Sparring with my Shadow Selves

I have always been attracted to Jung’s idea of “shadow” selves. They are pieces of you, your personality, which are hidden in your subconscious. Often explored only in dreams or meditative states, one of the primary goals in life (according to Jung) is to acknowledge and “merge” with your shadows to complete you.

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Over the last several years, I have consciously been journeying towards better self-awareness. I have been able to bring to light many demons which previously only lurked in the shadows (though I am sure there continue to be more aspects of me which are hidden deep within somewhere). One obvious outcome of my journey so far is my conscious awareness of the many personalities that all spar amongst themselves to have primary control of my brain.

Since they’re not really in the “shadow” anymore, but not quite “merged” with what I call me either, I’ll call them alternate selves.

Right now, my two dominant alternate selves are (#1) the one who pushes me on to complete the last leg of my Ph.D. and find a job to move on to, and (#2) the one who implores me to slow down and just take a break.

I’d say #1 is usually more often in control than #2, because I identify with its viewpoint as the more rational one. The last semester is expected to be busy and a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve just gotta buckle up for the ride and stick it through, and deal with the consequences later. Self #2 kicks in on the not-so-good days and reminds me what those consequences feel like, why I need to slow down a bit, delay graduation if I need to. Self #1 tells me that is hardly an option now – the balls have already started to roll for an August graduation. Self #2 points out that yes, but it is not 100% official yet! Self #1 is driving me to find jobs, because I still want a career (though maybe not the one I had originally planned on). Self #2 is asking that I give myself a little rest break in between, it will do my body good. Self #1, however, retaliates with the knowledge that if I get too cozy feeling “good,” I will probably never want to go back for a postdoc training, and it will be that much the harder for me to go back to doing any kind of a (semi-)structured job. Of course, self #2 wonders what’s the point of doing anything at all if you’re going to be miserable while engaged in it!

My current compromise is to yield to self #1 in that yes, that graduation in August is probably happening. That means I will have to push through this semester to have the current project completed and submitted for publication within the next couple of months. But, I give in to self #2 in that I will cut myself some slack on how I handle the actual dissertation and not kill myself over it. I have to concur with self #1 that if I take a break now, I will probably never want to return to working the type of jobs I take pride in now. Any physical benefits I reap from the extra rest will probably be nullified by the mental strain I will most definitely be in as I lie around moping over wasting my life and intellect and education. Still, I made a pact with self #2 that if I do not get a job that I feel good about, I will take a break and start searching again next semester instead of just compromising for any ole thing that pays the bills. I am fortunate in that my husband can support me financially for a little while if it comes to that. So despite the financial strain that it will inevitably be, I will keep that as a viable fall-back option.

For now, my refereeing has silenced my two selves into some kind of truce. But I do not see this lasting long. As I take another turn on this roller-coaster ride, I know they will start to bicker again. And there is little I foresee in the immediate future that will contend them both. I guess I’ll just wait in the shadows until quieter times!



3 thoughts on “Sparring with my Shadow Selves

  1. Hope you find the right answers. It is so tricky when there are no right answers to such a conundrum. Sometimes we have to decide with the limited information we have – we cannot really see how something will play out in the future (the complete future!). And sometimes some of those choices don’t work out so well, while others do… We do not willingly choose to “downgrade” ourselves and leave behind something we have worked so hard for or something that we love. The “concept of success” also plays a role. We would not tend to willingly choose an option that is apparently less lucrative or prestigious in some aspect and almost equal in all other aspects. It is only later we find out things like a bad or good work place environment or stress levels or such things about a particular lab or group. And sometimes of course, the choice is completely taken away from us, or many options are eliminated, by an extreme event, like a war, family tragedy, recession or ill health. August is just a few months away, I am hopeful, everything will turn out fine and in time. And after that, it is actually a fun time for a couple of years, when you can explore without getting tied down with commitments (but finding a date can be tough at times) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful response. I always appreciate your perspective on my thoughts and musings, and value them immensely. Of course, I agree completely! We never know how things are going to turn out in the long run. I always keep reminding myself of the “good thing, bad thing, who knows?” ( story. And I have experienced events where what seems like a not so good circumstance at first, turn out for the best later on. So I try to keep an open mind about what is about to come next. In some ways, I would love to move on to a famous lab in a big, well-known university, and be “successful.” But I would not want to do it at the expense of my health and family relationships, which I have come to value a lot more since getting sick. That’s the tough part, because as you said, it’s hard to know what a lab is *really* like until you’re already knee-deep in it! So for now, I have decided to go with my gut distinct. If I have a good feeling about something, regardless of how it seems analytically, I think I will go with that. It has served me well in the past so I hope it won’t let me down in the future. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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