Summary of Meeting the Shadow by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams

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  • Post last modified:October 11, 2023

Part 5: The Shadow of Achievement: the Dark Side of Work and Progress


The toll of workaholism is high on everyone. Workaholics and the companies where they work put on this persona and have a pretty big shadow as a result.

Everyone at work has done stuff that was against their conscience.

Success leads to ego inflation, while failure leads to a biting shame.

Everyone has developed some qualities and pushed their opposite into their shadow. Extroverted people lose the ability to thrive without the limelight and the other way around.

In our current era, the emphasis on economic growth and technological progress has led to an ecological catastrophe.

We’ve become addicted to tech. If we develop one tech for one noble purpose, we will surely apply that tech to a not-so-noble purpose.

Chapter 21: Meeting the Shadow at Work by Bruce Shackleton

The workplace also contributes to shaping our shadow. When we do something we deem not to be ethical, we put ethics into the shadow, for example.

It’s dangerous to put too much of ourselves into it.

Many put in it their need for leisure, entertainment, and intimacy to become “productive machines” instead. This addiction leads to an imbalanced and compulsive lifestyle.

Workaholism can be rooted in:

  • Family patterns: the kids are only rewarded for the work that they do.
  • Inheritance: a workaholic parent passes it on to a child.
  • Parental failure: having loser parents push a child to become a workaholic to avoid this fate.

When a workaholic works in a workaholic organization, all is well in the beginning. After a while, the workaholic will multiply the addictions or will burn out.

Chapter 22: The Dark Side of Success by John R. O’Neill

The definition of success has been distorted and we’re now suffering from the shadow consequences.

Success is stressful.

  • Will it last?
  • Do I deserve it?
  • How can I get more?
  • What if I lose it?

This happens because success leads to hubris which leads to a failure to integrate the shadow.

Our true identities become distorted.

The true, long-lasting successful people avoid hubris and can integrate their shadow as they move forward. Doing so is the number one thing to do for an organization to keep on succeeding.

Here’s a list to help you check the signs of hubris:

  • Believing you have special properties others don’t have.
  • Believing that denouncing your contradictory information is an attempt at undermining you.
  • Needing to see your importance in the eyes of others constantly.
  • Judging others as inferior for living a different lifestyle.

You stop learning when hubris is operating as you think of yourself as too good to do so.

If we let the ego’s imperatives go, we can discover new parts of ourselves.

Remember that while you are climbing your mountain, there are other mountains. Keep an eye on the next peak. Use the valley between to renew yourself.

John Gardner

Chapter 23: Quacks, Charlatans, and False Prophets by Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig

The doctor must focus on healing his patients, whoever his patients are. The quack does not – he focuses on helping himself first whatever the cost born by his patients.

The quack is the shadow of every doctor.

Priests also have one – it is the impulse to preach for personal gain and influence.

This is enabled by the undefined and unverifiable nature of their job. A quack psychologist can claim success as much as a competent one if he treats a patient long enough for the patient to get better, by himself (or not).

Psychologists can mostly rest on their personal experiences when treating patients, which means they constantly live in doubt about the efficacy of their methods.

Psychologists should remain conscious of their shadows. The more growing their consciousness, the more the shadow grows too.

And the more individuated we become, the more likely we may act directly from the shadow.

If he is conscious enough for the unconscious, the psychologist will realize he acts like a quack from time to time.

The analyst caught in his shadow plays the prophet.

Chapter 24: Using Our Flaws and Faults by Marsha Sinetar

People who function effectively in their work know their limits. They use them in the service of their lives, managing to integrate these limitations into the way they work best.

They know that tending to their needs will make them more productive.

Some people need hours of procrastination before doing some great work, for example. Some walk, some drive, some watch TV…while our values and upbringing may protest when we do it, we know we need to do it.

No other part of our personality reveals our basic temperament, our fundamental way of working, more than does our dark side—the part of ourselves which illogically unfolds at its own time and which has its own requirements.

Rather than fight yourself, look at the meaning behind your impulses.

Consider what they are by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Did you suppress any habits to conform to other people?
  2. Did you try to change personality traits you thought were wrong?
  3. Have you stopped to achieve things because you were told they weren’t important?
  4. Is there any resting activity you feel guilty about doing?

Don’t fight them. Integrate them. They’re a part of who you are.

Chapter 25: When Technology Wounds by Chellis Glendinning

We live in an age of health-threatening technologies. They’re so attractive that we keep on favoring them over the community and social life.

Talking about the dangers of technology is taboo because we have become such technological maximalists.

Chapter 26: Wilderness as a Victim Of Progress by Peter Bishop

The picture of the Earth taken in 1960 led to the beginning of the ecological movement in the same period. Suddenly, people did not live separately anymore. We were all “one global village”.

To this ecological unity succeeded multiple local crises, of ecological nature, or not. The end of the 20th century in the Western world is revealing in this regard: it has been crisis after crisis. These stem from the ecological vision of Earth. The planet is so blue and so fragile. The corresponding shadow reflex is the ecological collapse and the end of the human species.

Part 6: Meeting Darkness on the Path: The Hidden Sides of Religion and Spirituality


One primary purpose of religion is, and always has been, to define the shadow, to set the world of darkness against the world of light, and to prescribe human moral behavior accordingly.

All religions speak of the shadow, except the very recent ones (New Age). Followers believe they can transcend to higher levels of awareness with the right practices without dealing with their shadow.

This part is about the dark side of contemporary spirituality.

Chapter 27: The Shadow in Christianity by Brother David Steindl-Rast

Failure to integrate the shadow is one of the reasons why Christianity knows the problems it has today.

Christianism focuses on living perfectly without realizing that God is perfect because He is devoid of darkness. Hence in our case, we cannot get close to perfection without integrating this darkness.

Since we fail at it, we suppress it. Yet the idea of shadow integration exists in the Bible, but it hasn’t yet been well developed.

Chapter 28: Meeting the Dark Side in Spiritual Practice by William Carl Eichman

Seeking truth means experiencing pain and darkness, as well as the clear white light. Practitioners must prepare themselves to deal with the dark underside of life.

Practicing spirituality will make you confront your darker side, which can take many forms. Religious stories show it as the devil.

The dark side is everywhere in our society and everyone is saturated in it. Meditating or praying help you get in touch with it, but you also need to learn about it if you hope to recognize it.

The first step to practicing spirituality is respecting its rules: payer time, fasting time, etc. It has become very difficult to practice these in our society as monasteries and such a place built to practice them are not easy to find anymore.

Instead, we have to use what the modern world is giving us (eg: flotation tanks).

You are likely to experience disagreeable feelings during your spiritual practice. Don’t overblow them, but don’t discard them either. This is the manifestation of the shadow.

Don’t be scared or ashamed. The shadow is like a disease developed during infancy. By integrating it, you’re healing it.

Chapter 29: Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America by Katy Butler

The chapter is about Buddhist religious leaders who, despite being kind, smart, and charismatic, end up becoming alcoholics or sex abusers.

The blend of Asian religions and Western culture can create comical, weird, or awkward situations.

Chapter 30: The Shadow of the Enlightened by Guru Georg Feuerstein

Many spiritual teachers considered “perfect” by their followers have anger outbursts, become authoritarian, or lack compassion, which appears strange in light of their supposed realized transcendence.

It is likely because transcendence is different from individuation.

Chapter 31: A Heretic in a New Age Community by W. Brugh Joy

The author of the chapter went to speak in a spiritual community and explained how the willingness to fight “the evils of the world” created that evil that was only a projection of their own shadow.

The reception was cold. He became the symbol of the community’s shadow, carrying all of the “sins” the member didn’t want to admit they had committed, and was hence transformed into their scapegoat.

Denying reality takes a lot of energy, which prevents you from focusing on other stuff then.

Chapter 32: The Shadow in Astrology by Liz Greene

The shadow often wears the mask of one’s sex and doesn’t struggle with sexual attraction (or repulsion) but with accepting one’s sexuality, and masculinity/femininity.

Chapter 33: The Devil in the Tarot by Sallie Nichols

Satan is confusing because he is himself confused.

The Devil, too, flies at night—a time when the lights of civilization are extinguished and the rational mind is asleep. It is at this time that human beings lie unconscious, unprotected, and open to suggestions.

The Devil is often represented as half-man, half-beast, because according to Jung, it “exactly describes the grotesque and sinister side of the unconscious for we have never really come to grips with it and consequently it has remained in its original savage state.”

Chapter 34: New Age Fundamentalism by John Babbs

Underlying all of this beauty lurks a darkness, only thinly veiled by beatific platitudes of sweetness. I call this beast New Age Fundamentalism, a belief that I am right and everyone else is wrong, stupid or evil; a belief that I represent the forces of light and goodness, while everyone else is duped by the forces of evil.

John Babbs

These preoccupations seem simply to be a way to avoid the present.

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