The Shadow and Jimmy Savile’s dirty secret

In Jungian psychology, the Shadow is one of the major archetypes of the Self. It represents all the things you have identified as ‘not me’ during your formative years, when you were building your sense of who you are. It’s the other side of the Persona archetype, which is your identity, or how you see yourself and expect other people to see you.

The classic Shadow story, which came to RL Stevenson in a dream

A classic depiction of the conflict between Persona and Shadow is ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, which came to him in a dream. In the story, Dr Jekyll is a respectable pillar of the community, but he has a secret other side – at night, he is addicted to the pleasures of debauchery.

He invents a potion which can completely change his physical appearance so that, as Mr Hyde, he is able to go out on the town and not worry about being discovered. Effectively, he turns himself into two people, one embodying his Persona, and the other his Shadow.

My version, for children – what can I say? I love that story!

Whatever we don’t identify with as ‘me’, we project out. We may disown it so completely that we can’t recognise it in ourselves at all. We can only see it in the mirror of the world.

One way we project undeveloped aspects of our Self is onto the people around us. A person who thinks of himself as hard-working and high-achieving may find other people lazy and unambitious. A person who thinks of herself as ugly may feel that virtually everyone else is good-looking.

In a couple, the tasks of personality are often shared out. One partner may be good with money, so the other can enjoy financial security without having to develop good money-sense themselves. One might be fun-loving and dizzy so the other can be sensible and steady, yet still enjoy a party lifestyle.

On a collective level, cultures, countries and sub-sections of society also have a Persona and a Shadow. In families, for example, it may mean one person becomes the black sheep, with all the family’s unacknowledged problems projected onto them.

Where there is Shadow projection, there is always emotion, because we’re defending our very existence, insofar as that is our idea of ourselves. Which brings me on to Jimmy Savile.

This was a man who appeared to be helping the young and vulnerable but was actually hurting and abusing them in secret. Quite rightly, there’s been huge public outrage, because nobody should have the slightest doubt that what he’s alleged to have done was heinous and wrong.

According to Jung, there may be another dimension to this natural disgust and condemnation – extreme public outcries of the dig-up-his-bones, may-he-rot-in-hell variety may be intensified by Shadow energy. ‘We’re not like that! We’re the opposite of that! We protect children from sexual abuse!’

So, do we? Young children are regularly exposed to highly sexualised music videos on daytime television, and sexual story-lines before the watershed. Magazines and video games which are targeted at children contain sexual content, and children’s clothing which could be seen as sexually provocative is sold in high street shops. A large proportion of primary age children have seen internet pornography. If you google ‘sexualising of children’ you’ll find page after page of examples.

Jung called the Shadow ‘the seat of creativity.’ Embracing the Shadow means letting go of fixed ideas about who we are and the way life is, opening to unconsidered possiblities and engaging with complications, so to create something new.

Something new is happening because of these horrific revelations. People who have kept their own experience of abuse to themselves for many years are suddenly speaking out. Not just the hundreds who were allegedly abused by Savile, but thousands more are flooding helplines with their stories. That in itself is the beginning of a major change.

I hope the high profile and new openness given to the problem of child sexual abuse because of this case will mean that the sexualising of children by adult society in recent years will come under proper scrutiny and be seen for what it is.

Jimmy Savile’s dirty secret may be holding the mirror up to ours,  showing us something about our society that we prefer not to acknowledge. Like all Shadow work, simply to acknowledge it is to begin the transformation.

More about the personal Shadow next week – where to look, and how to see it

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14 thoughts on “The Shadow and Jimmy Savile’s dirty secret”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I once completed a research module on the Commercialisation of Childhood and I think in the West the sexualisation is interlinked. You’ve only got to listen to the lyrics of the music played in shops where their products are aimed at young teenagers. We know advertisers deliberately sell to young people but are we selling them in the process? I think our attitude to sex and we place the development of our children needs much closer examination

  2. I hadn’t thought about this in relation to the commercialisation of childhood, Melanie – that’s really interesting, and obviously right. Thank you.

    1. I’m afraid I only chose one interesting strand Jenny! I look forward to part 2 of the personal Shadow! I’m particularly interested in the idea that the Shadow could also be ‘the seat of our creativity’ ..

  3. A long road indeed, Moira, but there do seem at least to be some big voices speaking out for a change in the direction we’re going.

  4. I agree with all you say, Jenny, but I think it’s interesting that children are once again, as they were pre-late eighteenth century, being dressed as miniature adults, yet at the same time childhood continues, theoretically, to be regarded in that Rousseau-esque way. But as you say, commerce overrides everything, and it’s not just the interests of children.But what do you say about parents being obliged to put their babies into nurseries at five months old, not because they want to go back to work, but just in order to get a nursery place. I know someone this has happened to. Again, the market overrides the interests of the child.

  5. Hi Leslie – I feel the difference is the kind of provocative and overtly sexual nature of the dances children copy from videos, some children’s fashions and so on, and the disturbing view of adult relationships they have from porn and even mainstream TV story-lines. Your story about parents having to enrol their child at 5 months simply to get a nursey place is horribly unsurprising, although I hadn’t heard of such things happening before. Depressing 😦

  6. Fascinating Jenny. I think another reason that child sex abuse generates such outrage is that it’s easier to focus on a clear cut evil act than on the general neglect and disrepect of children in our culture – sexualisation and commercialisation are part of a bigger picture where many parents can’t or won’t parent (leading to neglect, or confusing friendships with their kids), the bullying environment in many schools, overuse of tv as a sedative and so on … The Drama of Being A Child comes to mind …

  7. Yes – of course there’s the size of the problem, as you say, which may make it easier to focus on one or two cases involving public figures, and it’s an interesting point about parenting generally. Sometimes neglect etc may come from the parents’ lack of skills or proper responsibility, but I think our society isn’t generally parent-friendly either – as suggested in Leslie’s comment above.

  8. Very interesting post, Jenny. What I find interesting is while children are being sexualised at ever younger ages, adults are being infantilised by the same commerce. Have a peek at what most men are doing on their ipads next time you walk to the buffet on a crowded train and you’ll find that many of them are playing games aimed at kids, or reading comics. A lot of older people now buy the same clothes as their kids, listen to the same music and watch the same films. Commerce has blurred the lines between kids and adults to enlarge the market.

  9. Hi Saviour! I hadn’t really thought about the whole commercial side of this before the comments started coming in – I love the way blogging can develop one’s ideas. I’ve felt for ages that the adult world seems unwilling to behave responsibly, offering leadership, support and good role models for the young – I’m thinking about the media in particular here – so it’s interesting to broaden that out as well. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  10. Great post Jenny. Love your use of the Shadow, because it does raise the point that is often overlooked by the media. Everyone wants to see the abusers punished and rightly so, but we all have the responsibility to keep our children safe. As you point out there are many cries of ‘We’re not like that!’ but as a society we are not protecting our children.
    The one good thing to come out of this is the heightened awareness of the whole issue of sexualisation and abuse – the Shadow can no longer hide!

    1. Yes – and such an opening up for all those people who have carried the burden of his secret for fear they wouldn’t be heard, believed or taken seriously – I’ve found it very moving hearing some of them talking on the radio these last few weeks.

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