I have this theory that most adults dress up as themselves on Halloween.
Photo courtesy Pierre Tourigny
By this I mean that people tend to go as an extension or exaggeration of their personality or how they want to be seen, rather then cloak their regular personality for the spirit of the holiday.
Have you ever noticed this phenomena?
For example, a regularly left-leaning, composting bike enthusiast…going out on Halloween as a hippy or Rastafarian…is not actually a costume.
If you’re normally a rocker who’s into dark clothing and horror movies, to go as a vampire isn’t really a stretch is it?
Or if you are a smart aleck, to go as a pun (Captain Jack Sbarro, the pizza pirate!), is nothing other then more of how you regularly interact with the world.
These are amplified versions of how we see ourselves.
It’s technically not a costume.
And let’s not even get started on going as “Sexy ____(insert your favorite noun).”
This is the Halloween equivalent to buying flowers and chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
It’s a safe choice, and as my Uncle Fester always says, “safe choices don’t make hearts race.”
Halloween traditionally was a ritual to fool the spirits of the dead who roamed the earth the night before All Souls Day. Rather then have them recognize you (and possibly take you with them) you would put on a disguise that would fool the ghosts and goblins.
There’s a lot of money to be made on Halloween merchandise and, like Christmas, the real spirit and ritual participation of the holiday seems to be fading with each year.
Maybe this year go as something really terrifying.
Go as your shadow.
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts.
To figure out your personal shadow area, ask yourself:
“What do I reject in another person when I see it?”
The shadow is what one disowns in another because they are (wait for it) afraid of it. It’s the potential “you” that “you” cannot be. A shadow side is the area of the unconscious that we don’t want to admit we may have. Like being geeky, or ordinary, or violent. It’s the potential to be those qualities, but it doesn’t mean a person is bad for having them.
Jung also believed that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”
And the last time I checked, creativity was a good thing.
So what’s your shadow? What really is hiding in the dark that scares the pants off you? It’s not the self you normally present to your friends, but it may help you evade those ghosts on Halloween.
And it might help you win that best costume prize this year.
Satyavira Matthew Lombardo is a New York based yoga teacher and dharma activist. This year for Halloween he is going as a stubborn, pushy, middle aged pizza pirate.