Chapter I

 The Shadow: The Hidden Source of Sorrow

The steps to peace are simple. They can be taken by anyone; even the most tormented.

As he walked into my office, his frame filled the door­way.  His T­ shirt, with a large cross emblazoned on it, covered a massive, muscular chest. He had the neck of an N.F.L. lineman. Although he was physically intimidating, his face held a different message. His smile was forced, tentative, while his eyes revealed a wounded, haunted heart.

His wife had called from their home in another state to arrange for the session. She had prepared me, somewhat, for our meeting. Her husband had returned from Viet Nam twenty­five years ago, but the war still raged within him. A recent religious experience had made quite a difference for a while she said. Then the bouts of uncontrollable rage returned. Each night he would be visited by tormenting, terrifying dreams. Depression and despair set in. Then someone suggested they contact my office.

Sitting across from me in the privacy of my inner office, I asked him to tell me about  himself. My purpose was to help him face the dark Shadow hiding the source of his torment. He thought it was all about Viet Nam. His previous psychiatric diagnosis “post traumatic stress disorder,” was correct. The suggested source of the trauma was incorrect. He was about to discover that his experience in that tragic war had very little to do with his condition. This is the nature of emotional Shadows, ours as much as his. A Shadow in our subconscious was defined by Dr. Carl Jung as the painful emotions we choose not to confront. Instead, they are swept under the rug of consciousness. These buried, affective wounds hidden within our Shadows, if left undiscovered and untreated, will bury us. Whether they lay waste like a nuclear blast, as in this veteran’s case, or subtly poison our spirits like mercury­laced water, they are deadly until exposed and healed.

He began his story by telling me that at the outset of the Viet Nam war, he had enlisted in the Marine Corps. In boot camp he got into several fights. His drill instructor threatened that he’d be given a dishonorable discharge if he didn’t knock off his bloody brawling, but a fellow D.I. had a better idea. Put his anger to work. Make him a recon. “What’s a recon?” I asked. He explained that they are highly trained, military killers and demolition specialists who covertly operate behind enemy lines or national borders where our military incursions remain unacknowledged by our government. They kill the enemy any way possible ­knives, guns, wire garrotes, grenades, explosives ­ whatever the situation demands.

They trained him well. He had killed ninety­two people. Most of them face to face or face to vulnerable back. Many of his nightmares, he said, involved scenes from those murderous moments. He would be looking into the face of one of his victims their eyes filled with helpless horror.

The finality of his brutality terrorized his heart as sleep ushered him into Dante’s Inferno.

Boot camp fights indicated that he had entered the Marines an angry young man. That was the clue we needed to pursue. His torment surely was buried in the dark, hard packed soil of his youth.

“What was your father like?”

Unprepared for the question, he reddened with rage. “That no good, f­­­ing bastard....” Out of a sewer­fed flood­gate poured four­letter epithets ending with, “He molested me all my life as a kid!”

“How old were you when he began to abuse you sexually?”

“Between five and six.”

“When did he stop?”

“When I was thirteen. I was a big kid for my age and I told him that if he laid his f­­­ing hands on me again, I’d kill him. He never touched me again.”

His eyes were looking down at the floor. He was staring into a Shadow as deep as hell. His anger couldn’t mask the fear the cowering child within him still felt. 

Our emotional Shadows are always frightening. That is the reason we hide from them. And because we hide from them, they effectively control our lives.

The killing machine seated before me only knew that he had a volcanic temper. Frequently people and circumstances angered him in the extreme. He thought his problem was compulsive rage. He was also sure that his rage had been born in jungle warfare in Southeast Asia.

The secret our Shadows refuse to reveal is that we are never angry for the reasons we think. Under the misguidance of our egos, attention is directed to our reactions, such as anger, while leaving us clueless about the actual cause of such reactions. His Shadow, formed out of the devastating abuse and rejection in his childhood, disguised itself in battle fatigues. What emerged in this moment was that a Damoclean sword of shameful cruelty had been dangling over him all of his life. This hidden wound fed a charge of anger in his sub­conscious. Unrecognized and untreated, this toxic emotional energy field grew into the destroy­or­be­destroyed drive which created the hell in which he was trapped.

Your Shadows are equally elusive. Always they obscure the true nature of your unhappiness. As you study the Anger Cycle (below) note how much more familiar you are with the emotions listed in the second column under REACTION. In the negative moment, you know that you are feeling fear, frustration, guilt, inferiority or loneliness. Few people are aware of the subconscious perception which causes a specific negative reaction. Until exposed to the light of love, the Shadow within the subconscious perce­tion remains hidden and in control.

Even if you can identify feelings of threat, over-control, blame, put­down or rejection motivating your negative reactions, such knowledge is inadequate. The question remains, What caused this emotion? This needs to be discovered. And where can you go for the answer? To yourself. To find any Shadow that obscures your splendor is as simple as discovering a part of your mind most people don’t know exists. It is found in the wisdom of the Ages, and is as current as its application in any twelve­step addiction recovery program.



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