I’ve been working my way through the works of Carl Jung at the minute following a chance encounter with his work while researching Joseph Campbell and his influence on Star Wars. Reading Jung, the father of analytical psychology, has been an immensely rewarding experience and I’m now completely immersed in his work, as well as his writing style.
Last night however I read some interesting material of his on what he termed the “shadow”. In Jungian psychology this concept of “the shadow” refers to the unconscious aspect or driver of the personality which the conscious self doesn’t identify.
Carl Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown (and unconscious) dark side of the personality. It is both instinctive and irrational, and prone to psychological projection. It takes what we perceive as our own personal inferiorities and projects them on to others. We perceive our inferiorities as moral deficiencies in someone else as a result of its function. Such projections both insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world.
Jung refers to the fact that “when ‘an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others—such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions “
I thought that this was fascinating in the context of Star Wars’ concept of the dark side of the Force, particularly in the context of the Kylo Ren character. He is perhaps the most noticeable case of internal struggle between primitive or instinctive “shadow” forces. Many of the elements that Jung would state are derived from this “shadow” of the unconscious can be seen in the traits ascribed to the dark side of the Force as we know it from Star Wars. This realisation is strengthened by the fact that the shadow self is also made up with aspects of the shadow of society – it is fed by the neglected and repressed collective values, as well as repressed values personal to the subject. How fascinating in the context of Lucas’ conception of the Force and the push and pull of light and dark.
Jung taught that in trying to connect with this shadow one needed to first deconstruct the barriers placed up by the conscious self. He warned that such a dissolution of one’s persona brought with it “the danger of falling victim to the shadow … the black shadow which everybody carries with him, the inferior and therefore hidden aspect of the personality—of a merger with the shadow.” To me this sounded very like the process of falling to the Dark side in pursuit of powerful knowledge.
Interestingly though, as a fan of the concept of the gray Jedi (I don’t buy the arguments against – I find them rigid in thinking and unconvincing) Jung also believed that “in spite of [the Shadow’s] function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity”. In that context, for some, “the dark side of his being, his sinister shadow…represents the true spirit of life as against the arid scholar“.
Jung spoke about using these repressed elemental forces buried in this unconscious shade and letting them manifest in the consciousness as a positive resource for creativity and change.
As the story of Luke Skywalker, Rey and Kylo Ren unfolds I found Jung’s work particularly fascinating. It gives us a fascinating glimpse at both the dangers, but also the potential, of the dark within each of us. Whether in using elements of the dark for positive change, or whether it is a case of the dark unconscious shadow driving us towards “a dark side” entailing of schemes and plots, cowardice and love of power, money and possessions, the awareness of these concepts, gives us a fascinating prism through which to consider the mind-set of the characters within The Last Jedi.
May the Force be with you
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