0062507540It comes as a great surprise to discover that the most powerful and valuable projection one ever makes is in falling in love. This too is a shadow projection and probably the most profound religious experience one is ever likely to have. Please remember that the shadow, in Jung’s early usage, was anything that lay in the unconscious part of one’s personality. Also remember that this discussion is about falling in love, not the act of loving.
To fall in love is to project the most noble and infinitely valuable part of one’s being onto another human being…. To make this examination all the more difficult, we have to say that the divinity we see in others is truly there, but we don’t have the right to see it until we have taken away our own projections. How difficult! How can one say that the projection is not true but that the divinity of one’s beloved is? Making this fine differentiation is the most delicate and difficult task in life.
Romantic love, or falling in love, is different from loving, which is always a quieter and more humanly proportioned experience. There is always something overblown and bigger-than-life about falling in love.
To fall in love is to project that particularly golden part of one’s shadow, the image of God—whether masculine or feminine—onto another person. Instantly, that person is the carrier of everything sublime and holy. One waxes eloquent in praise of the beloved and uses the language of divinity. But this experience is from the extreme right-hand side of the seesaw and invariably constellates its opposite. When in-loveness turns into its opposite, there is nothing more bitter in human experience. Most marriages in the West begin with a projection, go through a period of disillusionment, and, God willing, become more human. That is to say, they come to be based on the profound reality that is the other person. While in-loveness is close proximity to God, love based on reality serves our humble condition far better.
Though no one notices at the time, in-loveness obliterates the humanity of the beloved. One does a curious kind of insult to another by falling in love with him, for we are really looking at our own projection of God, not at the other person. If two people are in love, they tread on star dust for a time and live happily ever after—that is so long as this experience of divinity has obliterated time for them. Only when they come down to earth do they have to look at each other realistically and only then does the possibility of mature love exist. If one person is in love and the other not, the cooler one is likely to say, “We would have something better between us if you would look at me rather than at your image of me.”
…[W]hen the projection of in-loveness is exhausted, the other side of reality—and the very dark possibilities in human exchange—take over. If we can survive this, then we have human love—far less exciting than divine love, but far more stable.
The shadow is very important in marriage, and we can make or break a relationship depending on how conscious we are of this. We forget that in falling in love, we must also come to terms with what we find annoying and distasteful—even downright intolerable—in the other and also in ourselves. Yet it is precisely this confrontation that leads to our greatest growth.Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, by Robert A. Johnson
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Posted September 20, 2019 (Updated Sep 20, 2019) by