Thursday 12. December 2019

Befriending your Shadow

Shadow integration is an important concept in psychology but also for SCREENWRITING. 

A good script can be understood as a shredded microcosmos, like a person who isn't aware of their fragmented parts. There is the friend, the lover, the villain, etc. usually portrayed by one-dimensional characters. Only the hero, the one we identify with, is multi-layered. We see him struggle for change. For self-integration. The hero is the one who comes in touch with the simple characters and is transformed by the encounter. 

I find that in order to write a good script, or even to distinguish a good script from a bad one, it's crucial to do shadow work within oneself. I've found this simple technique by David Richo useful, as a guide for personal life AND for writing. Good writing is basically founded on a thorough examined personal life. 

Life is obviously more layered then "positive/good and negative/bad", but our immediate perception mostly divides people, situations, expiriences, food and ourselves as either good or bad. Our instincts, based on upbringing and expirience, also tell us right away how we stand towards as new situation. In other words, most of the times we're biased as fuck. It's helpful, because it saves us a lot of work in everyday life. But in terms of maturation, and character development in writing, its counter-productive. 
Steven Pressfield made a fantastic comment about the necessity of keeping the villian in a story unchanged. "Because if the villain changed, he’d be the hero."

Our psyche has an amazing mechanism called "projection". The best tool for recognizing projection in play are our emotions. The more intense emotions like anger, joy, sadness, sexual desire, rage, sense of justice, need for validation, fear of rejection, camaraderie, etc. are, the more they give note of a lack of acknowledgement in oneself (or the main character in a script).

(Click: "more")
((I mean the lower "more")) 

Okay, so here is an example of how to integrate a positive projection. For the sake of an example I'll take a fictional character; don't want to confuse family and friends. Let's say I admire/envy the serenity of Atticus Finch (character from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'). I ask myself then: "What does Atticus Finch and I have in common?" We both have a sensitivity towards injustice. Atticus is, even in the heat of a moment, poised. He is embodying his ethical convictions. I acknowledge that common kernel and find an affirmation for personal use.


When entering a conflict a possible affirmation would be: "I'm staying poised and grounded in my body, regardless what this situation will bring." After repeating it out load to myself, writing it down on post-its, etc. I'm preparing myself to act on it. Observing my habitual reactions towards a tense situation and consciously acting out the affirmation. Afterwards, I review myself critically and evaluate if my behaviour moved towards the preferable direction. This must be exercised numerous times in order to become it a habit. This is a fascinating way to build consciously character. 


The art of dealing with negative projection works in a similar way, but needs a bit more work. I dislike wholeheartedly how arrogant and narcissistic Donald Trump acts out. It goes as far as I refuse to watch any news where I hear him speak. So, I must investigate a bit closer those negative traits. What's the positive core element behind arrogance? Self-confidence. Arrogance is an attempt to act strong, despite severe insecurities. When having problems accepting arrogant people, there is an unconscious mechanism running who wants to avoid seeing insecurity in others. What I actually want (or lack), when being annoyed by arrogance, is the virtue behind it: "Self-confidence" That's the key to integrate the shadow.

I acknowledge that I'm insecure myself and that there has been times in which I acted out arrogance. My goal however is to act self-confident. What can help me to act more self-confident? Admit my weakness and work out a plan to change my behaviour. Building self-reliance through developing and keeping to-do lists. Taking care of body and mind. Being disciplined. etc.

The way to integrate the shadow is therefore, to act as if the opposite is true. Then we become more forgiving when others behave inappropriately. 


Here is a short list of examples of positive values behind shadow traits:


Projected (strongly upset) -> Unowned (not using this potential) 


Anxiety -> Excitement

Approval seeking -> Openness to appreciation

Bias -> Discernment

Bitterness -> Refusal to overlook injustice

Clinging -> Loyalty

Cowardice -> Caution

Cruelty -> Anger

Demanding -> Daring to ask

Flattery -> Complimenting 

Foolhardiness -> Bravery

Greed -> Self-provision

Guilt -> Conscientiousness

Hypocrisy -> Ability to "act as if"

Impatience -> Eagerness

Incompetence -> Willingness to experiment

Jealousy -> Protectiveness

Laziness -> Relaxedness

Loneliness -> Openness to nurturance

Procrastination -> Honouring one's own timing

Selfishness -> Self-nurturance

Self-pity -> Self-Forgiveness

Sense of obligation -> Choice

Submissiveness -> Cooperation, docility

Vengefulness -> Justice 

The shadow is only dangerous when projected and don't found within oneself. We don't have to be possessed by it. Befriend and you can open locked potentional in you. When in a difficult situation, be observant and ask for grace. Transformation will happen. We don't do the works of darkness, but we have to notice its presence.  



Source: The Shadow and its Integration by David Ricko