The Body as Shadow: the dark side of bioenergetics



Standing in the sun

Fed, coloured, warmed and revealed the same

But casting different shadows


Some jab spikily at the world, testing for accuracy and thorns. Vigilant eyes in naked skulls frisk you for weapons, anticipating hurt you could never imagine. For imagining is what they do: stretching their minds to the edges of the universe, abstracting themselves to utter detachment. Here, only thoughts of death will satisfy their itchy brains, full of scorpions and magic. Enchanted by the abyss, they laugh freely: a tinny rattling laugh that does not invite participation.

They are magic, like elves, reptilian, occasionally cruel. They feel the future and smell atmospheres. Nature is interrogated for her fundamental truths. The nursery tales that govern us are disdained. Like delighted fox cubs, they yip nervously, tugging science from the buffet of human noise like scraps of chicken from a carcass. Information is the preferred nourishment for their angular, fleshless bodies, vulnerable to the elements. These calcified limbs contain none of their souls. All essence is housed behind the eyes, behind barbed-wire principles and barricade smiles. Their fractured selves are gathered in the neo-cortex.

When shadows fall and their cold bones ache, they hate life. Corporeal filth and the stench of human living offend their raw spirits. They despise anything that is not sterile; hate everything that stinks of mammalian glands.

But expose these mystical creatures to the winter sun and they will love you with a thin purity. Their cold touch will sever your heart into fractal shards, each containing the whole truth of you. Approach them carefully, keep your voice low and make no sudden movements. They will come to you, intrigued by your curiosity, bearing gifts of clean glass through which they will allow themselves to be seen.


Forget not the beautiful people: speaking beauty, being beautiful and beautifying others. Long, thin moisturised fingers ease open the cracks in your skin to draw anacliticly of your energy; suckling your attention. You hold them up, taking their slight weight on your arm, blithely convinced that they are the ones giving. With melodic words, they remind you that your life is merrier and sunnier than you, you bovine beast, have the acuity to notice.

An ocean of need swims in those doe eyes; eyes that would shame an infant. Do not turn away. Their limp bodies hang off those eyes; held up by the emotions of others; poised to collapse should the observer blink. While they drip off your neck, they will regale you with borrowed tales, mimicked witticisms and rehearsed vulnerability. Who else would do this work, this childish labour? What other hands could delicately sew our riven spirits back together; who else’s lips would kiss strawberry balm into our wounds; or minister to our shadows with such reliable addiction? No one else, no one, bar these poets, could make such art from our pain.

So look at them, damn it! Don’t leave them dangling, wondering if you, in your wholeness, will abandon them too. For if your back remains turned, you leave them no choice. They will seduce you with their sweetest honey then, when you need it most, pluck the spoon from your lips.

Applaud their drama; give them your vulnerability; listen to their lullabies. Open your chest so they can glimpse your beating heart. The gift of all of you, all of the time, might just be enough to keep them singing their pretty songs.


Power is the beginning and the end of all things to some. They live in a world of meridians, where status and influence move visibly between giants. They monitor the pulses for where the forces aggregate, then small unloved legs transport these large fused torsos to the trading point. There, they jostle with others to see what schemes can be negotiated. Waddling back to their devotees, the gleaned scraps are distributed amongst the most loyal with magnificent tales of banquets to come.

Charisma is their choice of weapon. Erudite fellows and coiffured ladies hide their stilettoes behind slipper-warm invitations to sit by the fire. Your peccadilloes are foppishly dismissed as rascality then filed alphabetically. They look past your face, to the skull and learn its agenda; then promise it all for the cost of friendship. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Their backs are huge. If your loyalty endures the tests, they will take you to the top, regardless of merit; one step behind them, close enough with the others who constitute the front line of bullet-fire-defence.

Only one power confounds them. Innocence. Nothing to forgive, cover or use; how does one bring these people to heel? They know. They’ve known since the woman, the man and the apple. If the need arises and exposure is imminent, they will corrupt. Staining the clean white sheet, they will tell you that this is how you bring young into the world.

Should they offer you the sceptre, bow but keep your eye on the hand in their pocket. Point out their magnificence, refer to their heroic victories and say too much. Then, when you face a war or a famine, they will invent a world in which you win; a world in which they rule.


Who is that at the back? The ones hiding their tight fitting cardigans behind the crowd; smiling with just their mouths, heads full of all the jobs that could be getting done. Burdened eyes in soft faces seek out opportunities for pre-emptive compliance; stubbornly paying for coffees, texting the final thanks and deferring all praise onto less deserving recipients. As they press us to eat more, one could assume that they enjoy serving. For that is what they tell us, barefaced, blushing. “Never happier than when I have a job to do. Here, let me take that for you! I like to be busy, to be good, to be acceptable, to be in contr.., to look after people.”

Families and villages are held together by the thick hands of these bustling mums and stoic fathers. Their brittle tolerance makes sure the rules are obeyed, the fringe people are brought in for the winter and the lazy are given jobs to do. They radiate heat: spitting sweat from their internal conflict, from the part that yearns to be free, to be foolish, to smear shit on the walls. But your thanks, which they dismiss, your kindness, which makes them cry and your approval, which gives them licence, will keep them digging away at the hard soil.

What weapon could these pastoral, salt-of-the-earth carers possibly have use of? Do not be fooled. They have the worst: one that dethrones kings. They have submissive victories. It is impervious to counter attack because you asked for it. You bound them to your need and justified their resentment. You must now inhale gas from their tired sighs that smell of your selfishness and ingratitude. Receive their undeclared accusation for you are offered nothing to defend yourself against; any struggle wraps you tighter in your own web.

There is one hope, if you mean it more than you’ve ever meant anything. It sounds like, “sorry” but what it really says is, “Here, have control back. I was wrong to take it.” They will sniff and nod to your place at their clothed table. You may now cut yourself a slice of doughy oven-warm bread: a sedative and a reminder that things are nicer when mum and dad are in charge.


Who is that in front: muscly buttocks, pounding, climbing the hill? They glance back to check if you are useful, capable or attractive; otherwise, their eye is on the prize. Pass them in the race and you will be judged, appraised with reductive eyes. If you are found wanting, they run on. If they see talent, they see a brother or a sister or maybe just themselves. You are enrolled in the exclusive language of achievement: tactics, goals, ambition, winks, nicknames and arm punches. Life is a sports pitch and all conversations are team-talks.

Assessing their trophy cabinet, they notice the gaps on the shelves. Medals and cups won’t fill these spaces. They need photos of lovers and a band of brothers. Catching their solitary reflection in the glass, they see the truth; they know that this conquest only happens through submission. Their jaw slackens, eyes blur and a wound opens up across their chest. What if they give in; what if they commit to love and are rejected? “Shame and annihilation,” say the echoes from childhood. It is safer to zip up the body suit, jut the chin and win more gold.

When their hearts petrify into rocks, they cast deep, blinding shadows. Gorges form between love and sex, love and strength, love and adventure. Severing the world in order to defeat it (or screw it) others are blamed for weakness. Vulnerability meets with disgust. Every breath is an intimidation until the losers stop trying to sit at their table.

But should they find a match, who is honest, brave and, above all, capable, they submit. If they are offered the miracle of love and freedom, they kneel and remove the breastplate. Head bowed and eyes squeezed shut, they present their own bleeding paradox. On a trembling outstretched hand is their most defended possession, yet the one they most long to surrender: their pristine, thumping, frightened heart of flesh.

‘90% of the shadow is pure gold.’
Carl Gustav Jung