Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic feature of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular. — Carl Gustav Jung
It truly is amazing to look back at my relationships and understand both astrology and patterns in hindsight at 66. This is one of the blessings of aging. Shirley Maclaine in her latest book, Saging While Aging is so insightful. We do become wiser with age, as now we can draw on our own history and recognize how things do repeat. We are the common denominator in all of our various experiences with others.
A long time ago when I first was learning about my own Astrology, I wrote an article on the 7th House which my friend, the late Ginger McCord published in the Indigo Sun in February 2001. I naively said, “If only I had known then, what I know now, I believe I could have done things differently.” At the time I was of course thinking that when you can name your patterns, you “know” it. This is a mistake we all make when we are learning new information that we find meaningful. In real life though learning about ourselves continues because if we are alive, we are still growing and there is always more. My guess is we will do it even after we leave the planet.
We are who we are at birth based on our energy at that moment in time (time, place and date) and one of the ways this will continually play itself out is as our personal shadow complexes. Our complexes (strongly emotional charges of energy that activate autonomously both positive and negative) in the psyches of everyone is a concept of Carl G. Jung. So, our shadow self is everything about us that is unconscious, unacknowledged, undeveloped and denied. Let’s take each one of these words separately as to why these complexes are created in the first place and why it behooves us to continue to do inner work and come to know ourselves.
Unconscious - Two Centers of Consciousness
This is probably the most important of all. Jung was the first to really go into his own unconscious to discover that there are two centers in the psyche. Conscious and unconscious. For a detailed study of this read his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Unlike behavioral psychology, Jungian psychology is the only discipline that acknowledges the importance that these two centers exist. Becoming conscious is an ongoing evolutionary process in everyone, although not everyone chooses to become conscious. In the documentary, A Matter of Heart, he said, “Now this is very uncomfortable for us because we want to think we are the only masters of our house (psyche) but the unconscious can take over anytime it wants to.”
Doing shadow work requires us to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves. Ask yourself a few questions if you believe you know all of yourself already. Have you ever done or said anything and then stopped and said, “Why did I say that?” “Where did that come from?” “What was that about?” Through the highly charged affect, the unconscious has just usurped your intent and chose to say what it wanted you to know.
Unacknowledged Parts Remain Hidden
We could know about certain parts of ourselves, but they don’t fit in with our persona/our mask. In Astrology we call this our rising sign. This is our highly idealized self-image of who we want to believe we are because we all want to be thought of by others as good people. In childhood we are taught how to live in a civilized society— this part of us is acceptable and this part is unacceptable. This is vitally necessary for our first half of life ego development because we cannot give up our ego until we have an ego to begin with. The problem is, many parts of us will go into our shadow that will later be projected onto others. When we are projecting, we see you doing this or that and it gives us a huge charge as it is not part of our ideals of how we should all behave. This characteristic flaw we see in our partners/others will continue to follow us into our subsequent relationships as they are in our own unconscious. If you haven’t seen patterns yet, you will. Keep a journal and start to notice extremes between yourself and others and how they will repeat.
In our relationships, though most of these hidden and unacknowledged parts can be mostly benign and infantile. These are parts of what Jung called our personal shadow. So maybe we are childlike and refuse to see that we don’t want to grow up. Maybe we are at times being self-centered and do not want to see when we are taking advantage of others. Or we are manipulative or cynical or needy — whatever (name any characteristic we find reprehensible). Therefore, we will marry someone with these qualities over emphasized and then let him or her carry our shadow for us. Those parts of us we refuse to see become divisive and can lead to divorce, or difficult relationships with others over and over. The unconscious is actually the one choosing who our partners will be in the first place as it wants to be known.
Some of our shadow self is what the Alchemists called our Gold because these are parts of us, we badly need. When added to our personality, they would round us out where we might be lopsided or have blind spots. An example of that, would be lazy people as something we abhor. We all have a tendency to see opposites as negative, something we would not want to be anything like. Workaholics commonly will find people to live out their much needed but so-called lazy side. If it’s repeating, the universe is saying loud and clear to consciously develop some of the opposite of workaholic that we judge as lazy — relax, slow down, work less, take a break! Ask for what you want if you need help. Communicate. Give the other person a way to help you out and meet you half way.
Projection and denial are very common in the first stages of consciousness work. It’s called having a spiritual-bypass. It is much more fun and popular in our New Age culture to only want to focus on our light. The truth is we are all both light and dark and the more of us that recognize this, we will actually contribute to the evolution of the whole as we are all part of what Jung called, “the collective unconscious.” The collective unconscious is what drives huge movements in society. It is no accident that we are in an epoch of divisiveness. Jung said, “We make our own epoch” and this is how we can see it.
Take the yin/yang symbol. It is split in half. It is not 90% white and 10% black. It is equally both and a little dot in each side to symbolize the way each penetrates the other. This is symbolic of conscious and unconscious.
Some will say to me, “Ok, I know my shadow but let’s get back to looking at how good we are.” This statement is recognizing again that just because we learn about something doesn’t mean we’ve completed with it. We can go into denial because it’s painful to do this kind of work, that I call shadow work. This is a lifetime retrieval process and yes, it is exceedingly difficult. It is much easier to project our shadow selves, but the universe will patiently continue to show us our unlived life and whatever one does not live, lives against one.
After 25+ years of teaching myself (because we teach what we need to learn) and others, I still believe that shadow work is liberating. Liberation means we are awake. We are conscious. We are moving albeit slowly towards the union of opposites that the Alchemists called A CONIUNCTIO. This is an alchemical process that symbolizes the divine marriage of the masculine and feminine within each of us. Aries and Libra (self and other), the king and queen. And by the way, this has nothing to do with our gender. These are principles that the universe is made of. The coniunctio is about balancing our opposites.
Our Astrological 7th House Planets and Ruler, Oppositions (180˚ degree aspects)
and Elemental Imbalances in the Birth Chart
Learning about our 7th house planets (archetypes), aspects to our Venus, our oppositions, even our elemental (earth [sensation], air [thinking], fire [intuition] and water [feeling]) imbalances can give you details about yourself that no other psychological system can.
Having a teleological worldview (knowing there is meaning and life is not random) is not only helpful, it leads us to actually embrace self-discovery. As we embrace our opposites gradually, we become free to choose the necessary changes in order to come into balance with ourselves.
Our relationships are gifts for self-awareness if we want them to be. As my teacher J. Pittman McGehee, DIV said, “I alone must become myself, but I cannot become myself alone.” We need the mirrors that others hold up for us in order to see our whole Self. This way, the middle path, the shadow dance, and as Robert Johnson says in Owning Your Own Shadow, the way of wholeness is the holy place.