In this series we are exploring reasons for humanity going in repetitive negative loops and we are looking at ways in which we can spiral upwards out of our unhealthy and destructive patterns, onwards into a more balanced future.
Theatre has many objectives. It can entertain or educate or both. It can mesmerise or bring consciousness. It can motivate and inspire. It can provoke or shock. Theatre holds a mirror up to reality and can evoke inner change. Theatre can be evolutionary. It all depends on how we engage with it. By merely passively observing the play in front of us no (positive) transformation can or will take place. When we engage with it we can either do so positively or negatively.
One of the reasons why soap opera (television theatre) has always enjoyed popularity is because it focuses on the shadow sides of characters; their deceit, deviousness, envy, hate, lust for power, wanting revenge and so forth. This allows viewers to “indulge” in the dramatized shadow displays of fictional characters. Passively enjoying shadow drama as entertainment is probably better than being in denial about the shadow. On the other hand, over time, exaggerated shadow theatre across various platforms can come to be perceived as a reflection of standard human behaviour. The same can be said for extreme violence depicted in various types of entertainment media.
Civilization and its Discontents 
”In this seminal book, Sigmund Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual’s quest for instinctive freedom and civilization’s contrary demand for conformity and repression of instincts.” – Wikipedia
Romancing the Shadow
The expectations of society for morality and civility has the effect that people suppress many of their shadow-related tendencies which is one of the reasons why the shadow tends to hold such fascination. Highlighting the shadow in others is however more pleasant than having to identify it within ourselves. This selective identification can sometimes become a strategy for avoiding having to notice the internal shadow at all. In the most unhealthy cases, this approach can even be used to purposefully direct attention away from an individual or group’s own shadow behaviours or activities by accusing others of the (same) behaviour.
Dealing with the Shadow
Whatever we suppress can come out unexpectedly in “weird and (not so) wonderful” ways. To avoid that and to alleviate the pressure of suppressed shadow material, “integration of the shadow” must occur. This means that at the very least a conscious acknowledgement of the particular suppressed material must take place. By looking internally at the causes of certain reactions, behaviours and negative approaches, the process can begin. If this is done honestly, thoroughly and consistently, the shadow elements would eventually dissipate or dissolve to the extent that they don’t feature significantly any more. This then would lead to consistent balanced behaviour, the result of having resolved negative cycles and shadow-loops.
Needless to say, a certain level of moral courage is needed for going through this process and that is up to each individual, group or society. If everyone keeps on avoiding dealing with their shadow and keep it suppressed in relation to how they behave towards other people or groups (identity politics) or other nations (geopolitics) or species or towards the planet (the “stage” we are acting upon); we may bring the very fate that so many dystopian films depict upon ourselves. For example, in the present day context it would seem that parts of the world is currently following a trajectory not dissimilar to the ones that led up to the first and second world wars.
Even with having the entire history of ancient shamanism and modern psychotherapy behind us, humanity still hasn’t made significant progress towards dealing with the collective shadow. History therefore has a tendency of repeating. Considering this failure, which we may as well acknowledge, it is perhaps now time to finally turn to internal and external conflict resolution methods by returning to internal transformation practices first, without leaving out the “difficult parts”, and draw upon the vast archive of information accumulated by ancient and modern day scholars and analysts in this regard.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. Enlightenment doesn’t occur from sitting around visualizing images of light but from integrating the darker aspects of the Self into the conscious personality” – Carl Jung
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” – Carl Jung
When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate. You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it. – Carl Jung
A Shadow Observatory
The shadow resides in all of us, no matter how much we like to think of ourselves as “nice people”, which we are of course, but we are also “not so nice” at times and this is especially true in group contexts. The most uninhibited examples of this can be observed in many on-line spaces nowadays. It is worth keeping in mind that having a shadow-side is a natural phenomenon of the human psyche. If we understand that the purpose of the shadow is to challenge us to growth, we can engage with it and transcend it. In addition, if we understand that one of the main reasons for being in “the theater of life” is to learn how to deal with the shadow – and that our very survival as a species depends on it, we may find the appropriate motivation and courage to deal with this issue.
Shying away from shining a light into the darker corners of the inner world is counter-productive to transformation of the Self and by extension humanity. This transformation is a process which Carl Jung described as turning dark matter into gold. Generally speaking we don’t do nearly enough shadow processing as individuals to allow for the general and necessary process of enlightening society as a whole. In fact, by having blended the on-line and off-line worlds in recent years, we have probably been doing much less shadow work than ever before. To an extent we have most likely enhanced the collective shadow, due to fewer barriers towards shadow-behaviour (on-line). Nevertheless, the upside to all this is that it provides us with the perfect opportunity to use on-line social behaviour as “a fish-bowl shadow observatory” and learn from it.
To be continued…
Also see: Shift Of The Stages
By J.J. Montagnier
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. Gypsycafe.org
This is Part 10 in a series.
Jean-Jacques is an international travel writer and photographer – he writes under a pen name. He has a career in adult education, is a student of psychology and philosophy and is involved in non-commercial life coaching. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.