Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shadow, rage and when it is too late to take it back

In Toronto this week, there was a tragic accident involving a bicycle courier and a former cabinet minister of the provincial government. This incident has dominated conversation and news reports. The details of the accident seems to suggest that the bicyclist and the driver were  involved in a "minor collision" at the beginning.  Something in the altercation escalated, with courier holding onto the car while the driver apparently tried to dislodge him.  The bicyclist died and the driver of the car has been charged with criminal negligence causing death.

On Thursday morning, the Globe and Mail published an article on the physiology of rage, that fight or flight reaction that lies deep within the body. The journalist reported that people in this state of rage feel as if their bodies have been taken over or that they are so not present that they forget everything that happened.  The heated emotions of anger and rage take our ego's ability to reflect, and discern. It is in those moments when passion, anger, fear, and frustration get the better of us and we lose our ability to get out the situation only to emerge with the world fundamentally different from when it was only a moment before.  In fairy tales, this kind of psychological experience would be personified as demon possession.

Coining the word `shadow`was one of Carl Jung`s significant contribution to modern psychology. His definition is `the thing that we do not wish to be" The shadow reflects all that is in us that we refuse to acknowledge and deny out of shame, guilt or embarrassment.  Like the Jewish banishment of the goat into the dessert,  the shadow becomes the scapegoat.  We all know the story of Dr.Jeyyll and Mr. Hyde.  Dr. Jekyll is an upstanding Victorian doctor by day and by night, his alter ego is the demonic monsterous, Mr. Hyde.  Modern examples of the shadow are seen everywhere.  

The usual manifestation of the shadow is polarization - we and them. And the story has elements of a growing polarization between the established, collective structure and values pitted against marginalized bicyclist. Each side blaming and demonizing the other. Ultimately as Pogo once said "we have seen the enemy and he is us."

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