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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 5 March 2001
This is an excellent book and describes in succint and everyday language, the struggle that each one of us faces. The struggle is described as that where all the areas of our psyches that we ignore and discard and disown as being 'unpleasant' or 'the dark side of our character' sooner or later come back out of the closet, and depending on the degree of repression and denial, unless owned, can be projected with resultant destructiveness. In one very down to earth passage the book describes the polarities and mixed messages we experience in or lives e.g. in business it's important to win, but every Sunday we are taught that humility is important; and how the real work is not to adopt one end of the polarity over another but to embrace both to create a healthy vibrant dynamic paradox. This is where the gold is found in our shadow. This is an excellent book. Very succintly and plainly put.
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on 25 July 2005
Your shadow is all of the bits of your psyche you don't like and don't admit to. Most of them are grim but one or two are the nice bits that you can't handle. Ignoring them doesn't make them go away but you do it anyway. This doesn't stop them demanding expression. Because you can't admit to them, you project them onto other people. You're seeing your own shadow when you look at others and so simultaneously fail to see them and yourself clearly. Result: general unhappiness and inauthentic living. The solution is to fess up, embrace all the bits you pretend aren't there, and take control of how you express them. You achieve this through balance and creative synthesis.
So far, so Jung. Unfortunately, this is as far as the author goes in this slim volume. Johnson presents an overview of part of the Jungian process of individuation. It's fine if that's all you want. If, however, you're struggling to integrate your own shadow, this will serve as little more than a theoretical starting point. Never knowingly specific, Johnson examines no case studies but simply floats charming phrases like 'creative synthesis' with no investigation into what these might mean in practice. He's happy to bob along on the surface of psychological abstraction; if you plan to learn to dive, you'll need a different instructor.
This lack of depth isn't necessarily a flaw, although it restricts the usefulness of the book to readers who want to learn a little of the theory of psychic shadows without engaging with their own. Much more off-putting are the numerous references to Christian scripture. These are what Johnson provides instead of case studies, how he exemplifies the principles he's trying to get across. Unlike Jung, though, he often seems not to recognise them as metaphor and mythology. Nor are they always especially relevant to the point at issue; by halfway through the book they felt more opportunistic than enlightening.
If you haven't come across the concept of the shadow self before, this book could interest you. Be warned though - it contains only directions *to* it, not a map *of* it. It's expensive too, for a text that's both physically and metaphorically thin. If you're already struggling with your shadow, better to look for something more direct and personally engaged - Jung himself, or the Taoists for instance. Under those circumstances, Johnson's book seems only frustratingly vague with a bit of sneaky preaching smuggled in.
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This is an uncomfortable read for anyone who thinks at all about they own behaviour. Everyone has a shadow - that is qualities in their personality which they are not aware of and which they often project on to other people. Anyone we meet and take an instinct dislike to could be the recipient of a shadow projection from us.

As human beings we tend to be very good at recognising other people's bad qualities while being totally blind to those same qualities in ourselves. The author makes clear that it is not just the unacceptable aspects of our own personalities which we project and we may be projecting qualities which could be of immense value in our own lives if we could only recognise and reclaim them.

We need to accept all of our own personalities and characters or we will constantly find them coming back to bite us in unexpected ways. This is a lifetime job and most of it will never completely acknowledge all of our own qualities but we need to make the attempt. A thought provoking read.
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on 28 June 2011
Jungian explanation of shadow function clearly laid out on a layman's way.

Brilliant way of writing: uncomplicated, witty and from personal experiences combined with Jung's

Perfect way to work yourself into the Jung matter. Enjoyed it thoroughly
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on 2 December 2008
An excellent book - Johnsons style is long in meaning and short in useless descriptions and words. Its more a picture than a book - a masterpiece like all his books. Its gently and smart written!
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on 20 June 2009
If you would like to unravel who you really are or perhaps you question why you repeat dysfunctional patterns then you could find many answers in this excellent little book. In less than 120 pages the author throws light on various aspects of the unconscious which can cause problems in relationships. By illuminating the shadow side of the psyche the author guides the reader gently into the threshold of a world of self discovery.
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on 24 September 2015
There were some really excellent insights, and some surprises. For example, I'd assumed that the Shadow was composed entirely of the less-than-good stuff but it's also made up of the truly noble and heroic aspects of ourselves that we find impossible to acknowledge.
If you are looking for a bog standard how-to self-help style book, this is not the book you are looking for, but if you think for yourself, this will give you new areas to explore. Robert Johnson does not give you pat answers on a plate, or a simple ten step idiot-proof action plan, but he acts as a signpost pointing to finding your own discoveries.
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on 20 March 2015
This short book gives a clear and succinct explanation of how we project outwards both the negative and positive aspects of ourselves that we do not yet own (the shadow). It explains how embracing the shadow and integrating paradox is possible and why it is so important. In both individual relationships and in society, the avoidance of our shadow is destructive. The journey of integrating the shadow offers a new depth and richness to life. Although the book is an excellent read, I have given it four stars rather than five as it does not emphasise the importance of feeling in embracing the shadow (which Michael Brown emphasises in 'Alchemy of the Heart'), nor does it emphasise how the shadow manifests itself in circumstances (an issue which Debbie Ford's 'Dark Side of the Light Chasers' covers well). But this is still a very good guide to an an issue that is vital for humanity to understand at this stage in our evolution.
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on 7 December 2014
Robert A. Johnson is a renowned writer and Jungian psychologist. His writing is exceptional, not only for the depth of his insight and knowledge, but because he is so readable. He takes the difficulty out of 'psychology' and brings it up to date in the everyday world. The theme of the shadow is so important, because (contrary to our Western understanding mainly) the shadow - for Johnson and for Jung - contains the gold potentially - the very stuff we need for our own wholeness. It may appear undesirable, fraught with conflict or anger, difficulties - but its energy is rightfully ours and, in its healed state, can be used to build our lives in ways that we would more consciously choose. If we do not own and acknowledge shadow elements, they are projected unconsciously, so that we meet them over and over again in patterns we would not knowingly choose. , .
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on 26 December 2013
Not the highest level of truth that I have found, however, some very good information here. Some of the material is padded out a little too much and in my opinion there are also many points which need expanding. It seems to lose momentum half way through, but redeems itself at the end. Please take into consideration after reading, that this review is strict. I would say the book is well worth buying.
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