Working with the collective shadow
by Robert Masters
Reprinted from www.robertaugustusmasters.com
Authentic shadow work awakens us to our conditioning both personally and collectively, helping bring everything—everything!—that we are into the circle of our being, consciously and fully. We don’t just wake up, but also mature, becoming truly responsible, staying connected to what really matters.
As we engage in this work, we become more aware of our collective fear, bringing it into the foreground of our consciousness. We sense not only the presence of this shared fearfulness, but also its worldwide message: We are threatened. We are not safe.
This insidiously broadcast anxiety eats into us, even as we find distraction from it wherever we can, including through collective amnesia and numbness. There is enormous pain in the collective us, accompanied by enormous numbing. How else could we have brought ourselves to the brink of such planetary disaster and ecological insanity?
Calls to just love each other, to be more humane to each other, to stop being narcissistic, and so on, have basically no real impact, doing little or nothing to de-numb us. What’s needed here is far less nice, far grittier, far more fitting: to turn toward our pain, our aversion, our darkness, getting to know our shadow from the inside out, ceasing to let it control us.
Much of our work here is to de-numb.
Yes, this means we now directly feel our collective fear, but we also can now more openly feel other collective states, ranging from outrage to grief, and know in our hearts that so many others, very different than us, also feel these things.
When we go to the core of collective fear, we sense others feeling such fear, suffering from it. Our hearts start to break open. Our grief starts to surface—our grief over all the agony and horror and pain endured by so, so many of us. Our grief has shifted from being personal grief only to collective grief—the grief of all of us, here and now, and through all history.
This shared heart-hurt, along with the core-level, visceral recognition that we’re all in the same boat, brings us all together, whatever our differences.
We cannot afford to remain ignorant of our collective shadow. The peril of such ignorance is more than enormous. Shadow projection has always done damage, spawning war after war, but now the stakes are much, much higher, given our collective capacity to annihilate ourselves and commit ecological suicide. The destruction of our species and habitat is no longer a science fiction fantasy but a looming reality, right in our collective face.
If we are to derail our rush to the cliff’s edge, authentic shadow work is absolutely essential.
Such work awakens us not so that we can rise above or transcend the mess we’ve made, but so that we can clean it up, functioning skillfully from our core of being, holding humankind in our fiercely caring activist heart, putting our shared shoulder to the wheel.