The Dark Must Be Played Through –
The mystery and paradox of being human is that you hold both the dark and the light. Carl Jung describes how the human psyche is split into the persona, which is the aspect of the self of which you approve and with which you identify, and the Shadow, which consists of those dark, unbearable, hated characteristics. He describes the Shadow as those parts of the self that are cut off from the rest but are attached in the unconscious mind just as a real Shadow is attached to the body.
Jung’s concept of individuation is the process of coming to terms with the unacceptable aspects of your personality such as hidden impulses, desires, selfishness, hostility and greediness which are merely aspects of the ego. Individuation is the longing for the essence of one’s self. Integrating the Shadow parts is a major part of the spiritual growth process. The evolutionary process is to return to the wholeness of the Self–the return to the wholeness of all which is the Oneness.
Playing Out Each Part in Turn:
The Fragmented Self
The Shadow parts are born of trauma. The original trauma is called the activating event – those overwhelming life experiences out of which the child forms his view of the world. Traumas and debilitating experiences in early life often have a profound effect on an individual’s personality and subsequent life decisions. A trauma is an event of such confusion and terror that the individual feels helplessness and can’t process its meaning to make sense out of it.
The fragmented self is developed by this splitting of the self due to conflicting messages associated with trauma, threat and shame. The fragmented, multiple selves are formed when the child feels threatened and needs to protect him or herself during traumatic events where he cannot escape. In a sense, he “runs away in his mind” thus creating an energy field that is separate from the rest of the personality. These sub-parts, identities or alters of the personality are created when the vulnerable child becomes traumatized by shame, criticism, rejection and physical or sexual abuse. A subtle magnetic field is set up in the brain which holds the trauma memory and the overwhelming emotions of terror, fear, anger, shame and confusion.
If the child’s early years are spent in an irresolvable conflictual state where reality shifts from moment to moment according to the whims of an inconsistent, cruel parent, the child learns to devalue his own experiences. In his continual distress, he learns to discount his own sensations and interpretations, taking as truth what is said to him instead of what he sees and feels.
Often in unhealthy families, there are rigid rules that state that negative emotions should not be expressed. This is the “Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel” pattern that has been described by Claudia Black, an expert in the area of families with addictive patterns. The child learns to emotionally detach from any experience that might be painful. As a mechanism of self-defense, the child learns to shut down a major part of him or her self – the feelings. Yet the feelings remain. They just are not allowed to be expressed and are repressed. Energy must go somewhere. Shutting down the negative emotions or splitting binds them to the person’s physical body and helps create the energetically-defined sub-parts.
The sub-parts represent the different expressions of two basic emotions: love and fear. Layering of trauma after trauma creates the fear aspects of the person. Polarization occurs and events, others and your own nature are viewed negatively. This angry, self-debasing sub-part develops if the child was raised by a negative, critical parent and some part identified with that energetic pattern. A negative, self-critical side of the personality is developed resulting in dysfunctional communication and behavior patterns.
These fragmented parts have potent energies, which results in the person playing out the negative behavior pattern again and again. Sigmund Freud first described the repetition compulsion, which is behavior that represents a re-enactment of the childhood trauma. Having their origin in learned messages and internalized beliefs about self-worth, different parts continue to play out their function, rising to meet current situations, which are similar in nature to those experienced as a child. Carl Jung said that what is unresolved and not made conscious will come back to you as fate. Freud’s concept of repetition compulsion is that negative ideas hidden deep in the unconscious mind that are not brought to consciousness and addressed are played out in your life.
These sub-parts carry different vibratory rates of energy, i.e., the confused, spaced out part is different in terms of the amount of resources that are available to the person than the self-confident part. They may each hold their own emotionally-laden memories of pain and trauma. The sub-parts represent conflictual pairs of opposites (from bad to good) that operate within your consciousness and are seeking resolution. Seen simply, they are disowned energy patterns that are out of harmony with the integrated self. Conflict between the parts requires energy and draws from the total reservoir.
During early traumatic events, the person formulates core powerful beliefs or scripts (“I am unlovable.” “I am not worthy.” “I am not safe.”, etc.) that will play out consciously or unconsciously in life. Often there is a cluster of other negative beliefs that become fixed to the central negative conviction. These core beliefs then run the life, playing out what the person has decided is true at a time when his resources were nonexistent or small. Core beliefs center around not being safe and ideas about the self, others, the environment and/or God. Some are unknown, stored deep underground in the unconscious mind. The Shadow holds these core negative beliefs, keeping you stuck in denial, discouragement, desperation and despair. It holds the not knowing that prevents you from knowing.
These negative core messages show up as primitive defense mechanisms such as passive aggressive behavior, whining, splitting, anger reactions, addictions, and blaming others. A common defense is playing out the victim core script by being unsuccessful in a career or in relationships. Anger is another typical defense incurred with trauma.
Unresolved emotions that arise during traumatic events typically are shelved away somewhere in the body-mind complex and acted out as behavioral or physical symptoms. The disruptive feelings remain on the shelf until the time comes to deal with them. Ongoing intrusive experiences trigger old undigested emotions and memory fragments bringing them to the surface. They come back with a vengeance in play backs such as dreams, intrusive thoughts, dreaded memories, acting out behavior or physical problems.
The highly-charged emotional memories of the event are held in check by the defenses, which help the mind distract from and evade knowledge of the traumatic event. The previous energy of wholeness becomes the energy of defense with the mission of not allowing the self to become hurt again. This defensive energy takes the form of moving toward the threatening stimulus as in anger or moving away from it in withdrawal. Defensive energy is best understood by the basic instinctual fight, flight or freeze response of the caveman. If you cannot fight or leave the situation of threat, then there can be emotional withdrawal into a dissociative state of confusion. In times of terror, the mind leaves if the body cannot.
Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the family systems movement, used to say that all behavior, no matter how distorted it was, has a purpose. You are purposeful beings, although you cannot always understand why you do the things you do. Much of the underlying purpose of seemingly irrational behavior lies hidden in the unconscious mind. Each symptom or behavior pattern, whether it is physical or mental, has its own underlying meaning and function. Even the so-called negative aspects of the personality exist for some reason. The submissive part, the aggressive part, the acting out part, the sick part, etc. were each learned in childhood as a survival response to a threat in the environment. Seemingly nonproductive parts continue as a fragmented energy pattern in your behavior as an adult as over-learned autonomous patterns. They continue because you are in denial or don’t know how to release the negative unconscious content behind it.
Ye Suffer from Yourself, Nothing Else Compels