Not So Black and White

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My daughter, Stella, is turning one next week. Of all the milestones that I’ve watched her achieve this year, perhaps the most symbolic occurred just a few days ago, when she suddenly noticed her own shadow. While most people would probably be mildly entertained by this, it represents, for us psychologists, a whole new level of consciousness.

Of course, the shadow that Stella saw was merely the result of her little body blocking the sunlight that was pouring in through the windows in her room. But in depth psychology, we say that our shadow, or shadow side, is that part of us that we don’t necessarily want to see. Like our scientific shadow, it is always right there behind us, waiting for the perfect circumstance to be cast into the light. It is this side of us that sometimes makes us say or do things and then think, “where did that come from?” Still, from a Jungian point of view, we do not want to banish this darker side of our psyche, rather, we hope to incorporate it’s essence into a balanced sense of self. For, this often misunderstood entity can frequently be the basis for some of our most creative work.

Indeed, artists, musicians, poets, song-writers, and other expressionists benefit greatly when they can harness the energy of this less-celebrated aspect of themselves, and deftly assimilate it into their art. In fact, without this incorporation, output can seem strained, superficial, and decidedly “un-Dave-like.”

Yes, using the above definition, it’s clear to see that Dave Matthews has certainly allowed all features of himself to enter into his music. Otherwise, songs like “Bartender,” “Dreaming Tree,” “Grace is Gone,” “If I Had it All,” “Shotgun,” and innumerable others just wouldn’t exist. And if they did, they definitely wouldn’t carry half of the emotional impact that they radiate to anyone with ears to listen. By now, Dave is well adept at breathing his inner-most sensitivities into his lyrics, but at times, I wonder whether he may have began this process through his initial love of drawing.

According to the VH-1 episode, “Driven-Dave Matthews,” our frontman was originally a visual artist. He even enrolled in an art program during his early schooling years. Dave refers to this initial passion, in Dave and Tim’s “Live at Radio City” bonus track edition of “The Stone,” where he introduces the song by saying that he was looking through an old book of his where he found, “all the drawings of headless people,” from when he was about 15 years old. Although he wonders, “What the hell was this guy’s problem?” he admits that some of his drawings were “pretty cool, if a little bit simple, maybe.” And for someone as humble as Dave, that’s actually an enormous compliment!

We may never know whether Dave began to develop his ability to connect so deeply through his sketches, or later, through the spoken word, but either way, when he sings that his dreaming tree has died, limitless hearts burst to life.

Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.

Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self