Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Body as Shadow

The concept comes from the book of the same name: "Jung and Reich, the Body as Shadow" by Joseph Conger. So what does it mean, the body as shadow? First of all what Conger's does is put together Reichian therapy, centered on the body, with Jungian concepts of the unconscious, that take a little explaining.

Reich believed that there were three levels in the human psyche. The first was the surface self or ego, the second was the level of repression dominated by character armor, and the third was the core self. Jung's ideas can be similarly divided into three areas, although the overall structure is more complex. The first layer for Jung is the Persona, which is the face that we show the world. The second layer is the Shadow, the parts of ourselves that we repress because their nature is perceived to threaten the day to day consciousness, and the third layer is the collective unconscious, the repository both of the real self and of the realm of positive archetypal ideas about the world.

In Reich specifically, the inhibitions of the second layer are literally embodied in our muscles, that hold neuroses within them in the form of muscular tension that never fully dissipates. That tension is also thought to distort the flow of biological energy around the body. Conger makes the equivalence between the world of character armor and the world of the Shadow, saying that that the two concepts refer to the same underlying reality, which is interesting not just in itself but also because Jung's ideas are often accused of having no anchor in the real world, as being abstractions floating out there. If the Shadow can be anchored in musculature, at least partially, this could lead to the Jungian concept being taken out of the stratosphere and into reality.


Not only is the concept of the body as Shadow interesting, but the equivalency between the third layers, between the orgonomic core or core self and the collective unconscious, is fascinating as well. In Jung this realm is a realm of purity beyond the negativity of the Shadow and our neuroses where the mythic archetypes that we use to live our lives and think about ourselves live, a sort of repository of meaning . It's where the true, positive, features of the Self, with a big 'S', exist in and forms the undergirding of our world. Reich's formulation the orgonomic core is also a repository of the true self, the inner self that exists in harmony with the nature of the body and with the natural flow of orgonomic life force in both the outside world and in the universe at large, in a sort of sea of energy. It exists below the level of character armoring and nihilism, that Reich associated with Nietzsche's evaluation of humanity. Both conceptions reference the true self as something hidden within us that has to be discovered and brought to the surface. Maybe the archetypes hook up with the field of orgone in some way, shape, or form or are present in some way in a physical collective unconscious that's based on energetic forms?

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