Tension of the Times

One of the hallmarks of Carl Jung’s work is his conceptualization of the shadow. Roughly speaking, the shadow consists of instincts, aspects, qualities, and the like that are unrecognized or repressed in oneself. Jung did not believe that the shadow was only comprised of bad things but also included good parts and positive potentialities (Sharp, 1991).

However, Jung believed that ignoring the shadow had dangerous consequences since he believed this simply contributed to the person continuing to operate through life in an unconscious manner, driven by forces unknown to the individual. Therefore, Jung earnestly believed that the task (or process) of assimilating one’s shadow is an essential one that each individual has a responsibility to undertake for the development of one’s personality.

Another central feature of Jung’s work is not solely focusing on the individual but instead demonstrating the interconnectedness between the inner and outer worlds, the individual and the collective. This lens allows us to observe the ways our interactions with the outside world affect the state of our inner world. This can be reversed to observe the way our inner world is affected by the happenings of the outer world. It is the latter of these two vantage points that offer an entry into what is called Shadow Work, which is the conscious process of becoming aware of parts of oneself that had previously been hidden or repressed and working to find a way of coming to terms with these parts that are viewed by the conscious mind as being in someway unacceptable.

Below is a quote from Joseph R. Lee, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Jungian Analyst, sharing his thoughts on a recent episode (#217) of the podcast This Jungian Life:

We are in a stunning time in the western world. Where powerful cultural mechanisms have been set in motion which support us in disavowing enormous aspects of our own nature and allowing us to weaponize our own denial, so that we will find targets of people, institutions, religions, any numbers of things, where we will lay parts of our own unacceptable nature and then participate with great fervor in the destruction of the thing we’ve landed our shadow on and the motivation to annihilate the thing that I have pushed my shadow into has reached a shocking, shocking level in our culture.

Jung offers us an antidote for that, but it cannot be forced on anyone; the only way out of the place we are in our culture is to see that the enemy is us, and if we have any hope for transforming this muddy painful mess that we’ve all created in our culture it’s in the redemption, and the purifying fire that is set in motion when we reclaim our accusations and transform them into statements that declare what I do not want to know about myself (Lee, Marchiano, & Stewart, 2022, 44:46-46:47).

This excerpt addresses the rampant and intensifying reliance on and usage of projection to sidestep our dire need for inner work, both as individuals and as a collective society. It is through our perpetual avoidance, assisted by the mechanisms of denial, projection, and the like, that the societal we have been able to maintain this unyielding holding pattern between the polarizing forces vying for societal control.

Nevertheless, the underlying tension between these opposing forces has not been stagnant; rather, it is growing in intensity with the amassing of each piece of reality suppressed, denied, distorted, or in any other way blocked from the path of integration. The path that is not sought after—at least collectively—is nonetheless the path necessary for wielding the enormity of the tension between the opposites present in our time. Nevertheless, the responsibility lies on each of us to learn to navigate this path, if not for the purpose of growth as an individual, then, at least, as a citizen indebted to some degree or another to each other.

References

Lee, J. A, Marchiano, L., & Stewart, D. (Hosts). (2022, June 10). Death: A Jungian perspective [Audio podcast episode]. This Jungian Life. https://thisjungianlife.com/episode-217-death

Sharp, D. (1991). C. G. Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms and Concepts (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts) (First Edition). Inner City Books.

Holding Pattern of the Tension of Opposites [Digital Image]. Self-created (2022). https://nightcafe.studio/

A Psychological Survey of Current Events

“When a speculative philosopher believes he has comprehended the world once and for all in his system, he is deceiving himself; he has merely comprehended himself and then naively projected that view upon the world.” – C.G. Jung

The beliefs held by individuals comprising today’s society have become increasingly separated from one another; that is, the foundational beliefs that previously were points of overlap are following the trend of polarization.

Most recently, this pattern of civil disagreement is being illustrated with the rising tensions between the West and Russia. Interestingly, those in the United States who align with the political Right have taken an almost sympathetic approach to Russia, during this geopolitical event. While legislation about addressing this issue has been, relatively speaking, met with bipartisan support, conservative media figures and influencers, such as Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk, have continued to focus on domestic suspicions related to the situation.

One example that illustrates this point is what Donald Trump Jr. stated to Sean Hannity of Fox News, speculating that the U.S. intelligence agencies could be “lying to us to try to instigate us getting into another war.” This statement provides insight into more than merely thoughts about the elements of this particular world event; it serves to highlight the core issue of our current civil differences: doubt and distrust.

The focus of this article is not about the given political ideologies themselves, rather I have selected this quote about this current event to serve as a point of inquiry for investigating the broader societal and psychological changes that are associated with and have contributed to this way of thinking about the government. Moreover, this particular geopolitical issue is a significant indicator to explore broader trends because both party’s stance toward Russia has historically been united and, particularly, this political issue previously was a point of emphasis for the political Right and central reason for the lasting influence of the Regan administration on the conservative movement.

However, it would seem that this historical precedent has been less than influential than that of the checked past of the United States intelligence agencies on shaping conservatives’ views about the current international issue. This seemingly indicates that distrust of government is stronger than that of historical precedent related to political part.

Furthermore, even if the point of the intelligence agencies is conceded, and we adopt the belief that these agencies have and continue to operate nefariously, the counterbalance, in this particular situation, is believing Russian intelligence. Additionally, this situation is broader than merely the United States’ intelligence agencies against those of Russia, but it includes the collective intelligence efforts of Western countries comprised in NATO. Therefore, the scope and magnitude of the current situation implies not only a doubt of the U.S. but also of those Western countries unified against Russia.

Some political analysts have explained that the current situation is similar to two different types of civilizations trying to determine a way to coexist. China’s tacit support of Russia appear to substantiate this notion of the current situation being that of a standoff of the East and the West.

However, this makes the statement doubting the United States intelligence agencies more confusing, given the popular conspiratorial belief that President Biden and Vice President Harris are puppet leaders installed by the Chinese government. Since the second half of initial statement insinuates (arguably outright accuses) that the U.S. intelligence agencies are stoking the tensions between Russia and Ukraine to initiate a war, then it would not be logical to hold both of these beliefs simultaneously; that is, the current administration are puppets of the Chinese government and that the intelligence agencies are trying to start a war that would poise the U.S. and China against one another (as U.S. officials have asserted their intention to hold China responsible for their enabling of Russia were war to occur).

This is one of many examples of cognitive dissonance that have been more clearly elucidated by the current geopolitical situation. From a psychological perspective, to assert claims of doubt and distrust toward the U.S. and Western intelligence agencies necessarily implies a belief in another information source that is considered to be more credible. From a societal perspective, the issue of a source’s credibility is increasingly contributing to ruptures within the public sphere and appears to be breaking off into fragments of information bubbles, diminishing the capacity for civic discourse by reducing the areas of overlap that serve as a necessary foundation for starting a discourse from agreed upon premises. Lastly, while the outcome of the current geopolitical tensions between the East and West are still to be determined, it appears that despite what does or does not occur there is significant fracturing within the landscape of the United States.

Analyzing the Tension of Opposites

All of existence is held together because opposing forces in equilibrium. But what holds these forces in equilibrium? Tension. When in equilibrium, the tension is equal; but, when it is broken, such as in the case of the aftermath of a war, the tension is unequally distributed, resulting imbalances.

But, where is the tension being skewed; where is this new unequal tension being held? In the minds, hearts and spirts of humans. Put another way, in psychic space. Psychic space is different than physical space in that it does not, to the best of our knowledge, consist of physical space; that is, in the means that it can be measured and said to be in this place or that one. Physical space is left to the quantifiable, the observable, and the seen (aside from dark energy, and dark matter that are, at the least, accounted for through negative derivation).

Many pathologies arise from the mere fact that the psychic is perceived as being somehow less “real” than the physical due to its unobservable nature (even with the advances in the field of neuroscience). This distortion is being further augmented as we continue to place more faith in empirical methods and evidence-based approaches. In turn, this is implicitly discrediting the invisible and intangible, as something purely imaginative and, subsequently, inferior to that of the observable, empirical world nature that constitutes the truer form of reality.

However, to adopt this stance is to demonstrate one’s intellectual hubris; simultaneously, this stance toward understanding truth of reality narrows one’s field of view to an extent that our empirical sciences are becoming increasingly tunnel-visioned in what subject matter merits research and attention. All the while, the reality of one’s inner psychic world is, and will always be, the most direct experience and influential force to shape our lives.

Therefore, it is the exploration of the psychic frontier that demands one’s effortful focus, sensitive tools of introspection, and repeated trials of observation, self-reflection, and data collection. Our collective avoidance and/or belittling of the psychic realm (or mental health) demonstrates our aversion to explore the depths of ourselves that are unknown; our conscious mind soothes itself with rationality and is further reassured by the collective’s tendency toward prizing reason or emotion; however, as continue to witness in current events, we are not the one’s who choose how our psychic world, or mental health, affects us, at least, not in full.