I wanted to share a poem I wrote when my dad was battling cancer.
This poem is very special to me, and comes straight from my soul. I feel a little uncomfortable sharing it, but I think it fits nicely with today’s topic: Carl Jung and Shadow Psychology.
I am an Eclipse
“What would I do without you? My other half, my darker self.
I ran from you for so long. I didn’t want to know your depths.
I had seen you in my mother and I’d seen you in my father. I watched as you tore them apart, brought them to battle with each other.
I watched as you tore my father away from me, and as you plunged my mother deep into your darkness.
I felt you then rise up within me. I tried to run, afraid of what you were and afraid of what you might want from me.
You were this Being of your own, blazing fiery eyes and a face I could not recognize.
I called you the Devil.
I begged you to leave me and leave my home.
I cast you out with the ancient name of a man I had yet to really know. I wielded the name of Jesus like a sword that I’d never been trained to hold. I held it clumsily and it felt too big for my littleness.
When I was sure you were gone, I went about my life as if you didn’t exist. I pretended you had been the fearful imaginings of a little girl.
But then one day you returned. I didn’t understand why.
I didn’t want to know your depths. I wanted nothing to do with your ancient song.
I dug my feet into the ground and held on for dear life as you pulled me through the fires of my soul, to the deepest floors of my oceans, leaving me in the silent stillness.
I cried out for mercy. I screamed my loudest scream but the silence enveloped me and stifled my voice.
I lay there for lifetimes soaking in the stillness, cradling myself in my own arms, the only arms that could ever truly cradle me.
As I lay there alone, I began to dream.
I dreamed of a goddess. She had eyes blazing with fire, and was filled with blackness. Her darkness was surrounded by an equal brightness.
I had never witnessed such beauty and such utter chaos. She was an eclipse; complete in her duality. She was savior and devil, day and night. She was everything and nothing.
She, in all her glory, was me. I awoke from my dream and stayed in the stillness.
There I remain.”
My dad’s illness had brought up a lot of my shadow side, as Carl Jung would have put it. Jung was a Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst who founded Analytical Psychology. I’m a big fan of his work, and this poem is very Jungian in nature.
He’s famous for the concept of integrating and transmuting your “shadow” in order to avoid projecting shadow qualities onto others and as an essential part of a person’s quest for wholeness.
The term shadow sounds a little woo-woo, but it basically refers to the repressed, suppressed or disowned qualities of the conscious self.
For instance, my tendency towards laziness could be seen as a shadow quality of mine. Acknowledging that tendency and consciously learning to be more disciplined is a good way of integrating and transmuting that shadow quality in a healthy way.
Or, in the case of this poem, my tendency towards depression and isolation would be an example of my shadow qualities. Acknowledging those tendencies and consciously trying to find healthy ways to remedy them is me attempting to integrate and transmute those shadow qualities.
“Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.“
Jung believed that if a person does not acknowledge and transmute their shadow qualities, those qualities will become darker and darker.
And as someone who strives towards a certain level of wholeness and self-mastery, it’s important to me that the shadowy parts of myself do not become any darker than necessary.
Another good example of my own shadow side that my dad’s illness caused to come to the surface is my tendency towards anger. When he was sick, and then especially after he passed away, I dealt with immense amounts of anger.
I was angry at God. I was angry at the world. At the doctors, at what I scornfully referred to as the cancer industry, and more than anything else I was angry at myself for being filled with so much hate.
I’d dealt with an anger problem before, when I was a teenager (to the point that I’d literally punched holes in walls). But this was different. This was…somehow more real. More visceral. It was welling up from some dark place deep inside my soul. This was a place I had tried to tell myself wasn’t inside of me, but instead was something outside myself.
I wasn’t the dark one. My abusive ex-boyfriend was. My mom’s abuser was. That girl who was always mean to me at work was. But not me..right?
When my dad got sick I was forced to face the fact that darkness existed inside of me. And while other people did have their own darkness inside of them, I wasn’t somehow an exception to that. I could no longer project my own shadow onto others and assume that I was blameless.
I was angry. I was depressed. And I was routinely isolating myself.
These are just a few of the shadow aspects my dad’s illness and subsequent passing brought to the surface for me.
And in the midst of it all, I wrote this poem. I wrote it as a way to tell myself that I would acknowledge my shadow and I would find a way to transmute it, no matter how long it took.
I’m still in the midst of that process, and I might always be. But that’s okay, as long as I continue to work at it.
As the process continues on, that dark place deep inside myself is appearing less scary. In fact the more light I bring to it, the more I’m able to see how peaceful it looks. Just like how your bedroom can look frightening in the dark as your eyes play tricks on you and turn the shadows into monsters… and when you turn on the lights you can breathe a sign of relief, realizing that the pile of blankets on the bed is in fact not a murderer waiting to kill you.
I think that the more light (awareness) you can bring to the shadowy parts of yourself, the better. You might be surprised to find a peaceful little haven inside yourself just waiting for you to turn the lights on.
And you don’t have to wait for tragedy to strike to start turning your lights on. Often tragedy is a catalyst for such a thing, but you can start bringing awareness to your shadowy self at any time. Better now than later.
Maybe you’ll be better equipped when tragedy does inevitably strike because your lights are on and you’re able to see more clearly.
I hope this little peek into my own Jungian journey could help you out with your own. I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments, or you can contact me through social media or email. That’s up to you.
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On