Mind & Life Summer Research Institute: Shadow Selves: Becoming Skillful and Wise in Our Response to the Human Need for an Enemy

Drawing on the fact that we humans are profoundly unconscious (only 5% conscious, in fact) and profoundly interdependent (we begin life inside of another and need relationships to see ourselves and to develop at all stages of life), Polly shows how and why we are eager to find “enemies” whom we can fight, blame or control in order to protect ourselves from emotional threat. She says, “In my decades-long profession as a Jungian psychoanalyst and a couple therapist, as well as my decades-long practice of Buddhism (especially Zen and Vipassana), I have observed how difficult it is for us to step back from the impulse to blame self or other when our hopes and ideals are dashed. In a close relationship that we care aobut, we embrace ideals that foster both the disavowal of our own aggressive motives and the projection of these motives onto the other.” Polly draws on Jung’s theory of a universal “shadow complex” and Melanie Klein’s theory of projective identification in this comprehensive approach to seeing how we need enemies and what we can do to transform that motive.

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