A friend told me that every time we get together, he experiences anger. “I don’t even want to talk about it, I feel it right now,” he explained, “I’ve even thought of staying away altogether, but decided against it: it would be like cutting off my foot because of a blister.” Is it something I have done or said that might be the cause of this anger? “No, you’ve been nothing but kind and clear when we’ve talked about this in the past. I think because I can talk to you so freely that I’m associating you with the anger.”
In a way I personify a dark force for you, the scary dragon a hero encounters along the mystical journey. Both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have described the threshold of emergence as the ‘road of trials.’ “That makes sense; just so you know I don’t see you as darkness.” No problem, we’re both clear that it’s not me — personally — who’s triggering anger. It’s in my presence that the strong emotions arise in you. That’s a crucial distinction.
Writing about the aspect “encountering the shadow,” Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Rob Preece writes:
Psychologically, this journey begins with an emergence from psychological innocence and unconsciousness. We embark, either willingly or through coercion by circumstances outside of our control, upon a process of awakening. Answering an inner call, we cross a threshold, leaving behind naïvité, innocence, and irresponsibility, and embark on a genuine path of self-discovery. … We leave behind familiar security and experience what might be seen as a kind of death.
source: Preece, R. (2006). The wisdom of imperfection: the challenges of individuation in Buddhist life. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, p. 107. image: “this pilgrim contemplates his shadow” while walking el camino a couple of years ago.