About the Shadow

Jung said: “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is essential for any kind of self-knowledge.” The contents of the shadow have an ‘emotional’ nature and a possessive quality. With insight and goodwill it can be assimilated to some extent. However, some shadow features offer considerable resistance, and are bound up with projections: the cause of the problem lies no doubt in the other person.(1)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons,
Monk Talking to an Old Woman by Goya.

Crime writer Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) is said to be the best-selling fiction writer of all time. (2) In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, she depicted a hated old man, murdered in his own mansion, surrounded by his family. He could be described as a cut-throat, and his murderer cut his throat. (3) The complex centred around hatred, shadow content during Christmas family time, consciously masked as love. In the final resolution, detective Hercule Poirot as Christie’s animus, unmasked the murderer, but pointed out that every member of the family could have committed this most hideous crime.

The projection-making factor is the animus in woman, the anima in man. To the extent that the shadow is not made conscious, it falls on the animus/a which has a much deeper archetypal foundation.(1) ‘To shoot’ someone is to project. It is ‘killing’, for the other person is not seen or heard, not allowed to be; s/he is ‘annihilated’.

In Curtain, Poirot’s last case, he returns to the scene of his first case, himself old and frail. A sense of impending doom manifests as murder, then suicide. Poirot dies shortly afterwards in moral agony, of a heart attack. In a last letter to a friend, he confessed that he had assassinated the ‘suicide case’, who had manipulated several victims into committing murder; he identified with archetypal power.

To be confronted by archetypal shadow is most difficult. (1) Some form of active imagination, or creative work, may allow one to experience one’s own archetypal depths, and to come to terms with those parts of our personalities that we would not allow anybody else to show us. (4)


  1. Aion, par 14 – 16
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, novel by Agatha Christie
  4. CW 14 par 706