This is a detail from one of the buildings found in the Imperial Palace of Hué, Vietnam, an imitation palace of Beijing’s Forbidden City. I have to say that the idea of a “Forbidden City” is one that is very intriguing and very apt when one thinks of the “self.” The forbidden city in Hué is much smaller than the one in Beijing. I am fortunate to have been able to wander through both of these palace grounds. Needless to say I was not able to see everything in either place with many areas marked as off limits to the public. The doors were locked tight and the windows were boarded up with decorative shutters keeping the contents “in the dark.” One begins to wonder if the idea is to keep outsiders away or to “contain” the shadows within the darkened buildings and rooms.
Hiding places within, places where we keep our secrets. And being human, over time we almost forget the secrets are there and forget how to unlock the barricaded spaces. It comes as a rude shock to ourselves and those around us when somehow the contents long barricaded away in the shadows find a way to ooze out, usually at the most inopportune time where it causes us no end of grief, embarrassment and shame. We get to see a lot of this now because of the social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and My Space. Twitter has “exposed” shadow stuff twice in the past few weeks, once in terms of Canadian politicians and the second time by an American politician. Once exposed, the contents are quickly withdrawn and hidden away but the damage has been done.
It is somewhat easy to understand how our “stuff” leaks out to mess up our best intentions and our well-laid plans; but, it is not so easy to understand that the “forbidden city” within not only contains our personal repressed contents, but is also home to the collective shadow. Again the political world serves as a good example. Major political parties are based on ideologies and polar versions of what the world is supposed to be like. Imagine each political party as an extravagant structure such as the building in the photo above. It looks attractive and as though it has substance. Yet when one waits long enough there is stuff that oozes out to alert one to the real nature of the political beast that has claimed this palace as its home. In listening to the individual voices that adhere to the political party we get to see that collective shadow.
As a wandered through new countries and cultures in search of my “self” I am learning that there are a lot of secret places to discover within my own psyche, in my personal forbidden city.