I don’t recall what triggered my thinking about shadows recently. Perhaps it was the memory of a year ago when we were in Maryland helping care for our grandsons. I clearly remember sometimes when we were swinging at the playground when the sun was just right, we would see our shadows. Our five year-old grandson Sebastian was especially intrigued by them.
But I also thought about Carl Jung’s philosophy about “the shadow side,” those things we consider unacceptable about ourselves and seek to avoid recognizing. In 1938 Jung wrote:
“ Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be.
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it.
Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications.
But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
Psychology and Religion (1938)
Of course, writers of books, television series and movies have often used light and dark to illustrate good and evil, shadow to indicate evil lurking. The Bible talks about shadow as well, suggesting God’s protection
I learned from one website that “Tzelem” is related to the word “Tzel צל”, which is the modern-day Hebrew word for “shadow”. This gives us a deeper understanding of “btzalmenu”, which means “in our shadow.” We were created in the shadow of God!”
So the term ‘shadow” can have positive or negative connotations, depending on the context. But I tend to think Jung was onto something because he emphasized that this shadow side also contained “gold,” meaning as we delve into the shadow self we can learn and grow, no longer needing to disown parts of ourselves.
Perhaps the fascination with shadows when we are children is that we appear so much larger than we feel when we are small, not unlike Jung’s tenet that we become so much greater when we own all the pieces that make up who we are.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: