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Shadow Material: The US Election & Our Own Work

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, however shocking (or not) the results may have been, it was not an unforeseeable aberration. What was the appeal of Donald Trump that led to his win?  Why are some people so outraged?

From a depth psychological perspective, Hilary spoke to the status quo – the same and familiar side. Donald spoke to our shadow side. Depth psychology suggests that what is yet unknown or suppressed in our unconscious first appears to us as symbols, as in dreams or those ‘Freudian slips.’ Trump symbolically represented the new, in an exaggerated and uncomfortable manner. Trump spoke what many Americans and others were thinking yet not necessarily speaking in popular media.

Shadow is all that our egos do not want to know about or be. Shadow material may appear as evil or bad. lt can be parts of ourselves put aside from shaming or embarrassment. Yet, shadow material is important, as Jung stated that to “confront a person with thеіr shadow іѕ to ѕhοw them thеіr own light.” And what was Trump showing us?

As Sean Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Jung Centre of Houston, noted

At crucial moments of cultural change throughout history, monsters emerge into our collective imagination –               in rumor, in the arts, and, seemingly, in plain view. The root of our word monster, monst-, means “to show.”                 The new – particularly the new that will upend our illusory security – tends to show itself first as monstrous.

Shadow material is presented in a number of ways. One way is through the observations others make about you that surprise you. Someone may tell you, for example, “You’re really creative,” or state “You seem to get upset when you talk about your brother.” Your ego has difficulty hearing about these traits and thus you may tend to discredit, deny, minimize or even justify these traits.

Shadow material is also exposed through projection. Projection occurs when qualities that you cannot admit in yourself are placed onto other people. “Really, I’m like that?” Is there any similarity between you and Trump or Clinton, although perhaps not to the same degree?

What bothers us about someone is actually a quality we have not fully owned. When we face our shadow traits, it allows us to be more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and others.  What traits were you projecting onto Hilary and Donald?

Taking responsibility for shadow material challenges one to look humbly at whom one is and the beliefs one lives by. Jung stated, “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real.” And, that is what perhaps both Clinton and Trump revealed to the collective.

When we face ουr shadowy elements this humanizes us, allowing us to be more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and others.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.