Shadow’s Screenplay

Birthed from the Jungian archetype of ‘shadow’ – where archetypes can be characterised as psychic forces which have their own source of instincts and impulses, the concept of ‘integral shadow’ consists in a simplified model of psychodynamic principles (Ingersoll & Zeitler, 2010). Shadow for integral, simply, is defined as an unconscious aspect of the personality, which does not recognise itself.

Per Integral Psychotherapy (Ingersoll & Zeitler, 2010), shadow describes mental content which we lie to ourselves about in some way, and which we also push out of awareness. Shadow is proposed in this literature as a barrier to deep relationality, a veil to legitimate authenticity, and as dis-integrative, in a general sense, , both here and otherwise in integral theory (see for example, Forman, 2010).

An approach called the 3-2-1 process brings a perspective-taking process to working with shadow. This seeks to make it visible, make its bases known, and to liberate its lifeform. ‘Face it, talk to it, be it’, as proposed here at Integral Chicks, as a means to uncover shadow’s covert operations, and to change our capacity to engage it’s presence.

Collective shadow work takes a similar process and brings it to a group environment. Thomas Hubl with his transparent communication has worked extensively in the global Integral community to shed light on relationality as it is illuminated, in this form, as here reported by Chris Dierkes from Beams and Struts:

‘So imagine one person in the group is struggling with a shadow around anger and someone(s) else in the group is clear in this area. The clear person can attune to the contraction and can see through the symptoms to the light trapped within. This person then seeks to hold deep presence and compassion for the person with the shadow and in this way it, as Hübl says, facilitates a process for that movement to be released and fulfill itself. As the topics shift to different dimensions of life, the roles may reverse. We all have shadows in certain areas and all have gifts/clear awareness in others.’


One term surfacing recently is ‘group shadow’ – the idea that, in our group interactivity, unconscious projections actually arise at the level of group awareness. The question of how to address something that is arising between us, but is largely functioning just beyond our awareness, has been pursued across different community conversations, but as far as I am aware has remained as a puzzle, a kind of Gordian knot – how do we handle collective shadow, particularly if we can’t collectively see it?

From here emerges two seemingly disparate possibilities, as modes of engagement.

The first stems from an insight revealed with Janice Macpherson’s review of Rene Girard’s concept of scapegoating, which she had posted in our local integral theory community, in Sydney. With roots in rituals of ancient Greece that saw villagers tie ribbons with their bad news, their problems, their failures and their worries recorded on them to a goat which they then would send out of town, scapegoating was chartered as movements through the Old and New Testaments, by Girard, in a shifting interpretation of ‘sacrifice’. While in the Old Testament several stories evidence a successful ‘scapegoating’ – where one individual is charged with a community’s shadow projections and ousted from that same community, thus portraying a worthy sacrifice, what the New Testament works to do is to give an account of Christ as a failed, yet far more triumphant, scapegoat, one that is resurrected ultimately, in recognition of his role as the coming of the Lord.


The whole mechanism of scapegoating is thus upended, with the inception of the New Testament, according to Girard. Not only were the live animal sacrifices of ancient Greece transcended, but now God’s revelation occurred not at the exclusion of evil, or the scapegoat, but at the transformation, the resurrection, of the scapegoat, perhaps the greatest one of all time, Jesus, as Christ.

There is a richness to be noted here – what happens when someone is willing, actually, able, to carry the group shadow, the scapegoat label, to allow for a thoroughgoing metanoia, or transformation, of our hearts and minds? What might be available, when we can engage in this dance, collectively, consciously?

This brings me to the second thread, that of narrative therapy, and of one of the initial techniques often employed in a narrative therapy approach, that of externalising.

Externalising is a process that is almost the inverse of what integral describes as ‘shadow work’. Shadow work at a personal level asks that we take that which we have projected outside of us, and return it to its internal home. Externalising, on the other hand, asks what have we buried inside us, which, brought out into the open and explored, could become less of a sore or a suffering and become perhaps seen as a diamond, a unique offering unfolding from our individual and very particular experience, on the earth.

Externalising asks that we take a label that has been projected onto and even into us, bring it out into the open, and explore the ways that we do relate to it, and then the new ways that we might like to relate to it (Carey & Russell, 2004).

As an example, where someone (or maybe a group) scapegoats me and tells me I’m angry, there are really endless ways I can respond to the projection of anger, beyond facing it, talking to it and be-ing it.

I can:

– walk out on the shadow projection (from the concept of agency)

– eclipse the shadow projection (from astronomical concepts)

– dispel the shadow projection (from magical concepts of life)

– go on strike against the shadow projection (from industrial action concepts)

– become de-acclimatised to the shadow projection (from geographic travel concepts)

– set myself apart from the shadow projection (from the concept of individuation)

– defy the shadow projection (from notions of resistance)

– disempower the shadow projection (from notions of energetic strength)

– dissent from the shadow projection’s influence (from ideas of protest)

– educate the shadow projection (from concepts of teaching)

– escape the shadow projection (drawing on liberation)

– reclaim the territory of self from the shadow projection (from land rights concepts)

– undermine the shadow projection (geological concepts of life)

– refuse invitations to co-operate with the shadow projection (concepts of civility)

– depart the shadow projection’s sphere (concepts of travel and journey)

– engage in redress against the shadow projection (concepts of justice)

– come out from the darkness cast by the shadow projection (concepts of light)

– disprove the shadow projections claims of identity (concepts of judicial authority)

– repossess self from the shadow projection (concepts of commercial ownership)

– take life out of the hands of the shadow projection (concepts of puppetry)

– resign from the shadow projection (concept of employment)

– coach the shadow projection (concept from world of sports)

– steal identity back from the shadow projection (ideas of theft)

– tame the shadow projection (concepts of domestication)

– harness the shadow projection (concepts of equine training).

(Source: adapted from Michael White, ‘Maps of Narrative Practice’)

The list could probably go on, and one exercise could be to go through the list and feel into which ways of relating to a projection would work for you – what feels right? What might feel more right or less right for different kinds of shadow projections?

One way to explore this in the context of illuminating group shadow would be to create a situation where a volunteer might be willing to be a scapegoat – carry a group shadow projection, created consciously by the group itself, and then form a working dynamic, a dialogue, based on the chosen form of interaction. How might the group like to coach the anger? In what way would they educate it? How would they ‘steal’ group identity back from it?

Working to keep language grounded in collective descriptors (working to reduce the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’ while engaged in the practice) (per Denborough, 2011), group shadow, otherwise invisible, may become tangible through mechanisms of association, in this context. Working less to roleplay than to adequately account for an internalised sense of the collective meaning, in this way, we might find ourselves newly relating to each other, with new insights about the shape and interplay of the state-stages, in our newfound collective embodiment.

Part of my personal inspiration in writing up this post lies with noticing what suddenly becomes available for me when someone is actually willing to stand there and ‘hold’ my projection, for me, someone who will openly respond for themselves what goes on, when I ‘do the doing’, of the projection. A new kind of intimacy is shared and borne, in that vulnerability, the willingness to play the parts and follow the lines through to their conclusion (it is rarely a logical conclusion, at that).

Shadow’s screenplay. An upending and revolution, of shadow. Collectively.


Carey, M, & Russell, S. (2004). Externalising: commonly asked questions.

Denborough, D. (2008). Collective narrative practice: Responding to individuals, groups, and communities who have experienced trauma. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Forman, M.D. (2010) A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy. Albany: Suny Press

Ingersoll, R.E. & Zeitler, D.M. (2010). Integral psychotherapy: Inside-Out/Outside-In. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. NY: W.W. Norton & Company.