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The Persona and the Shadow

The Persona and the Shadow

The persona or mask is developed by the ego in relation to consciousness. It is the outward manifestation of the psyche, but not necessarily representative of the whole psyche. It is the part of the psyche that is known to other people. Jung claimed that the persona could be an archetypal response to cultural circumstances and the development of only one aspect of the psyche. He argued that if a person becomes inflated by the persona then he/she would live out an outwardly directed experience and neglect the inner experience.

The shadow, according to Jung, holds the deepest and darkest aspects of the psyche and it is part of the collective unconscious that we inherit from our ancestors. It has an equivalence with Freud’s id. However, Jung held a positive view of the shadow, in that light can only be understood against dark, and good only understood in relation to evil.

Contemporary Jungians also view the shadow as containing the opposites within personality. The idea is that a person may develop a strong persona and hold vulnerability in the shadow. The topdog-underdog notion in Gestalt is derived from Jungs concepts.

Archetypes, in particular Anima and Animus, Persona and Shadow, and the synthesising influence of the Self as guide to the individuation process, need detailed examination within the lecture and through further reading.


Jung identified complexes as a collection of images and ideas that have a common emotional tone and cluster around an archetypal core. Complexes can overwhelm the ego or, alternatively, identify with an archetypal ideal, in a process which Jung referred to as ‘inflation’. Complexes are formulated in early life stages and parallel Freud™s ˜fixations™ but, according to Jung, do not necessarily have a libidinal base.

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