Robert Bly’s A Little Book on the Human Shadow is a great book that adds yet another dimension to the notion of the so-called dark side of the human being. Carl Jung referred to this dark side as the human shadow. Although Jung may have given it the name, the idea is much older, dating back as far as human history. Often, the dark side is personified in literature, none of which is more illustrative of the dark potential than the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In my book, Mind Programming, the name I used to refer to the power of the shadow is that given by Philip Zimbardo, from his book by the same name, The Lucifer Effect. The dark side of our human possibility is indeed quite capable of the most heinous of deeds and throughout history; many of those deeds have been carried out in the name of “good.”
Hiding From Others… and From Ourselves
Now Bly added the notion of a “long bag” to the dark side, the shadow. The idea is simple: We come into the world equipped with honesty and innocence, and we openly express it until we are taught otherwise. At some point, we are told things about ourselves by others that we then begin to hide, sometimes so well we hide it from ourselves. So, for example, when little Johnny is told that it’s not okay to get angry, he hides the anger. In Bly’s words, he puts it in a long bag that he will drag with him all his life. When Johnny is told that he shouldn’t cry, he hides this emotion as well, and so on. One day the long bag is so full of what we have hidden that we seem immobilized by its weight. Growth stops, and we stagnate. Sometimes, we are too afraid to look into the long bag to say nothing of beginning to unload it in healing ways. That does not stop the contents from unloading on us however. One day Johnny, all grown up now, finds himself up tight inside, and suddenly his anger explodes on his wife or children — he is over the top, and perhaps without a reason at all. The weight of the long bag, the defense strategies built to avoid confronting its contents, the ego’s need to assert itself, and so forth — all just seem to boil up somehow and take control, and we say and do things we regret later.
Find Your True Self!
In order to heal the contents of the long bag, we must first learn what it holds. This is not an easy thing to do for most people, but it is a necessary thing if we are to find ourselves in any truly meaningful way. My life’s work has taught me this: To realize your true potential, you must find your true self first!
Choose Once Again!
We have a new year (welcome to 2013), and it is not uncommon to make resolutions that would improve our lives. The best way to begin that process is to begin to systematically evaluate what you feel, when and why you feel it, and then follow your thoughts, find their genesis, examine the beliefs underlying the feelings and then, if you discover that this is not what or who you wish to be, make a new choice — choose once again to be your authentic self. Indeed, there is a trite but true axiom out there that states: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” We don’t need a new year or a new excuse; we can simply make the choice today for no reason whatsoever!
Remember, the greatest form of brainwashing is simply repetition. For some people, the repetition is within their own inner talk and thus, over and over, the negative is reinforced again and again. You can choose to stop that today, and I urge you to do so. I wish you all the very best of everything because you do deserve it — it is within you!
Thanks for the read — your comments are always welcome!
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions