“I have several story ideas that are about the dark, negative side of humans. I want to learn about the “Shadow Self” so I can write about it intelligently. Where do I start?” said my writer friend over dinner.
“I, too, was interested in the “Shadow Self” for writing purposes but, in researching the subject, I got into it on a personal level also.”
We finished our meal and I ordered another bottle of wine. When our glasses were filled, I continued:
“I started my learning process by asking:
“How can I be a well-rounded writer without learning about the shadow I cast?” We all must have a dark side if we are to be a whole person. So I wanted to become conscious of my shadow.”
My friend looked perplexed. We both sipped our wine.
“I’m confused about the conscious and unconscious minds, the ego and the persona,” said the confused one.
“Well, the conscious mind comprises what we are aware of and the unconscious mind is the hidden part, what we are unaware of. The ego is your sense of worth and importance. The persona is the part of you that you show to the world.”
“Thank you for that. But what is the “shadow?”
“As I understand it, the “shadow” is the negative side of the personality, the unpleasant qualities that we would prefer to hide.”
“When I was at school, my teachers, and at home, my parents told me what to do and not to do. This instruction was to make me “domesticated”. In other words to hide my shadow, is that right?”
“You hit the nail on the head,” I laughed, “The powers that be want to tame our untamed dark side so we can become “normal” in society.”
“Wow! This is interesting stuff. How can we integrate our shadow and bring it into the light?”
“We’ve been conditioned to cast our shadow as the villain and we are the victim. With this perspective you shut down any possibility of learning anything that the dark side might offer that could open up new ways of thinking so you could know yourself more deeply. I would try to look at all your negative desires, emotions and impulses that are in your shadow and recast the shadow from villain to teacher and see what you can learn.”
“I get it, we might become more humanized through the exposure of our shadow.”
“We all have a “shadow” and you and I, as writers, want to be more creative, so we must integrate our shadow into our conscious mind and be aware of it. This makes us more creative and well-adjusted people.”
“Boy, this wine is bringing out all the answers,” my friend smiled.
We both sipped our wine and pondered our conversation.
“Now, how can we relate all this to our writing?”
My friend was silent.
“Well, we conceal many things with our “shadow” and that creates mystery. There is meaning in mystery and this needs expression. The work of the writer is to articulate what is concealed.”
“I think I’m getting the gist of this. When we writers refer to “character flaw” we are really referring to the character’s shadow.”
“Bingo! You’ve got it,” I said laughing.
“The shadow is present in the conflict and obstacles of the story. We feel the presence of “The Shadow” in that which , in the story, is hidden, unspoken, and within, but is present.”
“So, as a writer, my best friend is my “shadow”. It can inform my stories.”
“I have to go now,” I said, emptying my glass, “But in conclusion I will say:
“That to a writer, life is a battleground. Life consists of opposites, light and dark, birth and death, good and evil, happiness and misery. We are not sure which one, at any given time, will prevail. BUT IT IS ALL GRIST TO OUR MILL!”