Stage 2: The Confrontation with the Shadow
Prior to an awareness of the shadow the ego has reason to be proud. Life is good, one is in control and there seems to be smooth sailing ahead. It is at this very point of achievement that the shadow makes its presence felt. In the language of fairytales – as soon as the king has conquered all the lands and built his castle, a new evil comes to disrupt his peace. The serpent steals into paradise.
With the confrontation with the shadow one meets the dark face of the unconscious. A life once blessed by peace is soon tormented. In facing the shadow one meets all that is wrong within oneself.
I remember my own experience of the shadow which came upon me as soon as I entered analysis. My analyst asked me why I had come, in other words, what was my problem. My response – I have no issue, I’m simply curious. Three or four sessions later I had plenty of problems. My dreams threw me straight into my own shadow – a frozen and unlived feeling life.
Such an experience is typical of the confrontation with the shadow. One can no longer be so proud and pleased with oneself. Having resolved one’s ego issues the dreams now present a whole new set of issues which have never been thought of or explored. The business woman must face the maternal instinct she has ignored. The religious seeker is confronted with his denial of life. The responsible father must come to terms with the wanderer. The priest must face the skeptic, the scientist the dreamer, the idealist reality and the realist the ideal. Whatever your ego attitude be you must come face to face with its antithesis.
Understandably the confrontation with the shadow is never easy. At this stage it feels as if the dreams have robbed one’s life of peace. Many complain, but it is an empty complaint. For one knows that the previous peace and stability of life was really false and one sided.
The confrontation with the shadow is first experienced as a battle. Whose attitude is superior? Who should be defeated. So long as one thinks in terms of a win-lose situation this ego-shadow battle will continue forever. It is only through opening to and accepting the shadow that there can again be peace. Such an attitude transforms the shadow into a great ally who guides one on to an even greater state of wholeness.
When the shadow is no longer viewed as negative and inferior we are ready to move on the next phase of psychological development which involves a reconciliation and marriage of the opposites.