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Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche Paperback – June 9, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The shadow in Jungian psychology is the unconscious dumping ground for undesirable characteristics of personality. "Owning" the shadow--accepting it as part of one's self--is seen as the first step toward wholeness. Using examples from history, mythology, and religion, Johnson, author of Inner Work ( LJ 7/86) and Transformation ( LJ 8/91), offers a tour of the shadow, showing its origin and features, and demonstrating how and why it bursts into consciousness when least expected. Returning to the subject of his earlier work We ( LJ 2/1/84), the author reveals how experience of romantic love may lead to awareness of both positive and negative aspects of the shadow, and how integrating the shadow into one's personality can be a challenging religious experience. This clearly written, thought-provoking work is recommended for academic and public libraries.
- Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert A. Johnson, a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst, is also the author of He, She, We, Inner Work, Ecstasy, Transformation, and Owning Your Own Shadow.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; Reprint edition (February 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062507540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062507549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. B. Weeks on October 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This was the first book by Johnson I read, though my mentors and teachers spoke of him often. The information about the mandorla was particularly helpful, giving a visual and archetypical model for holding the energy of the apparently opposite forces in a space of new possibility.

Johnson writes that if I can be with the opposites, at the point of their intersection and stay with my conflicting thoughts and impulses long enough, the two will teach each other something and produce an insight that serves both... produce something utterly new instead of win, lose or compromise.

The key appears to be that every real solution has to grow from the unique situation I face. Formulas, how-to's, devices and processes can never be enough in such moments. Referring to my own past for an experiential reference or to another's experience or advice can't do it, either, because it prevents or sidetracks the point of unlimited potential that wants to appear in and emerge out of each unique encounter.

I liked what Maria had to say in her post: "Meet your shadow", dated November 22, 2003. She said she gave it only 4 stars because he doesn't tell how to DO that is described as possible in the book... I felt a little of that, too. And I have since appreciated the blessing of not being told how until I've done a bit of my own struggle with my own opposites in many life situations.

A book I found to be a perfect companion to this one is "I of the Storm - Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace", by Gary Simmons. I highly recommend it in addition to this book. It addresses some of the questions I felt about the nature of conflict after finishing Owning Your Own Shadow, in a way that shed light into my life. I am very appreciative of both books.
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Format: Paperback
I am currently ordering from amazon all the books by Robert A.Johnson, so this was the next one. This is a good general axplanation of the jungian concept of shadow illustrated, as it is usual in Johnson, with examples of western literature and art in general. The explanation of the mandorla (a typically mediaeval figure representing two circles that overlap, and that symbolizes the union of the opposites or paradox) is especially interesting. However, I have to give this book 4 stars because, after insisting so much on the importance of examining our shadow, honouring our shadow and balancing ego and shadow, he never gives a clue of how we can do do this.
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Format: Paperback
I have read Robert Johnson's autobiography, and have recently become intrigued by the concept of a "Shadow", so I looked forward to reading Robert's own thoughts on this particular archetype. I wasn't disappointed. The writing style is story-like, unfolding slowly right up until the conclusion. The only disappointment was the section on the Shadow in romantic relationships, which I don't think was covered particularly extensively. Nevertheless, the book was full of wisdom and insights into the role of the Shadow in our lives, and hammered home the important message that this archetype needs to be integrated into, not rejected from, our lives if we are to live holistically.
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Format: Paperback
I am a therapist who comes from a Jungian perspective, but I would not yet call myself an "analyst." I am very impressed with Johnsons discussion on ones shadow. I found that it was a little off beat from classicaly Jungian thought, but not in any serious ways. I found his discussion of projecting ones shadow to be a great introduction. If however you have read Jung himself you will find the ideas fairly basic. The real strength of this work is the authors ability to reduce complex concepts into a form which can be so easily read.
The biggest error a reader can make is to try to read the book as a step-by-step manual. This book should be read for the big picture which appears when all of the details are assembled, otherwise the apparent contradictions will become very confusing. The reader would do well to remember that any discussion on the shadow is a discussion of opposites. You must therefore be able to focus on both opposites to understand the essence of the shadow. If you read other reviews you will notice that at least one of the reviewers seemed to be unable to make this leap.
I was surprised with the authors heavy use of Christian symbols. Normally Jungians draw from several spiritual systems with thier systems, but I suppose it fits with Christianities repeated attempts to demonize the shadow in the first place.
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Format: Paperback
A very slim book, this does not go into any depth about owning the shadow, nor does it discuss methods for getting in touch with those parts of oneself. It reads like a dashed-off summary of the author's thinking and is in fact filled with references to his other work. There are a few anecdotes but nothing earth-shattering. For beginners only, not for anyone looking for in-depth treatment of this subject.
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This book takes up what I am sure is a profoundly important idea, but the exposition is a mile wide and an inch deep. The author ranges across vast terrain of literary and historical examples to elaborate Jung's early formulation of the shadow, but the allusions to literature and tradition never themselves become opportunities to explore, in more complex ways, Jung's idea. Instead, they are like drive-bys, each amounting to "see? author X or religion Y also believed in the shadow, but modern society has forgotten it." OK, I accepted that point in the first 10 pages, was a little bored reading it still at page 30, and by the time I got to the end of the book, I was flabbergasted, since I had learned essentially nothing new.

The discussion of the mandorla followed the same pattern: OK, here's an ancient European symbol that expressed this idea. We should use it again. Got it. Use it...how? How to work with one's shadow? We're admonished to honor it in ways that are not dangerous and destructive, but isn't that EXACTLY the problem? Most of us *don't* have tools for non-destructive engagement with it, and hence we repress it. Oh, those saints over there: they have it all balanced out. Great. But how?

Finally, the book is written from a peculiar, Catholic point of view: a Catholic who wants to revel in the dark imagery of the Mass, rejects the Vatican II changes that toned down that imagery, but yet who (elsewhere) decries the essential misogyny of relegating femininity to the shadows.
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