Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Shadow

“Sometime the witch hunting takes on atrocious dimensions — the Nazi persecution of Jews, the Salem witch trials, the Ku Klux Klan scapegoating of blacks. Notice, however, that in all such cases the persecutor hates the persecuted for precisely those traits that the persecutor displays with a glaringly uncivilized fury. At other times, the witch hunt appears in less terrifying proportions—the cold war fear of a "Commie under every bed," for instance. And often, it appears in comic form—the interminable gossip about everybody else that tells you much more about the gossiper than about the object of gossip. But all of these are instances of individuals desperate to prove that their own shadows belong to other people.

Many men and women will launch into tirades about how disgusting homosexuals are. Despite how decent and rational they otherwise try to behave, they find themselves seized with a loathing of any homosexual, and in an emotional outrage will advocate such things as suspending gay civil rights (or worse). But why does such an individual hate homosexuals so passionately? Oddly, he doesn’t hate the homosexual because he is homosexual; he hates him because he sees in the homosexual what he secretly fears he himself might become. He is most uncomfortable with his own natural, unavoidable, but minor homosexual tendencies, and so projects them. He thus comes to hate the homosexual inclinations in other people—but only because he first hates them in himself.

And so, in one form or another, the witch hunt goes. We hate people "because," we say, they are dirty, stupid, perverted, immoral.... They might be exactly what we say they are. Or they might not. That is totally irrelevent, however, because we hate them only if we ourselves unknowingly possess the despised traits ascribed to them. We hate them because they are a constant reminder of aspects of ourselves that we are loathe to admit.
We are starting to see an important indicator of projection. Those items in the environment (people or things) that strongly affect us instead of just informing us are usually our own projections. Items that bother us, upset us, repulse us, or at the other extreme, attract us, compel us, obsess us—these are usually reflections of the shadow. As an old proverb has it,

I looked, and looked, and this I came to see:
That what I thought was you and you,
Was really me and me.”
― Ken Wilber, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth

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