Jungian Shadow Function

At some point during this past summer, my attention turned to Jungian psychology.  I’ve spent the greater part of the last 7 years in libraries, reading some awesome albeit stretching-the-subject theories on human behavior.  I’ve read studies on everything from economics of behavior to jury selection, from the impact of racially segregated neighborhoods, to cohabitation’s role in divorce.  It’s been interesting.  Between all these different interests, I really developed a liking for social psychology tied in with rational economics; I could never wrap my head around statistics.  Research and any pursuit of a PhD were automatically out.  I remember coming across Jung’s works, standing next to Freud; leather and fabric bindings falling off and tattered.  I liked those books because they smell good.  I love the smell of old books.  But I would pick the volumes up, leaf through it and put it back down. never quite being fully grabbed into the material.  I liked Jung’s exploration of the spirit and soul, and imagination; the things that seem to make us human versus animal.  
I never associated Jung with Myers-Brigg; something led me to cross that line over the summer.  I revel in my personality type; I am reading up on the development of the MBTI, and the different types.  My ‘type’ not only helps me to see why people don’t like me, and explains so much about why I am serious and am off-putting.  It also allows me the freedom to figure out my strengths, to stretch the possibilities.  Perhaps a precursor to this is the VIA strengths test that was derived from Seligman[i].  However these are character strengths, and in the four years since I was introduced to this material I’ve learned that these aspects of my character are non-negotiable; these are things I choose to make valuable in my life.  On the other hand, personality – its not know for certain at what age it’s fully formed, or if its fluid.  At any rate, it’s given me pause to remember why certain things happened the way they did.
Jung also decided to see Freud’s negative view of the inner mind and made it the playground of philosophy, religion and/or mythology, and symbolic imagination.  As if its not enough to take (and retake: reliability) the MBTI, Jung gave us the shadow functions: the ones that come out to play when you’re everything that you should not be.  When the Introvert spills his emotional guts, with the Perceiver suddenly starts drawing up to do lists and time management tables.  These are the exact reversal of what we typically are and they’re there when we are stressed more than usual.
It’s not a secret that I’m an introvert, so I’m easily pliable when I’m stressed out.  People get more of a response from me than they would otherwise.  The first instance from the past month alone would be when I had two exams back-to-back; if I was asked a personal question I answered it without a second thought.  The thing with the shadow functions is they are the “what’s bad about” or negative aspects of the opposing type.  I’ll act more extroverted, but in all the wrong ways: saying things I shouldn’t; let the negativity just hang out.  Some types are by nature more free-wheeling or spontaneous; if it’s a shadow function, it’s like an impulse control disorder gone wrong – more likely to pick fights, there’s no mental filter when speaking; behaviorally it can resemble a manic episode (speeding, anyone?).  One of my shadow functions is to focus on the worst-case scenario, or the negative possibilities; I’ll try to reach out and interact with people (Extrovert), but due to the impulsivity it goes fairly badly, I’ll get to the point where I wish others could get into my head the way I usually get involved with my own thoughts when not swayed by the shadow.  Yet, my I(ntroversion) blocks that pathway against all odds; like asking someone to enter my world with a 6 foot ladder to scale a mile high barricade.  Or I don’t chase down the next project: in turning off my thoughts and introversion to just watch television (when I’ll typically write a paper and watch a show simultaneously), or buy something on impulse (a candy bar, an extra yard of fabric, or like last week, 100 tea lights).  At the core, Jung treats the shadow as the natural instinct; usually recognized as Freud’s id, which is where the similarity ends.  The shadow contains the part of us we keep hidden away, its our instinct, our negativity, our evil, although it’s actually amoral.  One’s shadow isn’t determined by natural law, its just our opposing feature: it looks unnatural and evil because it’s the contrast of what we perceive to be good in ourselves.


[i] 1st: spirituality, sense of purpose & faith (shape actions, source of comfort), 2nd: curiosity & interest in the world (nearly all topics are fascinating), 3rd: gratitude (don’t take for granted the good things), 4th:  judgment, critical thinking & open-mindedness (examine all aspects, able to change mind), 5th: appreciation of beauty & excellence (skilled performance)
*sources: One Two Three Four Five (not disclosing the forum) 
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