In the article Bert Hoff on MenWeb and Fathers we shared Bert’s process around reconnecting to a father we possibly never had or didn’t want. Later in the same talk Bert gave a great summary of a psychological concept: the shadow.
Bert Hoff Interview
So here’s Bert on the shadow (again interviewed by Lion Goodman).
Bert: There’s another aspect of the Men’s movement that needs to be brought out in the short time we have left. Robert Bly worked a lot with Marion Woodman, and one of the tapes that we have on MenWeb is Facing the Shadow in Men and Women. They did a fabulous workshop on Men and Women…
Lion Goodman: When you refer to the shadow, could you say what that is for you?
B: The side of ourselves that we don’t want to admit that we have, and if you repress it it’s going to come out and bite you in the rear end.
L: Oh yeah, that part of me, that part I know!
B: I didn’t say that… Think of a person who drives you up the wall. And when you think of that person think of the qualities that drive you up the wall. Now look at yourself. See, John can be sitting there picking his nose in public, but that’s just John being John. But Joe throwing that racquet down, that really pisses me off… You know, sometimes we’re ready to accept anyone, that’s just the way they are, but sometimes something somebody does just really gets to us. Well, that’s your shadow. You don’t want to admit that that’s what you have in yourself.
L: Good, so that’s another part of the Men’s movement, looking down at the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to talk about, don’t want to admit, don’t want to even look at or admit that that’s a part of our deeper inner selves.
B: And it works beautifully with [an earlier presenter who’d admitted that due to his advanced age he might not remember some facts]. He was doing straight shadow work with you when he said “I’m 90 and my memory might be slipping”. When he brings out the shadow that he doesn’t want to admit, and openly acknowledges it before you can even be thinking of it, then he’s done his shadow work.
L: He can admit to what he doesn’t want to be known as, and then suddenly it’s not hidden any more.
Telling the Truth in Relationships
So here’s another facet of telling the truth in relationships: being prepared to dig for our shadow and bring into the light whatever is revealed – either so-called “bad” or so-called “good” aspects. For example, you might hide anger – or it might be joy that you keep hidden.
When these aspects are repressed, it’s energy that’s being repressed – which in being released becomes available for creative expression in our relationships.