It is easy to identify President Trump’s shadow.
He calls others liars because he lies.
He blames violent behavior on others because he instigates it.
He talks about about “law and order,” because he is circumventing the law.
He blames others for corruption… go ahead — you can continue and just fill in the blanks. Projecting one’s own shadow onto others and blaming them for it, has been a main tactic in Trump’s playbook.
But it is not just President Trump who does this.
No matter who wins, we are facing a nation that, in Jungian terms, projects its shadow. We deny what we are afraid of. We hide from what we despise in ourselves. Instead we project our inner demons and and our own denied darkness onto others.
And we have turned on ourselves. Our enemies are no longer foreign adversaries — but rather fellow citizens of the opposite political persuasion.
We cannot force others to face their shadow. But while we wait for the election outcome, we can face our own. And so currently, this is my question to myself:
How does my shadow manifest? What is it?
I don’t mean for this to become a psychological share-fest, but in order for each of us to truly stand in our power when the dust of this election settles, it will be beneficial to face the future with clarity and focus. And there is no clarity and no focus if we have not confronted and integrated our shadow. So what am I (a left-leaning intellectual) projecting onto others, and what are we, as a group, projecting on others? What is it I/we are reluctant to facing in ourselves? We learn to understand things about ourselves by analyzing what it is that irritate, provoke, and make us fearful of others. That which triggers us.
What is it?
I know that obviously we, as a group, are stirred because of righteous concerns about democracy, continuing free press, equal access to healthcare and education, Climate Change, the rights of POC, women, LGBTQI people, etc. This is the obvious and collective part of what agitates us about Trump and his regime; the threat to all of it, and to all of us, if Trump and his radical extremist agenda is allowed to continue.
And certainly, no matter who wins the presidency, it will be important to continue to fight for these and many other issues on local, state, organizational, national, and international levels. But what is it for each of us on a personal level? What is it for the left as a group? I have a hard time facing up to it or even identifying my own shadow at this time which tells me that I need to pay attention.
I sit here with it.
What comes up is a sense of “better-knowing.” I don’t see others as “baskets of deplorables,” do I? Hmmmm….
OK, it is a place to start: my need to be right. My need to prove others wrong because I’m “smarter.” My irritation that others break the rules and get away with it, and my feeling that my “moral superiority” is not appreciated or reflected by people in leadership who flaunt such themselves. Phew.
I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. But that bit about not feeling appreciated, makes me think of someone.
He lives in the rural Midwest. Let’s call him Bob. He is in his early 70s. He fought in Vietnam, came home and found it impossible to take on any kind of desk job or to study. Bob couldn’t be inside buildings without feeling trapped. He couldn’t be outside because he looked for enemies around every turn. His PTSD was overwhelming. He finally settled down with an enormous and increasing gun arsenal and eked out an existence as a private eye.
He returned home from inhuman horrors in Vietnam only to be spat on and ridiculed by anti-war protesters. He hid. Literally, in his job, but also in his personal life. Bob felt he couldn’t trust anyone. He hid his own secrets, fears, and transgressions from his childhood in which a violent, alcoholic father (with PTSD from WWII) tormented the family. He hid from what he’d seen and been a part of in Vietnam. He was haunted by it all.
Increasingly, Bob felt that the intellectuals, artists, politicians, and all those on the left, who were now ascending in popular opinion, were hypocrites and posers. They didn’t understand his sacrifices made in good faith, and he suspected that they never would.
Where others rebelled and realized themselves in the late 60s and through the 70s, Bob fought for what he believed was right, upstanding, and worthwhile. But nobody acknowledged him. He remained on the bottom of society. He knew that others saw him as a loner and a weirdo.
Denying his feelings of inadequacy and of being rejected made him more afraid, which he buried and projected. An overwhelming rage now took over and lived within him. He denied and repressed that as well. Opiates became a good friend. What was good enough for Rush Limbaugh, was good enough for him. But it was not until Trump began holding rallies that Bob felt seen, acknowledged, and respected from a person in leadership. He could now project his shadow in publicly sanctioned events, activities, and beliefs. He could voice his rage against a common enemy: the democrats, leftists, and intellectuals, who had previously ridiculed him and made him feel small. Now they were on the receiving end of the better-knowing, the scorn, and the ridicule.
How’d they like it now?
To Bob, Trump is not a political leader. To Bob, Trump respects his rage, gives him community, and offers him personal redemption.
I am not better or worse than Bob. But I can try to wake up and look at what he sees when he sees me. Being awake is a two-way street. While I will continue working for what I believe, I also realize that it is when I stare myself blind on my own shiny righteousness that I miss the point of the fight.
Author “The Blues — Why it Still Hurts so Good,” artist manager. PhD Wisdom Studies. Contributor: The Daily Beast, The Bern Report, Classic Rock Blues Magazine.