Exercise 2 - Lightworks

By Gillian Valladares Castellino

In this post, we use therapeutic photography to work with our shadow self. The information below sets out the context for understanding the process.

Jung believed the unconscious to be the great guide, friend and adviser of the conscious. However it operates differently from the conscious mind. When analysing a subject from the perspective of the conscious mind, we use logic, argue from assumed premises and deduce conclusions. The unconscious mind arrives at an understanding through the use of symbols, repetition, by viewing the same subject repeatedly, each time from a slightly different angle (ie by circling or spiralling around a subject, each time layering on an updated insight) until a full understanding is reached. It is the method of the unconscious mind which I will adopt in this post.

What is a posting on "Lightworks" meant to convey? Light is used as a symbol for higher spiritual planes in a number of religious traditions which refer to the "Divine Light" in different ways e.g the "Light of the Holy Spirit" in Christianity; the concept of a "light body" ie "the most sacred body" and "supracelestial body" in Sufism, the "diamond body" in Taoism and Vajrayana, the "light body" or "rainbow body" in Tibetan Buddhism, the "body of bliss" in Kriya Yoga and the "immortal body" in Hermeticism. Light is also associated with angels. to 'enlighten' or to 'bring to light' are words synonymous with empowerment as opposed to "keeping in the dark" or keeping out of conscious awareness.

In Jungian psychlogy, the shadow or "shadow aspect" may refer to (1) The entire unconscious ie everything of which a person is not fully conscious, or (2) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not recognize in itself, because these aspects of the personality are undesirable. Because of this, the  shadow is largely viewed as containing negative characteristics which we wish to disown. There may also be positive aspects to the shadow (which remain hidden especially in people with low self-esteem). 1


Those aspects of ourselves which we remain unaware of and so cannot 'own' ie our shadows, we tend to project onto other people. These projections insulate and cripple us by forming an even thicker fog of illusion between our egos and the real world.

In this exercise, we use a technique in photo therapy to initiate the projective process and so gain insight into areas of our lives which we normally keep hidden from consciousness.  The projections from our own unconscious help bring to light some aspects of ourselves which need attention at the current moment. In photographing something we objectify it.  The resulting photograph is itself an object.  Through photography we can gain a sense of distance from the subject of our picture. Photography’s therapeutic benefits are linked to its potential for looking and discussing at an arm’s length, through pictures, issues which are difficult or sensitive. It creates distance, perspective and a sense of safety.  In this sense photography can play a protective function.  We can take pictures or talk about pictures that might reflect traumatic or distressing things but stay one step removed by focussing on the picture or the act of photographing rather than the direct emotions. b


In the exercise below, we use relaxation techniques, creative photography and "active imagination". We start by relaxing ourselves, searching around for images of light or "reflections" which take our fancy and either photographing them or collecting them. We then use them as a starting point to examine what our unconscious may want to tell us at this stage.

As with the previous exercise, once we have finished we will try to understand the messages the process has for us. There are no right or wrong answers or  right or wrong way to perform this exercise. This is meant to be a bit of play, a bit of respite from our daily and a bit of fun. What you produce and learn is unique to you. Enjoy the process....

Materials you will need
1. A camera, or magazines or access to the internet
2. A notebook - suggested size A4 or smaller (to carry about with you and use on a daily basis when inspiration strikes)


Steps:
(Ensure that you will be undisturbed for at least 45 minutes when attempting this exercise. Please read all the steps before you begin.)
1. Choose a spot in which to meditate. Make sure that your camera and notebook are laid out in front of you ready for use. Sit in a straight-backed chair. If you wish, you could use candles, aromatherapy or music to relax yourself.
2. In your notebook, write down:
(a) Three words which describe how you are feeling (before beginning the exercise).
(b) Three sentences on why you are doing the exercise.
3. With your feet firmly on the ground and your eyes closed, take a few deep slow breaths. When you feel completely centred and relaxed, open your eyes.
4. If you are using the internet for this exercise:
(a)  Google 'Light' images - save any image that may take your fancy. For examples of what appealed to me, see below:



(b) Google 'Reflection' - my choice below:



(c) If you are using a camera, walk around your environment and photograph "lights" or "reflections" that take your fancy

Here are my 'results'

This is the reflection of the logo on a laptop, as it caught the morning light and was reflected on a wall.



5. For a few minutes, look at the collection of photos concerning light which you have assembled.
6. Notice any thoughts, words, feelings or snatches of music which come to mind. Note them down in your notebook.
7. Write down the words ' light', 'relection', 'shadow' and 'dark':
Now note any three words that come to mind in relation to each of the words  ' light', 'relection', 'shadow' and 'dark'.
8. Set your photos and the notebook aside. Ground yourself. Think of an area of your life that you would like to "throw more light on" - In your notebook, represent it in the form of a sentence or word or scribble or  any image which feels 'right' for you. Think of why you want to do that - note it down. Now think of the first step you would feel comfortable taking towards that purpose. Note it down and put a date against it.
9. Now, write a sentence on how you feel about the process you just went through.
10. Return to your drawing after the date you have noted down has passed. Did you act on your 'goal', if not why not? Note it down along with any feelings which arise in relation to the issue.
What do you feel you have learned by putting yourself through this experience?

Regardless of what personal lessons the process may teach you, putting yourself through the exercise has given you an opportunity to become aware of an archetype known as the shadow. You may revisit this exercise often, generate as many images or photos as you wish in relation to light and shadow and dialogue with them, or note your feelings. In this way, you develop the opportunity for your unconscious to 'speak' to your conscious mind, using the concepts of 'light' and 'shadow' as 'hooks'.

References
Books:
1. Young-Eisendrath, P. and Dawson, T. (1997) The Cambridge Companion to Jung., Cambridge
University Press, pp. 319
2. Jung, C.G. (ed.) (1964) Man and his Symbols, Aldus Books, London, pgs. 72-73.
3. Jung, C.G. (1959) The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, pgs. 20 -41.
URLs:
http://users.rider.edu/~suler/photopsy/psy%20benefits%20of%20photo.pdf
http://www.photovoice.org/html/methodology3tp/therapeuticphotography.htm

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