Carl Jung believed the pathway to completion as a human is through the ‘embodiment of the monster’ — the discovery of ‘the shadow’. Jung didn’t believe you could be a good person until you realised your capacity for malevolence and evil. Once this is understood, then it must be brought under control.
There are typically two types of people…
A “good person” whose naive to their capacity to perpetrate malevolence.
A person who’s realised they’re not as morally virtuous as they thought by understanding they have the unlimited potential to express the ugliest parts of the human experience.
Person A thinks they’re a good person because they can’t not be, they’re like a domesticated house cat. They don’t even have the capacity to be bad because they don’t comprehend they can be; there’s no morality in that.
Person B’s morality and virtue is developed through the harrowing realisation you can be every monster you despise if exposed to the right circumstances. The irony is what stops most from becoming the monster is realising you could be the monster. But you learn to control it by befriending it, this is when you encounter ‘the shadow’.
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell” — Carl Jung
Through acknowledging all the sides of who I could be, not just kind and loving, but sinister and vicious, allows my roots to grow as I realise who I am. I must confront the unlimited discomfort of my most inner darkest thoughts — not run from them, but sit with them, befriend them and make peace with them.
Understanding who I am is the vehicle to understand the most malevolent acts committed by humans. Rapists, murders, terrorists, genocidal leaders…Unit 731.
Once I started understanding myself in this way, I started to realise I could have been them. Aspects of myself are contained within the people who commit the most heinous crimes that have ever existed.
Once I realised the people who say “I could never do that” can be the same people committing crimes against humanity, I realised we are all not so different from each other.
To confront the shadow of our character like this and realise what being human means can be a terrifying realisation, which is why most don’t do it. But I must.
Ideas inspired by Jordan Peterson