Keira Knightley at the presser for A Dangerous Method, a movie that explores the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud at TiFF in Toronto. September 10, 2011
The shadow apparently is one of the first aspects of the unconscious psyche encountered in Jungian analysis.
Jung says its positive side is expressed through creativity and humor. According to this view, the representation of the shadow’s darkness in non-violent, socially acceptable channels (e.g. art, music, literature, photography or controlled “acting out”) facilitates mastering it. Otherwise, the shadow could conceivably control the ego.
If merely repressed, Jung says the shadow might find an opening through the cracks of the psyche and momentarily express itself in disturbing ways. This view depends on a model of the psyche where psychic energy is always seeking expression. If overly contained, psychic energy might boil over and “flip its lid” like a covered pot on a stove with no steam vents.
This might account for the cruel actions toward children by Sister Francesca at the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa.
Another version of the shadow appears as a comic strip, pop culture figure, “Only the shadow knows…” And more recently, the science fiction TV program, Lexx, features His Divine Shadow as the archdeacon of darkness.
Jung and other figures like Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell argued that the shadow carries or evokes some degree of numinosity. So if we go to a movie and become fascinated say, with the Joker (Batman) or Darth Vader (Star Wars), we’re almost having a kind of “religious” experience in that we’re going beyond our everyday consciousness into something different and captivating.
Debates continue in religion, the humanities and social sciences as to whether this kind of practice is a healthy venting (or possibly redirection) of unavoidable negative impulses or something that simply fans the flames of evil.