Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
– Carl Jung
According to Jungian philosophy, there is a collective unconscious that all humans can tap in to. It is innate, gifted to us at birth, and ever present during our experience on earth. “The collective unconscious – so far as we can say anything about it at all – appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents,” said Jung. “In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious,” he continues. “We can therefore study the collective unconscious in two ways, either in mythology or in the analysis of the individual.”
The more esoterically inclined amongst us will have noticed a particular myth playing out on our television sets on a daily basis. It features an archetypical character beholden to the dark recesses of his own unconscious mind, ripping away at civil society and creating chaos wherever he goes. The Trump saga is not new to history — it is a replay of ancient times when great civilizations spawned grotesque strongmen who promised to restore greatness to the empire, purge the “other”, and smash the preciousness of the elites. From Nero to Hitler, history is littered with boorish men emerging from the fringes of polite society to upend the status quo.
According to Jungian philosophy, these leaders emerge from the human unconscious — they are creatures of our own making, sent from the darkness of our own minds to remind us of the shadow that lives within us all.
This is something that has been on my mind for some time — a nagging sensation that something in me helped spawn this repellant conman who stands for everything I am against. Why do I think this? Because my reaction to Trump has been physically overwhelming at times, to the point where his actions make me physically ill. His vile rhetoric about immigrants, his views on women and his hatred for the environment have had a toxic effect on my psyche, and I spend much of my waking life fighting against it. But as Herman Hesse once said, “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part yourself. What isn’t part ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
Is it possible that the elements of Trumpism I hate are parts of my own psyche I have yet to come to terms with? Are the activists who spend their time and energy fighting him actually engaging in a metaphorical war on themselves? As Jung said,“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
Perhaps our pretenses of being above Trumpism are in fact a reaction to the Trump inside all of us — the greed, the hatred, the lying and the uncontrolled ego — all of the darkness we suppress, ignore and fight against. Because that is what Trump represents: the subconscious let loose, roaming without restraint and incapable of self control.
Trump, and Trumpism did not emerge in a vacuum — it has long been present in American society, bubbling beneath the surface waiting for the opportunity to erupt. It was suppressed during the Obama years when the White House projected a sense of civility and decency, placating civil society and lulling it into a sense of false security. But the masses of uncontrolled rage, ignorance hatred still seethed, hoping to find a vehicle to manifest itself in, until one did. And what better than a loudmouthed reality television star who made his fortune conning people and lying about his success? Trump represented everything our shadow side wants to be, so why not release the anger and hatred and see where it goes?
If this is the case, then what on earth can we do about it? This is something I can’t quite figure out, but Jung at least provides some helpful clues. If the collective unconscious is real and we are all a part of it, then we must accept that Donald Trump is a part of us — a part of me. If I continue to hate that part of me, then what good can come from it? Hatred only creates more anger, more suppression, and more sickness — all of which appears to be happening to many of the people know engaged in the resistance to his presidency. It seems to me that this part of ourselves, this darkness, must be accepted to at least a certain degree. It does not have to be condoned, agreed with, or even placated, but it must be loved if it is to lose its grip on power.
I have written extensively on why I think Trumpism must be eradicated from the face of the earth, smashed, destroyed and thrown onto the rubbish heap of history. I still agree with this point of view, but it does not mean that Trump and his supporters are not worthy of compassion, of empathy, and of love. Why? Because their views are a part of me, their hatred a part of my own unconscious, and their ego a part of my own suppressed desires. The part of me that detests these urges recognizes how destructive they are and wants to fight it with all its might — but that fight threatens to destroy the whole. So I — we must compromise and find common ground, not intellectually, but emotionally. We must recognize that the darkness is a part of us all that we cannot ever completely banish. We must fight Trumpism in all its guises knowing that we are ultimately engaged in a war with ourselves — a tricky task to say the least, but one that can be won if we at least acknowledge the truth of it.
The most skilled professional fighters almost never fight with anger — they know ultimately that the opponent in front of them does not really exist. They engage in combat knowing that they are fighting a version of themselves sent to expose their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses. I have seen this philosophy present in many a great fighter and Martial Artist — they still fight with courage and intensity, and most of all, they fight to win — but they do not fight with hatred, and never to harm unnecessarily. They understand that combat is a metaphor for life, that it is not a zero sum game and the point is to grow as a fighter and a human being. “The most challenging of all resistance comes from within,” said Martial Arts great Tim Kennedy. “The similarity with all warriors is that they’re always battling demons within themselves. It’s a constant battle, that has to be fought non-stop.”
I do not want to fight Trumpism to cause harm to Trump or his supporters. I want to fight to restore sanity and calm to America and the rest of the planet, and I want Trump supporters to benefit from that too. They are my shadow, and I must at some point learn to love that too.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.