In my last post I talked about the psychological concept of an individual Shadow, and mentioned that analyst Carl Jung also believed in what her termed the "collective unconscious." The collective unconscious basically is the Shadow for a group -- which means we could open a conversation about a national Shadow. While a very big group, our country does consist of a group of people. All of our unconscious attributes -- things we don't like about ourselves and don't want to acknowledge as part of our personalities and/or behavior -- go into the accumulation of a national Shadow.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking , America is a great country. How could we have a Shadow? We’re all about growth, progress, and “being the best we can be.”
Well, I encourage you to consider our media. Not just the media Donald Trump railed about not liking him – but what is portrayed on a national level through our TV shows and movies. We hear about studies done about whether the degree of violence that pervades our video games, television and movies can affect the minds of our children – yet most of us don’t seem to take that very seriously. (While the incidence of shootings at schools across our country escalates…) If one really looks at the majority of shows saturating our country’s entertainment industry, what do we see?
I’ll tell you what I see: Violence, anger (even rage), sex and greed. For good measure, sci fi adds a strong dose of fear. Everywhere. Excepting comedies, it’s hard to find a new show without at least one of them. And they are portrayed in BIG fashion: the largest TV sets ever, IMAX movies, and the all-encompassing sound effects of surround sound. No subtlety about it, for sure!
Where does this come from? As for the anger part, a line from a book I enjoyed recently titled Breakfast With Buddha (by Roland Merullo © 2007) comes to mind. The book is about a regular “Joe Schmoe” American named Otto who ends up having to drive his “woo-woo” sister’s guru across the U.S. from New Jersey to North Dakota. One of the things Otto does on a fairly regular basis is listen to Christian talk shows on the radio. Partly in response to the shows, and partly to address Otto’s mostly unconscious attitude, the guru asks several times, “Why so angry?” Initially the question itself sparks anger in Otto, but not wanting to start an argument he shrugs it off. (By the way, a handy example of how a feeling, unaddressed and un-expressed, can become part of one’s individual shadow.) After he is asked several times, he pauses to think. His reply is that most people think our way is right, and we don’t have much tolerance for those who don’t see it like we do. Sound familiar? (For me, that is the endearing aspect of that book – its genuine human-ness.)
Back to our national Shadow. I’m not going to go into the historical events in support of this – well, I suppose I could, but that would be at least a book's-worth. Where did we, as a country, get this deep, deep storehouse of such strong emotional content? Sex I suppose I can see – perhaps the repressed desires carried over from our country’s foundation on Puritan principles. And it certainly seems reasonable that the years of racial inequality in pursuit of – hmmm… methinks that could be greed! – led to an underlying simmering of anger and rage. Rage at being treated less than human, in spite of the fact that our Constitution states we are all equal under the law, and the Bible says we are all God’s children.
And add to that the anger many, I think, feel at the globalization of work, with potential U.S. jobs being outsourced to other countries. I’d say this is also in support of greed. After all, if you’re the financial officer of a major U.S. corporation wanting to keep your earnings statements high so Wall Street approves of your corporate performance and your stock goes up (making your investors rich), why on earth pay Americans a decent wage when jobless people overseas are happy to be employed for much lower wages? We can even watch movies like The Big Short and, immediately after leaving the theater, go back into denial about how our country's very foundation seems based on financial greed. It’s OK to be greedy and get all we can – just so long as we don’t get caught for the devastation this path may create in its wake. Somehow, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness have come to mean “get rich,” even though most of us are willing to at least say (if not fully accept) that wealth does not necessarily lead to automatic happiness.
So how does Donald Trump win the election? He is the face of our national Shadow. Billionaire, angry, blaming, alternating between bully and victim, and willing to tolerate violence. The undercurrent that runs throughout the people of our country was projected onto this candidate, and people loved it. They may not want to acknowledge those character traits in themselves – but when they see it in someone else they can avidly support it! All their unconscious feelings and desires being played out just as they wish they could do, but, for the most part, would not dare. This person understands! If he gets the job, he’ll do things the way we think they should be done.
I believe that is how Mr. Trump won this election.
Before you throw up your hands in either disgust or hopelessness (both?) and prepare to post some nasty replies, please take a moment to wonder.... OK, this sounds pretty grim. Is there hope?
Yes, there is! There are a few things that give me hope, despite people’s fears about this man as leader of our country. I will present them in my next blog. Stay tuned!
I’m writing this in the week after the 2016 U.S. election, at a time when many Democrats are still in shock at the election of Donald Trump as the country’s new President.
Yes, this was a close election – though the brief research I did about the elections post-2000 shows that the 2004 election (Bush vs. Kerry – remember the recount of Florida ballots?) was actually closer. I only began to take vested interest in elections after 2000, but it seems to me that our country has been getting more and more avid on both sides. Which means that there is elation on the winning side, and a sense of devastation on the losing side. As I say, I only began caring in the past 16 years, so perhaps it was this noticeable before then. If so, please feel free to post a comment about which years prior to 2000 were particularly heated.
When the 2016 race narrowed to Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, like many others I was surprised. A man with no political experience whatsoever had captured the nomination of the Republican party. Hillary Clinton, of course, has decades of experience from Governor’s wife, to NY State Senator, to First Lady, to Secretary of State. One could see that, aside from the change of being our country’s first woman president were she elected, she was a “status quo” candidate.
Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, to me, was deeply disturbing. Despite harangues against minorities of our country’s population and immigrants, constant insults and fear-provoking comments made towards Hillary Clinton, disrespectful insider conversations about his own sexual behavior with women, and positions that earned him the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, he attracted throngs of passionate supporters. Supporters who were even willing to engage in violence, to which he offered no rebuke. Yet, for all the passion in his speeches, he offered little in terms of what direction he would steer our country or what plans he had for “making American great again.”
That said, he snagged the election. Democrats were stunned. How could this happen? Had our nation completely lost its mind? Yes, Donald Trump represents change by virtue of not being a career -- or even, like President Obama -- a relatively new politician. That said, President Obama’s campaign was all about change, also – yet it had a very different feel to it.
I know there are many sorting through all the demographics and history, etc… in attempt to explain what happened in this 2016 election. I will take a more psychological approach. Donald Trump, in all his glory, epitomized our nation’s Shadow side.
For those not familiar with the concept of the Shadow, here is part of Wikipedia’s definition (11/12/16):
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or "shadow aspect" may refer to (1) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality, the shadow is largely negative, or (2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. Thus, there can be positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one's shadow (especially in people with low self-esteem).. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." According to Jung, the shadow can be related to psychological projection, in which an unrecognized personal inferiority is seen as a moral deficiency in someone else.
What does this mean? It may sound like mumbo-jumbo to many of you. Basically it means that the things we don’t like about ourselves go underground in the layers of our consciousness. We’ll start to deny these unwanted aspects of ourselves to others, and it doesn’t take long until we don’t acknowledge them to ourselves, either. And where the projection comes in is that, while we don’t like to own these attributes in ourselves, we are very sensitive when it comes to seeing them in others!
An example? Suppose you know someone who you would consider cheap. He (or she) hates to spend money on anything and consistently criticizes anything that costs a lot of money. And yet they honestly don’t see this quality in themself. If you try to subtly ask, “Don’t you think you’re being a little tight with the checkbook here?” you’ll probably get an angry retort to the effect of anyone would balk at paying such a price for the item in question, and no, they certainly are not a cheapskate!
The projection will come in to play with this person constantly bemoaning how cheap everyone else is, what’s this world coming to?
OK, you say, but this definition refers to an individual’s personality and doesn’t say anything about a group or national essence. Yes, that’s true -- however, Jung, among the major 20th century analysts, also believed in a “collective unconscious.” This is the unconscious storehouse of the shadow material of a group of people -- and can thus be applied to a nation.
More on that to come…
No, I am not a morning person. Which may be why, on the times when I have to be up and about before sunrise (appointments at the airport the most typical of such occasions) I often experience a sense of excitement and wonder. What is going to happen as the day unfolds? What surprises lay in store; what experiences to navigate? The darkness feels rich with possibility, and other people up starting their day give me a sensation of the vast network of life. As I drive by, it’s as if a thread of energy connects me with the others, stretching out like elastic before releasing its hold as I move on.
This is especially potent when I travel by plane. I always have the vision of airports as the spokes of great wheels. People unload from a plane, then spread in all kinds of directions to take them where they are meant to be that day. Some remain in the arrival city, moving outward from the hub in a myriad of routes appropriate for their occupations and plans for their days. Then there are those who only stay in that airport until their connecting flight departs, starting a whole new network to disperse in the next destination.
Unfortunately, I usually don’t watch the sunrise on early morning flights. Either I’m already asleep, lulled by the roar of the engines on take-off, or the sun has already greeted the skies for the new day. But on a recent evening flight, I saw the most magnificent sunset that will be engraved in my memory for some time. The colors along the horizon were the replication of a rainbow: deep red, orange, yellow – then yes, a stripe of green! -- before a lighter blue that darkened into the indigo blue of a night-infused atmosphere. To top it off, the barest crescent of a brand new moon stood above the horizon for a brief time before “setting.” The first evening star (I’m guessing Venus) also shimmered brightly before the other stars and planets added their silver sparkles to the nightscape.
While I’m usually much more attuned to nature on the earth (trees, plants, animals), this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Who’d have known, when the day started, that this was waiting? A precious few minutes when beauty was striking. Deeply, amazingly, wondrously striking.
Wishing you moments of similar awe.
Susan C. Moyer, MSW
Is a sound healer and transformational coach. She has 25+ years experience in using alternate states of consciousness to access deeper healing on all levels: physical, psychological, mental and spiritual.