Halloween and the shadow self Walking outside, one can already sense the changes in the air as summer ends. ‘Tis the season, after all, the season of life, death, and rebirth. Halloween is fast approaching and it is time to reflect and prepare.
Many will relish in the fun and excitement of costumes and candy, looking forward to the next persona they might take on when pretending to be anyone else is encouraged. And yet, creating the most elaborate disguise is not the sort of preparation intended by this mystical holiday.
Halloween is actually about quite the opposite. Delving back into the depths of the true reason for the season, one will find that this Celtic festival is a time for reverence, reflection, and community before the light fades and winter comes. It is the time when all who died within the year would begin their journey into the afterlife.
During this time, just as the light and warmth of summer leaves and we transition into the cold, dark winter, beings of light and dark are able to mingle together on a single plane. The story goes that Samhain (the Celtic name for this holiday) is the time when people would not live in fear of the ghosts of their ancestors, but made offerings and lit bonfires to help guide the souls on their way.
In the same way, this is the ideal time of year to focus on the shadow-self, or that darker and repressed part that resides in all of us. The psychologist, Carl Jung, often discussed the idea of the shadow self and how to manage this potentially dangerous and unavoidable aspect of our beings. The most important task is also the most difficult, to acknowledge and accept it.
As the Celtic people embraced the inevitable dark of winter, we must look inside ourselves and acknowledge our deepest, darkest secrets and embrace the fact that without our dark side, we are not whole. In repressing an integral part of our being, we can cause that side to manifest in a negative way and make a violent attempt to emerge into our lives. Only by facing our inner demons and respectfully acknowledging their presence can we make peace and move on to a brighter place.
“When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.”
“The Stages of Life” (1930). The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.752
Halloween, or Samhain, represents the time in between. We are at a point between the summer and winter. We are between the hopeful living and the solemn dead. We are between a time of plentiful harvest and frozen tundra. We are between the best and brightest aspects of ourselves and a time for introspection into our baser thoughts and desires. Embrace this time when we might compare and contrast what we have with what we need and prepare to move on, into a bright new year.
Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.
But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.
Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. "I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day."
What have you been carrying?
When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In reality they interact with each other and influence each other. Human beings do not only suffer from somatic illnesses, physical pain, and the lack of decent opportunities to satisfy their basic vital, social and emotional needs. They also suffer when they are not able to experience and grasp any meaning of life even if such suffering is not quite as obvious as most forms of physical, social and emotional suffering. Suffering from the lack for the sense of the meaning of life is a special form of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual suffering. Although all human beings share the same basic human need for some meaning of life, the fulfillment of this need is highly individual and personal. Although all forms of human suffering can be a challenge to the meaning of life, the personal conditions of suffering usually are a stronger challenge for the meaning of life. Among the personal conditions of human suffering, the Grenzsituationen cannot be cancelled or raised at all, but only accepted and coped with as existential aspects of the conditio humana. According to Karl Jaspers these are: death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing. The challenge for human beings to cope with these Grenzsituationen is a way to move from the mere Being-there to true human Existence.
Cory Ian Shafer