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Integral Spirituality

The Shadow and the Disowned Self

Ken Wilber


By way of summary, I will walk through the dis-owning process one more time.

If this is already clear to you, please forgive the repetition.

We began with anger as a shadow-impulse.

The anger starts out as a first-person reality (my anger; I am angry, I have anger).

For various reasons—fear, self-restriction, super-ego judgments, past trauma, etc.—I contract away from my anger and push it on the other side of the I-boundary, hoping thereby not to get punished for having this horrible emotion.

“My anger” has now become “anger that I am looking at, or talking to, or experiencing, but it is not my anger!”

In that moment of pushing away—that moment of resisting or contracting—in that moment of pushing away, first-person anger has become a second-person presence in my own first-person I-stream.

If I push further, that anger becomes third-person: I am no longer even on speaking terms with my own anger.

I might still feel this anger somehow—I know somebody is angry as hell, but since it simply cannot be me, it must be you, or him, or her, or it.

Come to think of it, John is always mad at me! Which is such a shame, since I myself never get angry at him, or at anybody, really.

When I push the anger on the other side of my I-boundary, it appears as a second- or third-person feeling that is nonetheless still within my I-stream.

I can still feel “his” anger or “her” anger or the “it” anger. If the projection actually worked, after all, I would never feel it again and I would not have any problems.

I would throw the anger out, and that would be that.

It would be like amputating a leg—it would be totally gone, and it would really work—painful as it might be, I’d actually get rid of the leg-anger.

But I am connected to my projection by the secret ownership of the anger (it is not really an object, it is my own hidden-subject).

It would be like not cutting my leg off, just claiming that it is really your leg.

It’s not my leg, it’s your leg!

It’s not my anger, it’s your anger! (Now that’s a major dysfunction, isn’t it?)

So the hidden attachment or hidden-subjective identity of the “other’s feeling” always connects the projection to its owner by a series of painful neurotic symptoms.

Every time I push the anger on the other side of my I-boundary, what remains in its place on this side of the I-boundary is a painful symptom, a pretend lack of the alienated feeling that leaves, in its place, psychological pain.

Subject has become shadow has become symptom.

So now we have dissociated or dis-owned anger within my own I-stream.

This anger might indeed be projected onto others “out there.”

Or it might be dissociated and projected into parts of my own psyche, perhaps showing up as a monster in my dreams, a monster that always hates me and wants to kill me.

And I wake up sweating from these nightmares.

Let’s say I am doing a very sophisticated meditation practice such as Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana Buddhism), and I am working with “transmuting emotions.”

This is a very powerful technique in which one contacts a present negative emotion, feels into it with ever-present nondual awareness and brilliant clarity, and then allows the negative emotion to transmute into its corresponding transcendental wisdom.

So I start with my nightmare, and I notice that I have fear because of this monster. In the face of this monster, I feel a great deal of fear.

So to transmute this emotion, I am instructed to feel into the fear, relax into the fear, and then let it uncoil and self-liberate into its corresponding wisdom of transparency.

Fine. Except that the fear itself is an inauthentic and false emotion (i.e., the product of repression), and transmuting inauthentic emotions not only presumes and reinforces the inauthenticity, it converts it into what might be called inauthentic wisdom, which is wisdom resting on a false base.

And the repression is still in place!

You haven’t done a thing for that.

So each time you experience anger, it will be projected to create monsters all around you, which will bring up fear in you (which is really fear of your own anger, not fear of that monster), and you will get in touch with that fear and transmute that fear—NEVER getting at the real and authentic emotion of anger.

You will own the inauthentic emotion of fear, not the authentic emotion of anger.



Ken Wilber
Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role
for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World

Integral Books, Boston & London, 2006
Pp. 134-136

Wikipedia over Ken Wilber.

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