The Shadow: Archetype Anatomy

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June 10, 2019
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The shadow as a concept comprises everything the conscious personality experiences as negative. The shadow, Id, or shadow archetype refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.


In dreams and fantasies the shadow appears with the characteristics of a personality of the same sex as the ego, but in a very different configuration. It is presented as the eternal antagonist of an individual or group, or the dark brother within, who always accompanies one, the way Mephistopheles accompanied Goethe’s Faust.

The role of the Id within is sometimes hidden, and sometimes rejected or repressed, by the conscious ego. In the latter case it is pushed into the unconscious, where, because of its energy, it acts as a complex. People can, for example, be fully aware that they are avaricious, greedy, or aggressive and still manage to hide these truths from others beneath the mask of the persona. But they can also repress those characteristics. Then they are no longer conscious of them at all, and their moral ego is reestablished.

Behaviour of the Shadow

Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects that may also remain hidden in one’s Id (especially in people with low self-esteem, anxieties, and false beliefs).

This archetype’s appearance and role depend greatly on the living experience of the individual because much of the shadow develops in the individual’s mind rather than simply being inherited in the collective unconscious. Nevertheless, some Jungians maintain that the Id contains, besides the personal shadow, the shadow of society … fed by the neglected and repressed collective values.

Contrary to the Freudian definition of shadow, the Jungian shadow can include everything outside the light of consciousness and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.

Carl Jung (buy his books from Amazon) stated the Id to be the unknown dark side of the personality. According to Jung, this archetype, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections remain hidden, “The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object—if it has one—or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power.” These projections insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world.

The Shadow in Individuation

The eventual encounter with the Id plays a central part in the process of individuation. Jung considered that “the course of individuation…exhibits a certain formal regularity. Its signposts and milestones are various archetypal symbols” marking its stages.

The dissolution of the persona and the launch of the individuation process also brings 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.

This archetype sometimes overwhelms a person’s actions; for example, when the conscious mind is shocked, confused, or paralyzed by indecision. ‘A man who is possessed by his Id is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps … living below his own level’: hence, in terms of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it must be Jekyll, the conscious personality, who integrates the Id … and not vice versa. Otherwise the conscious becomes the slave of the autonomous shadow.

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