Jung coined it — the “shadow.” The aspects of our personality that are either hidden from ourselves, or hidden from each other, either consciously or unconsciously. The Darth Vader to our Obi Wan; the Hyde to our Jekyll; the moonlighting stripper to our 4th grade teacher; the waning : – ( to our waxing : – ) moons.
It’s interesting to use the moon as a metaphor, here. Pink Floyd, easily one of my favorite bands, has a song I’m sure you all know, “Dark Side of the Moon”:
And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
Then, from the song “Eclipse”:
All that you touch/All that you see/All that you taste/All you feel/All that you love/All that you hate/All you distrust/All you save/All that you give/All that you deal/All that you buy,/beg, borrow or steal/All you create/All you destroy/All that you do/All that you say/All that you eat/And everyone you meet/All that you slight/And everyone you fight/All that is now/All that is gone/All that’s to come/and everything under the sun is in tune/but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
There is no dark side of the moon really.
Matter of fact it’s all dark.
It’s all dark.
Jung characterized our dark sides like the lyrics above: our antagonist to our protagonist — hero to villain, one of our negative archetypal images, the “saboteur.”
Our shadows are part of who we are, only aspects of ourselves that are diametrically different than what we present to the world.
But Pink Floyd says something that is true when it comes to our subconscious: it’s all dark. The problem here is, many tend to conflate the shadow with the dark. You can examine shadow. Not true with the dark.
We are instructed to use the moon as a metaphor and explore the dark side, but how are we supposed to write about the aspects of ourselves we can’t see?
As for me, I have written poem after poem detailing my shadow side: vulnerabilities, fantasies, my eccentricities, weaknesses, fears, insecurities, all my “shadow.” I know what my shadows hold. I’ve snuck up on them with a bright light as they huddle together, plotting my demise or the demise of someone else. Coiled around each other as they plot my next act of self-sabotage, or knee-jerk recoil or strike.
I can see them because they reside in all of the gray areas of my psyche, and so when met with my light beam, they become ablaze with illumination, screeching and scattering to escape the scrutiny of my acerbic pen. I’ve seen them. I know them. They have no power over me.
The paradox is, my shadow-self relies on light to exist.
But there are places I cannot go. Not only from lack of desire, but because I fear them. If they would only stay mired in their tarry depths, All would be Well. And although fear doesn’t stop me from much of anything, it’s out of my hands: the subconscious has a job to do, and one of its main jobs is to keep me safe. If I start to wander into the black, unmoored, uncharted, my subconscious slams the door in my face.
My subconscious is a pain-eater. It absorbs the pain my conscious mind can’t yet process, or even acknowledge.
Ah, but the other job my subconscious has it to be a mystic. It shows me snippets of black through sheep guts and bird bones scattered on the feathered mats of my dreams, as my head rests on a goose down pillow, cradled in a soft embrace.
I cannot see into blackness. No one can. Not if the subconscious slams the door, fulfilling its job as Protector by day.
But at night, the Mystic appears and, as we dream, the Mystic opens it a crack, and allows our dream-eye to peek through the opening, while a dim, flickering light curls and flames, glancing on monsters, sometimes like a modern-day strobe. Then other times, a lambent light glows softly, highlighting deformed shapes, as if slumbering demons in a cave take a respite from their tormenting.
The subconscious alights on places and things in our dreamings; places we will one day need to go.
I see and hear words from the black that echo in me, and the words, they have such power. But when I try to pin them down, write them, say them, they are elusive, and slip through spaces in my teeth and escape.
I feel memories that tremble and rage inside me, and the memories inform my most basic impulses — engaging my limbic brain, my amygdala, and I fight, flee, or freeze in situations where, presented to others, would not even ruffle their well-groomed feathers.
That’s because my memories are monsters that were hand-picked, tailored specifically for me, and me alone. Different than the shadow-monsters we all universally fear. Because my monsters, who live in the inky black, are only mine, and they know when to whisper, or shriek, my name.
I wish the metaphorical dark side of the moon would stay dark.
I can work with shadows. Shadows only appear when there’s light.
They are the contrast by which we assess who we are, our beliefs and values, and our senses of right and wrong, as well as our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, contrasted with our strengths.
But the dark? The things residing in the dark are unseen because there is no light to provide contrast. They slither and roil and bubble and claw. They ooze, at times, through the door’s frame or through the misshapen keyhole. They gnash their teeth and smile with wicked intent. They dare me to come with them, to see their faces. They tell me their razor-sharp teeth will hurt—only just a little.
And in the deep and dead of night, they whisper their names into my ear as I lie in the comfort of my bed, safe, warm, my husband’s body contoured to mine. They whisper their names, and then sigh through hoarse, dry, murmurs, like blowing sand pummeling through parched, droughty reeds, they tell me:
We are coming for you.
And so —
Peace, and as always—
Je te vois—