Recently, I was reminded again about some of the challenges facing us as a people in this wonderful country. We struggle with the change in consciousness that is being required while we try to navigate our way through having an African-American in the White House and all the other changes facing us as citizens of the world.
The reminder came as I read a news story about the Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett requesting the president’s birth record so he can be sure President Barack Obama is a natural born citizen. Along with this, I recall another story informing the reader that 1 in 6 Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. This is very interesting, since those who think that evidently did not see all of those news stories in 2008 about his Christian pastor.
If we simply look at these things on the surface it would be easy to conclude that there are many people in our country who simply need an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately, the issue goes deeper than merely having bad attitudes. There is a deep psychological thread running through these birther and Muslim obsessions -- the overt racist expressions that have been made against Obama and his family and the claim, by some, that he is the most divisive person in the country at the moment. What is it?
What’s making it so difficult to allow this president to do his work while offering whatever disagreements we might have with his policies as intelligent, well informed people who simply happen not to agree? Why has there been this four-year obsession with where he was born? Why is it so difficult to believe that he is a Christian?
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I have been searching the archives of my Jungian community to find lectures and conversations that address this issue, though I had some clues about where a part of the answer to the questions might lie, I wanted to see how some of my Jungian colleagues were working to make sense of this time in our national journey.
One of the great contributions made by the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, is the idea of the shadow. In very simple terms, the shadow can be defined as, those characteristics that we have that are most inconsistent with our self-image and our sense of self.These qualities are unconscious and are projected onto others. A good example of this is demonstrated by the politicians who are constantly crusading against corruption, but who get caught in their own ethical problems.
As a nation we still have a lot to deal with regarding slavery and its legacy, racism. So this black man stirs up some of the unconscious guilt that continues to haunt us as a nation. But on the other hand, he is part white and that brings up the issue of interracial relationships which we continue to struggle with in some parts of our country. In addition to everything else he has a name that sounds like someone many of us believe we should fear.
So we have a few choices. We can stop and take inventory of ourselves and honestly work on withdrawing our projections while seeking to see the truth, or we can continue with this madness that is so prevalent at the moment. If we continue, we will come to another time and place where these issues will have to be faced. The call to deeper understanding and acceptance of everyone in this great nation is not going to fade away. So we can work on the challenges of our personal and collective shadows and the projection of them now, or we can do it later. But we will have to do it, if we want to live in a thriving nation.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.