Once Upon a Time: Shadow | 4

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”

An excellent movie about people confronting their shadow selves is Network (1976).

Among the most famous bits of dialogue from the film are these lines, spoken by the main character, anchorman Howard Beale:

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad–worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.

Howard Beale: [shouting] You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddammit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell,

Howard Beale: [shouting] ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:

Howard Beale: [screaming at the top of his lungs] “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Assimilating the Shadow

Every confrontation with one’s shadow self does not necessarily have to end with telling someone to shove something up their ass or telling them to go fuck themselves as  my personal anecdotes illustrated yesterday, but it almost certainly will if a person does not go about the meeting consciously. Howard Beale’s demand that we stick our heads out the window and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more,” could act as a talisman against sudden outbursts of the “fuck you!” variety, but it will do little to help the individual realize his or her other inferior functions. The shadow embodies all that is repressed, pushed aside, locked up, forgotten-not only the seven deadly sins, but also the introvert’s extraversion, the intuitive’s sensing side, the thinker’s feeling function, and the emotional person’s thinking side. The shadow contains what we left behind in childhood, our wishes, and our dreams. Sometimes, like Peter Pan, we need someone to help us by lovingly re-attaching our shadows.

As with the other archetypes, the shadow is re-attached and worked with best as we notice our dreams. The opposite attitude and the inferior functions that are trying to assert themselves are commonly personified as shadow figures in dreams and fantasies. Perhaps you will recognize your shadow contents in the movies you avidly watch again and again, in your most favorite movies, books, or short stories, or in the art you hang on your walls. Have you ever gone through a phase of watching a movie over and over again? Take a look at the characters who are of the same gender as you: they may reveal hidden aspects of your shadow. Likewise, fascinating figures of the opposite sex may well reveal aspects of your anima or animus that long to be assimilated and used fully in your whole, individuated personality.

To assimilate or develop a function or aspect of an archetype means to live with it in the foreground of consciousness. It is not enough for the intuitive personality type to do a little cooking, a little sewing, or a little sculpting. As Marie-Louise von Franz writes,

Assimilation means that the whole adaptation of conscious life, for a while, lies on that one function. Switching over to an auxiliary function takes place when one feels that the present way of living has become lifeless, when one gets more or less constantly bored with oneself and one’s activities. . . The best way to know how to switch is simply to say, “All right, all this does not mean anything to me any more. Where in my past life is an activity that I feel I could still enjoy? An activity out of which I could still get a kick?” If a person then genuinely picks up that activity, he will see that he has switched over to another function.

He or she will also have assimilated an aspect of the shadow by utilizing the less-favored, or inferior, function of the personality.

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