Friday, October 16, 2015

The Shadow's Allure

Image from World of Lucid Dreaming
Fear is a state of mind.

It creates a simple chain of events: (1) a stimuli, (2) a chemical release in the brain, (3) a body response including rapid heart-rate, shallow breathing, sinking stomach, sweaty palms. It's basic fight or flight instinct 101.

Research also shows that we come into the world knowing how to be afraid, because our brains have evolved to deal with nature, and nature is full of threats. Think large predators, poisonous plants, snakes, spiders, ticks, tar pits, rip tides, hungry neighbors, flash floods, supernatural forces . . .  .

While many of us no longer fear saber tooth tigers and tar pits, the fear of the supernatural never abates. That's because, far from "super"natural, it represent a part of us, deep and repressed, waiting in the darkness. What's it waiting for? Basically, a chance to seep up through the floorboards and grab us by the throat.

The Scream by Edvard Munch
Jung defines this kind of fear as an element of our shadow—a part of our unconscious that is hidden from us, but ours none the less.

The shadow can be terrifying to experience whether it is triggered by a real life bang on the door or immersion in fiction that "makes the heart beat faster." This is because our brains can't tell the difference between real and make believe.

But if fear, and the shadow beneath it, are so horrible, why are we drawn to experience it in art, film and literature? What's the big allure?

Simply answered, this fear awakens a part of our un-lived Self.

Jungian psychologists would say these experiences of the Shadow evoke powerful emotional reactions because they contain disowned material of our psyche, ie, part of our soul. Getting to know the shadow is an opportunity for wholeness, meaning we become more balanced, more whole, more complete.

This is the enchantment that draws us into the darkness.

Working with the shadow is immensely rewarding and liberating. By no longer having to hold down and repress your shadow aspects (which consumes a lot of energy), you free up your life force and vitality, become much more present-moment centred and are better able to live life consciously, authentically and purposefully. - Dr Mark Atkinson
It's not a carefree road, this meeting the shadow. It's also why all heroic journeys, including our own, require a trip to the underworld. Dante wasn't kidding when he tacked that shingle on the door to Hell. All abandon hope ye who enter here. This state appears to be prerequisite for Horror's success.

No matter how disturbing, the experience of a terrifying book, film or work of art, can set the stage for our own expansion. All it requires is for us to face our inner demons, integrate the shadow and come out the other end alive.

Easier said than done, I know!

What are some of your favorite scary stories? Do you remember the first one that nearly frightened you to death?

Mine was Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (I was five.) followed by a close second with The Wizard of Oz, mainly the monkeys. (OMG that's why primates still make me squirm!)

Let's share some fears here and let the Shadow live.

xxxKim

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

3 comments:

Helen Lowe said...

Reading this, I can see it may have been significant that the antagonists in Babylon 5 were called "the Shadows."

Thanks for another really interesting post.

Kim Falconer said...

Yes! Helen, "The Shadow" is archetypal. It appears in all places, all cultures and all times, a part of storytelling since we crawled out of the ooze.

Good point!

maryellen stephens said...

HI Kim!
Great stuff to read and consider! I have two experiences around the same time that have stayed with me, one being a rather terrifying one with friends using a ouija board and the other reading a book about astral projection (gone wrong) called Stranger with My Face. Terrifying! Body stealing! Yikes!
Maryellen x