Writing the bright shadow

Lots of shadows in the House of Dreams lately, but before I leave this theme, an update from Toko-pa has prompted me to write a balancing article about the bright side of the Shadow.

I did mention the bright side in my article ‘It’s the seat of creativity – so how can you find your Shadow?’ but only in passing:

This is not to say the Shadow is only negative. Positive potentials which may have been strong in us can be lost. For example, a strong-willed child may learn to identify that strength as a bad thing, and grow to suppress and deny it.

The Shadow is everything we can’t see directly in ourselves. Toko-pa says 90% of that will be ‘pure gold’, but I feel the percentage will depend upon other aspects of your personality. A person with low self-esteem, for example, will be unconscious of many of their more positive qualities, strengths and potentials, whereas someone who feels they are ‘good’ may be suppressing or projecting out many of their own human weaknesses.

When we write, our protagonists express energies in our Self of which we may or may not be aware, and these are not only the dark energies of our villains but also the bright energies of our heroes.

In our heroes, we experience qualities we may not identify with in life, but which must exist in us because they are finding expression in our stories. My protagonists are usually resourceful, independent and brave, but I’ve only come to see where they are me through writing their stories. I used to think of myself as the very opposite of all that.

So there are bright lights hidden in these shadows which, if we follow them, can lead us into the most wonderful areas of the Self. The process may still feel challenging, because anything that shakes our beliefs about ourselves unsettles our world and forces a readjustment of both our memories and our future dreams.

And we have to walk this path lightly, not trying to understand or interpret, but listening for echoes, being aware.

Have you noticed key characteristics that run through most of your protagonists? Are they qualities you recognise in yourself?

Next week I’ll be giving my answer to a straightforward writing question: Is it easier to write for children?

4 thoughts on “Writing the bright shadow”

  1. So right! This is how writing is ‘cheap therapy’ – in the sense of not costing money, not of easy or of little value.
    This is why so many villains are attractive characters, like Long John Silver, and why ‘everybody loves a villain.’ These villains are uncovering the valuable qualities we don’t dare to express in everyday life.
    But in projecting ourselves into heroes and heroines we are also acting out, as you rightly say, parts of ourselves that we try to hide, or may not even recognise are there. But, ‘Madame Bovary, c’est moi.’ All of ours characters are us.
    I have certainly had the experience of acting out, in writing, things which I’ve then had the courage to do ‘in real life’. I’ve also faced fears in literature before they happened, a sort of foretelling. The moment in ‘Ghost Song’ when the hero, Ambrosi looks at his father and realises that he’s an old man who has a relatively short time to live is a case in point. That is me, realising the same thing about my own father.
    Thank god for writing and story-telling! I think I’d be in a padding cell without it!
    Jenny, have you ever read ‘The Dynamics of Creativity’ by Storr? Not sure of the author’s name. It’s an examination of how creativity may work as a defence against mental illness. I read it many years ago and found it fascinating.

  2. What a brilliant comment, Sue – so much here! I think writing, like dreams, can be a sort of rehearsal for life, giving us a chance to experience what will be required of us and the confidence to know we can handle it. I’ve had that foretelling experience in both dreams and writing, like your story of Ambrosi and his father. And yes, I love Anthony Storr’s books – as well as that one about creativity, he’s also written a splendid one on solitude. I find his ideas very thought-provoking and his writing style very accessible – which is the perfect combination!

  3. I love this idea of a brighter side to the shadow. Like many things it can depend on your perspective and interpretation. And I agree with Susan’s comment, that our characters can be a projection of ourselves. Maybe that’s why they cause so much trouble for us sometimes!
    By the way I have Jenny I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award. You can check out your link here: http://carolynhughesthehurthealer.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/thank-you/ 🙂

  4. Ooh, Carolyn – how lovely! I’m looking forward to accepting this lovely award, and if I had a comment-maker award here, I would definitely give it to you 🙂

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