One of the main roots of war and other conflict in the world is the tendency of human beings to project evil onto other people. This means seeing the bad in others without being able/willing to see any corresponding tendency in ourselves. “Those other people” get identified in our minds as the bad ones that are causing all the trouble, or at least starting it.
The process of getting in touch with and owning our own “dark side” is sometimes called “shadow work,” and it’s an essential step to co-creating an enlightened society, not to mention experiencing true liberation and happiness on a personal level.
(Important Note: As I see it, “Owning our shadow,” “shadow work,” etc., is in the realm of metaphysical or spiritual work. It does not invalidate, or remove the need for, one’s political or moral beliefs, and actions to counter evil in the world.)
The other day I came across a quote that really nails our current contentious times as they relate to owning our shadow: “So if you’re wondering, dear reader, why those of us in the USA live in a country where one party accuses the other of being full-blown goose-stepping Nazis and the other party insists that the first are Satan-worshiping pedophiles, where compromise has become a swear word and both sides have convinced themselves that all they have to do is come up with the right gimmick and the Shadow they hate so much will pop like a bubble, now you know. The bitter irony, of course, is that they’re both wrong. No matter how many self-proclaimed Frodos drop surrogate Rings into notional equivalents of Mount Doom, the Shadow will not go away, because it’s being projected by the people on both sides who have convinced themselves that they’re fighting it.
He knows … If there’s a solution—other than mutual slaughter, that is—maybe it’s to be found in the first Shadow we discussed, the one who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. (Not, please note, their minds—it’s in the heart, the seat of unbalanced passion and distorted love, where the evil that matters has its root.) That tremendous, mordant, terrifying laugh is only possible for one who has already confronted the unbalanced passion and distorted love in his own heart. If there’s a way forward for us here in the United States, that knowledge might just provide it.” The full article is here. (“What Evil Lurks,” by John Michael Greer at Ecosophia.)
And another goodie, which landed in my email inbox just now: “Having the ability to see something in another person, and automatically bring this observation back to ourselves, is like having a built-in system of checks and balances that enables us to be continually engaged in self-exploration and behavior change. When we see behavior we don’t like, we can make a concerted effort to weed it out of ourselves, and when we see behavior we do like, we can let it inspire us to engage in imitation. Through this process, we read our environment and let it influence us to bring out the best in ourselves.” (This quote comes from an article titled “Checks and Balances,” by Madisyn Taylor at DailyOM.)
Things that can help you own your shadow include therapy, writings (Carl Jung and many others), 12-step programs, and hanging out with other people who get this. Personally, my favorite tools for quickly identifying and dismantling my projections (or any other patterns I identify as being out-of-integrity with my higher self), are the Personal Integrity Minicourse (and other materials from The Avatar Course). The Personal Integrity Minicourse is available as a free download from this page. It’s #6 on the page.
On a topical note: With elections coming up next Tuesday, and a lot of people surely feeling averse to going through the big day/night alone, I offer you my official “Deep Green Election Watch Party recommendation.” And that is: Outdoor small gathering + Zoom combo. A few neighbors walk to your house and come sit in your driveway, or you go sit in theirs (or meet at a neighborhood park); while friends/family located beyond your immediate area connect by Zoom or phone. This covers all the bases: low-footprint, public-health-conscious, and nurturing community.