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The Shadow as Seat of Creativity

Psychologist Carl Jung believed that in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity. ("Three-Dimensional Villains: Finding Your Character's Shadow" by Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD)


What is it about creativity that entices a response to repress and spurn acknowledgment of our dark side, let alone the feasibility of embracement? What is the perceived/felt payoff to change the already embedded response?

The group mentality versus the genius mentality.

Belonging to a group, and the consequent feeling of security, generally seems to require a tendency to norm and a status quo mentality. Groups coalesce naturally when there are common and familiar grounds on which to relate. This is comforting. Anything else is threatening. In this sense, our tribal heritage is an imperative of the survival instinct and the identities held dear. Indeed, this pseudo-bliss is fiercely defended.

Peter Berger writes on the socially accepted nomos as a shield against terror. On the "other side" lurks the shadow, anomy, the chaos and unpredictability that terrifies us so. And from those shifting sands, society's outsiders impinge on the group's conscious complacency. Often the Outsider plays the role of Genius in the sense of encapsulating transformational power - the epitome of the creative force - antithetical to the established order and the mechanisms of political power.

And what of the life of the Genius Outsider? Are they role-models that others aspire to emulate? Are their lives peaceful, happy and fulfilled, the ideals looked for by so many? Or are they driven relentlessly (as Jung said he was driven), even possessed by an inner daemon to conduct and relay the transformational power they are brimming with? That kind of passion and seemingly uncontrolled consequences that come of it can seem intimidating to the "Insider".

I think this is what it means to embrace one's shadow in the fullest sense. The bodily balms and the preening of identity are not the driving force ego would have.

These, of course, are extremes to illustrate the differences from the tribal call ("supplicatory invocation of favor") to the peculiar vocation of the Outsider. If we wish to regard the movement of invocation to vocation as a developmental issue, then, yes, embracement of Shadow is required in ever tightening encirclment, along with the ensuing "call to duty". That this will mean the masses will or should follow is, however, not given. Perhaps society can only bear so much change before the terror checks the revolution at the gates utopia would never have?


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