Shadow: The Hidden Source of Sorrow
steps to peace are simple. They can be taken by anyone; even the most
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
finality of his brutality terrorized his heart as sleep ushered him into
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.
was your father like?”
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!”
old were you when he began to abuse you sexually?”
five and six.”
did he stop?”
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
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.
emotional Shadows are always frightening. That is the reason we hide from
them. And because we hide from them, they effectively control our lives.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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