5. Shadow and Projection

Summary of perception

We are often asleep in our perception.
We are conditioned to see things in a certain way.
Our emotions are shaped in part by culture and society’s expectations.
Past experiences influence our perception.
We can’t always have access to objective reality.

“We must become actors of our perception, not remain a passive audience as though we are not involved.” (Joseph Chilton Pearce, 2003, p. 119)

Q: Can we awaken in the activity of perception and free ourselves from automatic habits and programming?

The MATRIX training program:

What is real? It can be seen that people are plugged in and are conditioned. So, many may be in illusion about freedom or can’t access an actual objective reality. The Matrix is like a simulation and it provides a certain view collectively shared by those who are in it.

Morpheus has Neo go through the training program. Neo learns to overcome the conditioning of the mind. Morpheus tries to help Neo reprogram his mind, to free himself from assumptions and belief systems he acquired from a society.

“Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? …” “Don’t think you are, know you are… Stop trying to hit me and hit me”

Key questions

What is he saying? What’s the difference between thinking and knowing? What are the keys available in our lives to free our minds?

Tapping into the unconscious mind and its power

Remember the iceberg, how our unconscious has a tremendous influence, considering how small the conscious portion of our mind is. We are in many ways governed by our unconscious beliefs.

In order for us to change our actions, we need to change our unconscious programming. For this, we need to speak to the unconscious. What is the language that can reach the unconscious?

Morpheus said, “Don’t think you are, know you are”. This is a way to bring ourselves to a state where we can feel as if we have achieved the results that we want. In Neo’s case, instead of trying to be faster, he simply needed to feel he already is faster.

In this scenario, the unconscious moves one into this new reality and helps make changes in ones behavior. Perhaps we can unleash our potential more effectively by channeling this power of the unconscious. Don’t try to make it happen. Just create the intention and step back and see what happens.

Creating a new path – emotions that override and change

The unconscious cannot distinguish what you are experiencing now or in your past experience. We often repeat the same trauma and conditioned patterns. Ex: If you failed an exam and now feel upset -the unconscious remembers that failure.

In order to access the unconscious, one has to use a different language than rational thought. The language of the unconscious is mostly images, emotions and stories. One way of working with this is to use positive commands and repeat them.

Positive commands and repetition (ex. If you want to overcome anxiety, instead of saying ‘I am less anxious’, say ‘I am confident’.

Question: (if you want to lose weight, say I am eating healthy foods rather than I don’t want to eat sweets etc). Intention allows us to create any reality that we want. Instead of thinking about it, one can know and act as if you already achieved the state you are aiming for (as if you are already strong and capable).

This is a kind of self-hypnosis that cancreate a certain openness in one’s mind. Relax, but still be inwardly active. Without trying too hard create intention, but at the same time maintain focus. Attain a balance between the conscious and the unconscious.


Review: Jung’s structure of psyche

Ego, personality

• Most tend to suppress what we don’t want to look at about ourselves. Where do we put this content? – into personal unconscious.

• Once we completely forgot this content, this can grow. It then gains its own life, with emotions and psychic energy. This is called one’s shadow.

Carl Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” (Storr, 1983, p. 88).

Shadow – everything that is not in consciousness or is filtered out (culture can tend to function as a filter)
This is the negative side of a personality or attributes that one may condemn or wish they don’t possess.

We tend to repress aspects of ourselves that are not favorable to us. These shadows are something that we neglect or reject. They can haunt us, wanting to be brought to consciousness. Judgment of others indicates particular aspects of one’s shadow. The shadow does not only have negative aspects. It also has positive ones. (persona- self-image)

“Persona and soul-image stand in a compensatory relation to one another; the more rigidly the mask, the persona, cuts off the individual from his natural, instinctual life, the more archaic, undifferentiated, and powerful becomes the soul-image” (Jacobi, 1967, p. 120). Once we completely forget repressed content, this material grows and gains its own life, with emotions and psychic energy. This is called the shadow.

Anima and Animus- soul image

Now we look at soul images that one would encounter at the second stage of the individuation process. Jung described how within every man there is a female called Anima. And, within every female resides a male element called Animus. But this opposite sex within is not so much biologically related, but has more to do with one’s unconscious identification with attributes of each.

“It represents the image of the other sex that we carry in us as individuals and also as a member of a species” (Jacobi, 1967, p. 114). “We choose, we become attached to, someone who represents qualities of our own psyche” (p. 115).


Jung described how the shadow is experienced in projection upon an object outside us. This often happens without our knowledge.

Flow of energy

Projection is emotionally charged. Something triggers us.

Fall in love – Lose objectivity about someone. A couple often can say a bit later; you are not what I thought you were! We often tend to project upon others our own traits, some of which we don’t want to look at. ‘Every judgment you make of others is about yourself’

Idealization – delusory, overvaluation and admiration of an object. Projection is a function of the unconscious. Projection often occurs without conscious awareness.

What does projection do?

• It can keep a person unfree; prevents one from seeing what is repressed and protects their persona or self-image.

• It defines and fixates us into each other’s desired images.

• By doing so, we deny ourselves as a being that engages in this constant process of becoming.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Jung

Confrontation with Shadow – Access to objective reality

Individuation requires us to become more aware of processes in our thoughts, perception and emotions. As a part of the individuation process, we meet shadows – and a need to withdraw projection.

Defense mechanism

Anytime we try to wake up, we often experience an unconscious defense. Ex: When Emma tries to free herself from this projection, the one who does the projecting defends him or herself in most cases against correction. When his projection is challenged, he can fall into depression, because the psychic energy he invested in has not flowed back and is now being cut off.

Plugged in – The Matrix as a system of unconscious defense, preventing us from gaining self-knowledge. This battle for freedom vs. determinism is enacted within psychology. As psychology became a science, the idea of free will was taken out. For instance, B.F. Skinner argued that free will is an illusion. You can see the same mentality in Agent Smith in The Matrix.

The Matrix exercise

The Matrix is a system of control, similar to B. F. Skinner’s idea of designating culture through a technology of behavior. In the film, the character of Agent Smith can be seen as one that works as an agent for an extreme application of behavioral science.

As a reaction to Skinner’s effort toward behavioral control, humanistic psychologists like Carl Rogers came forward to oppose this idea. Rogers advocated for free will and man’s capacity to make a subjective choice.

Rogers brought the following concepts:

  • Man as a self-actualizing process of becoming.
  • The importance of processes, instead of an end goal.
  1. Find a character in the Matrix that guards the space for free will. You might find several, but identify one that most embodies this quality in the film.
  1. Find quotes and scenes in the film (within the Matrix script book) that helped you determine this.

Agent Smith (Skinner’s Words):

“Mr. Anderson, ‘we are what we are because of our history. We like to believe we can choose, we can act… but I don’t believe a person is either free or responsible. The autonomous human being is an illusion; the good person is one who has been conditioned to behave that way, and the good society would be one based on the Matrix—the scientific control of behavior with methods of positive reinforcement.”

Who was the psychologist that opposed Skinner’s idea of behavioral control?

Oracle – Keep this space for conscious choice open. This was also living in Morpheus allowing Neo to choose between the red pill and blue pill, between Thomas Anderson and becoming the One.


Franz, M.-L.von. (1980). Projection and re-collection in Jungian psychology: Reflections of the soul. (W. H. Kennedy, Trans.). Illinois: Open Court. (Original work published 1978)
Hunt, M. (1993). The story of psychology. New York, NY: DOUBLEDAY.
Jacobi, J. (1967). The psychology of C. G. Jung: An introduction with illustrations. (R. Manheim, Trans.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. (Original work published 1942)
Pearce, J. C. (2003). Spiritual initiation and the breakthrough of consciousness. Vermont: Park Street Press. (Original work published 1981)
Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden two. New York: Macmillan.
Storr, A. (1983). The essential Jung. New York, NY: MJF Books.
Wachowski, A. (Writer/Director), & Wachowski, L. (Writer/Director). (1999). The Matrix. [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Brothers.

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