Merigian Studios


Works of Art

Works of Art

When was the last time some, anyone gave you the permission to be angry at something or someone? Perhaps a situation that has unfolded in your life, one that you willingly participated in and then it went sour for whatever reason. The proper emotion associated with that disturbance might be anger. Seldom or ever does anyone give you permission to be angry about the change of events. Anger seems to be one of those emotions that people refuse to allow others to feel. We are taught from a very early age that anger is bad, perhaps even a manifestation of the devil himself. But is it really?

Credit the great psychiatrist and philosopher Carl Jung for coining the phrase Shadow. The term refers to some psychological material located in our personal unconscious mind that we repress, deny, dissociate or disown. It is deeply imbedded in the quagmire of unconsciousness that either enhances or detracts from our behavior at some point or another. If we consciously deny the energy of the Shadow, we can somehow avoid it and it seems to just go away. Unfortunately the Shadow does not disappear, it goes dormant like some latent form of Epstein-Barr virus only to emerge at the worst possible time, under the most disturbing of circumstances. And what makes matters worse, the eruption of our Shadow maybe camouflaged or misinterpreted by our conscious mind as some other feeling, less appropriate for the situation but better for our ego.

What does all this have to do with anything? Everything. Suppose that a person has been told since they were a youngster that the expression of anger is a feeling that mommy and daddy does not allow. Same thing for aggression. This little person is not allowed to be angry when another little person takes their toy at the exact time when they are playing with it. Instead of allowing the child to retrieve the toy because they are angry over the loss of their plaything, they are told to share or just to go find another toy to play with. Does that ring a bell to anyone? The child that took the toy away suffers no consequences other than believing what they want at whatever time is okay: Entitlement with no consequences. At the time at which the theft occurred, the parental supervisor desires peace over conflict, which is their ultimate goal. Let's not fight over a tinker toy. I've got other things to worry about.

Now the victim of the theft is taught to deny anger or aggression, even though it is the natural reaction to the situation. As the child matures, he or she experiences the repression of anger and aggression over and over, burying these emotions deeper and deeper until they cannot recognize them. The Shadow is born and has great influence over their behavior even though they are oblivious to it. In my practice, I see the Shadow plague patients with painful neurotic symptoms, obsessions, fears, anxieties, triggers of migraine headaches and autoimmune phenomenon to mention a few. There is a new subspecialty in medicine called psychoneuroimmunology which is dedicated to the field of study of the Shadow and stress induced disease.

A patient recently came into the office with a number of medical ailments. He has always been extremely uncomfortable with his own feelings of anger and aggression. Over the past several months, his health had declined profoundly. He believed that every social support system he enjoyed had abandoned him. Whenever he was placed in a circumstance where the average person would feel anger or aggression or at least irritated, he felt uncomfortable expressing his displeasure or he would capitulate to someone else's interpretation of the situation. He is a people pleaser, so his Shadows are buried deeper than the Grand Canyon. He cannot feel his own anger because he represses it. What happens next?

The only possible expression he simply displaces it or he projects onto someone else. He knows somebody is angry as hell, and since it cannot possibly be him, it must be somebody else. In fairness to him, those around him are angry with him because he is ill, but looks okay. In his situation, there is an enormous amount of repressed anger in every person he knows. Consequently, his symptoms are getting worse, medications are not working as well and his own feelings of anger are being repressed, alienated and disowned only to return as feelings of alienation and depression. He feels isolated, alone and sad. He is living in a very unhappy life, made worse by the exacerbations of his illness.

Many practitioners would tell him to do yoga and meditate, find quiet time, get in touch with his personal feelings. Meditation cannot help him. All that will do is get him more in touch with his feelings, he will become more isolated and depressed since he has repressed his anger and frustrations. He needs Shadow work. He has to face the fact that his anger about his interpersonal relationships is valid, that having anger is a legitimate feeling and he has to learn how to express his anger in order for it to leave him unharmed. There are times when it is appropriate to get your cheese back when someone takes it, after all you are not taking someone else's cheese, you are just taking back what you had in the first place.

There are lots of effective forms of Shadow work, Gestalt therapy, psychoanalytic treatment, even Transactional Analysis. The helpfulness of cognitive and interpersonal approaches is quite well documented. I suspect inner journaling and voice dialoguing could also help him find the anger buried deep inside. Bottom line, he needs help.

I told him a few simple things. He needed to sacrifice all unimportant things in his life to create a will great enough to do the Shadow work. Second, get out of any interpersonal relationships that are making him sad because they are actually fueling his anger which is manifesting as sadness and depression. And thirdly, come back to the office to see me because others in his life have less than an objective view of his circumstances.

Shadows are the tricksters of our unconscious mind. The more we get in touch with them, the more likely our life will unfold into a more positive, healthy, loving, fulfilled and authentic composition.

Our lives will be works of Art!

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:06 AM
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