The “shadow”, in Jung, represents those unconscious aspects, in many cases latent, close to consciousness and which, if not progressively integrated, through the knowledge provided by analysis (psychoanalysis) can condition our existence through actions, erroneous projections or elements that escape us and which sometimes intervene in a substantial way in relevant circumstances.
But not everything is “shadow”. Sometimes they are facts.
To explain, Freud was once asked at a public lecture whether cigars, something he frequented with a certain passion, could be considered “a phallic object”, to which he replied: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.
This phrase, uttered by the father of psychoanalytic theory, is of considerable importance because of the strong connection to reality it represents.
And that, in my opinion, is the case with the concept of “shadow”.
The shadow can be used for everything: projection, displacement, resistance, etc. And always à la carte. When a situation is confronted, for example between patient and analyst, the latter can conceive such an unconscious instance as a factor to inhibit or weaken the thesis that the former defends. “You are projecting”, magic words which flatly refute any possibility that the analysand might be right.
- Franco, the Spanish dictator, had the good fortune, ironically enough, that his priest confessor was a communist, which supposedly excused him from explaining some of the confessions. One of them was the following: “I don’t understand how it can be that I love the Spanish people so much that there are Spaniards who don’t love me”.
If we play the hyperbole game, we could say that what prevented some, many citizens, from disliking the “caudillo” was not the acts committed by him but shadowy aspects that displaced other latent conflicts towards him, for example the bad relationship with his own father or with a close figure-.
Psychoanalytic “power” can also fall into the error of conceiving as a product of the shadow something that, if we look at it objectively, are facts. It is quite another thing if, as a result of our own “shadow”, we try to ignore the facts.
This psychic instance can allow us to perpetuate a family, professional or work situation if we force the individual, who is supposedly unaware of the mechanisms he is using, to go back over himself and to inquire again and again about something for which he is finally made to feel guilty. The message transferred to him would be “it’s not reality, it’s you”.
This extremely conservative prism always safeguards the good will of, for example, abusive parents or partners (remember, for those of us who are of an age, the radio advice of the infamous Elena Francis).
It is therefore obligatory, from every perspective and in the first place, to objectively analyze the facts and then, if necessary, and if reality does not support us, to begin to question whether some unconscious aspect of the subject is intervening in the explanation given for a given situation.
If we do not do so, we may fall into bias and even, on occasions, into a more or less unconscious, more or less self-interested manipulation of the other.
Barcelona, 3 May, 2022