THE BLOG

What Do Selfies, Vampires and Zombies Have in Common?

04/10/2015 06:33 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015

They're everywhere, right? It's impossible to leave the house without tripping over (or participating in) a selfie photo session. And back home, the airwaves are hijacked by a Halloween parade of bloodsucking vampire aristocrats and tottering zombie beasts. I can barely get through the cable guide without a transfusion. What in the narcissistic half-dead world is going on? Are we completely lost?

Or finally on our way to being found?

It would be an easy assumption to call the selfie fad narcissistic. And certainly there are more than a few selfie-obsessed people in love with their photogenics. But the great divide between our superficial lives reflected on social media and our real lives in the material world tells me that something deeper than a fad is driving this trend. Something deeper than ego or the desire to compete socially with others. Something connected to us all at a root level. Something called archetypes.

You could say selfies, vampires and zombies are joined at the archetypal hip.

I'm pretty sure the great psychiatrist and archetype pioneer, Carl Jung, would be fascinated by the images floating up on the social radar these days. Narcissists, vampires and zombies, though significant on their own, are only the tip of the current archetypal iceberg. Throw in the real-life terrorists, assassins, fundamentalist fanatics, racists, and political shapeshifters, and we begin to see the full cinematic picture. Jung would no doubt interpret this as a shadow period of human consciousness. A period in which another, deeper layer of darkness, long buried, slowly surfaces from the bubbling murk of our collective unconscious, unearthing its unlovely face. A face it would never share on Twitter.

At least not yet.

Jung identified the Shadow as a primary personality archetype, universal to humankind. The Shadow represents not just darkness, as the name implies, but a fundamental split in the early human psyche. Vampires and zombies are shadow archetypes. Vampires represent immortality gained by siphoning the life force of others. Zombies represent a lack of awareness, having turned themselves over to lower forces--forces which (in real life) can include anything from impersonal corporate credos to rampant consumerism to fundamentalist dogma to unapologetic self-absorption.

The Shadow archetype is a wild thing, the dark potential within us that we fear and dare not become. Instead of burying it and tamping it down, Jung believed that the Shadow must be acknowledged, met head-on, and integrated into our psyches in order to become whole--in order to wake us up so we can transform the darkness. It's no easy task, but at some point in the evolution of humanity, to achieve enlightenment, it must be done.

Perhaps this is what the half-dead narcissistic ghouls are trying to tell us. "We are an aspect of you. Wake up and heal."

The day our selfies accurately reflect our inner lives is the day we become an integrated species. This is the day the Shadow recedes and the Self of higher awareness shows up. It's a day worth waiting for. The struggle is right before us, projected on our computers, phones, TV screens and in new genres of literature dedicated to the paranormal underbelly. More than any other time in history, wrestling with the Shadow is prime time activity. Just watch the evening news. Every nighttime monster we ever feared has slipped from the shadows, parading before us in broad daylight. Terrorists with explosive backpacks, racists with rifles, enraged teens with semi-automatic weapons. Do they seek fame? Vengeance? Some kind of twisted justice?

Or just a way to enter the light?

Carl Jung famously said, "Enlightenment doesn't occur from sitting around visualizing images of light, but from integrating the darker aspects of the Self into conscious personality."

If this is true, we have much to look forward to when we are finally able to pack up our selfie sticks and subterranean archetypes and look each other in the eye without distraction.

"Oh, so that's who you are!"

"Yes, it's who I've been all along."