Tag Archives: Carl Jung

P.S. Palin, Obama and the Jungian Shadow. Deepak Chopra part 2

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Deepak Chopra’s important essay on Palin, Obama and the Jungian Shadow archetype. Because he got such a huge response to that essay, he went further last week.

How could the mentality of a small-town mayor morph into a potential President making global decisions? To explain her meteoric rise, I offered the idea that each of us harbors a shadow, a place where our hidden impulses live. By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of “the other,” and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow’s party for a long time. Sarah Palin put a smiling face on feelings that normally we feel ashamed of.

The shadow is irrational; it thrives on gut emotions. (A recent Fox News poll ran with the headline, “In their gut, independents choose McCain.”) Bringing the 2008 campaign down to the gut level means bringing it down to the level of the shadow. Instead of listening to an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic man with one African-American parent, people get to say, “I just don’t like blacks. They’re scary; they’re not like me. It’s a gut thing.” Only it’s not. It’s a shadow thing that each of us, not just the right wing, must deal with. Reacting to Palin with fear, confusion, panic, and lashing out also comes from the shadow.

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The Democrats were triggered by Palin because they fear losing and that fear runs deep. The bogeymen that frighten us the most come from a primitive level; they stir a sense of childish helplessness. But your mature self, like Obama’s campaign organization, is coherent and knows how to carry out its purpose. Realize that American politics has been dominated by shadow issues for decades, so it’s only natural they still have claws and teeth. But their game has gotten old and tired. If you are able to see past the appeal to fear and resentment, have trust that other people can, too.

The bottom line is that the 2008 election isn’t about change versus experience or a noble candidate who may lose to one who plays dirty. This election is about consciousness. Since the Reagan revolution, consciousness has been sleepy and dull in politics; ideals have been tarnished by cynicism; inner decay has sapped the party in power of its original purpose, leaving only a pointless morass of defensiveness that expresses itself in negativity. If the majority of the electorate wakes up and feels inspired to turn the page, that will happen. Obama has sounded the call; few people missed the message. Now it’s a matter of dealing with a phase of fear and resistance before we discover if stuck consciousness is ready to move ahead.

I sure hope his optimism about the majority of the electorate waking up isn’t misplaced.

Prejudice: perspective from Nick Kristof

A frightening number of Americans actually believe the rumors spread by right-wing radio personalities and religious groups – that Obama is or must might be a Muslim. And of those 10% who believe that the Book of Revelations “end-times” are near, some are saying Obama could be the “Antichrist.” You can buy T-Shirts with a horned Obama with that very caption.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times speculates that religious prejudice is replacing or masking racism:

To his credit, Mr. McCain himself has never raised doubts about Mr. Obama’s religion. But a McCain commercial last month mimicked the words and imagery of the best-selling Christian “Left Behind” book series in ways that would have set off alarm bells among evangelicals nervous about the Antichrist.

Mr. McCain himself is not popular with evangelicals. But they will vote for him if they think the other guy may be on Satan’s side.

In fact, of course, Mr. Obama took his oath on the Bible, not — as the rumors have it — on the Koran. He is far more active in church than John McCain is.

(Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border …)

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Deepak Chopra said this in another way when he wrote about Obama and the Jungian “shadow.” We project onto the “other” the darkest aspects of our own souls.

Perspective on Palin from Deepak Chopra and Carl Jung

OK. I took five deep breaths and wrote a few posts about something besides Palin and McCain.  But a friend pointed me to this commentary from Deepak Chopra at Huffington Post which was too thoughtful not to share.

Chopra writes about Sarah Palin and Barack Obama from the perspective of Carl Jung, whose concept of the “shadow”  personality archetype has been used in psychology for about 90 years. As a shadow figure for the Republicans, Obama coincidentally and conveniently has dark skin.

…Palin is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.”

For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind.

I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin’s message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:

Small town values — a denial of America‘s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America‘s image abroad.

Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be heeded.

Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.

“Reform” — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from “us” pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat…

The irony is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama’s call for higher ideals in politics can’t be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow — we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict.

The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.