Groundhog’s Day has come and gone and I have no idea what happened. Even if someone tells me he saw his shadow, I never can remember if it means winter is over or if there’s six more weeks. The former seems more logical and I want it to be true. Because in my way of leaping associations, I’d like to think that seeing the shadow means new life will spring up from the winter of our discontent. Of course, I’m talking about Mueller outing Trump and the country waking up to the need to finally say “Enough!” to the toddler-in-chief.
In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the darkened part of ourselves we keep hidden from the world—and often hidden from our own conscious mind. It’s where we store all the things that we don’t know how to handle, that are too difficult to look in the face, that demand too much consciousness and awareness from us. Part of Jungian therapy, simplistically speaking, is growing large enough and brave enough to bring the shadow out into the light.
We all—even Jung and Gandhi too—have a shadow side. Simply by being a soul enclosed in a physical body we cast a shadow. And cultures likewise have their shadow side. And the health of a person and a culture is the depth of their willingness to look at it, to accept it, to work with it. Our refusal to do so creates a personal and cultural sickness. That above the surface denial (“I am a stable genius!”) sets loose a dangerous force in the world, that shadow energy unrestrained by conscious awareness.
If we want to get a good look at what gets put into the shadow bag and how it affects us, we only need to read the news or walk the streets. In American culture, homelessness next to expensive designer restaurants is a shadow, school shootings and an NRA refusing to budge its position is a shadow, the attempts to shut down the Russia investigation is a shadow, the epidemic rise of ADD and autism in children handled by drugs is a shadow, the fantasy of the Mexican wall while hiring housecleaners and eating immigrant-picked produce is a shadow, police shootings of black men and no accountability is a shadow, denial of climate change is a shadow. Shall I go on? There’s a lot in that bag!!!!
The culture collective shadow is not unique to America. We might say that one thing that sets cultures apart is not so much their colorful costumes or cuisines or festivals, but what gets put into that shadow bag. For some, it might be individualism, for another, it might be collective collaboration. But what seems to set us apart is the strength of the denial, fueled by a long-cultivated arrogance that we’re number one, a refusal to apologize for Native American genocide and slavery, a childish naivete that our crap doesn’t stink. We not only refuse to look into the shadow bag, we seem singularly unaware that such a bag exists.
And so, my fellow groundhogs, let’s crawl out of our holes, take a look at our shadow and enjoy the Spring that will follow.