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A Little Book on the Human Shadow

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,264 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Robert Bly, renowned poet and author of the ground-breaking bestseller Iron John, mingles essay and verse to explore the Shadow -- the dark side of the human personality -- and the importance of confronting it.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published 1988 by Harper
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King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert L. MooreThe Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellIron John by Robert BlyA Circle of Men by Bill KauthA Little Book on the Human Shadow by Robert Bly
A Circle of Men
111 books — 19 voters
Carl Jung by Claire DunneJung by Barbara HannahThe Dream and the Underworld by James HillmanThe Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellJung's Map of the Soul by Murray Stein
Jungian
92 books — 40 voters


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Community Reviews

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4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,264 ratings  ·  88 reviews


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Krzysztof
Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, poetry, essay, 2011
If this were instead "a Medium-sized Book on the Human shadow," things may have been more clear but, then, they'd probably be more annoying, too.

Bly is not a gentle (note the space) man. He is a bull. In a way, he's the perfect person to talk about the Human Shadow, because he's living proof of its existence. But I suspect he doesn't even have a clear idea how he's managed to "eat his [own] shadow" and so who is he really to advise us? Well, again, he's a bull - that's who. He's got a resonant,
...more
Nikki
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This book is a fabulous resource for my Jungian Psychology research paper on the shadow. It explores various components of the shadow in a very accessible manner. Bly offers essentially what I would call a great dialogue on the shadow, interspersed with his poetry. One chapter is even an interview between Bly and his editor Booth. I really feel like I just sat down with these two men and listened to a beautiful conversation about this complex idea. I call it complex primarily because the shadow ...more
John Rogers
May 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Simple: This book should be required reading for every human. It concisely describes the most powerful human decision making engine, which our culture refuses to acknowledge, the shadow, which has been identified as the "id" and "super-ego" by Freud and the "collective unconscious" by a smarter guy named Carl Jung, who was one of Freuds students, but discarded all the psychosis of Freud and framed it in a far more intuitive way.

Bly, a great poet/writer, describes the power we project onto other
...more
William2
May 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Robert Bly has this wonderful Jungian lens through which he sees the world. Here he is discussing the subconscious mind, which he represents with the metaphor of the shadow. The book is distilled from three or four poetry readings he gave in the 1970s. He wants us to be in touch with our dark side, meaning the subconcious. The metaphor of the shadow he sees is also a bag in which we are forced to put every personal attribute not desired by our parents, who want us to be only "nice." Yet we are e ...more
Vinni Dalpiccol
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, the-good-life
This book’s foreword starts by saying that the reader should not go on unless he is willing to change his life. It mentions a warning from Jacob Boehme before one of his books saying that going on not willing to make changes will make the book bad for him.

It is appropriate, and even for that foreword alone, the book would already have been a worthy read. Why do we read, if not to change our lives? To examine ourselves from different perspectives and act on them? Our shadow is that thing we (well
...more
Ashlula
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vib-lounge, reviews
`One of the things we need to do as Americans is to work hard individually at eating our shadows, and so make sure that we are not releasing energy which can then be picked up by the politicians, who can use it against Russia, China, or the South American countries.`

This is a little gem of a book. Although written in the 80`s it seems to be a timeless classic.
...more
Shahine Ardeshir
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The idea behind this little book is, essentially, that we all have a shadow to our personality, a dark side where we repress things about ourselves that we don't like. The longer we ignore it, the more powerful can get and (in a sense) the less psychologically whole we are.

The book uses metaphor, poetry, and references to writing and popular culture to expand on that idea, and touches upon how we may identify and start to own our own shadow. The reason I loved it so much is because the idea res
...more
Sohaib
My new favorite poet, Robert Bly, and another Savior of a book—a psychological poem on the human shadow.

My shadow bag is dense with unconscious mud; and I do, like everybody else, practice random mud-slinging (projection) on daily basis. This book taught me how and where to aim, redirecting my overworked slinger back to the one responsible—the one holding it!
Jaime
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grow
This book is thought-provoking, and I'm glad I read it, and thought of about ten people who I wanted to ask to read it so I could discuss it. At 90ish pages you can get through it in about an hour or two, and the ideas within it are worth having running through your mind as you look at the world. All that being said, I'm looking forward to rereading it when I have a better understanding of Jung's actual writings on the shadow; the 'definitions' of it in here I find a little bit reductionist. And ...more
(0v0)
Aug 17, 2007 rated it did not like it
Bloviant. I am making up that word just for this book.

Coarse opinions masquerading as poetic depth.

When a poet has a stupid personality, it shows. Every bloviant detail. This book exposed more superficial opinions and obtuse viewpoints than I could bother to digest. It exposed me to the fact that the scholarly Mr. Bly is indeed not at all well read.

I especially love the long passage in chapter four, in which the author ravages "generalizers" (a general term for God-knows-who). He has so much ine
...more
Sherif Nagib
Jul 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
I strongly believe the title to be deceiving. Expected a lot more & was disappointed . Had to sift through pages and pages of poetry, Politics in 80's America, and Wallace Stevens, to find something I could make sense of. I understand why so many people appreciate it, but to me it was a huge pile of unrelatedness.
Cameron Bernard
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Half of the time I understood and appreciated the parts about facing your shadow.
The other half I had no idea where Bly was going.
Andrea Paterson
Highly variable in its readability. I found some of the text too convoluted to read. The sections on anger and the shadow in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Rilke, and Yeats were compelling. A central idea that shadow material must be LIVED, not just brought to light, was quite interesting and worth musing on further. Since the political context of Bly's writing is mostly unknown to me, I think I may have missed some of his points. There were some questionable theories in the section on projectio ...more
Daniel
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This little book was a real joy to read and absorb. There is a lot to take in here and to use, because in these pages it is said several times that when you look into the shadow self, the long bag of shadow you drag behind you, you must change due to the encounter of it. This is very true. We broadcast out our insecurities and our hate and anger to others based on our shortcomings. Shortcomings, fear and many other things are our shadow. The shadow of the human is not evil, though it can be. Wha ...more
Nairy Fstukh
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jung-read, 2017
Bly discusses shadow work in true Jungian spirit. Reads like a chat over a glass of wine remembered for a long time.
Bruno Silva
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is remarkably small for the amount of good knowledge in it. Not a difficult book to read, but certainly not easy to understand.

The book talks about the part of us we tend to deny ourselves and the world from experiencing it. It is not difficult to see how much of our being we repress from our lives, specially the instincts with “tails and lots of hair”, meaning the most “primitive“ side of ourselves. In our civilized, religiously raised world, the meaning of the world primitive is usually
...more
Sarah
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In many instances it reminded me of Tanya Wilkinson’s Medea’s Folly and I wonder if this might have been part of the inspiration for her book. If you liked this, definitely check out hers. One of the strongest components of the work was how accessible it was. Bly does an excellent job of explaining and describing the shadow in a way that is resonant and can be easily accessed. Additionally, I found his sympathetic description of projection as mildly brilliant, as ...more
Jason
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
There are so few books on the shadow and this one helped me understand the concept much better. It also helped me figure out some ways to figure out where my shadow might lie and how to reintegrate it. I love that Bly points out that in our culture we tend to assume the only alternatives are expression or repression. If our shadow is anger or sexuality going the way of complete expression may be dangerous and hurtful to others, for example. Bly offers a third option beyond total expression or re ...more
Peycho Kanev
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Just like the magazine published by Robert Bly was typical for the 60’s, so and his poetry expresses his troubles and problem about this decade. The personal troubles and problems of the society. Bly not only attacks what he considers as tyrannical literary line, but he merciless reviews the nuclear projects and the war in Vietnam.
The tirelessly attempts of Bly to renew the American poetry and to bring it near to the achievements of the Hispanic poetry has some considerable success. Within his
...more
Bryon E
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you run from a Ghost he will chase you forever.
But if you turn and face him, he will disappear.

My major take-away from this book was:
On the one hand there is the part of us we like to brag about, and
On the other hand there is the part of us we prefer to hide.

And when you get to the point that you can talk about one hand, as easily as the other,
you are well on your way to Health, Healing, and Happiness in your life.
Ben Chapman
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The book deserves more than a quick review, but I've only got a few minutes, so here goes:

* I prefer his poetry, most of the time, to his prose.
* He actually made me like Wallace Stevens's poetry even more.
* Much of the book seems dated and it does feel like it was adapted (as it was) from a series of talks or presentations. One of the most successful chapters is the one that is actually in the form of an interview.
Suhrob
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Started out promising - have a poet interleave his poems with essayistic bits. Unfortunately, there is not much enlightening here... vague, somewhat woo and mostly meant for people versed in this particular psychoanalytics-flavuoured new age-y humdrum.
Chris
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
I like Bly's little poem about the shadow I found in this book.

The Moon

After writing poems all day,
I went off to see the moon on the piney hill.
Far in the woods I sit down against a pine.
The moon has her porches turned to face the light,
but the deep part of her house is in darkness.
Qiaochu Yuan
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I want to like this book more because I think the shadow is really important, but I just don't like the actual poetry in it very much.
Jan Jilecek
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"We can say that the witch corresponds to a force in us that wants to block our growth, yet we must say that the witch presents a very positive force also. Her value lies in the fact that she knows what she wants. I want you to separate these seeds by sunset, and I'am going to eat you up if you don't. The witch doesn't say, Well, let's just check the I Ching to see if you should separate those seeds.
- amazing. Men with too much yin and too little yang. Soft men generation. Stand up for yourself,
...more
Peitsa Rautio
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
So, Robert Bly is an american poet and this book deals on his thoughts on the jungian concept of the human shadow. While the significance of the first introductory chapter was lost on me as it was quite heavy on loose self interpretation of poetry I found the rest of the book very thought provoking. As a whole I'd describe the meat of the content as a condensed spiritual guide to analyzing your personal history, the effects of the world around you on your self and how to build a healthy mental r ...more
Naciye
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to the human shadow. I enjoyed most of the book, and found it easy to follow. I loved his description of the human shadow, being parts of us, that those around us have rejected. We then place those parts in a bag and as life continues, the bag gets heavier. We become less of the person we were originally, as the shadow parts of us, we continue to deny as we struggle to drag the heavy bag. I found it interesting that he says we must honour our shadow side by acknowledging it a ...more
Anthony
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: introspection, poetry
Part interview, part poetic exposition, A Little Book unpacks Bly's views on our relationship with the Jungian shadow, "the dark, unlit, and repressed side of the ego complex." I found Part 2 the most memorable, an extended allegory of a bag we carry behind us that holds all the parts of our self that we discard, remove, or negate, as we grow older. As a child the bag is empty, but eventually fills with all our natural attitudes, behaviors, and inclinations that invite scoldings from parents and ...more
Infinidimincorp
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Some great insights in this collection of lectures compiled into a text - but still a collection of lectures (and one interview), devoid of context and not really following on from one another. I suspect they were better if you were there!

Also, I appreciate that Bly is psychologist here, but there's something about the relentless focus on the interior and projection that is a little solipsistic.

Ah, maybe I'm being harsh. If most books had this much good stuff per 97 pages, I'd be a happy reader.
Drew Fridley
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very interesting book about the Human Shadow. The first few chapters made me think a lot and the philosophy is forever in mind. The last couple of chapters were strange to me but I’m still giving this book a great rating because maybe I’m simply not intelligent enough to understand all the implications of the last couple of chapters. It can be read in a day. Two if you start late at night. Enjoy!
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Robert Bly is an American poet, author, activist and leader of the Mythopoetic Men's Movement.
Robert Bly was born in western Minnesota in 1926 to parents of Norwegian stock. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and spent two years there. After one year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he transferred to Harvard and thereby joined the famous group of writers who were undergraduates at that time, which i
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“I am proud only of those days that pass in
undivided tenderness.”
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“If any help was going to arrive to lift me out of my misery, it would come from the dark side of my personality.” 8 likes
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