The Ego And The Shadow

According to Carl Jung, the psychological ‘types’ are part of a broader dynamics of psychic energy which shape our world view and value system. These types describe personality and can profoundly effect things like vocation or choice of life partner. They work together in pairs, one of which is conscious and compensated by its unconscious counterpart.

See how the ego represents the protagonist and the shadow the antagonist or a character’s positive and negative traits.


The ego is the fragile, precious light of consciousness that must be guarded and cultivated.

The ego is the sense of purpose and identity.

A healthy ego organizes and balances the conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche.

A weakened ego leaves an individual ‘in the dark’, in danger of being swamped by chaotic unconscious images.


The shadow is our own ‘dark side’, characterized by inferior, uncivilized or animal qualities which the ego wishes to hide from others.

The shadow is not bad or evil necessarily, but primitive and unadapted. If honestly faced up to and embraced it can vitalize life.

The shadow is always the same sex as the individual.

Ego and Shadow are personified by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the classic good and bad split in us all. Mr. Hyde becomes a danger to psychic health when the Ego screws up. How does this happen?

Though the Ego is the center of consciousness it should not be confused with the Self which is the final goal of the individuation process, the wholeness of the personality.

The Ego which identifies with Self becomes inflated, dangerously god-like. An inflated Ego projects its own irrational Shadow onto others and identifies them as evil.


The psyche is not confined to individuals only but has a collective nature too, structured in the same way as the individual. The collective pysche forms the ‘zeitgeist’ or spirit of the age.

A crowd at a sports fixture or rally forms a collective Ego which casts a Shadow – it can easily turn to hooliganism or violence.

The individual who encounters the Shadow faces a crisis. The more he/she recognizes the Shadow and tries to withdraw, the more he/she feels his/her Ego threatened. Jung would say that whatever is wrong in the world is in ourselves as individuals. When we learn to deal with our Shadow we do something real for the world.

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