Bonfire Night, Al-Qaeda and collective shadows

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Today, the 5th November, it’s bonfire night typically celebrated in the UK as an annual event dedicated to bonfires, fireworks and celebrations. It is also associated with the tradition of celebrating the failure of Guy Fawkes’ actions on the 5th November 1605. Nowadays, bonfire night’s sectarian significance has mostly disappeared, it is now usually just a night of revelry with a bonfire and fireworks, although occasionally an effigy on Guy Fawkes is still burned on the fire.

Guy Fawkes – a short history

So who exactly is this Guy Fawkes character and why is he historically important?

On 5 November 1605, Guy Fawkes a member of the Gunpowder plot was arrested while guarding explosives plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords with the intention of killing King James 1. Fawkes, a stanch Catholic and his fellow plotters, planned to assassinate Protestant, King James 1, in order to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

A bit of biographical background, like myself and Henry VII1, Fawkes is from Yorkshire, except he was born and educated in York and I wasn’t and I don’t plan to blow up the House of Parliament like him. His father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married a recusant Catholic. Fawkes later converted to Catholicism and left for the continent, where he fought in the Eighty Year’s War on the side of Catholic Spain against Protestant Dutch reformers. He travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England but was unsuccessful.

Given his childhood experiences there may be various reasons why Fawkes decided to commit such an evil act, however, I just want to focus on one potential underlying psychological reason, Carl Jung’s theory, “collective shadow.”

Collective Shadows

For those of you who read my last blog you will recall me talking about individual shadows. A short recap, according to Carl Jung, the shadow alias “the other side” is an archetype, meaning that it exists in all of us. The shadow contains everything denied and despised, everything considered sinful and everything we find awkward or unnerving. Key negative emotions often pushed into the shadow include rage, jealousy, shame, lying, resentment, lust, greed, suicidal/murderous tendencies and so forth. Positive shadow traits encompass infantile parts, emotional attachments, neurotic symptoms, underdeveloped talents and gifts.

What’s this so called “collective shadow” then? To help you understand this,  in non-psychobabble speak hopefully, let me firstly define the word projection. This is a psychological term to describe aspects of ourselves that we have pushed out of consciousness or have not yet become conscious of, which we tend to attribute to others. Simplistically, this means that we rely on other people to carry the projection for us, specifically, to be what we think they are. Shadows are often categorised as mechanisms we use to express our unconscious projections. Since some of us will deny or ignore our shadow side, it is likely that we will project it onto others. Some unconscious projections from the shadow whose recognition meets the most obstinate resistance generally prove almost impossible to influence.  Instead of acknowledging their shadow some people will unconsciously see it in people they encounter or even concepts, objects, ethics or groups. For example, some people may find that they despise certain characteristics of a specific person for no apparent reason. Where this hatred is emotionally obsessive, an irritation or an overreaction, where the emotions take control whenever this person is in close proximity, then it is likely they have stumbled upon parts of their own shadow. Given that it is unconscious, we are only acquainted with it indirectly. Quintessential representations of group shadow projection are scapegoating and the Nazi’s intensive hatred towards the Jews and more recently, today’s militant Islamist group Al-Quaeda projecting their hatred on to those of us in the West. The latter is an example of an “in group projecting its collective shadow qualities on to the “out” group. Jung stated that when you are in the grips of the shadow archetype, you don’t have it, it has you and this certainly seems to the case with Al-Quaeda.

Over to you

If after reading this blog you realise that you or a close relative or friend needs support to help you overcome feelings that can emerge via your shadows such as low moods, anxiety, stress and feeling overwhelmed with distractions and negative thoughts you are not alone in this very common dilemma. So don’t panic or give up just yet.

On line coaching, counselling or a personal development or mindfulness course can help you. So, if you need a bit of extra support and encouragement and a few on line coaching or counselling sessions why not contact us at You Revolution to arrange an appointment with one of our highly skilled Therapists and Coaches for a short free introductory chat on 07950 751352 or by emailing us on

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