The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

Shadow self

"Embracing the shadow self" By Rita Loyd

"Embracing the shadow self" By Rita Loyd

Today’s preacher reminded us to make friends with our shadow selves, that Jungian construct, the dark side that shall not overcome the light — but damn well may bite you in the ass. Hard.

I guess I’d heard of my shadow self before I so radically misbehaved there was no longer any room for me in the ordained ministry of the church, but I clearly didn’t pay enough attention. I guess it’s that part of me that has dark thoughts, the thorn in my flesh that keeps me not from being who I am but from doing what ought to be done. It wants to be known as me, and I guess that if shadow boy ever actually took over there would be, as Sartre says, nothing left to talk about except whether to commit suicide.

There were moments of that back then.

I once dreamed that the husband of the woman with whom I had an affair came to church with a gun in his pocket, but the dream ended before I heard the shot. The church was a large, white house on a broadly sloping, grassy hill with porches all around. Families were on the hill. It was like a picnic. I strolled around in my black cassock. (Shadow boy?) Then I saw him. I greeted him warmly, wishing and hoping in my dream that the bad things hadn’t happened. They had. Out came the gun. I awoke in a sweat.

My spiritual director walked me through some scenarios for how the dream might have ended had I not awakened. Struggle for the gun, then in one scenarior, I disarm him; in another, I get blown away. In another, I merely stand there and let him shoot. In another, I stand and he doesn’t shoot, but walks away. I am so frightened by this dream that I can’t imagine fighting. The most likely scenario is passively letting him blow me away. It’s almost a relief. More of a relief, though, is asking him to forgive me. I’m weeping. The real pain in all of this is that of being unforgiven, of knowing such a level of hatred that it brings despair, a taste of the sickness unto death. Better to die than be in its grip. Forgiveness, though, is worth praying for, hoping for, living for. Better to live than to die. Somehow, I got to that. I’m still here more than 20 years later.

Shadow boy, though, left some serious scars on my ass.


Posted by Prodigal + to The prodigal priest at 6/16/2005 11:07:00 PM

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