06
19

This is TOO obvious

You’d think Donald Trump would be the perfect topic for a blog that tries to explain the human shadow. You’d think I’d be perfectly happy. But in truth, writing about the Donald gets incredibly boring. The shadow side of his administration is so out in the open and so distinctly obvious that it’s hardly worth mentioning, psychologically speaking. But… as long as he’s in power, I gotta keep doing it.

What do you call it when someone says things over and over which are known to be false? Doublethink. There weren’t “the most people ever” at Trump’s inauguration, and saying there “were too” over and over again will not make it so. There was no “crookedness” in Hillary’s campaign, or reality to the “birther” and “wiretap” controversies about Obama, and there never will be. Nor did Trump get the “most votes ever.” (Any kid in elementary school would call this sort of behavior lying, but I defer to Mr. Orwell’s elegant term.)

What do we call it when someone uses euphemistically vague language with strong emotional overtones to promote a particular political agenda? Newspeak. Are Americans really the greatest? How so? Are we born with better circulatory systems or larger brains?

Why would someone who regularly calls his former opponent “crooked” without a shred of evidence, someone who actually called this opponent a “devil” in a nationally televised debate, be so shocked at the viciousness  in Washington?

Why do we need to make others look bad in order to make ourselves feel good?

Denial. Projection. Blame.

We all do it. This is the pot calling the kettle black; the best defense being a good offense, et cetera. But Donald Trump is extreme.

George Will wrote recently that he thinks Trump has a dangerous disability. I agree. This is not just a man who has been known to lie on occasion. This is a man who doesn’t even know when he’s lying. He simply says whatever he feels like he needs to say to get himself out of whatever predicament he’s gotten himself into. Merely to make himself feel better at the moment. This is a man who protects his ego at the expense of any and all — truth be damned, country be damned.

And this man leads a large political party full of men who apparently don’t care if he lies, as long as they get to stay in power.

Not good.

caveman

 

 

01
22

Doublethink. Newspeak.

Doublethink:  Accepting two mutually contradicting beliefs as being simultaneously correct. As in thinking, Sure, Donald Trump is selecting the wealthiest people he can find to be in his cabinet, while also thinking Sure, Donald Trump really cares about middle class America.

Newspeak: Ambiguous, euphemistic language used chiefly in political propaganda. Aren’t I the greatest? Sure, I’m the greatest. Everybody says so. I can make American great again because I’m the greatest.

eagle-at-podium

He may not be much else worth mentioning, but Trump is a master of doublethink and newspeak.

I was  worried that we’d never be able to figure out what was going with Donald in charge, but, after this inaugural week, I wonder no more.

To know what’s actually going on, all we will have to do is believe the exact opposite of whatever he says is going on.

 

10
21

Trumping

When I hear someone say whatever they want, however they want, to whomever they want, with no thought for truth or accuracy or fairness, much less common human decency;

when I know that someone is speaking simply to create an effect or to gain an advantage,

I’m going to call it “Trumping” from now on.

eagle-at-podium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10
20

The Vampires Among Us

Every year David and I spend the month of October watching old horror movies. Lots of silly ones like The Creature From the Black Lagoon or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, plus a few really good ones, like Branaugh’s Frankenstein or Coppola’s Dracula, or Shadow of the Vampire, where John Malkovich plays the obsessed director of Nosferatu and Willem Dofoe plays the vampire. Excellent movie.

We’re gardeners, outdoor types, so maybe this is our way of transitioning from the perfect Portland summers to the dismal, dreary Portland winters—our ritual way of saying goodbye to 80 degrees and glorious so we can embrace a landscape that’s going to look like a set from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the next 7 months.

And, as usual in October, I find myself thinking about the vampire myth. Why are vampires so fascinating? Why have vampires become such an enduring archetype of evil?

Because we all know in our bones—oops, in our blood—that vampires are real. We’ve each been victimized by vampires. We’ve each acted like a vampire from time to time ourselves.

A real vampire doesn’t wear a cape or have eyebrows like Bela Lugosi. A real vampire is just an ordinary, everyday person who goes around sucking the juice, the life force, out of other people. He’s the perpetually disgruntled guy whose mood can subdue a whole room full of otherwise cheerful folk. She’s the one who can’t get enough attention, can’t get enough love, can’t get enough praise. The one who leaves you exhausted and drained after every visit. The one who always talks, but rarely listens. The one grappling for control. The one who tries to mesmerize others into feeding their neediness.

And just like the mythological ones, real vampires are capable of passing their dis-ease on to others, generation after generation after generation.

Here’s how the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism defines ‘vampire’:

The vampire is a monster of either gender that drains the blood of a living person. The English novelist Bram Stoker popularized the vampire in his 1897 Dracula, from which the film versions were made. But the centuries old vampire lore, especially of Central Europe, is echoed in the legends of bloodsucking demons throughout the world.

The vampire is a strange phenomenon of the imagination, a shapeshifter, hypnotist and captivator, erotic and chillingly repugnant at the same time. He or she is often ravishingly, irresistibly seductive. That the vampire is also represented as a form of were-animal, fanged and nocturnal, suggests that as a psychic factor it shuns the light of consciousness, manifesting in the twilight of the subliminal as a sexual compulsion or another form of raw, insatiable hunger that cannot be put to rest and eventually takes possession of the whole personality. Psyche portrays the vampire as one of the most compelling and libido-draining aspects of the inner “other” and part of its paradoxical attraction is that it is potentially dangerous. Some have compared the vampire to the “hungry ghost,” the revenant of unmetabolized deprivation and trauma, which obsesses us, keeping us out of life. The most deadly aspect of the classic vampire is that with each attack it replicates its condition in the victim, who becomes one of the melancholy, exhausted or restless “dead.”

More contemporary portrayals have idealized the vampire as a being of pale, lunar beauty, in whom soulfulness, wisdom and magical powers combine with exhilarating animal instinctuality. In this version, because the vampire lives forever, it can teach us the lessons of history. The human and vampire lovers of the popular Twilight series reflect the youthful romance between consciousness—which involves process and change—and the alluring fantasy of physical perfection, immutability and immortality. But though the vampire can never again become human, a human can become a vampire, suggestive of our vulnerability to the wholly absorbing nature of desire.

The Book of Symbols,  edited by Ami Ronnberg and Kathleen Martin. Germany: Taschen, 2010. Page 700.

Hhhmm… drains a living person… hypnotist, captivator, irresistibly seductive… shuns the light of consciousness… subliminal compulsion… insatiable hunger… a revenant of deprivation or trauma which obsesses us and keeps us out of life… replicates its condition in the victim… the alluring fantasy of physical perfection and immortality… reflects our vulnerability to the wholly absorbing nature of desire…

Yep. I’d say we have a fascination with vampires because vampires definitely walk among us.

But of course they don’t show up when you look in the mirror.

 

05
27

Technology–up! Patience and spirituality–down.

Yesterday I spent an hour online with our cable and internet provider, trying to set up a land line (dinosaurus as that sounds, we live too far out of town for cell service to be safe as the only alternative) and when David got home he spent another hour with them online. Then he still had to go into a brick and mortar store this morning to finish the deal. Everything about the process was frustrating and time consuming. Nothing about it could possibly be considered progress, except that the company employed as few actual live people as possible.

I don’t really understand this. How can technology advance so rapidly while our ability to actually get something done reaches new lows? Is that progress? What is progess, anyway?

Is it having microwave ovens? (Which cook so fast we get impatient when it takes 2 minutes to boil water.)

Is it having high speed internet or cell phones or wifi ? (Where we connect ourselves to the whole world via increasingly tiny electronic devices while we tune out the living beings right next to us.)

I’m afraid each speedy new technological device only makes us more impatient with each living breathing moment, only takes us further from the here and now … Which would be OK — hoky here and now shit, who needs it? — except that our bodies, those mysteriously interconnected physical, mental and spiritual temples which we inhabit, call the here and now home. They can only go so fast for so long, before they start breaking down.

Modern times are stressful. In very weird ways. Because the shadow aspect of all the devices that are supposed to make our lives easier and faster and more fun is:  they don’t. It just ain’t so. Nobody’s talking about it — it would be very bad for business indeed — but our devices actually complicate, frustrate, and impoverish our lives as much as they enrich them. They’re so fast and so necessary to our overall entertainment and trendiness that we rely on them more and more every day, but when they quit working, as they often do, they’re far too complicated to fix. And expensive? Squished bug guts! What families pay per month today for electronic technology is more than families paid twenty years ago for their mortgages. These wonderful things are not at all affordable. We just can’t live without them, so we buy them anyway. Which creates another chronic stress, called chronic poverty.

Robert Bly said once, while lecturing on the human shadow, that “for every technological advance there’s a necessary and corresponding spiritual loss.” If we don’t get better at managing all the products our peers can think of, ole Robert might just be proven right.

technology-shrine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03
29

Donald Trump, Shadow of the USA

What’s worse than Trump himself?

How many people don’t have a clue –will never have a clue– that they only like him because he expresses the worst parts of themselves. The parts they keep hidden until someone like Trump comes along and gives them permission to act outeagle-at-podium.

He really is the shadow of the USA.

He’s what you find when you turn over the “God Bless America!” rock.

 

07
19

The Cunning Unconscious

There’s actually nothing more cunning than the human unconscious.  That’s right, the unconscious. The things hidden in there are part of our psychological make-up, part of who we intrinsically are, but they want to, and generally can, remain completely hidden from our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, that does not mean we’re free of them. It just means that we can’t see them in ourselves, that we can only see them in other people.

Here’s the General Rule, Part I:  if there are some things you just can’t stand to admit about yourself, if you just can’t face some of your own stuff, then you’re going to see your own stuff on someone else’s face.

Guaranteed. Intrinsic parts of your being are not just going to disappear because you’re too embarrassed to acknowledge them. In fact, the reverse actually happens. The longer you fail to acknowledge certain qualities in yourself, the more you’ll see those qualities in other people. And those other people will look more and more awful to you as time goes by.

Let’s say I’m acting like a monster: all pissed off for no discernible reason. Maybe I’m stomping around blaming what’s happening to me on someone else, even if it’s obvious that I caused the problem. Or maybe I’m muttering under my breath about how out of it someone else is, without being able to hear how out of it I sound.

Muttering monsters aren’t just stupid and vindictive. They can only hear in certain frequencies, and can hardly see at all out of those little glaring eyes set way back in their heads.stupid-ugly-monster

So when I’m in muttering monster mode I can’t really see or hear what I’m doing. I can’t stop to wonder where all this ill will is coming from, or what such a habit says about me, or make any effort to snap out of it, and I certainly don’t look for a solution to whatever problem I’m muttering about.

Hell, no. I just ‘blame on’ until I run out of steam. Like it’s OK. Like it doesn’t matter. Like it’s not important. And hey, it’s totally normal anyway. Everybody does it! If someone I wanted to impress came over I could cover up my muttering monster with a big ole smile.

Or, I could be one of those people who don’t actually do much of their own original muttering. Maybe I let talk show hosts do most of my muttering for me. Maybe I’m one of those people who tune in to certain stations just so they can gloat and cheer while someone else says really monstrous things. If that eternal belly aching, fault finding, fact twisting, finger pointing, shockingly unfair running down of those who deign to disagree with me is only coming from talk show hosts, then I’m not really a monster, am I? Just because I listen to those stations?

Yep. Afraid so. Muttering monsters aren’t that easy to disown. They’re just as pathetically desperate for attention as everything else in my shadow. In fact, muttering monsters are so pathetically desperate for attention that the better I get at pretending I don’t have any monstrous thoughts myself, the more monstrous everyone else will look.

Kind of explains why we hear so much ranting and raving over the airways, doesn’t it? Why it’s so easy for us to get all hot and bothered about what someone else is doing… why we’re so attracted to vicious speculation and hateful gossip… why we just can’t seem to get off of certain subjects…

General Rule, Part II: we dwell on what others are doing to keep from having to look at what we’re up to ourselves.

Transmog-6-color

“Hate has a lot in common with love, chiefly with that self-transcending aspect of love, the fixation on others, the dependence on them, and in fact the delegation of a piece of one’s own identity to them… the hater longs for the object of his hatred.”–Vaclav Havel

04
23

The essence of repression

“Some unconscious ideas in a human being are incapable of becoming conscious to him in the ordinary way, because they are strenuously disowned and resisted by the conscious self. From this point of view Freud can say that ‘the whole of psychoanalytic theory is in fact built up on the perception of the resistance exerted by the patient when we try to make him conscious of his unconscious.’ The dynamic relation between the unconscious and the conscious life is one of conflict, and psychoanalysis is from top to bottom a science of mental conflict.

The realm of the unconscious is established in the individual when he refuses to admit into his conscious life a purpose or desire which he has, and in doing so establishes in himself a psychic force opposed to his own idea. This rejection by the individual of a purpose or an idea, which nevertheless remains his, is repression. ‘The essence of repression lies simply in the function of rejecting or keeping something out of consciousness.’  Stated in more general terms, the essence of repression lies in the refusal of the human being to recognize the realities of his human nature.” –Norman O. Brown, in Life Against Death, The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Wesleyan University Press, 1985, p.4.

Transmog-7-color

It’s the beast up there on the stairs, the one in the background, the one we don’t want to invite to dinner, that causes most of our problems.

04
08

What we learned from Robin Williams

It’s 9:38 at night. My grandson will get here at 7:30 tomorrow morning, and I’m 63 years old now, which means I should be going to sleep, not sitting here typing on this goddam keyboard.

But I just watched The Fisher King, with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. An old movie, made when there were still push button phones and cassette tapes, produced and directed by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame. A wonderful movie. And knowing what we know now about what happened to Robin Williams later, I’m not going to be able to go to sleep until I write about it. Because Robin Williams’ story is psych-textbook human shadow.

half-jester-half-king-mask

What is the exact opposite, what has to be pushed way down and hidden most of the time, for someone to be as absolutely, eye-poppingly, out of control, over the top funny, as Robin Williams so often was?

Great sadness.

What is the exact opposite of the kind of personal bravery that never hesitates to make a fool of itself in public?

Great fear of actually being a fool.

Where does the brilliantly white light of spot-on performance come from? The light that Robin Williams could turn on in roles as different from one another as the earnest scholar in Dead Poets Society and the genie in Aladdin?

Great black depths of despair.

Robin Williams’ suicide is not just incredibly sad. It’s a warning. Another giant red flag. Heath Ledger. Philip Seymour Hoffman. World events and local politics.

“Go-oooo-d Mor-nnning, Vi-et-nam!”  Go-oooo-d mor-nnning all of us.

Being rich is not going to save us. Becoming famous is not going to save us. Even being as stupendously talented as Robin Williams was — which most of us obviously aren’t — is not going to save us.

The only thing that could possibly save the human race from destroying itself — and I have to say I’m not actually sure this is at all possible — would be starting to give honest, critical, out-in-the-open attention to what the hidden parts of us want and need. As much attention as we do to the exposed parts.

Chap 11 Full Page

The beasts we can’t look right in the eye are the beasts that will kill us.

 

“The task of confronting the brutal, destructive elements of the shadow has become the inescapable destiny of our species: if we fail, we cannot hope to survive.” –Anthony Stevens, analytical psychologist

 

 

 

 

03
25

Custom remains constant

“Myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have long been forgotten.

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason; to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.” –James Frazer, The Golden Bough

preacher