SHADOW: overview – Α (from Chapters 1,2)


The author is the only and exclusive owner of the copyright of all that follows.

This overview consists of excerpts of several sections of the book, and of very few of the 94 literary quotes that are noted at the end of each one section.

The symbols    >>>>>>>       indicate missing from this overview text.  

i.1 To whom is this book addressed​​?

That which follows is not addressed to “the specialist” and no previous knowledge of the field of psychology is required of the reader.

 In fact, I would say that this book might, one way or another, be of interest to:
• (a) anyone who is somehow intrigued or inspired by or has his or her own reasons for getting into what follows,
• (b) explore the nature of our Shadowed architecture, as well as certain devious Shadows within the system known as “family”,
• (c) anyone who is fed up with pop psychology and the philosophising quotes of online wisdom,
• (d) anyone who is curious for anything beyond the average 2.5 seconds of scrolling the Facebook timeline on a screen.
{3-poem} There was a taste – I don’t know – of deep azure dissolving. I was biting a sprig of myrtle so that I should not shout out. Because I was aware that my mouth was widening for a great cry, and my teeth too were breaking apart, separating, to leave a way through for that cry. I held it in. It dissolved inside me. This was the silence. And I was airy – I could have flown […] There I am, all made of light, wearing a thin mask of reality, rose and mauve. If I take off these bracelets, if I let down my hair at night, if I unfasten the laces of my sandals, if more than anything I take off these heavy necklaces that grasp my neck like fetters, I think that I shall flee upwards, I shall take to the air. I would not like this. Maybe that is why I wear them. In some way they hold me down, though they always bother me – I wear them in my sleep, as if I were a dog that I myself have tethered outside a fallen doorway. [Ritsos, Yannis – 1]

1 What is the SHADOW?

please see:

6.α  Η συμμετοχή της Σκιάς στη διαδρομή μας μέσα από μία ολιστική αντίληψη

Jan Smuts (1870-1950) established the term “holism” in 1926. It is used to describe a fundamental tendency of the universe, in accordance with which things tend to form systems and sub-systems that are wholes, not mere assemblies of parts (Smuts, 2013) – these wholes are called “gestalts” in Gestalt therapy. Holism was the forerunner of an exciting, broader current way of thinking, known as “systems theory” (Hoell, 2016) – here, to say “system” is another way to say “whole”.

Holism is an understanding of the world that is based on interrelation. Every whole is contained within a wider whole, while its component parts interact both among themselves and with the whole that they compose.

In a family, two brothers form one whole, two parents are another; the four form the family whole. Each member of the family interacts with the others and with the family as a whole, shaping it and being shaped by it.

Let us look at some basic principles in holism and in systems theory which will cast a great deal of light on the idea of the Shadow.

*** The whole is something more than the sum of its parts.
In holism, another fundamental idea is that every whole is an autonomous entity having traits that differ from those of its components. The whole that I call “my hand” is an autonomous entity, that is not equivalent to an arithmetical summation of five fingers and a palm. As an autonomous entity it has its own qualities, not just those that belong to the fingers or the palm.

So, you are something more than the arithmetic total of your components. If I were to dissect your physical and immaterial parts, study these and put together the findings of my study, my result would not be “You” as a whole.

Or again, my hand is not only related to my body but also to what I do with it, and how: it interconnects with the whole of me. Following the logic of holism and of systems theory, nothing is considered to be floating in nowhere; everything is bounded by its relation to something else, everything is constantly in a dynamic relational network with everything else around it.
So whatever my Shadow contains, however, I may fortify it, it influences what I am, as a whole, regardless of whether I understand this influence or not with my logic and consciousness.

*** A whole improvises its next state of balance in time (the notion of “self-organisation”)
One of the most important ideas in this book, rooted in holism, is that when all the parts of a system interact, it is as if the system is somehow exploring in its present its many possible successor states in future time. This is a non-standard process, in which the system is testing and trying how to pass from one state of order (balance) to chaos and then to the next state of order – or, this process is about how order emerges naturally out of chaos (Kauffman, 1995).

In other words, the system is seeking an unplanned successor state in which all the system’s components will be able to exchange their energy as freely and as much as possible, in a given situation – such processes are described by the term “Self-organisation”.

So, we can say that the essential property of self-organisation in time is what we call “improvisation”. That is: (a) each new state is a direct result of the immediately preceding stage, (b) this new state is indirectly influenced by all those states making up the history of the system. 

In the universe, all processes during interactions of complex systems, are improvised. Personally, I consider miraculous the notion of improvisation in all things and so I would easily say that improvisation constitutes the lifestyle of reality.

“Improvisation” is a term that beautifully describes not only the way in which the universe itself moves on, but also the way we construct our everyday experience. Improvisation, then, is not just a term applied in music, dance or theatre, but basically describes the way in which our whole life and our relationships move forward. So, that which I do at moment L is a direct result of moment K but an indirect result of the whole alphabet back to the beginning, from A.

Therefore, as we move through life, our existence continuously self-organises. We move ahead, improvising, seeking in each forthcoming moment of our time the best possible distribution of our energy among all our components.

This means that we do not proceed in life only in accordance with the plans and ambitions of our conscious self, which is only one component of the whole of our existence. As wholes, we have always to balance the energy originating from our Shadow too, no matter whether we do not even mentally know it exists. What will happen finally with our conscious ambitions, enthusiastic goals and plans depend also on how the non-conscious fears and hesitations in our Shadow will be balanced within our wholeness.
Since, then, in our course in life we carry with us everything of which we are made, we step through time in constant company with our invisible but very real, Shadow.


10 The Shadow and the “inner child​”

*** What is the inner child
The Shadow, as we shall see in section 14, is under construction right from the moment of our birth. From that time our parents’ expectations, and those of the environment generally, rain down upon us. Under their weight, we sometimes become invisible, as if no one sees us. One might say we become transparent, as far as our needs are concerned.

Then we feel our existence shrink. We feel we are incapable, inadequate, not good enough to be seen; our self-image and our self-esteem are warped. We lose the self-evident right to occupy the space on this earth that rightfully belongs to us simply because we were born on this earth. So when we painfully learn that an aspect of ours is displeasing to the all-powerful environment, it is natural that we isolate this aspect in our Shadow, together with the feelings that accompany that aspect. Thus, gradually, by isolating into the Shadow more and more aspects of our selves that are not accepted by the environment, it is as if an entire childhood part of our self was frozen into silence; it is as if an entire palette of emotions of that most distinctive time of our life now remains inaccessible.

Actually, in my approach, I think that the term “inner child” is a rather convenient way of talking about experiences that were left in limbo, incomplete (“unfinished business” – a term widely used in gestalt therapy, see section 2), from an exceptionally sensitive developmental period during which we were utterly dependent on our environment (Theodorou, 2018c). So, in one sense, we could say that the inner child is a part of our Shadow: actually it is the ancient Shadow which we formed in childhood.

This, though, does not negate the fact that our Shadow gets continuously renewed in adulthood, when: (a) we experience a trauma – we live through an event in which we come near to psychological or actual death, (b) more generally, when we experience events so hard for us as to be unbearable (see also section 13). In such cases, our more recent Shadows are merged with the primordial childhood ones.


I mean that we, though adults, carry this child inside us, and when the present resonates with the past we identify our adult wholeness with it. And so we remain in an endless state of awaiting the ideal parent, even in our adult life. Of course, when we so closely identify our adult self with our inner child the result is that our inner child’s feelings take us over and the little child, forgotten in the Shadow, takes control of our present adult life.

In other words, alienated past aspects of our selves, imprisoned in our Shadow, start to affect our present adult life, crucially and often destructively.

In such cases, we suffer greatly. We start repeating in our adult present again and again what we were doing in our childhood (we get entrapped in repetitive, re-enacted life scenarios – see section 31); also, even though we are adults, we continue in our present to project onto others the role of the healing parent who will finally accept us as we are. And so forth.

So the very general term “inner child” is often used in the description of a very old and critical “unfinished business” connected to an ancient and universal human need: as children, to feel that we are recognised (seen) and accepted as we are, without being criticised or diminished.

*** The inner child and the solutions
There are many approaches to several perceptions about “healing” connected with the concept of the inner child. They come from psychotherapy, from psychology, from esotericism and from a number of varieties of pop psychological nonsense. Some approaches are serious, worthy of respect, and deal with the issue responsibly. Others are simply melodramatic idiocies. Some just promise hope, others consist only of metaphysical statements and solutions based on cosmic or even angelic support.

Issues to do with childhood are in any case very sensitive, for all of us. The rules of adult life in this current consumer society are cruel and inhuman, while at the same time in official education there is an almost total lack of responsible information on what personal growth might mean. Therefore, the idea of the inner child often produces an intense mixture of bittersweet feelings based on a vague nostalgic mood. The result is a great demand for anyone, expert or not, who promises to bring us into redemptive, liberating and healing contact with our inner child.       

So, unfortunately, in our days there are a number of superficial approaches that do nothing to improve our connection with our inner child. They simply result in a useless stirring up of bittersweet feelings about our childhood; in a pointless nostalgia for some lost sensitivity; in yet another repetition of futile grief for a lost paradise of warmth, understanding, and acceptance.

If we follow such approaches to exploring our adult connection with our inner child, the result is that our inner child is further mistreated and sinks several levels of misery deeper, down into the darkened dungeon of the Shadow. And we are left with the delusion that we healed our childhood wounds, that we metaphysically met with our inner child in some abstract space of infinite dimensions.

In fact, we are simply fortifying our Shadow, we are losing our grounding in real life as well as our skills in shaping life; we lose them because such skills can be developed only when we accept what we presently and actually are in our wholeness (our past wounds included), and not when we suffer the delusion that our fantasies about what we would like to be are real (with our past wounds perfectly healed).

So fragility and high sensitivity about anything linked with childhood make many people trust in fast food solutions; the result is simply to strengthen their Shadows.


11. What we cannot do for our inner child​

How might we connect with the energy of our Shadow? And especially, how can we start a dialogue with our inner child who lives within the safety of the Shadow?

On one hand, we naturally tend to deal with the old “unfinished business” of our childhood; metaphorically, we tend to start a dialogue with our inner child, for many reasons. Such a dialogue would mean making our Shadow more flexible, forming new connections with our inner reality, with a new perspective on the history of our life as well as our present; in short this  would mean a new potential to take care of our present needs, because the energy expended on keeping our Shadow closed and frozen would become available for fresh experiences in the present.

However, on the other hand, when we sense the echoes from our Shadow, we are greatly scared of what will happen if our then feelings are set free into our Now, letting loose all the pain that is locked up in our Shadow.

What should we do? How can we approach our inner child? It is clearly impossible to change the events of the past so that our inner child does not get hurt. Delete it, then? – this is equally impossible; we cannot cut out pieces of our existence. Transform it into an adult? This can never be done because when our past traumas were frozen at that past time, our childhood time froze too; in our past traumas we are still children and we cannot transplant adult eyes into our inner child. To give it other parents than those actual persons of the past? This idea will not work.  What happened happened, and is not to be rewritten – like the blood that the crime scene investigators will find, no matter how thoroughly the murderer cleans up.

Might we grow backwards in time and become children in our present wholeness? This is clearly impossible because we cannot get rid of our adult features; it is totally impracticable to fool ourselves by pretending that, when in adulthood, we can live again in the universe of our childhood – we cannot do it simply because in our present we are no longer just children.

Besides, the inner child does not need a friend to play with, but our own adult version of self  to nestle up to. 

What our inner child needed then, and even more important, the way in which she or he needed it, is not some present adult need. It is a past need, still pending, expressed in a language that we as adults no longer speak. Experience then was recorded onto past background A, while current experience is being recorded onto another, present background B, which can neither replace nor erase A.

Sometimes we try to explain all this to our inner child. This is futile – in the language of children, an adult’s rational interpretations sound bizarre. If we say to a child, “Eh, what could the parents have done, hard times, that much they knew, that much they managed to do, they didn’t mean to neglect you, they were forced by hard times to do it”, we are expressing a correct but at the same time very complex adult idea that combines, associates and evaluates many factors.

If we say this, the child may justly reply, “I do not care at all about what you are saying, they should have taken care not to give birth to me – from the moment that they made me, they should have been able to see what I am and what I need”.

Using adult language to a child, it is as if when a child has been hurt and is bleeding, we were to explain to him or her the clotting mechanism of the blood, using medical and scientific terminology, instead of just giving the child a big warm hug as well as suitable first aid treatment.

We cannot use adult language to approach the inner child; it’s not as if we were talking to a friend of our own age. We, as adults, and our own Shadowed aspects which we call “inner child” speak different languages. In all the above cases, it is as if we ignore and frustrate our inner child, cementing our Shadow, confirming that even to our own eyes our own wounded past aspects are still invisible, or deformed.

We must, then, find another modality, another code, another way to get close to the hurt child inside us – and this, as I have already noted, is something of which we shall speak at length later on, in Chapter F, once first we have got better acquainted with some notable features of the concept of the Shadow.


12.a The  misfortunes of the monstrous and the ​​deformed

Those of our aspects that are in the Shadow (the oldest of which constitute the inner child) could be seen, metaphorically, as somewhat like the creatures we see in horror films and which inhabit the stories, myths and traditions of every culture, under various names. Creatures in such stories and traditions often appear to be trapped between our own dimension and some other undefined dimensions belonging to imaginary universes; as if they were eternally suspended in the Elysian Fields, in Lethe’s grey country, or in some other eternal heavenly antechamber or Limbo, condemned to endless waiting, able neither to materialise in our world nor to depart for some other reality and find peace.

These beings are often described as waiting for their misery to end without knowing what or who will bring an end to it, or how. They have the form of mysterious spectral entities haunting places that remain charged with the energy of great and extreme events: haunted houses or forests, scenes of violence, of massacre or other crimes. To us, they manifest their existence by displacing objects, switching lights on and off, opening and closing doors, or sometimes by blind destruction – just because they are looking for something, waiting for something. 

Further, in the pseudo-philosophy accompanying most religions, we see demons taking possession of human bodies; in literature and in the cinema, ghosts and spirits haunt abandoned houses, or even occupied homes, spreading terror.

I think that we may reasonably see symbolic analogies between these supernatural creatures and those aspects of our selves that are locked up in the Shadow. Furthermore, I would see the power of these entities as analogous to the emotional power of aspects of the self alienated in the Shadow – emotions which have been formed to accompany those aspects of self but finally remained trapped as suspended energy.

Another possible analogy between the idea of the Shadow and traditions that speak of such creatures is the following: the fundamental mood in movies or books with stories of this kind usually has to do with fear and horror, mixed with distant echoes of a bittersweet nostalgia. For me, this mood seems very similar to what we feel when we sense the echoes from our Shadow; we are touched by the nostalgic atmosphere of a distant childhood and, at the same time, we are terrified by what might be lurking in there.

Moreover, such metaphors might prompt us to see werewolves, vampires and various other dark creatures from world mythology as symbolic, polarised, dark aspects of the self: as undesirable versions of ourselves, threatening whichever other aspects of our selves are considered normal and useful to the needs of our normal everyday collective life – that is, to the survival of our species.

Such dark symbolic creations are also encountered in literature. One example is “Cthulhu”, a fantasy world in the work of the American horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1934). Chthonic deities are trapped in the bowels of the earth and the depths of the ocean, awaiting the right conjunction of events so that they may reappear and swallow up the world.

Furthermore, the medieval era – a time of incest, alcoholism and many other factors which favoured mutations – produced gothic horror stories in which families, usually aristocratic, kept deformed children locked up in the attic or the cellar – not that this phenomenon has disappeared in our times …

In many stories set in this era, such children, imprisoned in towers or dungeons, find a way to escape by night to destroy and kill – doing as demons and ghouls do. They commit various crimes, something analogous to what we fear our “evil” Shadow may do when we do not guard its gates effectively; some Shadowed aspects of ourselves are made manifest in our everyday life, capable of destroying our good positive self-image.

For the sake of clarity, in this metaphorical domain while talking about the Shadow and the inner child (as we suggested in section 10), I would say that those children are themselves terrorised.
They cannot understand why they are locked up in there. They feel shame and fear because of the way we ourselves are looking at them…. They are in fact inner children who cannot understand why they had to be injured; they cry out, asking desperately for our attention; they seek only to fall into a blissful sleep in a warm embrace.

I note that the metaphor of serene, redeeming sleep corresponds to the functional balance which is sought by our wholeness, if we see ourselves as a system attempting to distribute our life energy more evenly, instead of wasting this energy in the maintenance of our schism from our Shadow.
Indeed, maintaining this separation, in order to isolate some past experiences, means expending a large part of our life energy, which could be spent on rich experiences in the “here and now”. This is why, in the case of a large and frozen Shadow, something inside us is always left unsatisfied, anxious about the steps we take through life; this is the hidden aspect, the silenced voice of our Shadow that corresponds to our eternally unsatisfied ghosts.

To make an analogy: if our existence were a modelling wax that could be twisted at will into various shapes while we are freely experiencing our here and  now, our ghosts would be little stones embedded in the wax, which prevent us from giving it whatever shape we wish.

Generally speaking, writers and directors metaphorically presenting our terrors of a large and frozen Shadow in their works have displayed vast imagination. Dolls and toys that transform themselves into psychopathic killers: birthday parties with festively dressed skeletons: Quasimodo: the monster that Dr. Frankenstein created: gigantic robots, monstrous but maybe benign, in countless science fiction stories. These are just a few of the literary symbols of the embodiment of our Shadowed aspects.
Of course, in such stories, the stronger the symbolic split between our conscious “beautiful/visible” and our Shadowed “ugly/hidden” aspects, the more catastrophic the split. This process of destructive splitting is set out marvellously in Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey” (2000), as also in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1993).

And now, going back to the analogy between our Shadowed aspects of self and the deformed imprisoned children, I would say that we often interpret the despairing voices of these children as the howling of monsters and we push them further down into the deeper levels of our Shadow.

Or, whenever we are forced to let them out for a bit so as to quieten their cries, we use large amounts of makeup to distort them into unreal dolls, into good and acceptable boys and girls, in an attempt to cover up the ugliness that we ourselves see in them through our own adult eyes.

The voices of our aspects from within the Shadow are indeed sometimes catastrophic, when they take total control of our actions. They are, though, like children to whom no one has ever taught life skills, boundaries. and mutual respect – besides, to their ignorance is added the blind anger born of their  isolation, unjust as they see it.
{19-poem} In the morning, as soon as we wake up (more tired than we had been before we slept) our first move, even before washing, before drinking our coffee, is to stretch out a hand and take from the little bedside table our dry mask and fit it to our face – as if we had been found guilty of something. Sometimes we fit the mask with that glue made of flour and water, sometimes with that slimy glue with which shoemakers stick leather. And all day to feel that the glue is drying, is coming unstuck bit by bit from your skin; that you are not touched directly by the light, the wind, the water, a hand or your own hand; and on top of this you fear that the whole mask might come unstuck from an unwanted spasm of smiling; that it might fall into your plate of red-cooked chicken, just at the moment when you say, “I’m really not hungry”; you are terrified that your savage hunger might appear naked, your endless hunger.  [Ritsos, Yannis – 2]


14.c Creativity and the Hall of distorting ​​Mirrors

In all the above stages of childhood, the determining roles of the mother and of the child’s immediate environment in the formation of the child’s Shadow are evident.

Which aspects of the early self (with their corresponding emotions) do we keep available for use in everyday adult life, and which do we seal up in the Shadow? This is very much a matter of the eyes in which we were mirrored and the way in which they returned to us the first reflections of our existence.
If these eyes become distorting mirrors, they will send us back distorted reflections of our existence, and since as children we cannot ask for other, alternative mirrors, we come to identify with these distortions. Later, only as adults might we manage to discover that we are surrounded by countless other mirrors and that we do not need insistently to polish that old mirror which showed us as deformed, which we begged in vain to correct our reflection and lighten our Shadow – and our very existence.

In relation to such ideas, Ehrenzweig (1971) notes something that I consider of great interest: that in the life that we call adult, the role of the unifying matrix (which was played by the mother in childhood) can be played to a significant degree by our creativity.
That is, when we create something – anything at all, not necessarily something artistic – in this process we channel into our creation (we “project”) the whole range of our feelings, and not merely the good, permissible feelings; in this way, any creation of ours becomes something like a matrix (analogue to the maternal matrix of our childhood) that receives us as a whole and sends us back our reflection.

This is why sometimes after doing some creative work, the next day we may reject it. This happens because we recognise in the product of our creative work aspects of ourselves that we cannot accept the day after; so we find it ugly, imperfect or indifferent, or aggressive because in it we see unwanted aspects of ourselves that were projected onto the work while we were creating it. If we look at artistic creativity, we find many examples. There are writers who tear up their work, painters who destroy their canvases, musicians or actors or dancers who, no matter what plaudits they may receive, are deeply unhappy with their performances, and so on. This displeasure with what we have created does not apply only to artistic creativity, but also to daily matters – from cooking a meal or looking after a house or a garden to our professional activity, and so forth.

Generally speaking, if we as adults can or cannot tolerate the reflection that we get back from what we do, this has a great deal to do with what kind of mirror our mother was and what reflections she transmitted back to us; because on these reflections it depended whether and how we fed our Shadow with aspects of self that, if manifested at that time, would have invoked unbearable, threatening, feelings.


15.a The tremendous importance of the mother for the early construction of the ​​Shadow

A mother, like a mirror, reflects many things back to her infant. Depending on what and how is reflected, her child’s Shadow, is greatly affected. So let us see what happens in some important periods following a baby’s birth.

• (a) The baby receives the first images of the world when, lying on her or his back, he or she sees the mother’s eyes and face, as she bends over her child. The human face contains about 30% of all the muscles in the whole body, producing a subtle complexity of facial expressions which serve to communicate our feelings; that is why even a baby receives constant intense stimulation from the mother’s eyes and face.
As a matter of fact, the first reflection of the baby’s existence depends much on the way in which the mother’s eyes first look at her or him (Ehrenzweig, 1971).

Expectations, love, adoration, or even hidden aggression, anxiety and insecurity, safety and certainty, yearning or indifference: a huge variety of messages is generated by the mother’s face, to which the infant progressively learns to adjust his or her responses, creatively and non-consciously, either making manifest her or his corresponding aspects of primary self, or hiding them in the Shadow.

(b) A baby in the first few weeks of life feels at one with the world, or rather, that he or she “is” the whole world. Then, from the way in which the mother holds the baby in her arms, she, or he, progressively forms, from the resistance of the hands to the weight of the little body, the first sketches of his or her physical outline (Kelley-Laine, 2005).The mother’s hands indeed engrave experiences on the baby’s body just by touching it – and thus play a most important role in this initial phase of individuation. The fingers and palm of a stressed, intensely neurotic or hysterical mother are under tension. This tension is transmitted by touch to the baby’s body and on it marks areas as being under attack.

The body will create tension in these areas and will so shape itself as to develop defences against these attacks (and let us not forget that any bodily stance or attitude whatsoever means the birth of corresponding feelings). In this way there starts the imprinting of the baby’s Shadow on her or his body (more in section 50).

• (c) From the fourth to the sixth months, the infant begins the process of separation from the mother. The muscular system develops and with it the need to investigate the environment. At the same time, fear of separation from the mother appears. Anxiety about possible unmet needs festers. Fear becomes an opposite pole to the need for individualisation and exploration. We often see a baby crawling towards something of interest, but turning around to look back every now and again to make sure the mother is still there. This pattern resembles the behaviour of a dog unleashed in the park by its master; it runs joyfully here and there, but sometimes stops, tenses, and looks around to see if its master is still where he should be…

The way the mother handles this polarity of “individualisation/independence” vs. “attachment/dependence” is of determining importance; it greatly affects the dynamic between the preferred and the avoided aspects of self of the child and consequently the construction of her or his Shadow.

Whether, and how, the mother succeeds in relieving the anxiety of separation while supporting the need for individualisation, affects what aspects of the baby’s self are to be hidden in the Shadow – a baby that senses the mother’s frustration whenever it attempts to explore the environment may hide his or her exploring and daring aspects in the Shadow.

Moreover, the way the mother deals with the polarity mentioned above affects the child’s sexuality, the freedom and the manner with which he or she will occupy personal space in future interpersonal relationships, but also her or his capacity to form deep bonds in these relationships, combining responsibility with pleasure.

(d) From about eighteen months to three years, children develop control of excretory functions, harmonising their needs with the responses of the environment. At the same time, the muscular-skeletal structure is developing, mobility increases and they are now in a position to explore the surrounding world in many ways.

It is a very important learning process, which also depends greatly on the responses that the child receives when he or she inevitably causes damage during the time of this totally improvised learning.
For example, a child who learns that the slightest damage will be punished, and will be met with reproach and contempt, has a great number of negative feelings to store away in the Shadow.

(e) At about three years of age, as the child composes his or her ego, she or he arrives at a highly critical stage in the relationship with the mother.

In the beginning, from birth and then for many months, the mother’s figure was for the infant made up of disconnected fragments of impressions (just like every object of the infant’s perception). A tone of voice, tactile stimuli, a caress, the image of a hand, a breast, a look, the touch of hair, the smell of the skin, all these are the sensory material from which fragmentary impressions of the mother are assembled.

For about three years, for the child, the mother has two faces. One (the good mother) who quickly and fully satisfies the child’s needs, and the other who sets boundaries, constraining or ignoring her or his needs (the bad mother). The child adores the former but hates and fears the latter.
In this early stage, the infant does not know that the person who meets her or his needs and cares for him or her, offering safety (the good mother) is one and the same as the bad mother, the one who leaves needs unfulfilled, sets boundaries, causes stress or anger.

Later on, the infant begins to perceive the mother as a unified entity. Inevitably, she or he becomes aware that by damaging the bad mother, the good mother is also killed off. Then she or he suffers great anxiety (the result of guilt, sorrow, insecurity, and so on).
The determining factor that will allow the child to unify the two images of the mother is, again, her behaviour. This means that one image of the mother should not cancel out the other. Ideally, the mother will function as a unifying matrix, so when the child projects contradictory feelings onto her, the mother should unify them and reflect back the child’s image as a whole – like a normal mirror would do (Ehrenzweig, 1971).

Practically speaking, when the mother sets boundaries for the child, these boundaries must be specific, referring only to some concrete action of the child, so as not to diminish the child’s whole existence.

It is one thing to say “What you did had this result, or that, so it would be better for us all to be more careful”. (Mother addresses her remark only to a specific aspect and behaviour of the child and keeps on loving and seeing its wholeness).
However, it is definitely another thing to say “You are a very bad boy because you did this”. (Mother squeezes all the child’s existence into only one aspect – the one acting bad – so she deletes what else the child is apart from that aspect which performed the bad action).

(e2) Sometimes a mother shows only her contempt for what she perceives as her naughty child by talking angrily all the time , by making the child feel that it is a very great favour that she even addresses a very few rare words of affection to the child, by wearing an expressionless silent mask meaning “What you did deserves this distance from me as a punishment”. All this cancels out the child’s whole existence: at the same time she totally deprives that child of the good mother, she diminishes the child and causes feelings of fear, abandonment, guilt, and inadequacy. This is an occasion when the child’s Shadow is well-fed indeed. Moreover, the ground is prepared for future unhappy individuals, who will fortify their Shadows in every possible way; a traumatised self-image is produced, with low self-esteem.

In short, these children will be immobilised and fearful in life, incapable of deepening their relationships with real people, ready to do anything to avoid conflict, hiding their own anger and negative feelings from their own eyes.

This important polarity of opposing emotions produced in response to the good or bad faces of the Other does not appear only in childhood but also in adult life (Klein, 1997), bringing with it corresponding emotional disturbances and the potential enrichment of the Shadow.


16.a Existential and interpersonal ​loneliness

*** Existential loneliness.

In section 5.a we saw that the smallest fragments of our experience and all the moments of our lives are unrepeatable and unique. They all differ as much from person to person as they do within the same person during his or her life.

Therefore, even when we both come into contact with the same piece of the world, the results of our contact differ, because in each of us there is produced a unique and exclusively personal experience. Each human being, then, can be seen as the monarch of an island, being its ruler as well as its only inhabitant.

Contrary to what we feel or need to believe, it seems that our days, apart from the many other ancient fears that they confirm, may also affirm a particular ancient terror of ours: that as beings, due to our construction, we are not only born and die alone, but also that we live all our lives alone in the midst of a cosmic silence – a bitter price for the uniqueness of our personal micro-universe.

It is just this utterly individualised sense of the uniqueness of human experience that we may term existential loneliness (Theodorou, 2019).

This loneliness is a distinguishing characteristic of our species. The way that each of us copes with it determines many things; how we relate to other people, what we expect of them, how we approach them, what we feel about whatever happens in our relationships.

Therefore what we do with our existential loneliness may trigger a very wide variety of feelings, several of which can be highly threatening – and so they have to be closed off in the Shadow.

However existential loneliness is a natural consequence of our nature and of the complicated ways our unique personal reality is composed (see section 5a). For this reason, it constitutes an inevitable fact about us, which cannot be avoided, cannot be resolved and can only be accepted.

If this is not accepted, then we attempt to assign to Others the elimination of this disturbing existential fact about all humans. However, humans being what they are, nobody is able to succeed in this task: not only because the Other may not wish to do so but also because of our biological and psychological construction.

So the quite natural failure of any other human being to relieve me of my existential loneliness angers me, causes me to despair, torments me, and awakens ancient fears – despite the impossibility of the assignment. Then I can very well send all this into my Shadow… And start to entertain metaphysical speculations in order to explain my suffering: I wonder how it can be that I am so unlucky and that I cannot find anybody to stand by me, why the universe is so cruel with me as to keep on punishing me, and so on.

It would seem that we are made in such a way that each one of us is characterised by an underlying sense of internal distance from anything whatsoever; even when we offer everything we can to others so as to erase exactly this sense of isolation and distance. In other words, whatever I live through, even if describable in words, remains as an experience that can be alive only in my own reality.

I cannot share with anybody the unique cooperation of my mind with my body that had produced that experience, simply because the uniqueness of the situation in which it was produced cannot be repeated.

So, it is true that we all construct our personal realities by building the continua of our experience in similar ways; however, it is equally true that it is impossible to host any Other in our own continuum. (By the capitalised Other, I intend any other human being). All we can do is describe verbally (thus mentally) our experience – which is very different from sharing it as a whole in its emotional and bodily components. Even if we use thousands of words to depict one minute of our experience, it remains impossible to transmit it fully to any other person.

Our personal reality is like an islet of individual existence floating in the limitless ocean of the universe. And we, the kings and sole inhabitants, wander around the place, with a bird’s-eye view of other people’s islets beyond the contours of our personal islet. We can see where their islets are, how they move, how and when they approach our own islet or recede from it; sometimes we try to drop anchors or throw ropes to stay near to other passing islets – with a variety of results.

However, if we maintain the delusion that we can defeat this existential characteristic of our species, it is as if we are fighting other basic facts about our physiology, whether we like them or not, like the needs to eat, to drink, to go to the bathroom, or like the facts that we do not have wings to fly and we cannot breathe water. In a similar way, we are existentially alone, whether we like it or not.

So, to keep active the delusion that we can overcome our in-built uniqueness and loneliness, even if we constantly fail to overcome it (because it is not possible to defeat our own nature), we often have to isolate our desperate and terrified aspects, with their accompanying difficult feelings, deep in our Shadow.

*** Interpersonal loneliness.

That we are born, live and die existentially alone, that is one thing. That in living our life we meet other people and we interact and connect with them, that is another. The ways we encounter Others, and what we expect from them, show how we connect these two contrasting things.

From this point of view, existential loneliness is independent of whether we get together with other people or not, of whatever we do with them; it is always there, a steady basso continuo, even when we are in the middle of a crowded city square.

Independently of this steady background to all our moments, we could say that the loss of connection with other people also constitutes a kind of loneliness; this is interpersonal loneliness (Pilar, 2016), a state which is defined very differently from our loneliness as beings.

Interpersonally, I am alone when I have no people to relate to or do not know how to do this; existentially, I am alone whether I am relating to another person or not.

Thus, the fact that each human being is an absolutely unique being – thus existentially alone – does not mean that we are also alone interpersonally or that we cannot be together or form beautiful and very successful, functioning relationships. We can make a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the isolation of “I am alone as a being”, and on the other hand “I am alone because I do not relate to and connect with other people”.

What we cannot do is eliminate our existential loneliness and its consequential deep sense of isolation. We can only accept this kind of loneliness, just as we accept that we need oxygen. And it is only when we cease to assign to Others the task of annulling our existential loneliness, that we free ourselves of any futile expectations, and are now able to form graceful, satisfying interpersonal relationships.

However, the more we assign to other people and to our interpersonal relationships the task of saving us from our existential loneliness, the more we get disappointed; we become angrier, sadder and more desperate. And such aspects of our self are often intolerable – thus their alienation into our Shadow is a natural consequence.
{26} […] When you’re little, you like to think you know everything, but the last thing you really want is to know too much. What you really want is for grown-ups to make the world a safe place where dreams can come true and promises are never broken. And when you’re little, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. [Bohem, Leslie – 2]


17.b Meaning, the need for control and the ​Shadow

At times our need to find meaning in things becomes so strong that we persist in trying to find a supposed meaning of life – as if this phrase could ever have an objective and universal meaning… Moreover, we often seek such a meaning of life only philosophically, inside our minds and abstract thoughts and outside the live flow of our moments – that is, we seek a certain meaning of life somewhere outside and beyond the vitality of our direct actual experience.

To some extent one might say that we do so because life is not easy, in this dangerous, indifferent and unpredictable universe in which disorder and the incomprehensible, as well as uncontrolled flow of things, result in a threatening futility – “I do not control anything, so I cannot orient my movement in life, therefore it is futile to move at all”. And as we panic, our need to give mental meaning to things emerges to create some sense of order, to get more cognitive knowledge and thus the delusion of greater control over things.

In other words, our species often consider that if we know something cognitively, then we automatically own it; that is, by analysing its nature structurally and functionally (how something is made and how it does what it does), we control it.

However, all too often this approach to the word meaning results in annihilating my direct live experiencing of things and restricting my experience to merely knowing things logically.

For instance, my need to analyse and understand the meaning of the way in which you are looking at me absorbs all my attention, all my energy and distracts me from simply enjoying your eyes resting on me. This means that I am consumed by my thoughts about what your eyes looking at me may mean, about why you are staring at me in this or that particular way, about what I should do now; in other words, I focus only on how I can cognitively “understand” and control what is happening now with you and so I miss the immediate pleasure of our encounter.

On the one hand, our rationalism has given us the inestimable wonders of our sciences. On the other hand, in the practice of everyday life, the supposed full control of things that we associate with our rationalism most times ends up as no more than a delusion that hardly helps us in our coping with futility.

That is, when I understand and manage the reflections of things in my mind, I think that I am controlling the things themselves – however, in fact I control absolutely nothing. Of course, we can surely affect things through our conscious choices based on analysis and interpretation; however, affecting things is greatly different from controlling or owning them.

Finally, the world itself often disagrees with its reflection in us – reality turns out to be incongruent with our conceptions of reality. Things seem to flee, to escape us. Things seem not to care about the meanings that we wish to assign to them. We imagine them one way but they insist on happening in another. It is as if they happen because of connections and meanings that are incomprehensible to us. They remain uncontrollable, as stubborn as small children who refuse to put on the clothes we want them to wear. And as for us, whenever we insist on wanting to control something that in reality opposes the meanings we have assigned to it, we tend to think that this “something” is disobeying us, that it is forcefully resisting our way of perceiving it.

People do not easily give themselves up to the unexplored aspects of nature nor to the deep contradictions of our existence and so, through their thirst to sense inner unity, they apprehend anything that blocks the fulfilment of their wish for harmony as an irrational cosmic error (Carotenuto, 2012). And sometimes we insist on fighting to control what we see as such cosmic errors, being unable to simply let ourselves be carried along by the flow of things incomprehensible to us, and simply to enjoy this flow.


 20 The Shadow, personal responsibility for choice, and the question of “​morals​”

Every unique meaning that I derive from the things of this world, forming a kind of code by which I interpret the world, is of my own production and staging. Depending on the way I feel, or you feel, we each attribute one or another meaning to the same object, each of us seeing it in our own way.

So, as the great architects of the meanings we construct, we bear personal responsibility for our constructions. That is to say, we are personally responsible for our choices when we lend this or that meaning to anything.

Those aspects of self that play the role of organising such issues of responsibility for choice are sometimes accompanied by difficult feelings: “What should I do now? What if I am wrong? How could I ever have done this?”, etc. Such feelings of guilt, remorse, fear, uncertainty, and the rest are obviously excellent candidates for dispatch into our Shadow.

Furthermore, as children, we were surely faced with complex issues of responsibility while growing up, in one way or another, particularly if our environment was manipulative and controlling. We were already responsible as to whether or not we would obey parental expectations, or to what degree. “Shall I protect my siblings? Shall I hide my true needs from my parents? Am I always going to tell the truth? Is it really so bad to lie sometimes? How should I behave in my friendships?” And so forth.

Feelings connected to the responsibility for choice and reliance on the Shadow, already present from our childhood, cannot be but closely associated with our Shadow in our adult life too. Many aspects of ourselves, already hidden therein in the past, may easily resonate and be awakened in various present situations that raise the issue of responsibility in our adult life. For instance, when we find ourselves at a significant turning point on our course through life, it is not easy to decide which way to go; so the choice of the next step involves a heavy responsibility and several resulting feelings might easily get tuned with our past Shadows, awakening whatever similar ancient feelings are in there.

The question of responsibility for choice becomes even more difficult when it is intertwined with systems of values and the issue of morality. Then, before deciding whether or how to act, we need to clarify for ourselves our relation to the system of values in the context of which a particular issue of responsibility arises.

If I declare, “I’m taking on the responsibility of choosing to do this or that because they say that’s the right thing to do”, I need to make it clear to myself just what this “they say” means to me personally, because my perception of this “they say” affects crucially one in or another way the responsibility for choice when I do this or that.

The more people say the same thing, the more we tend to hear what they say as rightful – the whole formed of many people is something much bigger than us, as when we were children and the parental figure seemed gigantic in our eyes at that time.

“How is it ever possible that such a huge god could be wrong? It is me; I am wrong”, we used to sense, silently. We tend to feel something similar as adults when many people “say that”.

However, in the human universe of complex meanings we cannot easily accept that what happens is in a way simply natural. We need to sense sets of moral rules beneath the sequences of life events so that we can more easily create some meaningful reason for the events that occur.

For example, we may think that “My land was destroyed by the storm because I was not a ‘good’ husband and parent – I was not capable of becoming what I was supposed to be”.

Necessity burns unquenchably within us, unreasonable but the same time formally logical, so that we may find ethical reasons for everything, even for natural disasters and Biblical plagues (Carotenuto, 2012). Thus when I say, “Oh, poor antelope, the wicked lion tore her to bits”, I am assigning to the lion an evil meaning followed by a kind of moral responsibility for the death of the antelope. You may say, though, “Fortunately, an antelope happened by and the poor lioness, pregnant, found something to eat”.

The facts are the same, but you do not consider the lion responsible because you project onto the animal another moral meaning. And let us not forget that neither a lion nor an antelope has a Shadow…


23 Shadow and an ancient mutual betrayal as preconditions for individualisation and life​​​

We were all born somewhere and of someone. This is another inevitable, shared characteristic of ours, with no exceptions, which can in many ways push various aspects of our selves into the Shadow.

For a start, we do not choose our place and time of birth. Nor our parents. Besides, we bear the weight of our historicity, without being asked; some ancestors determined our route through life with their choices and actions. Moreover, our immediate environment had already imagined us before we emerged into this world, loading us with expectations. The future mother, in particular, will have already built a whole cradle of dreams, wishes, meanings and feelings for her future child – and it is natural that she should imagine the child in accordance with images that are familiar to her and confirm her identity (Carotenuto, 2012).

That is, when we are born we are already in debt, our identity already stigmatised with the signs of an unseen kind of betrayal, that our birth brings about and refers to:

• (a) The pain of separation (as the mother’s body does not want to let us go).

• (b) Disappointment (as it is in practice impossible to match up to the expectations of the mother and the environment).

• (c) Various disagreeable responses from the mother, who, apart from what she offers, often experiences the denial of her expectations and our own ontological independence in various ways: anger, depression, withdrawal, aggression, etc.

• (d) Our own guilt at the consequences of our birth (apart from the celebrations, the cheerful songs and the good wishes). It is as if we took on a responsibility to satisfy the Others’ expectations for the rest of our lives; as if we were responsible for alleviating any possible pain in Others resulting from the fact that our life is bound to contradict their expectations to some extent. In other words it is as if we have always to struggle to counterbalance the “original sin” of our very appearance in this world; as if we are agreeing informally that we will not sadden the Others even when they attack and violate our boundaries; as if we were accused and convicted by the Others for the simple fact that we are alive (Carotenuto, 2012).

For all of us, with our birth, the primary wholeness formed of mother and child is inevitably broken (the child escapes from the mother, betraying the cradle that had been prepared for it).

However, even on a physical level, if this whole is not broken and we remain in the mother’s body, we will die, as will the mother. Our birth is a natural consequence, actually and symbolically, of transformation – that is, we must at some time be born and start following the path of our uniqueness.

However, to generalise from an existential perspective, every differentiation and each act of autonomy in our life is a sort of betrayal of the expectations of Others – contrariwise, every differentiation or act of autonomy on the part of an Other with whom we have a close relationship is as if that Other betrays us.

It is, so to speak, a game of mutual betrayals; as we differentiate in our lives we inevitably betray, and are betrayed.

On the other hand, for all of us, to accept our differences from other people is a precondition for adult life. It seems that if we do not take the one-way street of our individuation (albeit paying the cost of this betrayal), we countersign an agreement to be slaughtered by the needs of the Others or by the impersonal rules of collective life. The less our ability to differentiate ourselves, the more the Gordian knot tightens – the knot of our parental and dependent attachments in general; or, the more we surrender passively to the expectations of the Others, the more we become unable to build relationships as adult men and women, still remaining sons and daughters.

The collective whole demands homogeneity for its survival and so is threatened by individuation and difference. It does not encourage awareness of the differences between us, nor that we should attach personal meaning to life or to our relationships. Further, for understandable reasons, it is not easy to touch on such delicate issues as the consequences of our initial differentiation from the mother’s body or the symbolic mutual betrayals we just spoke of above. For this reason we may often feel that we are strange, foreign, intrusive, uninvited, without rights to citizenship in reality (Carotenuto, 2012), without the courage to set ourselves up against a world that betrays and vulgarises.

However, at times, even as adults, we also betray our own authenticity and identity, when we accept the asphyxiating pressure of collective demands. To betray ourselves is to lock ourselves into a world of meanings foreign to our needs and personal stance in life; as a result, we start defining ourselves with our successes in the outer world as our main criterion,, moving further and further away from our authentic personal needs.

To be sure, when we thoughtlessly swallow the rules of our environment just to avoid our differentiation, the cost is great. Those aspects of self that are assigned to organising our authentic needs are seen by our own eyes as threatening, endangering our conformity. Actually, we are projecting onto the social reality an angry parental figure – the mother’s aggression when we separated from her body with our birth. In any case, the more we consent to unconditional surrender either to a natural or to a symbolic parent, the more our rebellious aspects will take the road to the Shadow.
{36} What can China give me that my soul has not already given me? And if my soul cannot give it to me, how can China provide it, since it is with my soul that I’ll see China, if ever I see it? […] Real landscapes are the ones we ourselves create because thus, being their gods, we see them as they really are, that is, as they were created. Not one of the Seven Kingdoms of the world is the one that interests me and that I can really see. The one I am passing through is the eighth Kingdom, and it is my own. [Soares, Bernardo – 4]

The theme of this book of Shadows

is about how some aspects of ourselves seem to escape us and, even if they are non-conscious and non- mentally perceived, they are able to critically affect whatever we are doing or not doing at any moment. It is a visit “down there”, at the sanctuary of our moments and of our selves.

This book is actually a thorough study and at the same time a proposal 

about (a) the grandeur (and the drama) of how our experience is composed on both a micro (no-conscious) as well as on a  macro (conscious) scale, (b) the architecture of the Shadowed “home” of what is usually called “inner child” – who is not only sad but also very angry…

SHADOW: our silent companion through life’s journey

INFO: [378 pages]  [14,2 X 20,2 cm] ISBN 978-618-00-1371-9
1st edition in English: 100 numbered and signed copies.
This edition is published by the author and is to be distributed exclusively
in Greece or delivered in other countries only by order to the author:    +30-6977-210469    +30-2310-262872

A video in first person on the central
ideas of the book and its features

2 short videos (no-words) on the ideas of the


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