It seems obvious that any time someone compulsively avoids an issue it’s because there is something present within or connected to the issue of which they are afraid or by which they’ve been traumatized. Sometimes that’s due to the action of others, sometimes our own foolish folly. In either case what we find is a partition between the actively aware self and some dark corner of the mind. It reminds me of instances where a parent loses a child and seals up their room as a sort of museum shrine to their lost beloved offspring. The rest of the world keeps changing with age and experience, but the room becomes an out-of-place fixed anomaly, which in turn can become a petri dish for less-than-pleasant phenomena. So too goes the shadow.
My first experience with my shadow was when I was 18 years old and in Florida. One of my best friends had stopped by, distraught over yet another argument with his long-time girlfriend (for eighteen year-olds anyway) who was quite clairvoyant, but had little control and was often tormented by her abilities. My friend and I decided to go to the beach, but at his request we drove an extra fifteen minutes to an access point we rarely frequented and parked far back in the dunes where the car would be hidden from potential friends driving by in our small town, where everyone (and their cars) were overly familiar and recognizable. It was no more than forty minutes later that his girlfriend came walking up behind us along the shore, now nearly a mile up the beach from the car, asking him if they could talk, as if there was nothing strange about any of this whatsoever.
After they had talked (for a teenage relationship’s length of time) I approached her about the only thing on my mind the whole time I waited: How the fuck did she know where we were?
Her casual reply when I asked her was, “Your little boy told me, the one that lives in your yard.”
Of course, I started to shake. Sure, this would have been urine-inducing enough on its own, but add to that my experiences within the month or so leading up to this conversation, the ones where I knew I was being watched regularly at night when I was out on the screened-in porch, and I was lucky to have nothing but salty air on my shorts. I had also, within the couple of weeks prior, experienced an escalation. I was getting rocks thrown at me from the exact spot it seemed I was being watched from; a stand of three palm trees and a wild patch of Florida brush beneath. And what’s more, I had also felt that it was most assuredly a young boy.
“He’s mad at you. He doesn’t want to be ignored, don’t be afraid of him.” She said.
Having zero evidence to the contrary, I took her advice with total conviction and much apprehension. I went home and I mowed that wild patch. And I put some potted jade and a couple trinkets down there, along with a lawn chair and an official address in which I fumbled over every word, terrified that the neighbors, or worse my mother, could see or hear me performing this seemingly insane ritual action. Nothing noticeable happened except that I felt a little more crazy. At least, until the next time I was out on the porch at night. Where before there was the thick fog of an ominous and envious gazenow it felt fine happy even, though still not entirely healthy or free of presence. When I looked over at that spot it felt like someone winking at me, still imbalanced, but no longer bitter and jealous for attention.
In the following year it became apparent to me that I had been attempting to separate from my inner-child because at that time in my life my inner-child represented a threat to my well-being. For me at that time, survival seemed dependent on the sacrificing of the inner-child for the sake of functioning in a nightmarish soul-sucking workforce when all I cared to ever do was create. Combine that with male adolescence in a social climate where toxic masculinity seemed an exclusive option and you have one sad puppy who doesn’t feel allowed to express any sadness. When placed in the proper context, nothing about any of this is surprising.
It fascinates me to this day that my inner-child was throwing rocks at me, having been twisted into a shadow by my miscalculated judgement and misdirected survival instincts, but that is exactly what happened. This was a special kind of experience. One where because others were a part of it, it cannot be unconfirmed in my mind no matter how much time or distance comes between me, here in the ever-living now, and the boy on that beach.
I wish I could say that I was suddenly adept at identifying and integrating my shadow, but I had barely yet begun creating it at that time in my life. Just as eventually the mother redecorates the bedroom and begins the arduous work of healing, so too have I now done so with more emotional trauma and self delusion than I ever thought myself resilient enough to endure.
All this leads me to the current climate and the question of ethical malefics. Allow me to explain, but first we need to take a slight detour that turns into an on-ramp. Come along.
Now, to anyone who disagrees with malintent, be it through magic, physical force, psychological manipulation etc.; How would you feel about someone murdering your child or partner? What about emotional abuse or manipulation? Are you actually opposed to retribution itself, or is it more the issue of losing yourself in the indulgence of revenge? What about real-time self-defense?
As was elucidated in the video this too is a symptom of the shadow, albeit a much more deeply seated one than with which most people are used to working. But that doesn’t mean some don’t dare to delve that deeply into the depths. Some have no choice. And I would argue, as Jordan Peterson did, that this can be one of the most difficult aspects of the self to dissolve and reintegrate and those who have done so are worthy of respect, but what’s more this seems the only possible way of accessing the realms of necessary resistance without falling into warped emotional reward systems in relation to resistance or violence. Retribution is not sononymous with vengeance.
What if you have done all that inner work, dissolution and coagulation, with aggression like I did with my inner-child? What if you’re entirely comfortable with your moral boundaries and know that when you seek justice it is not out of an imbalanced emotional need? Why couldn’t a release of justified rage be controlled and focused on an outcome that is an appropriate outlet for that feeling rather than repressing or redirecting it? Certainly I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone (on good days) but something like “Those who swore to uphold the law shall be judged by it.” certainly wouldn’t be putting anyone in harm’s way that doesn’t absolutely deserve it. Perhaps it has no effect other than being the correct place to release that anger, but perhaps that is okay too. If outrage isn’t properly worked through it will spill out into portions of our lives in which it has no business whatsoever, and if focusing that outrage back onto the cause through magic has even a slight chance of efficacy, then why the hell not? As long as it’s genuine and not some social justice piece for your own self-propagandization.
That last question was not rhetorical. I want to hear your thoughts.
Be safe out there and take care of each other. You’re irreplaceable.