Want To Know What "The Shadow" Is All About? Here's An Easy Place To Start
If we want to get to know - and make peace with - the rejected and darker sides of our nature, we need to face up to our hypocrisy
When we talk to the uninitiated about Shadow Psychology: our repressed states, the idea about "integrating" our darker, unacknowledged traits in order to be fully realised "whole" human beings - we can forgive people if they look back at us blankly, unashamedly uninterested.
But mutter the word "hypocrite" in anyone's direction and we will get a decidedly different response.
Hypocrisy, is a loaded - and very well understood - term. And it's powerful. There are, arguably, fewer powerful insults we can throw at someone than this one - particularly the more moral and ethical the target considers themselves to be.
It is a gift, in a sense, when we bump into it, as it is perhaps the ideal introduction into the world of Shadow Psychology.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Hypocrisy means saying (or preaching) one thing but doing the opposite (often in secret).
It's the priest proselytizing on purity and abstinence while battling a drink problem or abusing the vulnerable; it is the avidly homophobic politician-in-public who is engaging in a homosexual relationship in private.
It's when we criticize and condemn people for acting in a way that we in fact are also acting ourselves but it can also be us hating on people for things we are not doing but wish we were.
As Jung once famously said:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Psychology and philosophy vlogger Einzelgänger gives a layman's introduction, here, and as he explains, it is not the fact that we are hypocrites in the first place that is the problem. It is that we fail to recognize it.
And that means we miss the opportunity to "integrate" these hidden aspects into our conscious selves so we are no longer dominated by misunderstood, unrecognized unconscious forces.
What We Resist...
Our darker urges exist because we resist looking at them.
And our hatred of other people's behaviour stems from the failure - or refusal - to recognize that the things we are villainising lie inside of us too.
Only when we bring these traits to the surface, then, facing them in the cold light of day and admitting that we are, also, like that too, can they ever cease to hold power over us.
So how do we do this?
There are many different ways to do it (you can find various techniques here).
One way is via "The Work", by Byron Katie.
Katie has a simple "Judge Your Neighbor" exercise (with an explanatory video here).
The basic idea behind it is that whatever it is that is driving us nuts about our "neighbour" is generally the very thing we need to own up to ourselves.
And it goes without saying that it's easier to do in some cases than it is in others.
But it is always worth doing.
At the very least, as Jung says, if we learn to recognize the hypocrisy in ourselves, it might not only make us whole but it might just make us connect with people a little bit better (and isn't that what we all ultimately want?):
"A little less hypocrisy and a little more self-knowledge can only have good results in respect for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures.”
Take Byron Katie's