A great example of the character transformation process in the individual can best be demonstrated in the stories and movies of the superhero protagonist. I watched a trailer last week of the movie, Venom. Within the three minute peak, there was an accurate depiction of the process of the emergence that takes place during an essential change of personal character. In the trailer, the main character is a weak, plain, uptight soft spoken man in his mid 30s. He appears to be a pushover who gets lost in the overwhelming surroundings of circumstances and people. There seems to be an untold process underway that screams a necessary change must take place within the personality of the person or the character will never emancipate himself from the grips of passivity and victimization. This change manifests itself into the unexpected “repossessing of the soul” in the form of an indestructible god-like serpent that strives to take complete control of the character’s actions. In the clip, giant tentacles involuntarily break loose from the protagonist’s body, pummeling and subduing the “bad guys.” Through it all, the character demonstrates a loss of control, helplessly pleading to the entity within for a share in control, to which the monster replies something like “we do what we want, is that a deal?” I have to admit that I haven’t watched the movie, but I can take a chance of predicting that the weak character progressively comes to terms with the unknown monster within him, he learns to live with it, possibly destroying or integrating it into his weaker known traits, and utilizes “the shadow” to conquer the opposing evil in the external world.
The process of transformation often takes place in multidimensional phases, sometimes occurring with or without our knowledge- but our knowledge greatly influences the kind of path it takes. First, there is an unrecognized knowledge of the dark powerful traits of our personality. We carry through life wearing a mask (the persona) and living by shoulds or over-identifying with passivity or timidness. Then, the suppression of the powerful impulses emerge into waking consciousness seeking existence due to constant repression. These are the unidentified parts often taking a primitive form of expression and can create many disturbances and chaos in daily life. This is where destructive behaviors form. These forms have the ability to annihilate the individual without proper integration into awareness. Lastly, given the level of insight and willingness, the individual confronts the shadow, becomes knowledgeable of its tricks, intentions, and desires, and through effort and self reflection properly merges the shadow into the light of awareness. Without this awareness and work, the shadow becomes a fully independent, overpowering force calling the shots in the host’s life.
This process which takes place in the human psyche is as real and evident as the external world. A suppressed shadow will seek expression with or without consent of the individual. It is better to perceive and confront a lurking enemy than to pretend he is not there at all. Embracing these monsters inside of us enables us to properly handle the monsters without.