A prior blog post brought to our attention the following words from St. Ignatius: “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or else he loses his labor.” Indeed, before a difference can be made, or even recognized in the world around us, a difference must first be made within. The tricky part is in sparking this self-transformation, which begins with understanding our true selves.
The late Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung produced many novel ideas about the psyche during his career, one of which was his concept of the shadow. The shadow is the part of the unconscious that contains all the undesirable aspects of our personality, including, but not limited to: greed, jealousy, anger, and pride. These vices produce unpleasant feelings, and so they are relegated to the back of the mind, temporarily forgotten, yet ever lurking.
Like a mint Mentos in a bottle of diet Coke, these feelings inevitably find a way out, sometimes in ways that surprise us. How often do you find yourself complaining about how self-centered, arrogant, and irritating others are? Does it ever bother you to the point where these thoughts even become obsessive?
Jung would propose that we are projecting the undesirable aspects of ourselves onto others, freeing us from the painful responsibility of self-examination. I know that many of the negative traits I recognize and complain about in those around me are in fact the very things I dislike about myself. Despite how jarring a revelation such as this may be, it is ultimately for the better, because ignoring these flaws only leads to further festering within the soul. A clearer understanding of one’s faults leads to a clearer understanding of one’s true self.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own shadow; the part of yourself that you loathe may be the very thing that helps to transform you.
Ryan Gilligan, FCRH 2015 | Manresa Student Tutor