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Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,301 ratings  ·  230 reviews
This powerful work from the acclaimed Jungian analyst and best-selling author of He, She, and We explores our need to "own" our own shadow—the term Carl Jung used to describe the dark, unlit part of the ego. In this rich work, Robert Johnson guides us through an exploration of the shadow: what it is, how it originates, and how it interacts and is made through the process o ...more
Paperback, 118 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by HarperOne (first published December 1st 1991)
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May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that's easier to describe by what it isn't than by what it is. It's not a how-to self-help book, and it's not a scholarly analysis of myth. There are no theraputic instructions or any data sets or graphs. It's religious but not a tract for any religion.

So what is it? This book is a winding conversation with a thoughtful, spiritual, aging Jungian. It's a mix of meditation, Jungian worldview and interpretation of myth, and gentle guidance.

Reading it again I felt like it
May 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I found myself writing down lots of quotes from this book. Here's one I liked at the end:

"People often asked Dr. Jung, 'Will we make it?' referring to the cataclysm of our time. He always replied, 'If enough people will do their inner work.'"

Sherrie Miranda
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I originally posted this on a post looking at creativity & depression
There is a school of thought that says we ALL have a shadow side that we try to sublimate or push down. It often comes up when we are partying & do something really stupid that we normally would never do. Or if someone is attracted to children, they act on it when the urge becomes too strong.
I believe the original idea comes from Carl Jung, but Robert A Johnson writes about it in "Owning Your Own Shadow.
He says that we all need
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Jungians
Recommended to Margie by: Dr. B
A worthy premise lacking an appropriate depth.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
In Owning Your Own Shadow, Robert Johnson takes the idea of the shadow, from Jungian psychology, and runs with it, providing guidelines for using the concept to develop ones psychological health and understand ones relationships.

According to these theories, the shadow is those aspects of the self that for personal or cultural reasons we have repressed. We either consciously deny our own expression of them or, more insidiously, they are unconscious. When they are unconscious, we are in danger of
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a reference book for me! I will never stop reading it! This book has helped me form lasting components of my life philosophy.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
One tends to project one's complexes on people, situations, things. What Jung calls shadow is that aspect of one's unconscious which contains the debris of one's inherent characteristics that gets repressed while adjusting to immediate social needs, in creating an amiable persona in other words. It is inevitable, and many a therapists today belonging to different schools may explain it less dramatically but the idea remains the same at the core. Freud may not have approved of Jung's terminology, ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a quick inspirational read although it might not be perceived as very "practical". It's a general reflection on duality, recognizing opposites and the need to acknowledge that we do in fact have both within us.'s not always necessary to reconcile every contradiction. I like the idea that sitting with it is enough and that wisdom or the vision of God comes out of that patience. That kind of thing is where the book shines. We really can't ignore the shadow, we must do something to ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
"To stay loyal to paradox is to earn the right to unity.

One of Johnson's short booklets on some of the key issues of life, in a jungian perspective.
Clear and concise, still poetic and with that typical quality of some of the best jungian authors to leave room for the unspoken, to open windows, and doors to new/timeless perspectives of the soul, to tickle and appetite for more...
The last chapter entitled "The Mandorla" is such a gateway, a glimpse of the power in a symbolic act, where art - actio
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
'Many people fail to find their God-given living water because they are not prepared to search in unusual places.'
....'Anyone who does not go through this process remains a “primitive” and can have no place in a cultivated society. We all are born whole but somehow the culture demands that we live out only part of our nature and refuse other parts of our inheritance. We divide the self into an ego and a shadow because our culture insists that we behave in a particular manner.'

'It is interesting
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Very interesting and quick read. Brings to light the constant contradictions we live everyday and that trouble everyone on some level. The key to living a happy life is by living a balanced life and honoring all parts of yourself, not just the parts that society/religion have told us are worthy of attention. We've got to let out the animalistic parts of us in healthy ways or it will come out in a destructive way. It's OK to have them and a balance of both light and darkness is to be close to the ...more
Mary Overton
loc. 315: “Jung used to say that we can be grateful for our enemies, for their darkness allows us to escape our own.
“Heaping abuse [on those who abuse us] does great damage - not only to others but to us as well, for as we project our shadow we give away an essential ingredient of our own psychology. We need to connect with this dark side for our own development, and we have no business flinging it at others, trying to palm off these awkward and unwanted feelings. The difficulty is that most of
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Another short and fantastic read on the ideas of the shadow and its related elements. Johnson's text is extremely accessible, and goes into a well-rounded understanding of the shadow, examining both the negative and positive aspects we bury into our shadow. Johnson discusses how religion, properly understood, and Christianity, in a full process of the mass, really embraces the light and dark and helps us access/understand that in ourselves. He discusses where we are at in culture right now, and ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, _openings
The author, a Jungian analyst, reminds that we have not entered adequately into our consciousness, especially our own shadow. Let's face it, typically we do not integrate the shadow (unlit aspect) of our self as a pure and real unity. Help in reaching out to aspects of our true consciousness lies in the sign of the Christian mandorla. The union pictures two overlapping circles. The overlap looks like an almond (It. - mandorla) of the shadow and the individual persona (ego).
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book explains the Jungian concept of The Shadow, what it is, how it conflicts with the Ego and how we project our shadows onto others and society. A good primer to start with if you are interested in Shadow work
This book was amazing to me, mainly because of its insistence that the way to God is to embrace paradox. In other words, one should not think in terms of exclusive contradictions, but rather in terms of the mandorla--the shared space between seemingly opposed principles.
Ebrahim Ahmed
Note: the below review is not perfect!

I went quick on this book, but I think it is is not bad in describing the way of dealing with the shadow based on Jungian psychology. The shadow is the dark side of your unconsciousness. The self-element that is suppressed by your ego. The unwanted deeds, or the interests you want to focus less on, ashamed of etc..

Robert Johnson believes that the more the bright side is expanded, in self and community, the more the opposite of it, the dark shadow expands. as
Sumit Pal
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Very insightful take on the concept of shadows and how we project shadows in the relationships(especially romantic) we built throughout our life.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Big kudos to this book for being succinct. The main premise of the book is that human beings put themselves into bad situations and act out when they don't acknowledge the wholeness of their nature - when they try to dismiss or dispose of their less culturally acceptable traits. Johnson presents the old idea that there must be balance between our 'light' and our 'dark' (Ego and Shadow) - and that without regular acknowledgement and interaction with our Shadow, we project it onto others. This des ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Of all the oversimplified, cherry-picked, idiotic explanations of the shadow, this book takes the discussion down a couple of pegs. His references are vague at best; there is no scholarship between these covers. Just a bunch of overused drivel and examples carved into the shape he needs to support his premise.
This is an excellent example of a patriarchal view of society and the psychic that does not include the feminine principle whatsoever. It twists and turns on itself to prove what the autho
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Great poetry makes these leaps and unites the beauty and the terror of existence. It has the ability to surprise and shock -- to remind us that there are links between the things we have always thought of as opposites." p. 103

"A particularly powerful form of mandorla can be seen in the customs of South American curanderos, who are a curious mixture of primitive shaman and Catholic priest. Their mesa (table) is an altar where they say Mass for the healing of their patients. They divide this alte
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it

Johnson's books always have at least a few ideas in them to capture the imagination. The idea that the shadow contains some of our strengths and that our light side doesn't always embody our best qualities were two of these ideas for me. The concept of the mandorla as a way of rectifying shadow and light was especially intriguing. Weaknesses include the book's length-- the book is very short, so don't expect lengthy explanations or detailed logical argument. It's more like three extended essay
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Accept Your Demons.

Main Ideas
Culture forces us to create a shadow
Creativity requires Destruction
Falling in love is a projection of yourself
Pain of contradiction = Mystery of paradox

I would have liked to see more practical discussion on how to implement these ideas.

Favorite Quotes:

“Find out what a person fears most and that is where he will develop next.” -Jung

Guilt is a total waste of time and energy.

If we do something we enjoy, we spoil it with guilt about what we ought to be doing. If we do wh
In mid-life I found myself in a dark wood, wandering. A friend lent me this slim volume. I was hurting too much to get a thing out of it. A few years later a therapist suggested I try reading it again. Robert A. Johnson's "Owning Your Own Shadow" didn't help me out of the dark wood; instead it took me further in, to a place where I had no choice but to learn to give up either/or thinking and learn to hold the "and." Now I have a more full understanding of who I am and the woods are full of life.
Carolee Wheeler
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I kept starting and stopping this very short book because every time RJ referred to the obvious lessons of religion, or God, or referred to some kind of bias about male or female behavior, I got exasperated. "It's the NINETIES, my good man, just where are your modern sensibilities?" I would think, and toss the book carelessly aside. Yet despite all of his rather patriarchal ideas about archetypes, there are still wisdoms about the dark side (read: the parts of us we'd rather not acknowledge, and ...more
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
I tend to have a love/hate relationship with books like this, but I somehow got sucked into the very basic principles of this book, or should I say, interesting principles explained in a very basic fashion. It's a good read for anyone who wants to confront some of their darkest thoughts and desires.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I was primarily interested in this book because the author was a Jungian analyst, and recently I've become interested in Jung, the half mystique and half scientist. In the end the book delivers quite well.
starts off very well and seemed very promising. Towards the end of the book it engaged in some discussion which I think lacked the clarity of the first half of the book. Nonetheless, a very good introduction to the shadow. and also a very quick read. So i do recommend.
Kirtida Gautam
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chakra-5
One of the best books I read in 2016.
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting little book. The concept of the shadow as used here does not necessarily mean things that are evil in the sense of being actively malevolent - the invitation to 'Come to the Dark Side,' as it were. It is referring to the parts of your personality that have been suppressed due to socialization, those parts of you that are not up on public display but are hidden down there in the dark. Henry Hyde to your Doctor Jekyll. The effect of excessive alcohol consumption on people i ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: really bad pub date 3 24 Jun 12, 2018 06:42PM  

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Robert A. Johnson is a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst in private practice in San Diego, California. He has studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland and at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India.

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“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.” 53 likes
“The message is unmistakable; our own healing proceeds from that overlap of what we call good and evil, light and dark. It is not that the light element alone does the healing; the place where light and dark begin to touch is where miracles arise. This middle place is a mandorla.” 19 likes
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