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Ventegodt's theory of the anti-self or the evil side of man

Ventegodt's theory of the anti-self or the evil side of man

In my opinion man-made disasters pose a much more immediate threat to us and our civilisation than any natural event such as a supervolcano or asteroid impact. These man-made events are happening right now, in the form of wars, genocide, climate change, species extinction, and many others.

If we are to have any chance of averting man-made disasters we need a much better understanding of human motivation, and that understanding needs to be spread as widely as possible. Until all of us become aware of our own greed, aggression, hatred and destructiveness, we will continue to project this outwards, putting the blame for our unhappiness on other people, the world around us, or just bad luck.

The psychotherapist C.G. Jung provided a model for understanding human evil in his theory of the Shadow - the part of ourselves we disown and hide from others because it contains everything we are ashamed of. In the paper attached to this topic, Soren Ventegodt expands on Jungian ideas, explaining how the Shadow arises at a very early stage in our development, to protect us from the pain we experience when we fail to live up to the demands of our true nature, which is fundamentally good.

Ventegodt's theory proposes that all of us are born with a positive life plan, a basic mission to do good, but we quickly come up against the frustrations of the real world which prevents us from achieving this plan. This creates a split in our natures - we oscillate between doing good things and bad according to circumstances. The bad cancels out the good, and as a result most of us settle for mediocrity. This explains how someone who firmly chooses the dark path can seem to have so much power - they are not inhibited by the scruples of goodness.

As first Jung and then Ventegodt explain, the solution is not to kill off the Shadow (which can't be done, it just gets driven underground), instead we need to integrate the dark and light in ourselves. This is genuine "enlightenment" as opposed to a shallow, insipid "goodness". To my mind this holds out the greatest hope for averting a man-made apocalypse.

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