The Problem of Shadow Denied



I have just begun watching a video series recommended to me by a long time friend that I met on Twitter. The series is called Hannibal. I have seen many FBI based stories, some with no bloodshed, and most with the focus on the FBI in white hats while the bad guys (black hats) are never as clever as the forces of good. Hannibal challenges all of that. I found myself riveted to my seat while the story unfolded, a story of blood, death, evil, and empathy. Without knowing the story of Hannibal Lecter, one meets this “Doctor” as he is brought in to work with a younger FBI “profiler,” called Will Graham. It is this meeting of minds that heralds a relationship that challenges. Who does it challenge? As the viewer, I can only say that it challenges me. I don’t want to say much more than to watch the series if you dare to look at your own shadow.

Daring to meet the shadow side of self.

Daring to meet the shadow side of self.

I have written in the past about the problem of evil and about how good people do bad things. Of course, sometimes the definition of “bad” is individual dependent. For example, for myself, being skyclad – nude outdoors clothed by the air – is “good.” There is no intent to harm others, to threaten others. For many others, the majority in our western world, being naked anywhere if not in the bath or shower, or under the covers (even that is debatable) is something “bad” that needs to be punished. Of course, since I am a mild-mannered sort of person, I rarely post images of myself that “cross the line,” that is full frontal images. But on occasion I do. I find myself reacting against my own psychological straight jacket, that sense of social propriety.When I was confronted by this video introducing the series, I began to sense that this was important.

When the shadow is denied, there is a cost.

When the shadow is denied, there is a cost.

I know that each of us has a shadow. Most people stay as far away (unconsciously) from that shadow, projecting what does emerge onto others. Anger, fear, revulsion, hatred, prejudice – so many emotional responses laid upon strangers because they trigger the darkness within ourselves. A few people are aware of the dark stranger within themselves. As a therapist, it is my job to have my clients become more “self” aware, and that includes awareness of their own shadow. A lack of awareness is the primary reason they find themselves in need of counselling.

Hannibal dares us to look into the darkness, to become familiar with that darkness. But just how familiar do we get? Shouldn’t we deny the darkness? There is a problem with that. Denying the darkness doesn’t get rid of the darkness, it just leaves us more vulnerable to its appearance in our lives. We can approach the darkness, ever so carefully to learn about the monsters within ourselves. With knowledge, then we can avoid being caught with our pants down. We can avoid becoming a victim of our darker self.

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