Posts Tagged ‘Shadow’

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Touching the Unspeakable Nightmare – A Must See Film.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I just finished viewing the film We Have to Talk About Kevin.  I watched the film primarily out of obligation as we are about to host a seminar on it.  I knew nothing about it, other than Dan Ross was moved by it and wanted to lead a seminar about “the Predator.”  I was absolutely blown away by the film and sit here in a stunned state. I don’t write many blog’s for the Asheville Jung Center.  In fact I haven’t written any prior to this; but I sit here so stunned that I feel I have no choice. I’m a psychiatrist and have been practicing some 20 years now. I’ve seen many wonderful patients over the years and been delighted by their dreams and stories.  I’ve also, however, had a handful of patients that make my hair stand on end and keep me up at night.  I’ve run into patients that seem to have no conscious at all; that have no remorse for any act.  I’ve had rageful patients, incredibly abusive spouses and even one that shot his wife and his two children execution style.  I’ve been haunted by these encounters and never truly known what to do with them.  This film brought these feelings and memories into Technicolor and left me stranded on a desolate reef. What is a sociopath?  How are they formed?  Is it nature, nurture, or a cruel act of fate?  How can anyone sink to the level of random murder? Anyone who has been horrified by Columbine or any mass killing or even the sociopathic car salesman talking you into the wrong vehicle must see this film.  Be prepared to lose your grounding of what you thought was typical humanity and be left in a disturbing paralysis. Regardless of whether you can make our seminar next week or not, do see this movie.  It hits the absolute bowels of our society, but you will not regret it. Steven Buser, MD Founder, Asheville Jung Center

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Bias, Trayvon Martin, and Undercurrents in American Society

Bias, Trayvon Martin, and Undercurrents in American Society

Len Cruz, MD

“Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone but only his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.”  Fyodor Dostoyevsky 


The daughter of a friend of mine sent this photo from her mobile phone. It was a bumper sticker seen on an SUV in Raleigh, NC. My friend’s daughter, an African-American woman, is a graduate of a very prestigious North Carolina university and her younger sister is completing her sophomore year at Columbia University with plans to study abroad at the London School of Economics next year. Here is evidence of the deep undercurrents of of racial tension that persist in the United States of America.  These are undercurrents that can immediately redefine the conversation and put aside the many accomplishments of our sitting President and reduce the discourse to a racial slur.

A tinderbox seems on the verge of igniting with the shooting of an African-American teenager by a man engaged in some sort of neighborhood watch.  When the President said “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon” it stirred even more fervent discourse with some accusing him of a making a divisive remark.  But in other parts of the world, the remark was a moment of humanity .

A Florida law initially provided a cover for George Zimmerman, the man who pulled the trigger. The law that is referred to as “Stand Your Ground” is allegedly the basis upon which the Sanford Police did not arrest Zimmerman who claimed he shot in self-defense.

According to Mother Jones, the provision of the Florida law that “…allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation. (More stringent self-defense laws state that gun owners have “a duty to retreat” before resorting to killing.)” (

Here is where things become murky. I recommend you take a few minutes and visit a site available on the WEB where you can complete the “Implicit Bias Test” ( The Project Implicit site offers the following definition of an implicit stereotype, “An implicit stereotype is a stereotype that is powerful enough to operate without conscious control.” This provides a useful framework for exploring Trayvon Martin’s tragic death.

It would be helpful if all interested stakeholders would suspend judgment about the events of February 26, 2012. Meanwhile, there are lessons we can contemplate about unacknowledged stereotypes and the perils of crafting a statutory defense based on perceived threat. Most of us are likely to discover we have implicit bias in various areas. Jung’s use of word association tests were pioneering and continue to provide insights into bias.

As the drama in Sanford, Florida, unfolds, there are resonances of unconscious bias and aspects of shadow that are both individually and collectively provoked. I have gone back to watch the DVD from the Asheville Jung Center’s conference “Symbols and Individuation in Global Politics: The Case of Barack Obama” (null) The second DVD AJC #14 with Dr. Tom Singer provided a timely exploration of some of themes evoked by Trayvon Martin’s death and the reactions to it.

Dostoyevsky’s quote calls us all to the high call of pushing past our unacknowledged secrets that reside in the personal and collective unconscious and that populate the archetype of our shadow.

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CROESUS SYNDROME: The Shadow in Psychotherapy

Vignon's Tribute of Croesus shows the influenc...

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CROESUS SYNDROME: The Shadow in Psychotherapy What, if anything, can the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist do to contend with the shadow aspects of their professional persona?   This is by no means a universal concern among psychotherapists for several reasons.  Certainly there are many persons practicing forms of psychotherapy that do not regard the unconscious as their concern at all.  Behavioral, cognitive, and solutions-oriented therapies, to name a few, have no need of the unconscious.  I am reminded of one of my supervisors in residency who attempted to encourage me to face facts squarely about a certain repeated conflict I was experiencing. He pointed out: “It’s entirely up to you whether or not you choose to ignore reality;  the question  is, will reality ignore you?”. Likewise, modern therapies that emphasize ego adaptation are free to ignore the unconscious; the question remains; however, will the unconscious ignore the therapy? A psychotherapist in training is more likely to remain in contact with their unconscious.  Formal supervision may provide a measure of scrutiny to the psychotherapist’s unconscious process.  Ideally, supervision imparts to the psychotherapist a praxis and a habit for such examination.   This may then develop into a continuing process of self-examination that will serve both therapist and clients in the future.  This is, however,  where reality frequently diverges from the ideal objectives of training. There are no formal requirements that the psychotherapist remain in supervision.  Instead, there is a tacit implication that a figure has arisen in the psychotherapist whose function becomes supervisor in absentia.  It seems highly unlikely that if this figure ever really coalesced that it will be preserved.  There are many reasons why such an interior figure is likely to atrophy or die.   Chief among the reasons for this figure either never fully developing or atrophying is what I shall call the Croesus Syndrome.   Croesus was King of Lyda from 560 BC to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians.  He is credited with being the first to introduce gold coinage of a standard weight and purity.  His wealth and power was vast and before setting out on his campaign against Cyrus of Persia, he consulted the Delphic Oracle. The message provided by the Oracle took its usual cryptic form.  Croesus was told that if he campaigned against Cyrus of Persia a great empire would fall and he was further advised to align himself with the most powerful Greek state.  He struck alliances with Sparta among others and set off.  As was the custom, Croesus disbanded his army when winter arrived.  Cyrus did not and he attacked Croesus in Sardis.  Croesus then understood the great empire that the oracle foretold would be destroyed was his own empire.  Such is often the fate of the psychotherapist who endeavors to cultivate an interior figure that serve as supervisor in absentia.      

Oracle of Delphi

Like Croesus, that psychotherapist seeks the oracle’s message but the psychotherapist’s dreams, associations, and active imagination yield their mysteries in cryptic form.  And also like Croesus, the psychotherapist suffers a predictable inclination toward interpreting his or her unconscious material in accord with their conscious, more acceptable understanding.  Notice that the psychotherapist’s shadow need not be included in this process.  In fact, the shadow elements of the psychotherapist will further resemble Croesus’s tale in that its unacknowledged state may be credited with the failures of the campaign, the psychotherapy or psychoanalysis itself. CHALLENGE I have some ideas of what may be done about this predicament but I am interested in knowing what other therapists think about this dilemma and how others endeavor to address it. Please share the methods you employ to not only remain in contact with your unconscious and also share the strategies you have found useful in engaging the inherent blind spots that Croesus so dramatically illustrated in antiquity. Len Cruz
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Obama’s presidency and International Cultural Complexes

Thomas Singer recently gave an enlightening 2 hour seminar out of Sonoma, California, on the idea of how unconscious forces affect cultures and nations as they engage on various levels.  One of his main concepts is that of a “Cultural Complex,” a charged unconscious archetype that grips entire nations without our awareness.  Part of what happened on Sept 11, 2001 was the triggering of an enormous cultural complex, both in the attackers and in our collective psyche’s response in the United States.  Cultural Complexes are pervasive and subtle.  You know you’ve triggered one when a person or nation responds in a highly charged manner.  In the 10 minute video below, Tom Singer introduces this powerful concept.   Please feel free to post any thoughts or comments you may have. ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________
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Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through: Working with the Shadow

“Everyone carries a shadow”, according to Jung, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Being an irrational realm, the Shadow is prone to being projected so that our own inferiority ends up appearing to us as a deficiency in the other.  “The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object–if it has one–or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power.” In dealing with Shadow, three phases of our engagement can be seen.  In the first phase, a person is either unaware or so dimly aware that the only evidence that can be detected consists of the projected contents.  These are reflected back to a person in the form of other’s deficiencies.  Another phase consists of revealing of Shadow in its true form, that is, as disowned, unacceptable aspects of the Self.  This is a phase of recovery of projections.  An individual begins to be emancipated from the  enslavement to Shadow.  In the course of this phase the bondage imposed upon others by the projected contents is diminished.  We might compare this phase to the aroma that wafts through the air, it does not sate the appetite but may arouse the appetite for the actual victuals.  Finally, there is a phase that involves integrating Shadow into the personality. Here Shadow becomes integrated into the whole Self.  There is no longer a need to stow The Secret Sharer of our unconscious below deck. In Freud’s essay, “Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through” he offers relevant insights that can be adapted to the work with the Shadow.  In order to adapt Freud’s ideas you must overlook how his thoughts are encased in his theories of psychosexual development.  Patients, according to Freud, begin by repeating.  “As long as the patient is in treatment he cannot escape from his compulsion to repeat and in the end we understand this is his way of remembering.” “…the patient yields to the compulsion to repeat, which now replaces the impulsion to remember.”  Substitute projection of Shadow for repeating in Freud’s essay.  Where you see Freud discussing remembering replace it with the notion of recognizing and recovering the project Shadow elements.  Finally, Freud credits the handling of transference as the main instrument for converting a patient’s compulsion to repeat into a motive to remember.  “One must allow the patient time to become more conversant with this resistance (to remembering) with which he has now become acquainted, and work through it.” What striking similarities exist between Freud’s evolving psychoanalytic techniques and the work with the Shadow proposed by Analytical Psychology.  Both render the unconscious realm as pressing itself upon life in the form of either repetition (Freud) or projection (Jung).  Both assert a critical role for remembering (Freud) and becoming conscious (Jung).  And the notion of working-through (Freud) and integration (Jung) seem to be one in the same.  Both Freud and Jung were pointing toward a cauldron of unconscious, instinctive, irrational psychological stuff that plays out to the detriment of all concerned when it remains unconscious and can be incorporated and dealt with through therapy. Ask yourself what means you have found to work with Shadow.  How do you foster the ability to move from projecting (and repeating to do so) to recovering projections?  How do you encourage the arduous task of helping clients make the journey from repeating to remembering, from  projecting and recovering a projection?  And finally, what have you found helpful with regard to working-through (or integration of Shadow)? References Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131 Jung, C.G. (1951). “Phenomenology of the Self” In The Portable Jung. P.147 See for a text of “The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad. See for a copy of the essay “Remembering. Repeating and Working-Through:
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