Here is an example of what we carry inside.
You may have heard of the Milgram Studies. They came out of Yale University. In the ’60s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram began to look at the atrocities that occurred during World War II. His basic question was, “How can something like this happen? How can people of good conscience harm that many individuals?” Milgram’s initial hypothesis was that there must be something wrong with the Germans. (I mean no offense by this, just stating what he thought. Besides if this bothers you, great! This is the right blog for you! Keep reading!) Originally, he intended to conduct a study in the U.S. then go to Germany and conduct the exact same study to prove that we, here in the U.S., would never do anything so uncivilized. Wouldn’t most of us say that, no matter what our nationality? “We would never do such a horrible thing.”
Milgram set up an experiment. He brought subjects, let’s call them Person A, into a room where they looked through a one-way mirror at another person, Person B, who was strapped up to electrodes. Person B was supposed to give correct answers to certain questions. If they didn’t give the right answer, Person A was to hit a button that would give Person B a shock.
By the way, Person B was an actor or another psychologist who was in on the study. The study wasn’t about Person B, although Person A was told that the study was all about Person B. Person A thought they were just helping out.
Person B was instructed to give the wrong answer every time, no matter what. Person A had a button to hit to give Person B a shock, but they also had a dial that supposedly regulated the strength of the shock. The dial had numbers and clear labels that said “minor shock” or “mild shock,” “intense shock,” “severe shock,” and “warning: can cause severe harm.” After that point, the numbers were not labeled, clearly to show, if you go past this, you’re really going to fry Person B’s eggs!
So Person B would give the wrong answer. Person A was told to take it up to the first setting and hit the button. And they did as they were told. Person B gave the next wrong answer, and Person A was told to take the shock up to the next setting. Hit the button. They’d do it. Wrong answer and up to the next setting, they’d do it. Some of the subjects who were Person A began to protest, “They’re screaming in pain in there. I don’t want to do this.” But Milgram would say, “You have to do this. Don’t worry. They’re not really being harmed.” Nearly 100 percent of the Person A’s took the dial past the warning point! Some Person B’s even pretended they passed out, and Milgram would say, “Hit it again.” Even then, Person A would almost always hit the shock button again.
“Good” People or “Bad” People?
Think about it: these were people of good conscience, good-minded individuals, a random sample that could have included you or me. By the way, Milgram did not take the study to Germany at that point. He concluded exactly what Carl Jung said quite some time ago: that we all carry inside us the potential of that thing that we say we would never do or become.
Interestingly, Milgram denied that he himself would ever have taken the dial past the warning point. But, as a very astute Jungian psychologist named Robertson pointed out, Milgram did act cruelly during his experiment by forcing Person A to continue and letting them believe they were harming someone. He clearly understood that everyone was going overboard, yet continued the experiment for the sake of science.
So you see even Milgram, ego-driven in the name of science, became the Shadow. He became just like the actual people who had commanded others to commit atrocities and kill millions of human beings during World War II. He himself became the Shadow.