While this is an older book, it is one of the very best you will ever find about the human shadow. Robert Bly is a poet, teacher, philosopher and astute writer. His observations in this "little book" (only 81 pages) are potent, penetrating and profound. While Bly explores the Universal shadow as well as the "lone bag we drag behind us" (personal shadow material), it is retrieving the shadow which is the main focus of this work.
Bly notes that "when one 'projects,' one is really giving away an energy or power that rightfully belongs to one's own treasury." From a young age, we learn to project outward, ridding ourselves of the inner tyrants, giants, and witches of the psyche. We may project onto individuals (parents as well as husbands and wives receive a lot of projections), onto any number of "them's" (the government is a favorite "them" in
America) or onto other cultures and races. While there is always an initial gain (by projecting the witch outward, we don't have to deal with her), unowned shadow material eventually comes back to haunt us. The more parts of the inner world we give away, the more diminished we become.
At a certain point in life, however, when we are no longer interested in blaming or projecting onto others, we begin the long, lone journey of searching for our shadow. Bly speaks of
"eating the shadow," retrieving its power from its projected place and reclaiming its energy. No small feat, but a damn worthy endeavor. By honoring the shadow, we honor ourselves.