Dear members of the depth psychology community,
Like many of you, I was stunned by the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election yesterday, November 8, and have spent the day mourning for so many things that feel like they have been lost. As a woman, I am keenly aware that the moment for electing our first woman president has evaporated, but on a much deeper level, I am also profoundly distressed by the election of someone who is so clearly disrepectful of women and lacks compassion and understanding for so many who are marginalized, including other minorities, other species, and planet itself. I wonder how all these deep feelings, including anger, are going to be manifest in coming weeks, months, and years.
Like some of you, also, I seem to bounce between feeling numb and being distraught, even questioning on some level what role I play in all of this, and whether the calling I feel to make depth psychology more accessible in the world actually does a bit of good on some many levels. And yet, I know I must have hope: hope for our future, for our young people and generations to come; for everyone who is suffering and will continue to suffer in the face of a political system that favors certain groups over others.
We live in a world that is as challenged as it has ever been, and yet I maintain a powerful faith in the patterns at work in a world where change is the only constant. I know there is something bigger at work. I am certain I see only a narrow slice of what's at work. I believe in the idea that nature is constantly reaching out to us to pull us back from the brink of extinction (an idea I first encountered in Jerome Bernstein's groundbreaking work, Living in the Borderland.) Some part of me wonders if Donald Trump had to be elected because it will serve as a catalyst to something new; because people will be more innovative in creating change, be inspired to action in a different way, collaborate together with those they may not have engaged with before.
Ten years ago I experienced a profound awakening of my own—so powerful it sent me into what Stan Grof aptly terms "spiritual emergency"—basically, when something spiritual happens that sends one spiraling into emergency. Somehow, at that time, I believe I managed to tap into something bigger than me, a pattern at work in which I play a part and which is playing out not only for the good of each of us individually, but for us as a collective, a species which is resilient, conscious, and able to evolve and learn and love one another. What I experienced then was a taste of what we truly are as divine souls, and the stunning realization that as earthly beings caught up in human bodies and conditioned by culture outside our control, we have truly "settled" for something we can't begin to grasp. Each of us is different, and perceives our lives on earth in different ways, and we each must find our way to carry the torch for new beginnings, for hope in humanity, for belief that we can truly evolve as a species. I think being willing to participate in community is one of the ways these things can manifest. I hope you believe that too.
If anyone feels moved to share your own thoughts and feelings about all of this, please feel free to respond below. If you have criticisms or comments on political parties or policies, maybe your forum is elsewhere. If you wish to provide a depth psychological response or lens, or simply an authentic contribution (it could even be in the form of art or poetry), please respond below, and let us each hold one another in love, compassion, and a willingness to hold the tension as much as we possibly can.
Mary Watkins, Ph.D., is a professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute and co- founder of the Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology Specialization in the M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program.
For those who are interested, Mary has generously provided Depth Psychology Alliance with a copy of her recent article entitled "The Social and Political Life of Shame in the U.S. Presidential Election 2016"
I have I have been tracking how shame has been operating in the current presidential election. I offer a short paper I prepared for a panel on “Shame and the Experience of Class in the U.S.”, co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Psychosocial Work Group of the Psychology and the Other Institute, Cambridge, MA.
Download the PDF article using the green "download" link at the bottom of this blog page
A really excellent article which tracks the soul/psyche transformations millions are teetering on the edge of or have given in to already (sadly). The mechanism whereby mass-approved shame transfers - via the malign alchemy used by leaders like Trump - that turn such feelings into scapegoating hate is exactly what we need to address/acknowledge as psychologists and as citizens. However, I do feel that we need to go further in examining the shadow side and general psychology of Neo-liberalism - the kind of economic individualism that Mary alludes to is, I believe, the starter point (a particular view of Individualism was at the heart of Von Hayek's economic theory of Neo-liberalism.
It will take real action by progressives on the economic front (and for all groups/minorities) to properly disarm and ward off the drift to fascist fantasies in large numbers of the US population (I hope that isn't putting it too bluntly, but these are extreme times). Unfortunately, the Alt-right and the Neocon traditional right in the US now totally control the economic apparatus post election - progressives, even if they want to, will find it difficult to deliver real relief/protection from the key shame generating social processes Mary's article documents. Those that have sought to critique and expose these processes have been censored/ignored for decades by both the right AND leftist leaning Neo-libs (who run the Democratic party). This is the fundamental 'social repression' at play here and it will be a tough repression for the US to confront squarely.
Nevertheless, Mary's article represents the beginning of a means to fire-proof any society against fascism, since it addresses the shadow stuff in the social unconscious of the particular groups voting for the likes of Trump, Le Pen in France, Farage in the UK (who met with Trump straight after he election) and so on. A 're-inclusivist/ rlational integrity first' agenda is exactly what is required - and it has to be economically authentic and delivered as a medicine society-wide. Not communism, but some form of updated democratic socialism for the information age. We have versions of it in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Western Europe despite constant attacks over the past 30 years.
Are we all able to link to/tweet etc. Mary's article? - although ordinary people may struggle with the academic language it does give the informed reader a handle on what is going on, and most importantly ways to address what is unfolding in real ways. Best wishes
Ian Irvine (Hobson)
Thanks for your thoughtful reflection and insights on the article, Ian. I've passed your feedback along to Mary, and she has also given her blessing for us to Tweet and share the article on social media as well.
I also appreciated Mary Watkins' article. Thank you for sharing it with us, Bonnie.
Ian, in response to your observation that the line between individual depth psychology and social psychology tends to blur when political sentiments are heightened, referring back to previous posts, I propose that humanity as a whole has reached a threshold moment (a moment in the learning process which is often likened to riding a bicycle; once learned, never forgotten) in the individuation of the Creator. Inspired by Jung's essay on The Psychology of the Transference, I have spent my adult life, since 1979, working to understand the nature of this threshold moment from a depth psychology perspective.
Resolving the life-threatening situations now facing humanity requires access to intelligence that allows the parts of humanity to become conscious of themselves within the context of the greater whole, without inflation or a collapse of the systemic ego structures in the collective psyche. I believe the field of depth psychology uniquely offers acumen that can be applied in supporting and promoting the emergence of the transcendent function in the collective psyche and awakening the spirit of unity in the world body. And I think the world situation now calls for such intervention.
Pamela, thank you for your beautiful mandala. It touches me. I feel you express my grief and my sense that this moment provides a golden opportunity. My keenest pain is the injury to the social and physical environments that Trump's election portends and my fear for my grandchildren's' future). Like you, I believe the story we are living is reaching the end and we must resolve the narrative tensions at this climactic moment so that the next installment in the Story of Humanity can begin.
My last job, before retiring in 2015, was Director of The Flow Project, a non-profit organization that does research with artists and offers programs that apply principles and practices of artistic mastery in resolving social and cultural challenges, mostly focusing on leadership education as a key to transformation. Within two years of its inception, TFP mission statement was adopted almost verbatim as the third goal of the UNESCO Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, and has been universally adopted by the UNESCO member states. TFP took off because it had a certain timeliness.
I believe the time may be right for applying principles and practices of depth psychology in resolving the critical social and cultural challenges that humanity currently faces. One area of need is the need for what Jung calls a "symbolic attitude;" that is, the ability to see how events, images and cultural symbols in the external world (such as the peace symbol, 9/11, dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the election of Trump) pertain to what is occurring in humanity's inner world, or the ethereal dimension of the collective psyche.
Ian makes a vital observation on noting that the "economic betrayal of elites distorts the psyche of the oppressed and the oppressor." My question is: What does the distortion point to symbolically in terms of the collective psyche and its goals? What is humanity as a whole striving towards and how does the distortion play into achieving our common goal? Like Klemen, I puzzle over "how Trump has become a scapegoat", but even more I puzzle over what the manifestation and the emergence of this Trump character is telling us in the context of the story we are living, or within the context of the American Dream understood symbolically.
I am finding this conversation very engaging. Bonnie, thank you once again for providing the forum.
A multifaceted response, Skye, to a lot of what we've been discussing. I've really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Like you I'm interested in the role creativity might be able to play in easing individuals, groups/nations, maybe even the species as a whole through this transition/transformation - in my case through the work I do with my partner Sue King-Smith via the Zoetics Institute. Like Peter, I sense that there is an environmental-human collecive psychic exchange going on that we are mostly unaware of (due to our anthropocentric ideologies), and sadly the Trump team promise to direct repressed shame-rage further against our life support systems. Your thoughts on symbolic thinking and what a phenomenon ((g the rise of protofascist parties globally) says about the species direction right now, are very interesting - do you have any online resources/writings you could direct us to that outline further that thinking.
I suspect that symbolic thinking as encouraged by creative pursuits acts as a kind of link for us humans to quantum level 'future possibilities' (all realities being in a superpositional state at the tiny/micro levels of matter). Too much to go into here, but I suspect symbolic thinking and traditional creative pursuits promote our capacity to choose genuinely life-enhancing futures. We need these faculties in action now more than ever, and for me the arts and Depth Psychology are the main tools to open us up to the full transformative challenges of the species choices we now face - the road of mass trauma, division, hate or road/s of life enhancing inclusiveness and eco system repair. It's that stark for us. Jung's discussion with Pauli the quantum physicist point us to an expansivist new science merged with traditional wisdom view of creativity. It's the view I try to enact in my life and vocational pursuits. Note: most fascists and authoritarians want to circumscribe/censor/control creativity - seeking power and trauma they do not want people exploring and sampling life-enhancing 'quantum level superpositional' futures through the arts, before willing such futures into existence. To summarise: like you and others in this discussion I think promoting creativity is a major bulwark against traumatic futures, and revisioning humanity's economic systems/ ideologies to lessen 'shaming' and promote inclusiveness (Mary's insight) is our primary task - for me that means ridding economics of its Old Science foundations.
This conference took place before the election, obviously, but may be of interest:
Free Access to Conference Papers: “Politics, Culture, Soul: A National Conference on the Psychology of the 2016 Presidential Election” hosted by Jung Institute of San Francisco, October 14-15, 2016. Click here for details and the link
Thank you Skye. Trump consciously recognized and tapped the ever growing socioeconomic disenchantment of the disenfranchised law abiding and patriotic majority in America. He rode their discontent all the way into the White House. He definitely did not create the mess and perilous condition America finds itself in today. Making him the scapegoat and demon for this problem is a nonstarter.
The original three leading republican contenders all ran on anti establishment tickets. Trump. Cruz. Carson. And together vote wise in the primaries they totally kicked butt. On the other side Bernie Sanders also ran on an anti establishment ticket. If the DNC did not have a lock on the outcome of the primary delegate selection process it is more than likely Bernie would have been the Democrat candidate. The discontent in America is ubiquitous. Meaning many Sander's Democrats wanted change as well, but regarded Trump's right wing approach to making those changes shockingly unacceptable and downright frightening.
We are at a turning point in history. Our barbaric undisciplined and untamed human nature emanating from Gaia if you prefer is threatening to unleash another cataclysmic bout of chaos and destruction on humanity. The myth of the warring twins might better encapsulate and explain what lies behind this threat of the catastrophic resurgence of the Unconscious forces in the America today.
Stop the demonizing. The people who voted for Trump have been disenfranchised from participating in the pursuit of the American dream. For the most part they are decent law abiding citizens who want to peacefully recapture their position and place in America today. Their desperate and hopeless situation must be addressed before the real demagogues come forth from within their ranks and attempt to forcefully retake their inalienable rights as American citizens. That would represent the emergence of real fascism.
Those who are shocked and revulsed by the upsetting of the political applecart and are not members of the status quo/establishment are situated on the left and politically correct side of the spectrum. These advocates constitute the other sibling in the warring twins constellation. And their battalions are already beginning to be mobilized to march in the streets of America today. This side promises to create the brotherhood of man if you put them in power. When the untameable element of human nature thwarts their idealistic view of human nature they will then resort to using whatever force is necessary as they did in the Soviet Union to retain their power. The psychic malady that created the great European holocaust circa 1914 to 1945 with over 100 million killed is threatening to emerge again. The warring twins...
Jungian's should be careful when taking sides in this great psychic reckoning. They should be attempting to define and analyze the crisis that is confronting America and ultimately our civilization. Balancing the opposites and restoring equilibrium to the civilizational psychic equation is the optimum solution. War is the alternative. I don't think either side will like the outcome of the later solution.
I've thrown in a few more statistics to show the state of the situation for the majority of Americans today.
$50,000 a year will get you living in a illegal basement apartment . Average rent for a ONE bedroom in NYC ? $3400 per month .
“Jungian's should be careful when taking sides in this great psychic reckoning. They should be attempting to define and analyze the crisis that is confronting America and ultimately our civilization. Balancing the opposites and restoring equilibrium to the civilizational psychic equation is the optimum solution. War is the alternative. I don't think either side will like the outcome of the later solution.”
I graciously return this projection while suggesting that indepth psychology requires that we bring the conflict within.
The warring twins
CJ Jung from the RB: “This war (the great war) has pitilessly revealed to civilized man that he is still a barbarian ... But the psychology of the individual corresponds to the psychology of the nation. What the nation does is done also by each individual, and so long as the individual does it, the nation also does it. Only the change in the attitude of the individual is the beginning of the change in the psychology of the nation"
Forty years on the path, me. And yet I am humbled and thoroughly rattled awake by what now seems to be (after the initial shock and despair) the beginning of the end of one world order. For me, I believe what Hillman, Edinger, and so many others have predicted—that this transition to conscious individuals reflecting outward to the world integration and wholeness could take 100-200 years. Eva, that is my hope. Today I feel extremely heartened now only by the postings on our forum and the support of my local community, but a growing awareness of gratitude that I am alive to witness and work with inwardly, the Event of a week ago.
I feel fortunate to read on this forum so many wonderful inward-inspired and emotional truths words from both men and women. Overall, I feel our ancestor Jung would be proud.
Love to all, Pamela
Being a person educated in psychology and a career in technology I've witnessed the displacement of work from people to machine. It has provided me an income and security unavailable to many whose jobs have migrated overseas. The insecurity present in job loss was experienced when I was 55 years into my journey. After 25 years of corporate "loyalty", continued growth from computer operator to network engineer, and salary that would be rewarding. It took a year to secure employment, and the depression that emerged was profound. Fortunately employment became available, and the insecurity present during unemployment provided an insight to what those unemployed in industries that have migrated abroad. Personal as well as theoretical application is a part of my experience.
It's this angst that Depth Psychology helped me to cope with my shadow, and not succumb to the images found in depression. The painted images and written words by Jung helped sustain a relationship with them as alive, and living in and through me. Absent access to this knowledge would have made depression so daunting that projection would be my only defense. In the midst of this projection blame for others could become all consuming. When messiah comes along, speaks words in a manner appealing to my vulnerability, can I actually access rational thought for my emotional condition. Birds of a feather flock together, no drunk likes drinking alone, and once oppressed only to become oppressor.
Given this as backdrop, then my response will be join in resistance to the dark images presented during the campaign. Steve Schmidt, a Republican campaign strategist expressed concern that facism doesn't emerge because it's powerful, but because democracy is weak. (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-news/watch/trump-refuses-to-say-he-will-...) Popular vote versus Electoral College. DNC conduct to take sides and then have e-mails made available to wiki-leaks. Experience of a foreign power intentionally influencing an american election. The world, as captured here, running the gambit of emotional reaction attempting to gather sufficient data for some rational evaluation. Democracy can't exist with just one person, but requires participation by those desiring a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Corporations being granted the rights of a person layed the foundation for oligarchy to get a foot hold.
In the event democracy goes dormant to occupy a latent existence in the unconscious, then the collective psyche can accept the promise that only DJT can solve the problem. How easy, simple, and so little effort on my part. Jobs will soon be coming back to america. Not just jobs, but well paying manufacturing jobs with benefits and retirement! It's a promise good enough to get elected, but will it be achieved in global terms. Only time will tell, but in the mean time let's be doing something to speak to the people.
Religious activists began to infiltrate the republican party in the middle 80's. Focus on the Family with James Dobson, Randall Terry with Operation Rescue (often used war imagery on the radio), and Lloyd John Ogilvie adopted a political direction to their radio programs. Possibly an appropriate, adequate, and substantive response can provide an opportunity for those whose imagination conjures the image necessary to respond.
Enough said, and my appreciation for the heart felt contbibutions that lead me here.
Great post Bud - very enlightening. Many thanks for your moving words and insights re: the impact of job loss (and accompanying income insecurity) on the psyche. It is much under-emphasised as a core anxiety by many who have never experienced it. The idea that anger/frustration projected externally might be a defense against depression/psychic dissolution is food for thought indeed. As a child I witnessed my father grapple with job insecurity in mid-life, and the psychic scars of that experience brought me to depth psychology.I know what you are talking about and it is the reason we should never underestimate the economic inputs to the 'shadow' or to the unconscious generally. The unconscious is always, in part, social.
Such life challenges are particularly difficult to process for men taught to find self-worth in work, economic independence and the ability to provide financially for their families. Neoliberalism TELLS them it is their fault, that they are failures, to blame, etc. - to cover up its own shortcomings and hidden agendas (i.e. wealth transfer on a massive scale upwards has been the global story). It blames its victims. We hear this kind of shaming all the time - particularly via the conservative press/media (at least here in Australia).
Undoing that narrative in therapy is tough going for many - and finding meaningful work is probably the better cure. I am really thankful that you got through it and can pass on your experiences/thoughts/strategies etc. to others. Your insights are also profoundly relevant to what we've been discussing, since casualisation, downsizing/job losses, degradation of workplaces conditions, stagnant wages etc. have been the story of middle and lower income Americans (and workers in many other countries) for decades. A thought: was Donald Trump elected, in part, as an instinctive attempt by millions of Americans to unconsciously ward off serious mental health problems arising out of economic distress?? Put that way the deeper story of the election begins to look very different indeed. Likewise, the strategies needed to ward off the coming fallout for other groups in society. Desperate instinctive hope is a powerful motivator and group unifier, and anyone, or any real world failures, that might take that hope away may not register for the 'hopeful/faithful' ones for some time, since denial of reality is being used to ward off personal psychic collapse/engulfment.
Thank you for this forum, Bonnie and everyone here,
We are caught between hope and despair at this moment. Something new must be born out of the chaos. I am grateful that this thread is here. I just stumbled upon it. We need the threads to weave a web of new hope in the despair. Lighting our individual candles in the darkness, as a community dedicated to understanding, compassion and to soul, we can move through these time, we stand on the brink of a new paradigm. It is terrifying as we must surrender to the times and live moment by moment by instinct, intuition and by connection with one another. Grateful to be with you all at this Kairos moment.
Indeed, these times can't be defined literally nor intellectually but must be lived and experienced
so as to bring to consciousness what is still raw, coarse, undefined, unknown and unaccepted yet.
Besides Jung, we have also some magnificent authors, mentors whose visions are most invaluable specially common to our times...like let’s find the thing that’s worthy of us and give ourselves to it. I am talking about Passion and Creativity. To break the grief with grit, I am thinking mostly of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Creativity, Angela Duckworth on Grit, etc...Kairos, Chaos, Pluto, Saturn, Mercury, Neptune, Uranus...all concerned in these times of this Scorpio/Taurus Full Moon as from yesterday. The Moon has not been so close to us...the last time was some 70+ years back! The Old has to go back to be reshuffled and renewed, so to speak...One great example, for us, Mothers with kids, that can be viewed as inspiring, no?
Angela says that she has one ultimate concern for her professional life as well as being committed to being an extraordinary mother to her two daughters“... my top-level, life-organizing goal is, and will be until my last breath: Use psychological science to help kids thrive.”
Lighting my candle, too, Eva! Thank You!