Johnson is a Jungian psychologist, but the book is really easy to read. Basically the author explores the idea that we all have a shadow self, a personality that the world does not see to which we consign those aspects of ourselves we are not happy revealing for different reasons. At first I thought this was going to be about how we hide our bad qualities and that we should confront what we do not like about ourselves. Well, there is an aspect of this, but the author also points out that we can sometimes consign perfectly good qualities to our shadow-self like courage or nobility! He calls this the golden part of our shadow. We might be able to show these sides of ourselves to the world if we were less timid or not so worried about what others thought of us, or if it were easier for us to do so culturally and so on.
Johnson does also point out that if we do not confront our less socially acceptable emotions like anger, greed, resentment and so on, and if we go into denial about our shadow, this can also have destructive consequences. He points out that parents who have not dealt with their darker side can then project a shadow onto their children or that whole nations or social groups can project a shadow onto ethnic groups and this can result in persecution and genocide, as with the Jewish people and Hitler during WW2. What whole nations are often seeing is a projection of their own fears about themselves - fascinating! I was reminded also of the Salem witch trials, when the fears and insecurities of a deeply conservative group, clinging to the traditions of the land they left behind were projected onto members of their own community who they turned into scapegoats. This book made me think a great deal about my feelings of guilt that gnaw away sometimes and how important it is to be aware of the shadow side of one's character. Johnson encourages us not to neglect those aspects of ourselves we fear to show the world because when ignored they can be destructive. I also began to think about wholeness and to meditate on what that truly means. Around this time I found a little wooden rocking horse and rider that I bought nearly 30 years ago! This 'find' brought back memories of a very sad time in my life, but I felt a strong compulsion to alter this hand-crafted toy. Here is the rocking horse as it was when I found it.
Here is the other side! I have my rocking horse on a little shelf above the dining table where I often work to remind me of the need now to attend to the shadow me so that I can fly free as a bird, unhindered by destructive emotions or deeply buried, neglected issues. Johnson says that we must constantly overhaul our shadow, as we can easily become complacent about it. This was a very short book, but - although I am not entirely convinced by Jungian psychology - I do find myself drawn to its use of story-telling and metaphors, which can often give insight into life's problems. Now I must hop over to read some other reviews of books and the art they have inspired/1