and the daughter a prostitute. Because the father would not take on his shadow, his share in the imperfection of human nature, his children were compelled to live out the dark side which he had ignored." (A. I. Allenby describing a conversation with C. G. Jung.)

There is nothing so frightening as facing the darkness within, our inner shadow. We will do almost anything to avoid having to look into the dark places of our soul. And rightly so, the darkness contains much that we mere humans can't face. There is evil, of course, we're all too familiar with that, but there is also much more that is neither good nor bad, but merely beyond our human capacity to comprehend. Wonder and beauty and all our future possibilities also lie hidden in the darkness, and far too often in our short sightedness, we confuse them with evil. When we start to automatically dismiss something as evil when in fact it is merely outside our normal experience, we should remember the words of poet/painter/religious mystic William Blake: "Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth."

There is no change that doesn't begin in the darkness of the human soul. We first have to discover an entrance into the darkness, then we have to light a tiny candle in the dark, so that we can search for our future self, and finally we have to join with it. And that takes resourcefulness, and patience, and most of all courage.

Keywords: Shadow Dancing, Your Secret Self, Jungian Approach, Becoming Whole, Robin Robertson, Intuition, Intuitive, Articles, UK, South Africa, Cape Town

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