An archetype is a universal pattern of human existence. For example, every human being has a biological mother and father that is a versatile pattern, an archetype for human beings. When it comes to caring for a child, depending on how successful the mother and father are, the closer they come to represent the archetypal or ideal mother and father.
These archetypes are ones that occur externally. What about the archetypes that appear internally?
The most accessible of the inner archetypes is the Shadow. It is easy to access once one accepts that human beings are imperfect and can have negative qualities. All of those contents about oneself that one doesn’t like to fall into the Shadow.
The Shadow occupies our psyche’s unconscious realm, while not all unconscious contents are shadow contents like positive memories. One might recall most remain unconscious because they are challenging to integrate into one’s conscious being. It’s relevant to bring up again for the ego to grow in consciousness. It needs to integrate unconscious contents and bring them under its control. This integration is called the confrontation with the Shadow. in successful cases, a human being will recognize a certain negative quality about themselves and either destroy that quality or control it so that the quality doesn’t negatively impact their lives in unsuccessful cases.
Two things might happen. The Shadow can subsume the ego and bring it under its control. The person then becomes an avatar of the Shadow and will do its evil bidding.
An excellent example of the Shadow possessing the ego occurs in the film Apocalypse Now. The character of Colonel Kurtz, the main antagonist of the film, goes from being a decorated officer in the U.S. Army to a man that will decapitate those who displease him. The assimilation of the ego to the Shadow is one thing that can happen during the confrontation with the Shadow.
If the ego isn’t assimilated right away or only partially, the outside world will mirror one’s Shadow. Now, what does this mean? Imagine a person that doesn’t succeed well in social situations. That inability to socialize would be a negative quality that the person tries to suppress inside their Shadow.
This suppression’s natural consequences will be its projection onto one’s environment every time that socially awkward person sees people engaged in conversation. They will become resentful and bitter. They will wonder why the world is so hateful why people are so terrible and unaccepting of them.
If they were to overcome this pitiful state, they might ask how they might be contributing to the problem of how their lack of personality or empathy might cause people to shy away. Until this happens, however, the Shadow will continue its projections indefinitely.
The Shadow is a sort of general term that encompasses a large number of unconscious contents. There are specific sections of the Shadow that belong to particular archetypes. Two of those unconscious archetypes are the anima and the animus.