One of Carl Jung's great contributions to the understanding of the human psyche is the nature of psychological shadow. For every constructive "sunlit" part of our psyche — qualities such as kindness, generosity, discipline, and achievement — there will always be an equally destructive, or shadow, part. You may give a stellar performance of creative genius, then walk offstage and feel crushed by loneliness. You may go to temple to pray and offer alms to the poor, then later shout angrily at the waiter who takes too long to serve you. You may rise in your career as an exemplar of your field, all the while neglecting family and emotional depth. No matter how "good" we try to live our lives, an equal shadow part will stalk us and appear in our abusive thoughts and actions, depressed emotions, chronic health problems, crippling nightmares, and unconsciously created accidents. The seesaw of good and bad, civilized and uncivilized, light and shadow, is always and inexorably seeking balance.
As Jungian analyst and writer Robert Johnson points out, we are always whole, whether we want it or not, whether we see it or not. Our choice is to either consciously and creatively engage our shadow through ritual and play, or allow our shadow to play us.
It's not that the shadow is some kind of scary antagonist that we have to be guarded against, but that it is us and is "shadow" merely because we are choosing to mask it, to relegate our uncivilized qualities to an unacknowledged psyche-closet, where they fester as our secret shame, guilt, and victimization. Healing occurs when we choose to open those closet doors, engage with those cut-off parts of ourselves, and learn to embrace and even dance with them. What we ultimately find is that our shadow is full of riches and vitality, that it is not "evil" but it is "dark", meaning mysterious, magical, intuitive and deeply nurturing.
Astrologers link Pluto with Jung's concept of shadow, referring to the deep passions and existential urges and fears that drive us from the level of Freud's "id". Pluto is also connected to a deep transformation that occurs when we have no choice but to face these untamed powers, realizing that our small, rational, separated ego mind is no match for the seismic flows of the oceanic, non-rational, and ultimately unifying powers of the deep psyche.
Today the world is wrestling with its collective shadow. This is particularly true for the United States, now in its Pluto Return. For all the good that America has done and created, it has always maintained a largely unacknowledged shadow, expressed in systemic racism, burglary of foreign resources, and terrorism against countries far poorer than itself. The US has proved itself as both a great defender of human rights and one of its worst abusers. As it has raced to become the richest country in the world it has imprisoned many of its poorest people in a deliberate system of mass incarceration. America is a showcase of extreme polarization and the tension has become untenable.