For those who have experienced it first hand, the connection between racism and trauma is all too real. In previous posts we’ve discussed at length the horrific history of racism in America, specifically the history of the racist oppression of people of African descent in the Americas, and the genocidal treatment of the native peoples of the Americas. Unfortunately, as we see daily in the news and postings across diverse media, racism is not simply an historical event. It is ever present in our daily lives in the contemporary world.
From a depth psychology perspective, it’s possible to see the contemporary awareness that has accompanied recent graphically broadcasted cases of racism as a step towards healing. Early in our history, racism was accepted and almost unchallenged. Then, gradually, it was seen to be undeniably wrong, and, thanks to the insistent, vocal challenges to the status quo by Dr. King, native activists, and other courageous individuals, incremental changes began to occur. Changes in voting laws, affirmative action, the reservation system, etc. were enacted, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans began to be more fairly portrayed in the media, and white people began to feel quite self-congratulatory: now every thing was okay! But much was still going on under the surface of American culture.
Even today, understanding, let alone accepting, white privilege is a challenge for many white people. However, more and more, the deep unconscious structures, ideologies and racist ancestral attitudes that have supported racism historically and systemically are beginning to rise to the surface of cultural consciousness. As they rise, and we examine each event by turn, thinking individuals who have the courage to be brutally honest with themselves cannot fail to see that there is still much to heal.
We know from depth psychology that, while often terribly painful, such catharsis can often bring about a lasting healing that repression and avoidance will never accomplish. In group and individual therapy situations many of us have observed that repressed trauma often comes back in the form of rage. As we move through the rage, however, inevitably, underneath the rage there lie oceans of grief; a wailing sadness that no one person can endure alone. This is archetypal rage, and archetypal grief. This is the grief and rage of the gods. No one individual can carry this grief and rage alone. This level of grief and rage must be shared with others, and with the gods.
This is why it is so important for us to come together and talk about our shared experiences of racism, trauma, rage, and grief. Healing can only come by sharing our experiences of archetypal rage, trauma, and grief. Together we can offer these experiences and feelings back to the gods, who alone can manage the enormous energies contained within them. Together we can contain the energy and transform it into positive, generative, constructive change in the world.
In December 2015 we held our first community conversation on the Archetypal Roots of Racism in America. I hope you will join us on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 12:00 noon PT when The Depth Psychology Alliance will host a follow-up live community discussion/webcast during which listeners will participate with members of the board of the Depth Psychology Alliance and other as we continue to explore and discuss the Archetypal Roots of Racism in America from a depth psychology perspective – and please forward this post to your favorite social media outlets and to interested friends!
James Newell, Ph.D. is an educator, coach/counselor, performing songwriter, and board member of the Depth Psychology Alliance. James teaches mainstream religious studies courses online for Central Michigan University and several other schools. James also holds master’s degree in counseling and theology from Vanderbilt Divinity School. James’ counseling orientation is Jungian, and his goal is to educate and empower others to do their own depth work, individually and collectively. James continues to pursue his own artistic passion through music, having begun his musical career working with such legendary musicians as John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Jr. Wells, Big Joe Turner, and others.