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Challenging Jungian Psychology - The Shadow is a metaphor and not a real construct (at all)

MaxMad244

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So I was definitely turned up and turned on by Jungian psychology. In the last ten years though, I've seen it go from obscure to vogue. TikTok has 300million videos with the hastag #shadowork and most of the posters are spiritualists who don't know who Jung is.

That being said....I content that there is no such thing as the shadow. Sure, analyzing what annoys us in others can be enlightening but it will not reduce the annoyance we obtain. It can deepen our empathy and compassion, but then we are less annoyed because we are more compassionate. As soon as we are no longer in a state of gratitude, we fall out of this state.

I've read 100's of book on the shadow, and to be clear, It is a useful concept, and I learned a lot from each book.

But the ego is real. I can measure my level of awareness objectively relative to my subjective state. The shadow, however, is totally arbitrary. We could call it a rock-oh or a jack-oh and it might not be ubiquitous.

I can see a shadow as something that we are unaware of....as being real....but that is just the other side of the ego, away from it's eyes.

The other thing is those who do the most shadow-work tend to be the most ungrounded individuals. They are literate across the YouTube and the tiktok...preaching about getting in touch with your hidden side.....okay? Some hidden sides are pretty nasty....so then some write, just see it and be aware of it...okay? To what end? Every minute of the day is a potential minute of excellence...to what end to we sacrifice other things to "dialogue" with the shadow.

In the end...because I do not see any affect on people who analyze their shadows what so ever, because there is no scientific evidence to support it, I take it anecdotally, and like meditation, analyzing your shadow might actually cause you psychosis, but unlike meditation, there are no biological benefits to address or counterbalance the risk.

I will agree though that there is a collective shadow or a shadow around people, an unconscious evil. I just don't believe in the Jungian shadow method of analyzing it to find gold there...I think that could be true, in some circumstances, but for the most part it is solipsism and malarky.

Take this post for example. If there is such a thing as a shadow, then my skepticism is a shadow trait, and the gold is this post. Even if you disagree with me you have to agree, at this point, because this post is disproving your theory by proving it.

Do you see what Jung did there...he created a gordian knot of nonsense.
 

MaxMad244

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I would like to promote this concept further and ask you a question - do you think that analyzing your shadow will make you less prone to getting annoyed with things in general?

For example, if someone is eating like a slob and making slob sounds when they eat, do you think noticing how much of a slob you are will make you less annoyed with how much of a slob they are?

I have the answer to this question...but I want you to answer it so you can think for yourself and understand what I am getting at here.
 

Totenkindly

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So what were you getting at here (besides the obvious)?
 

MaxMad244

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So what were you getting at here (besides the obvious)?
That Jungian psychology is going through an iconoclastic phase contradicting it's very premise. Once an image has crystalized it no longer reflects the vital life force of the psyche. Evidence of this is the blind worship of "shadow work," and the mass hysteria behind a fascination with the dark side of life which is antithetical to the point of shadow work in the first place - not to integrate darkness but to become aware of our own evil to avoid it. Sure there is gold in the shadow...but we're not supposed to integrate these qualities into our own personality, we're supposed to integrate them into our life by reflecting on them so we don't actually act them out as part of our personality.

That is what modern Jungians would say.....and the solution, to no longer rely on Jung to find the answer but to rely on the torch bearers who exist right now and write about this every day.
 

Totenkindly

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I don't really care how the Jungians define it, but I did find it useful to embrace darker aspects of myself as I aged. Growing up in a religious environment there's a big push to basically bleed yourself down to the most bland qualities possible because they make you a "nice" person, but this also destroys your efficacy.

I find the film "Black Swan" fascinating because Nina is capable of being the white swan but has shut out half of herself --the part that ignites the spark that brings life -- and so she has no will, does not generate any attraction, can't act because she has no idea what she wants or how to just use her power. Will and curiosity and freedom and impulse is a person's lifeblood but it is also treated as "evil" because it doesn't stay in the boundaries by its nature -- the light side is essentially structure and rule to control one's behavior, the dark side is typically impulse and freedom of action that is not subject to rules. You have to meld them together, not bury one of them, to come into your power as a human being; if you don't have the structure, your energy dissipates or is unproductive, but if you don't have the lifeblood and a sense of your own will (which by its nature is always challenging structure and sometimes straying beyond the boundaries) then structure is lifeless.
 

spirilis

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Any thoughts on John Beebe's 8-function model? He frames the "shadow" as the 4 functions not typically in your type's stack but all 8 function-positions have archetypes describing them.

I personally believe the concept of a function shadow is a thing, e.g. Ti vs Fe.
 

Tennessee Jed

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So I was definitely turned up and turned on by Jungian psychology. In the last ten years though, I've seen it go from obscure to vogue. TikTok has 300million videos with the hastag #shadowork and most of the posters are spiritualists who don't know who Jung is.

That being said....I content that there is no such thing as the shadow. Sure, analyzing what annoys us in others can be enlightening but it will not reduce the annoyance we obtain. It can deepen our empathy and compassion, but then we are less annoyed because we are more compassionate. As soon as we are no longer in a state of gratitude, we fall out of this state.

I've read 100's of book on the shadow, and to be clear, It is a useful concept, and I learned a lot from each book.

But the ego is real. I can measure my level of awareness objectively relative to my subjective state. The shadow, however, is totally arbitrary. We could call it a rock-oh or a jack-oh and it might not be ubiquitous.

I can see a shadow as something that we are unaware of....as being real....but that is just the other side of the ego, away from it's eyes.

The other thing is those who do the most shadow-work tend to be the most ungrounded individuals. They are literate across the YouTube and the tiktok...preaching about getting in touch with your hidden side.....okay? Some hidden sides are pretty nasty....so then some write, just see it and be aware of it...okay? To what end? Every minute of the day is a potential minute of excellence...to what end to we sacrifice other things to "dialogue" with the shadow.

In the end...because I do not see any affect on people who analyze their shadows what so ever, because there is no scientific evidence to support it, I take it anecdotally, and like meditation, analyzing your shadow might actually cause you psychosis, but unlike meditation, there are no biological benefits to address or counterbalance the risk.

I will agree though that there is a collective shadow or a shadow around people, an unconscious evil. I just don't believe in the Jungian shadow method of analyzing it to find gold there...I think that could be true, in some circumstances, but for the most part it is solipsism and malarky.

Take this post for example. If there is such a thing as a shadow, then my skepticism is a shadow trait, and the gold is this post. Even if you disagree with me you have to agree, at this point, because this post is disproving your theory by proving it.

Do you see what Jung did there...he created a gordian knot of nonsense.
Based on the little that I've read, Jung referred to the "Shadow" in a couple different contexts, potentially contradictory.

1) In some early contexts, the Shadow was just your unconscious side, your repressed functions. The stuff you try to deny about yourself.

2) Later Jung kind of formalized the concept into something he called an "archetypal authority," similar to the Ego or Persona. For example, the Anima was the gatekeeper for (and embodied) the collective unconscious, whereas the Shadow was the gatekeeper for (and embodied) the personal unconscious. And just as people can project their Anima (or Animus) onto a loved one, they can also end up projecting their Shadow onto an enemy.

Definition #2 more or less matches Definition #1, but it makes the Shadow more concrete and specific.

3) But in other contexts, Jung sometimes referred to the Shadow as a typical archetype, on a par with the Wise Old Man or the Mother or the Trickster, and so on. For example, Jung described one of his own personal dreams where he (Jung) was in combat and "an unknown, brown-skinned man, a savage" showed up to assist him and help him kill an enemy. He said that this was his Shadow appearing as an archetype.

Definition #3 somewhat contradicts the previous two definitions, because all archetypes are supposed to come from the collective unconscious. That would defy the Shadow's role as embodiment of the personal unconscious. But I suspect Jung didn't worry too much about the contradiction. There was definitely something in there playing the role of Shadow. It was just a question of pinning down its particular attributes.

Later on, one of Jung's students basically ignored the first two definitions and developed the role of the Shadow as a standard archetype (Neumann in "The Origins and History of Unconsciousness"). He played around with the idea of the Shadow showing up in various guises depending on its role: The Double, the Hostile/Helpful Twin or Brother, the Antagonist, etc. We can dream these archetypal roles, we can project them onto others, or we can try to play those roles ourselves. Or they can show up in our mythology, religion, and artistic creations.

Personally, I kind of like what Neumann did with the idea. I'm interested in what the Shadow might represent (in Neumann's scheme) for the development of the archetype concept. Meantime, I'm not really interested in the first two definitions concerning exactly whether or how the concept of the Shadow dovetails with the personal unconscious and the repressed functions. Those latter things are a technical question of definitions, and Jung was kind of vague about that stuff, so I don't worry about it.

As for TikTok people who want to do "shadow work" and plumb the personal unconscious: Based on your description, it just sounds like it's just standard psychoanalysis stuff, albeit in a popularized (new age/self-help) format. One could just as well handle that via traditional Freudian means: Dream analysis, free association, digging at neuroses, etc. Again, that stuff isn't really of interest to me personally. I imagine that it's helpful for those who need it, but to me it just sounds like mainstream, bread-and-butter psychoanalysis stuff in popularized or self-help format with a facade or veneer of Jungian theory, IOW, nothing really new there.
 
Last edited:

MaxMad244

Active member
Joined
Jan 1, 2022
Messages
157
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INTJ
Based on the little that I've read, Jung referred to the "Shadow" in a couple different contexts, potentially contradictory.

1) In some early contexts, the Shadow was just your unconscious side, your repressed functions. The stuff you try to deny about yourself.

2) Later Jung kind of formalized the concept into something he called an "archetypal authority," similar to the Ego or Persona. For example, the Anima was the gatekeeper for (and embodied) the collective unconscious, whereas the Shadow was the gatekeeper for (and embodied) the personal unconscious. And just as people can project their Anima (or Animus) onto a loved one, they can also end up projecting their Shadow onto an enemy.

Definition #2 more or less matches Definition #1, but it makes the Shadow more concrete and specific.

3) But in other contexts, Jung sometimes referred to the Shadow as a typical archetype, on a par with the Wise Old Man or the Mother or the Trickster, and so on. For example, Jung described one of his own personal dreams where he (Jung) was in combat and "an unknown, brown-skinned man, a savage" showed up to assist him and help him kill an enemy. He said that this was his Shadow appearing as an archetype.

Definition #3 somewhat contradicts the previous two definitions, because all archetypes are supposed to come from the collective unconscious. That would defy the Shadow's role as embodiment of the personal unconscious. But I suspect Jung didn't worry too much about the contradiction. There was definitely something in there playing the role of Shadow. It was just a question of pinning down its particular attributes.

Later on, one of Jung's students basically ignored the first two definitions and developed the role of the Shadow as a standard archetype (Neumann in "The Origins and History of Unconsciousness"). He played around with the idea of the Shadow showing up in various guises depending on its role: The Double, the Hostile/Helpful Twin or Brother, the Antagonist, etc. We can dream these archetypal roles, we can project them onto others, or we can try to play those roles ourselves. Or they can show up in our mythology, religion, and artistic creations.

Personally, I kind of like what Neumann did with the idea. I'm interested in what the Shadow might represent (in Neumann's scheme) for the development of the archetype concept. Meantime, I'm not really interested in the first two definitions concerning exactly whether or how the concept of the Shadow dovetails with the personal unconscious and the repressed functions. Those latter things are a technical question of definitions, and Jung was kind of vague about that stuff, so I don't worry about it.

As for TikTok people who want to do "shadow work" and plumb the personal unconscious: Based on your description, it just sounds like it's just standard psychoanalysis stuff, albeit in a popularized (new age/self-help) format. One could just as well handle that via traditional Freudian means: Dream analysis, free association, digging at neuroses, etc. Again, that stuff isn't really of interest to me personally. I imagine that it's helpful for those who need it, but to me it just sounds like mainstream, bread-and-butter psychoanalysis stuff in popularized or self-help format with a facade or veneer of Jungian theory, IOW, nothing really new there.
I like this Neumann tip. Going to get a few books from him and plumb those debts. Thanks!
 

Vendrah

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Just giving my 5 cents, after digging up quite deep on typology and ending up with a not at all popular view with controversy, I think Jung should had taken his earlier book of typology more seriously, specifically on the functions (or something alternative to them). And by that I mean that if he had developed the concept of functions a little bit better or an alternative, he could make points about some specific dynamics being applied to specific types rather than general people.

In other words, I believe the concept of shadow applies to some people while it is completely useless for most of people. I'd say that there is a specific type for that concept. I would say that archetypes are more or less in the same way as well.
 

MaxMad244

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Joined
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Just giving my 5 cents, after digging up quite deep on typology and ending up with a not at all popular view with controversy, I think Jung should had taken his earlier book of typology more seriously, specifically on the functions (or something alternative to them). And by that I mean that if he had developed the concept of functions a little bit better or an alternative, he could make points about some specific dynamics being applied to specific types rather than general people.

In other words, I believe the concept of shadow applies to some people while it is completely useless for most of people. I'd say that there is a specific type for that concept. I would say that archetypes are more or less in the same way as well.
Thank you for the thoughtful responsne/reflection.
 

Sparkykun

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I have used the Sensor Shadow Self to describe the Sensor being whose cognitive functions are reversed that of the respective Energy being in the MBTI+ Temperament system.

For example, the Sensor Shadow self of an INFJ is ESTP, because Se Ti Fe Ni in ESTP is reverse order of that for INFJ.

 

LightSun

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So I was definitely turned up and turned on by Jungian psychology. In the last ten years though, I've seen it go from obscure to vogue. TikTok has 300million videos with the hastag #shadowork and most of the posters are spiritualists who don't know who Jung is.

That being said....I content that there is no such thing as the shadow. Sure, analyzing what annoys us in others can be enlightening but it will not reduce the annoyance we obtain. It can deepen our empathy and compassion, but then we are less annoyed because we are more compassionate. As soon as we are no longer in a state of gratitude, we fall out of this state.

I've read 100's of book on the shadow, and to be clear, It is a useful concept, and I learned a lot from each book.

But the ego is real. I can measure my level of awareness objectively relative to my subjective state. The shadow, however, is totally arbitrary. We could call it a rock-oh or a jack-oh and it might not be ubiquitous.

I can see a shadow as something that we are unaware of....as being real....but that is just the other side of the ego, away from it's eyes.

The other thing is those who do the most shadow-work tend to be the most ungrounded individuals. They are literate across the YouTube and the tiktok...preaching about getting in touch with your hidden side.....okay? Some hidden sides are pretty nasty....so then some write, just see it and be aware of it...okay? To what end? Every minute of the day is a potential minute of excellence...to what end to we sacrifice other things to "dialogue" with the shadow.

In the end...because I do not see any affect on people who analyze their shadows what so ever, because there is no scientific evidence to support it, I take it anecdotally, and like meditation, analyzing your shadow might actually cause you psychosis, but unlike meditation, there are no biological benefits to address or counterbalance the risk.

I will agree though that there is a collective shadow or a shadow around people, an unconscious evil. I just don't believe in the Jungian shadow method of analyzing it to find gold there...I think that could be true, in some circumstances, but for the most part it is solipsism and malarky.

Take this post for example. If there is such a thing as a shadow, then my skepticism is a shadow trait, and the gold is this post. Even if you disagree with me you have to agree, at this point, because this post is disproving your theory by proving it.

Do you see what Jung did there...he created a gordian knot of nonsense.my own definition of Shadow Self’ is the unfinished business, unresolved conflicts, emotional baggage and the unhealed aspects of a psychic wound.

1. We are all shaped and molded as children. It is the societal, peer, and parental expectations that are introduced to us that we incorporate.

These values, expectations, ideals, mores and norms become part of our construct. They become part of our cognitive schema in our belief system.

2. The entirety of Homo Sapiens are a projective species. We unwittingly project our ideals and values unto others and situations.

3. The problem arises when our notion of what is right becomes part of our expectational reality collides in a real life scenario of actual reality. This is termed cognitive dissonance.

4. This is not merely opinion. It is part of the cognitive branches of psychology. In CBT: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there are 10 cognitive distortions defined in the human thought process which is on the unconscious level.

In REBT: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, there are 11 irrational beliefs as defined by Dr. Albert E. Ellis.

As part of both cognitive psychology branches, anytime a person has a negative emotion, there is an unconscious cognitive thought distortion. This is true, except if a person is in extreme physical pain or in a fight or flight scenario.

The problem arises when we project our ‘Shadow Self’ unto a situation or person. Because people are not aware of (A) We are a projective species and project our internal phemonological subjective perceived reality all the time.

(B) If there is a clash between expectational reality and real reality we have cognitive dissonance.

(C) We become triggers by an underlying unconscious issue we ourselves have. If we have a negative reaction, there is no if and or buts about it, there are cognitive distortions in the human subconscious.

The only time this is not true for most situations is if we engage someone or something which is anti-ethical to all we stand for.

This is not partisanship. Mr. Donald Trump is anti-ethical to just about everything I stand for. There were other qualified Republicans to vote for.

Mr. Trump fits the clinical diagnosis of a narcissist. I have a negative thought perception of him. In this case a famous quote from Herman Hesse does not apply. I

“If something bothers you about someone, look within for there is a problem with yourself.” Not in this case, not in the case of Nazi Germany or having a visceral feeling about murderers, domestic violence, etc.

5. There is both an internal locus of control and an external locus of control in the human psyche. Unfortunately we have people who are triggered and project unto reality and other people their own unresolved issues.

6. No one can make you feel a negative emotion. Again, not unless it fits on of these. (A) Extreme physical pain (B) A fight or flight situation, or (C) You engage someone or something that is anti-ethical to everything you stand for.

Otherwise it is your own unconscious conflicts, unresolved issues, emotional baggage or an unhealed aspect of a psychic wound.

If a person is not acquainted with these two aspects of projection and trigger, they will continue to lash out outwardly.

7. For those who blame reality and other people for their own emotional discomfort they are unaware that it is their own hidden blind spot which has been triggered.

8. In a philosophical sense they are blindly reacting and lashing out at reality as unto a projection screen at a movie theater. They are reacting against illusions from their own mind of their own unconscious issues.

9. Those who blame reality and lash out based on their triggers will never grow philosophically, emotionally, or spiritually until and unless they take responsibility for their own thoughts and inner feelings.

10. This is my vow and way of living on planet earth. “I take responsibility for my own thinking, feelings, speech, writing and actions irregardless of the person or situation.”

11. I will not act out with negative emotion. I will handle the situation with objective reason. I will not use negative subjective dialogue in either my writing nor in the way I communicate with my speech.

12. For those who take an internal locus of control and take ownership of their own thoughts, feelings, speech, writing and action, they may grow.

I have an open mind, take personal responsibility as well ownership for myself and with the gift of insight I continue to grow in depth and breadth of my understanding of self
 
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