My post a few weeks ago on Sarah Palin acting as Barack Obama’s psychological shadow triggered a lot of people. I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about how one deals with the shadow once it breaks out and begins to disrupt things. But first a short recap: The emergence of Gov. Palin wasn’t simply startling — it was inexplicable. How could 20% of women voters suddenly turn toward her when Palin stands for erasing forty years of feminism? How could the mentality of a small-town mayor morph into a potential President making global decisions? To explain her meteoric rise, I offered the idea that each of us harbors a shadow, a place where our hidden impulses live. By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of “the other,” and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow’s party for a long time. Sarah Palin put a smiling face on feelings that normally we feel ashamed of.
The shadow is irrational; it thrives on gut emotions. (A recent Fox News poll ran with the headline, “In their gut, independents choose McCain.”) Bringing the 2008 campaign down to the gut level means bringing it down to the level of the shadow. Instead of listening to an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic man with one African-American parent, people get to say, “I just don’t like blacks. They’re scary; they’re not like me. It’s a gut thing.” Only it’s not. It’s a shadow thing that each of us, not just the right wing, must deal with. Reacting to Palin with fear, confusion, panic, and lashing out also comes from the shadow.
People who were shocked and dismayed by the Palin effect generally don’t know how to handle shadow energies. Here are a few salient points:
1. Don’t panic — The shadow is built into your psyche, and when it brings fear, hostility, and resentment to the surface, those feelings want to get out. They cause disruption, but your panic only makes them stick around longer.
2. Try not to be overwhelmed — Eruptions from the shadow are transitory. If you don’t encourage them, these energies dissipate naturally. If you are overwhelmed, however, the net result is exhaustion and loss of energy.
3. Remind yourself who you really are — You are much more than your shadow, because your aspirations, hopes, and dreams keep advancing despite the shadow’s apparent power. Pay the least attention to these disruptions as you need to calm down and no more.
4. Keep a clear focus — The shadow creates disorder and runaway emotions. If you focus on your purpose and remain rational, you will anchor yourself to a more stable reality.
5. Don’t fight fire with fire — If you sink to the level of dark energies, you will be fighting on their terms, and the likelihood is that you will lose.
If we translate these points into current politics, they are clearly applicable. The Democrats were triggered by Palin because they fear losing and that fear runs deep. The bogeymen that frighten us the most come from a primitive level; they stir a sense of childish helplessness. But your mature self, like Obama’s campaign organization, is coherent and knows how to carry out its purpose. Realize that American politics has been dominated by shadow issues for decades, so it’s only natural they still have claws and teeth. But their game has gotten old and tired. If you are able to see past the appeal to fear and resentment, have trust that other people can, too.
The bottom line is that the 2008 election isn’t about change versus experience or a noble candidate who may lose to one who plays dirty. This election is about consciousness. Since the Reagan revolution, consciousness has been sleepy and dull in politics; ideals have been tarnished by cynicism; inner decay has sapped the party in power of its original purpose, leaving only a pointless morass of defensiveness that expresses itself in negativity. If the majority of the electorate wakes up and feels inspired to turn the page, that will happen. Obama has sounded the call; few people missed the message. Now it’s a matter of dealing with a phase of fear and resistance before we discover if stuck consciousness is ready to move ahead.
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