The following assessment explores my understanding of how I apply the person-centred approach/core conditions to myself when considering my shadow. To help explore and deepen our understanding of Carl Jung’s term ‘the shadow’ the class this week carried out an exercise whereby we each chose a card depicting a negative/challenging personality trait. The card I chose was ‘The Miser’. We then individually explored how we considered this aspect to play a part in our shadow and how the shadow impacts on us personally and professionally. I will go on to describe what I discovered about my shadow during this exercise.
The shadow represents the unconscious parts of our personality – the parts our conscious-self disowns due to inner conflicts often originating from foundations such as culture and upbringing. Refusing to acknowledge its existence and place within our psyche threatens to distort our relationships with ourselves and others. Embracing the shadow allows us to move deeper within our unconscious layers and develop a better understanding of self. According to Carl Jung, recognising our shadow material is part of the journey to embracing the totality of ourselves. However, this can prove to be a difficult task.
As Jung notes, it takes considerable moral effort, insight, and good will to embrace the dark aspects of our personality. Some parts of the shadow can be recognised more easily than others but because the shadow is ‘a moral problem’, there is usually some resistance to confronting it. 3a) Apply the person-centred approach to self When thinking about the definition of The Miser, I initially was not sure about its true meaning. After questioning this I discovered it describes a miserable, penny pinching character. On expanding on this and relating it to my shadow, I expressed my own connection of this to selfishness leading on to false guilt.
So how do I apply the core conditions to myself when experiencing these elements of my shadow? And how can I get to a deeper and more compassionate understanding of these behaviours? A miserly character conjures up, from my personal vantage point, an image of Scrooge – someone who takes no pleasure in spending money on other people or making gestures of generosity. It is not a trait I would claim to have as I genuinely enjoy being as generous as I realistically within my network of family and friends. But, looking at this from a societal perspective, I can link feelings of selfishness to admitting that I could give more money to charity.
In the economy we live in, speaking in broad terms, we all need to be careful about how and where we choose to spend our money. I would class myself as an honest, hard-working, tax paying citizen making up part of the working class structure of society. I am however aware of times when I am frugal with my finances and the sense of guilt that can surface. When thinking of my shadow in the context of the core conditions, I can empathically understand that money is an integral part of my survival system – to having the lifestyle, health, necessities and luxuries I choose to strive for.
I can feel very sad for people and countries in desperate need of charitable help which is accompanied by a sense of selfishness over the advantages and privileges I fortunately have and whilst I feel passionate that nobody should ever have to live a life of poverty in such a wealthy world, I remain realistic and congruent with myself about the extent of which I am able to help financially. I take the time to acknowledge such issues but manage and internalise them to a degree that does not defeat my sense of contribution to the world. This flows in to unconditional positive regard.
I recognise that the feelings of selfishness and false guilt that arise in me are hard to process and if I am honest that I am capable of feeling selfish, I can start to understand with more clarity the reasons to how I arrived at that place and ultimately feel respect and compassion for myself through a clearer understanding and appreciation. 3b) Critically examine how this application impacts on your own counselling So how does thinking about my shadow relate to me professionally? Not owning my shadow as a counsellor could exert an unseen influence on my relationship with the client.
To deny such parts of myself is to supress them and inevitably and unconsciously permit them seep in to the dynamics of the relationship. If I strive to use the core conditions with myself, and accept myself sensitively and compassionately, I will be capable of providing the same conditions for the client. Rogers (1961) describes further the relevance of being congruent;
“The psychotherapist is what he is, when in the relationship with his client he is genuine and without front or facade, openly being the feelings and attitudes which at that moment are flowing in him…the feelings the therapist is experiencing are available to him, available to his awareness, and he is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate them if appropriate. ”
As a counsellor I need to have the ability to own my flaws and admit that I am human and fallible but strive to internally construct them in a sensitive way so as not to allow them to sabotage the delicate conditions in which a therapeutic relationship can develop.
Disavowing the conflicts and flaws within me could result in projecting my own value systems, beliefs and insecurities on to the client. If I were to deny the ability within me to feel selfish then my visceral reaction to a client bringing up such issues in a session would be stuck inside my own frame of reference and the core conditions I aim to provide myself and the client would be blinkered. References Rogers C, . (1961) On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. London. Constable.