Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Good People Do Bad Things: Book Review

One of my favorite author/teachers of Jungian psychology is James Hollis. I've written about his work in a previous post and just finished a review of his most recent book. Here's the full text of the review to be published in the September issue of Springfield Connection:

Why Good People Do Bad Things by James Hollis

By Todd Peterson

“We will never experience healing until we come to love our unlovable places, for they, too, ask love of us.” – James Hollis

Jungian analyst and author James Hollis has been a regular visitor to our area, presenting lectures and workshops on the human psyche. I attended his lecture last year which focused on the content of his book, Why Good People Do Bad Things.

My interest in Hollis’ subject began year’s ago when I worked as a counselor in private practice. One of the concepts of analytical psychology that I found most useful was Jung’s idea of the “Shadow.” In my experience, accepting and understanding one’s personal shadow is crucial to gaining the self-knowledge needed to change behavior and live a conscious life.

Hollis defines the Shadow as “composed of all those aspects of ourselves that have a tendency to make us uncomfortable with ourselves. The Shadow is not just what is unconscious, it is what discomforts the sense of self we wish to have.”

Learning about our personal shadow is important because “what is not made conscious will continue to haunt our lives – and the world. In our short transit on this earth, there is more within each of us than we can ever make conscious and assimilate. And yet our quality of life is a direct function of the level of awareness we bring to our daily choices.”

Hollis offers seven questions for doing shadow work in one’s personal life. Among my favorites are: What annoys you most about your partner, or others in general? And, what are the key patterns in your relationships? That is to say, where do Shadow issues manifest in patterns of avoidance, aggression, or repetition? Both of these questions quickly reveal aspects of your personal shadow which, when made conscious, allow you to make different choices in your life.

Along with the personal shadow and how it affects our intimate relationships, Hollis explores the larger Shadow present in our culture – in organizations, corporations, religion, and history. His analysis offers insights into why human history has been so bloody with wars, so repetitive, so self-defeating, and so full of suffering and injustice.

For anyone who wants to better understand human behavior, Why Good People Do Bad Things offers wisdom for bringing greater awareness to the conduct of one’s life and for making a contribution to the healing of the world. ______________________________________________________________________________________

James Hollis will present an evening lecture on Friday, October 3 at 7:00 pm in Room 175 of the U Of O Knight Law School at 15th & Agate. His topic is "Spectral Visitors: The Mystery of Dreams and their Role in the Conduct of Life". General admission is $10, payable at the door. He will conduct an all-day workshop on the same topic the next day at the Sacred Heart Hospital auditorium. The workshop starts at 9:00 AM (registration at 8:30 am). General admission is $75.

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