So fall has begun, as have Seattle’s winter rains, and we’re heading into the dark season here in the Northern Hemisphere. The season when our shadow selves are coming out to play, both literally and metaphorically, personally and collectively. You could read entire tomes on just what Jung meant when he was discussing “The Shadow,” but for our purposes here I’ll define it as the parts of ourselves, good or bad, that we have repressed and that are therefore unconscious.
I grew up in Arizona, and although this is my 12th autumn in Seattle, I’m still astonished at the way the seasonal change affects my mood — and the mood of just about everyone around me.
But I also remember the first few Novembers in which my moodiness started really coming to the surface. Because while fall can make you feel all cuddly and soft, it can also make you (or maybe it’s just me) feel flat out crazy with desire for transformation or hibernation — and someone to hibernate with. It triggers the need for control. We’re forced to go inside in the winter months, which seems like it speaks to that part of us that is afraid of descent into the mythological inner sanctum — who knows what is to be found there.
It’s difficult to play by the cultural rules that mandate a consistently content affect when the darkness is holding more power — when the tides of the Moon feel more visceral. And for that reason I feel grateful to live in Seattle — because at least I can use the weather and shortened days as an excuse when I’m feeling less than stable.
One of my shadow selves often appears as a crotchety old woman. I can feel her constellating when my instincts have told me to go home, but I’ve decided to be social anyway. Or when I’m undergoing a Saturn transit. And although this old woman within can be cold and harsh and, quite frankly, exhausting in her absolute refusal to be anything but snide, she also helps me to realize that a negative mindset is difficult to correct when the negativity is cloaked as realism.
Because sometimes reality really is negative. And discerning between realism/idealism/cynicism gets interesting when the energy of the shadow is constellating.
For example, the other day I was sitting on my bed, eyes closed, paying attention to body pains and trying to channel love into my wounded bits, and then grounding that love down into the earth as an offering when I suddenly heard a plane overhead. It got louder and louder and then I realized there were several — not commercial planes, military planes – and the noise was deafening. As I sat there, trying to channel love.
And then I got angry. I’m still figuring out what to do with anger, as it’s a response that’s very much a part of my shadow. I let it unfurl and tried to use what was coming up in a constructive manner, to funnel it into some kind of understanding about myself; about the world.
A crucial personal belief became clear. I realized that I do not support the flying of military jets for any reason ever. Ever. Period. I’m over it. Even in cases of ‘humanitarian’ missions, or just for practice or whatever. Humanitarian missions should not be funneled through a military. Maybe at one point in the world there were military forces that truly had the good of all humanity in mind, but that is an entirely separate conversation.
We’ve evolved the archetype of military to its most shadowy forms. To some that would sound idealistic. Or negative. Or offensive. To me it’s just realism. The presentation of that belief, however, and the ways that it might sculpt my interactions with other humans who deserve compassion is probably best left to the parts of me that are distinct from that crotchety old woman. Because she just kind of wants to rage.
In fact, I often think about the ways in which we have repressed The Shadow at the collective level, denying our own participation in genocide and annihilation, our creation of post-apocalyptic realities for the indigenous cultures of this land as well as for the people of, say, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We repress the extraordinarily complex effects of the decisions we have made as a culture — not because we’re all assholes, but because it’s a lot to let in. It’s overwhelming and not at all pleasant. But it’s a lot of darkness to deny. And because we deny it, it comes to the surface in its most primitive form, being flung out unconsciously as warfare.
So what is my point? My point is that the fall is here, and the opportunity to see our darkness becomes more prominent at this time of year. And so I think it’s important to remember to greet that not just with consciousness, but with love. Ah, yes. It always comes back to love with me.
We’re flawed. Sometimes we screw up, we’re ‘less than stable’, we make mistakes, or we have to re-write our entire identity, and that doesn’t mean we’re less worthy, it just means we’re humans trying to learn. A key point of learning about one’s shadow material is understanding that you can’t get rid of it. It’s a part of you.
What you can do is familiarize yourself with what it feels like when it’s triggered and then use that energy consciously for creativity and change, rather than letting it control you, therefore creating chaos. You can love yourself even when the ickiness arises. I think that’s a lesson worthy of a lot of our focus at the moment.