Talking About Our Shadow by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley
NS: “Immigration” has become an issue in the UK with the rise of the UK Independence Party, and with an apparent contest between the political parties to be the toughest on immigration. But what does this mean? And this anxiety, fear and sometimes hysteria about immigration is nothing new, is it? In some form or other it seems that “immigration” is an issue in most parts of the world. What is this really about?
RJR: I would say it is about our ‘shadow’. All our emotions, our lost parts of ourselves that we are repressing, we project on to ‘immigrants’ who we see are the predators who are out to get us and threaten our security.
NS: Do we do this only to immigrants? Do we not do this to a degree to other people generally? Or is it somehow easier – and more “acceptable” – to do it in relation to immigrants, since it can be dressed up in some sort of rationale about taking away employment opportunities and/or being a drain on public services?
RJR: I agree with all you have said. I believe we do this generally but when it comes to immigrants, people can feel it is justified because ‘they’ are taking from ‘us’.
NS: But what is the barrier to our seeing everyone as human beings like ourselves. Do we have an innate fear of anyone who is not ‘us’? Do we think these ‘others’ are evil in some way? I think what I’m getting at is: is this perhaps the most fundamental human problem – our inability to accept others, and work together for the common good?
RJR: I do think we have an innate fear of anyone who is not ourselves. I think that without that fear response built into our brains, we would not have been able to survive and thrive as we have in this world. We are all capable of all behaviours and emotions but I think it is easier to identify evil in others than own it ourselves. I think it is not just a problem that we don’t accept others – I think we don’t accept ourselves.
NS: So the immigrants really are a scapegoat – for ourselves? We identify in them the things that we hate about ourselves – but can’t bring ourselves to acknowledge that those things are within us? My feeling is that you are right about this. So is the solution (if there is one) to accept our shortcomings – and our ability to behave badly?
RJR: I think the solution is to accept that we are all capable of all emotions and behaviours, on a 360 degrees spectrum. And the more we accept ourselves and acknowledge all parts of ourselves and in particular the many feelings we put into our shadow, the more likely we will be able to own those feelings. And in turn we will all individually take more responsibility and blame others less, and feel the universal connectedness that is within and without us. The more self aware and spiritual we become, the more able we are to see another as one of our own.
NS: I don’t want to get sidetracked into a discussion of religion. But it is interesting that some of the most intense intolerance is religion-based, eg Christian antipathy to Muslims – and Muslim antipathy to Christians. What you have said seems to be wise and full of sense. So is “immigration” an issue in the UK and in many, many other countries because those countries (and their peoples) are so lacking in self-awareness and spirituality? And if that is the case, what hope or way forward is there?
RJR: I wish I could answer that question!! I also wonder if it is just about religion. The comments I hear from people are usually on what we highlighted at the start of this dialogue…. that immigrants will take from us. I think it boils down to fear and I think people are quite attached to that emotion…. what do you think?
NS: I think fear pervades our thinking far more than we are willing to acknowledge. And some of that fear – as you have suggested – is fear of our own shadow selves, which we project onto others. So perhaps our fear and antipathy towards the ‘immigrant’ is not fear of ‘the other’ but fear of our real selves.