The Presidential Election From A Jungian Perspective


unknown-3unknown-2“There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites.” ~Carl Jung, CW 9i: §178

For some time now I’ve wanted to write about the U.S.A.’s upcoming presidential election in a thoughtful, non-polarizing way, but couldn’t find a theme. I found it last week in this quote:

“The time is ripe for the unconscious and conscious dominants to meet each other.  The death of the old dominant is indicated by the fact that the king is about to die.  This corresponds to the fact that the God-image, the collective dominant of the Western psyche, is moribund.  In preparation for its death, it opens up an ancient tomb;  in other words it opens up the unconscious.  This activates the feminine principle, which had been dead and buried in the very same tomb, in the unconscious.  As the tomb is opened, the unconscious is penetrated by consciousness . . . and a revitalization occurs.” ~ Edward Edinger

Carl Jung believed that resolving the problem of opposites was the major challenge of our time. The problem is that although every human inherits the full range of human potential, we separate qualities into arbitrary categories of good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse. Those we prefer and develop are projected onto our gods and leaders.  Those we despise and reject are projected onto enemies and devils. When we act on our biases we often do great harm to ourselves, each other, and our planet.

In today’s world, two pairs of opposites present the greatest challenge: our conscious and unconscious selves, and our masculine and feminine sides. Since the ‘masculine principle’ of Logos, (logic and reason, objective interest), has consciously ruled politics and religion in the West for about 5,000 years, the ‘feminine principle’ of Eros (caring and relationship, or what Jung called ‘the great binder and loosener’), has been relegated to our unconscious lives, and women and the qualities long associated with them have been devalued and repressed.  The more obsessive we are about maintaining masculine dominance, the more money and power males and traditional societal institutions acquire and cling to, until what was originally a fresh and healthy new development turns toxic.

The King Is About to Die

As stories about the unconscious self, myths often contain a dying king. Death images also appear frequently in dreams. In essence, this motif represents the stage in the growth of an individual or society when limiting old beliefs, attitudes, and priorities must die for continued growth to occur. This is always a time of great difficulty and often of chaos.

The metaphor of the dying king is especially apt in the political arena. Consider the rebellions, revolutions and deaths that occurred before America’s founders were able to free themselves from the control of the British monarchy. Imagine how devastating it must have been to the aristocracy which had amassed great fortunes under the monarchy to lose the New World, an unbelievably valuable asset, to the new order of democracy.

Is it any wonder the British held on so tightly?  Yet in the end, our founders’ need to be free from repression won out. As a result, democracy, a brand new form of government, was born. Of course, the psychological reality that the king is about to die again does not mean democracy should die, but only that it’s time to end the imbalances and injustices which have characterized it so far.

The Unconscious and Conscious Dominants Meet

Presidential races have always been hotly contested and name-calling has always been the order of the day. And even the wisest among us are buffeted by unconscious emotions and complexes which influence our choices without our knowledge. This is why both sides in this race can have such different positions, yet each sees theirs as the ‘correct’ one that will promote democracy’s values of  ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

So what’s different about this race?  For the first time in the history of America, the unconscious dominant of the feminine principle and all it represents—symbolized by Hillary Clinton—has risen to meet the conscious dominant of the masculine principle and its patriarchal style of governing—symbolized by Donald Trump.

The pervasive argument that Clinton is no different from the corrupt males before her simply doesn’t stand up to the facts when her record is compared to Trump’s (check the facts here), or to those who preceded her as Secretary of State (check the facts here). The fact is, symbols speak louder than words. In this case, the fact that an experienced female politician has been nominated to run against a political neophyte who happens to be a powerful, white, billionaire male shows us what’s really at stake in America’s collective unconscious.

It’s very apparent to observers of cultural change that the feminine principle has been activated in collective consciousness. The question is, will we keep trying to repress it or will we open the tomb and make way for the revitalization of America?

Image Credits:  Google Images.

Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon as well as KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.


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24 Responses

  1. I’m sorry Jeanie , I still see Clinton and Trump as two wings on the same duck, and probably both on the same side of its body. Damning with faint praise…”when her record is compared to Trump’s”. An infinite amount of typewriting monkeys would ALL compare favourably to the Don!
    On the emails, I get Colin Powell’s point on retrospective classification. It would be interesting to know whether, with Clinton being the only one being accused of sending TOP SECRET info by private email whether that would have been flagged up at the time if known.
    As for Hillary the symbol, how I wish the more positive elements of the Feminine were evident in her character.
    Jeanie for President! ?

    1. Well, I guess I forgive you for having a different opinion, Brian. As they say, that’s what makes a horse race. 🙂
      Seriously, though, while I believe Hillary the symbol is a very important part of this election, in my opinion Hillary the human being has proven the strength of her ‘feminine side’ in many remarkable accomplishments. And since you’ve shared your observations, I’ll share a few more facts that can be found at this site:
      Instead of signing on to a prestigious law firm after graduating, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund—focusing her career on the fundamental need for quality public education for every American child, regardless of background, location, or unique needs. She also worked with teenagers incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina and families with children with disabilities in Massachusetts.
      When she was appointed to the Arkansas Education Standards Committee, she investigated public schools throughout the state, listening to parents and teachers, and working with a team of educators to create policy that would better prepare Arkansas students for a 21st-century economy. Before that she had already co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which would later make huge strides in standing up for children in the welfare system.
      In 1995, as first lady, she boldly declared “women’s rights are human rights” at a U.N. conference in Beijing. This was much more controversial than it sounds today. Many in the U.S. government didn’t want her to go to Beijing. Others wanted her to pick a less “polarizing” topic. I think it’s a sign of her sincere passion for this cause that she stood up for her beliefs and spoke out about human rights abuses at a time when this was not a popular stance.
      In 1997 she worked with Republicans and Democrats to secure health care for millions of American kids. As first lady she fought to help pass health care reform. When that effort failed, she worked with Republicans and Democrats to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP cut the uninsured rate of American children by half, and today it provides health care to more than 8 million kids.
      As U.S. senator from New York, she supported comprehensive immigration reform legislation, and she co-sponsored the DREAM Act three times. And she worked to expand health care access for low-income immigrant mothers and children.
      All these causes—women’s rights, health care access for low-income immigrant mothers and children, children’s education and health care—are surely indication of a very committed and highly activated ‘feminine side.’
      Thanks as always, for writing, my friend. Jeanie
      P.S. You made me laugh with “Jeanie for President!” I’m afraid I don’t begin to have what it takes to undertake such a grueling responsibility for even a day, let alone 4 years!

  2. This is a most interesting way to look at the collision course Jeanie thank you. I won’t venture a view on either potential candidate as I’m not an American, although I follow the ‘race’ with great interest. It clear to me that the polarised views on each candidate are extreme. This is not unlike the polarised views here in South Africa, not necessarily male:female as our Women’s League is still in bed (sadly) with the governing party which is corrupt in a word.
    I remember Jung saying (I’m paraphrasing): Beware the man who knows he’s right. When a person is absolutely convinced that his or her view is the right and only one, I get nervous. When the level of argument gets down to name calling I get anxious. It’s ongoing here in my country. Is this part and parcel of what politics is about? I suspect so – irrespective of where in the world. I’m a little anarchic in my view – I wonder how the world would be were there no governments? Let civil society work for us all. Let old outdated ways and kings take a bow and get OUT.
    To hear of Hillary Clinton’s collapse was worrying. I wish her well.

    1. I’m with you Susan in being skeptical of people who are absolutely convinced their views are right, whether about religion, politics, child-raising, or just about anything else. This kind of close-mindedness points to the kind of psychological deafness and blindness that makes for fanaticism, something we definitely don’t need more of right now. About the only thing I’m certain of is that even though I want my thoughts and actions to be based on love and don’t want to cause pain to anyone or anything, I fail in that endeavor every day. Seriously. I’m worried about Hillary’s collapse too. I don’t know how she does it. I can’t begin to imagine the kind and strength and endurance she must have to do what she or any presidential candidate does day after day. I hope she’s getting enough rest. Thanks for writing, Susan.

    1. Thank you so much, Skip. I thought of your advice to me to some years ago as I was writing it. You encouraged me to apply my understanding of Jungian psychology to more controversial issues and in more political ways. I just couldn’t do it then, but writing this blog for six and a half years has strengthened my voice and my resolve. I couldn’t forgive myself if Hillary lost and I hadn’t said a word about my honest beliefs. Again, thank you for your encouragement.

  3. My reply has nothing to do with politics, but your mentioning the ‘dying king’ myth has made me realize why my animus has appeared recently in my dreams as the Knight. After many years of struggle coming to terms with the patriarchal treatment of women throughout history, my animus evolved from personifying as a mean, nasty old man into a kind and gentle Knight. From this article, I realize that I had my ‘dying king’ dreams several years ago – opening the way for my gallant Knight. Most recently, whenever the old patriarchal man appears, my Knight appears also.

    1. Dear Gail,
      I’m so glad you wrote. This post isn’t just about politics, of course, but about a massive change occurring in the collective psyche. Obviously, you’re tuned in to this change, and have been for some time.
      I’ve had a similar experience regarding dream images of my animus. Since I began recording my dreams 27 years ago I’ve dreamed of Mafioso Dons treating me with disdain and hunting me down, angry intruders invading my house and trying to shoot me, potential rapists chasing me through the night, Nazi officers intimidating and imprisoning me, scornful males bullying me…….and the list goes on. But over all these years of dreamwork and self-reflection my animus has gradually changed from hostile adversary, to potential friend, to best friend, to lover, adviser and guide.
      What an amazing and meaningful experience it has been for you to have your dreams present you with your gallant Knight! Every woman deserves one, just as every man deserves a devoted Beloved. I so wish that more men and women in our time understood that dreams tell the truth about their inner lives, and that knowing this, they would pay attention to what their dreams are trying to tell them about their whole selves: conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, wounded and healthy. Think of the changes that could happen in our culture if everyone stopped running away from their nightmares and saw them as benevolent teachers!
      Much appreciation for your thoughtful comment. It has given me an opportunity to share a bit more about my passion for dreamwork, a way of acquiring self-knowledge that has been more helpful to me than perhaps any other practice I’ve tried.
      My gratitude and very best wishes to you, Jeanie

      1. Thank you for replying. It is validating to converse with one other person who has experienced this maturation of Animus. My most notable dream personifications were many of the actors who portrayed James Bond (Sean Connery handed me a key so I could unlock his wrists) and a director friend of mine as a Magus showing me three blazing furnaces and telling me that I would no longer need my mask as I was to be keeper of the fires.
        I don’t even remember how I found your blog – but saved it to Favorites Bar – and now I know it was totally synchronistic.

        1. For me, one of the most amazing and rewarding things about working regularly with dreams is how it strengthens the ego’s connection with the unconscious to the point that synchronicities are commonplace and our waking lives bring as much meaning and validation as our dreams. Some years ago I also had an especially meaningful dream featuring Sean Connery. Your dream of him and your director friend sound very archetypal—the key, fiery furnace and mask being common alchemical symbols suggesting significant progress in your ‘opus.’ It is validating to me as well to converse with someone so committed to this grand work.

  4. Your brave post, Jeanie, especially in this election year, so inspired me I got up in the middle of the night and composed a response too long for this space. But I support what Skip had suggested to you – to apply Jungian thought to “more controversial issues and in more political ways.” If we don’t attempt to apply Jung’s discoveries to real life, what use are they? And that means exposing ourselves, difficult as that is. (Makes me think of Adam and Eve – where’s a good fig leaf when you need it?) Thank you, Jean, for providing this forum. I don’t typically read blogs, but I feel real (conscious) work being done here.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Diane. I want to read your long response too! Some of my best writing has come in the middle of the night…often inspired by dreams.
      I’ve known Skip was right, but I’ve always been so much more fascinated with the inner life than the outer that I’ve found it difficult to jump into the political arena with both feet. Perhaps it’s my introverted nature. I’m a warrior when it comes to facing, standing up to, and befriending my shadow, but people intimidate me. (How’s that for exposing myself? :-))
      This ‘forum’ has truly been a blessing. Like an alchemical vas, it’s a creative outlet into which I pour my passions and a place where interactions between a variety of elements facilitate growth into greater consciousness. Thank you so much for participating.

  5. I do love Ed Egdinger and believe he was one of the best intepereters of Jung but I believe Jung would be so disgusted with both these candidates that he would just throw up his arms on surrender of the human race!!!

  6. Thank you, Jeanie, for an illuminating view of what’s going on in the presidential brawl we’re enduring. Maybe the candidates aren’t perfect fits with the archetypes, as a few comments suggest, but actual humans are never perfect fits for an archetype. (Hitler loved animals and was a vegetarian, for example, which doesn’t fit well with his archetypal evil role.) Yet I learn so much from considering the underlying structures of what feels impossible to understand in any rational way. We have a Queenly woman committed to social justice since she was a student who takes heaps of abuse and humiliation in the press, is judged by a different standard, accused with unchallenged lies, and keeps going despite it all (even when she’s sick). The Donald is not only an archetypal patriarchal king, exaggerated into a comic book (or reality TV) character, but a trickster and slayer of facts. It’s impossible to keep up with his lies, but the press could try to call out a few. Instead, they enjoy the headlines. Like many other supporters of liberal candidates, I’m biting my nails, but if I stand back, I’m endlessly fascinated by the operatic plot.
    A little mention of the Iroquois Indians (or Six Nations) who lived south of the Great Lakes and in the Finger Lakes before the invasion of those Europeans seeking freedom. The Iroquois had a complex democratic political system (some scholars say it is the oldest “participatory” democracy) with women playing strong political, social, and decision-making roles. Early on, the Iroquois were respected by the colonialists because of their political system, but that disappeared when the invaders wanted their land. I live on what was once Iroquois hunting land. Sigh…

    1. Very well said, Elaine. I’m also seeing from comments elsewhere that separating the candidates from the archetypes seems to be a major problem. For example, many people don’t seem to understand that males and females are both furnished with both archetypes, and therefore associate them with the genders. It’s taken a long time for humanity to figure out the difference, and it still hasn’t entered collective consciousness in any big way. Hopefully, dialogues like this will build greater awareness.
      Thank you as always for your thoughtful and pertinent observations! I very much appreciate them. I’m sighing with you….

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