“By bringing our shadow into the light of consciousness, we create the potential for transformation and healing to occur.”
In the political chaos, insanity and fear of our current election I’ve been drawn to think of our collective consciousness. What role does Donald Trump play in our collective consciousness, in our collective psychology? He has given rise to people who seem to be driven by hatred, discrimination and violence. People who have felt silenced or pushed to the edge of our society by “political correctness”, have been given a voice and feeling validated by the candidacy of Trump. To me, what seems to be happening is that Trump is at last shedding light on our collective “shadow” and creating the potential for healing.
When we work within our individual consciousness and delve into the subconscious we often uncover what is called our “shadow” aspects. They are the parts of us that we do not want to see. They are the greed, hatred, jealousy, discriminatory tendencies or what have you. We call them shadow aspects because we have pushed them out of the light of our awareness. We push them so far down that we forget that they are still living within us, repressed and ostracized. This often feels like the right thing to do. I don’t want those things to be a part of me. I want to be better. What awfulness would happen if I let it out? What damage would I cause to myself, to others? It feels too dangerous and unpleasant to allow the shadow to come to the surface so we push it down and keep it under a tight lid.
When we push it down far enough it dwells in our subconscious and this is when the shadow becomes most dangerous and destructive. Although it lives unseen it still asserts itself. It arises unbeknown to us in our behavior and how we treat and see others. If the shadow is biased against or has a fear of certain differences, it acts through us without our knowing. We begin to make choices or have interactions called micro aggressions without even knowing it. And that’s just the beginning. These actions begin to become normalized because we can’t see the root cause. When the shadow is pushed beyond consciousness, pain, disease and violence occur in a way that is out of our control and beyond our awareness.
But when we confront the shadow and bring it out of the unconscious it can be incredibly terrifying, which makes confronting the shadow undesirable. We may be overwhelmed because it seems so powerful. Being repressed for so long, the shadow arises with no apologies and at full volume. It can feel like the light within you, the parts that you love and want to nurture, will be destroyed by this darkness. That by allowing yourself to see, and feel the shadow, you have created a monster that will destroy you.
However, quite the opposite begins to happen. By bringing the shadow into the light of consciousness we create the potential for transformation and healing to occur. The transformation comes when we go beyond simply thinking about our shadow aspects. We stop intellectualizing them and allow ourselves to experience them, to feel them in our bodies. There is no doubt that this is incredibly uncomfortable. To feel your unwanted jealousy, greed, racism, or bigotry is painful. But only until we allow ourselves to feel the ugliness within ourselves, without blame or judgment, can we begin to release it. By allowing the ugly shadow within to fully express itself, to be heard, seen and felt, we allow it to move through us. It is no longer stuck or immobile. No longer is it the unconscious solid foundation that we are operating from. It becomes fluid and in motion and able to transform.
I see this same process in our collective consciousness playing out in this election. Donald Trump has cast a wide light on the shadows of our American subconscious. People who have felt pushed aside and unheard feel that they at last have been given a voice. At last they too can express themselves in this world. For many of us this is terrifying because what they wish to express is racist, xenophobic, sexist, and based in fear and hatred. It feels like all the progress we have made, all that we have worked for in terms of compassion and equality will be defeated by this new wave of voices. But just like when we work within ourselves, what we are now seeing has been there all along. Repressed and shut down, this collective shadow has been working through our society in unseen but dangerous and destructive ways. It has been so difficult to eradicate racism, sexism and bigotry because there has been a huge denial and lack of awareness that it even exists.
And here is where we can begin to try to see Donald Trump as a gift. He is the one who is stirring the pot of our collective unconscious. He is extracting and giving expression to some very dangerous and destructive ways of thinking that have been hiding under the surface. We are all connected through our collective human consciousness and he is exposing the full picture of ourselves, especially the most dangerous parts that we don’t want to see. That is the gift he gives. Because until we fully acknowledge this cultural wound, it cannot and will not heal. No, it is not pleasant and yes it can feel terrifying and painful to see the full truth of our collective self but it must be done for growth to happen.
“If we get sucked into the fear we become blind. It begins to act through us without our awareness and then we become a part of what we are afraid of.”
To feel fear in reaction to the rhetoric and actions of Trump and his supporters is natural. There is nothing wrong with feeling afraid in response to the current madness. It reveals the strength of your inner moral compass. It shows that you are sane. But with this fear there is a responsibility to not let it take us over. We must practice a gentle awareness when this fear arises. Breathe with it and allow it to be there while staying conscious. If we get sucked into the fear we become blind. It begins to act through us without our awareness and then we become a part of what we are afraid of. This unconscious acting out of fear is being expressed all over social media, and especially on Facebook. But we can each take responsibility for the fear we have and try our best not to spread it on to others. At the very least we can each take responsibility for what we post. Before posting we can ask ourselves: from what place am I posting? And if it is fear and we feel the need to share it, then perhaps we can begin by simply acknowledging, “I am afraid”.
We must remember and trust that this shadow does not negate the progress we have made; it does not destroy our collective light. If we look at what is happening in our culture from this psychological point of view, we see that it may be necessary to our collective healing and transformation. Perhaps it is even the natural evolution process of our consciousness. When we bring the unwanted parts of ourselves to the surface and allow ourselves to feel them we can begin to integrate and propel ourselves forward.
This moment in time can be viewed with terror or we can see it as an incredible opportunity. There is now the possibility to transform the racism, bigotry, sexism, fear and hatred that are finally in full daylight for all to see. Our greatest task is to hold the light, all the while seeing and experiencing our collective darkness and fear. We must trust the painful and chaotic process that is unfolding. We must trust that if we hold the light, this experience of acknowledging the shadow within can propel us forward to a place of healing and transformation. We may not know how this will happen but we do know that each of us can do our best to be the beings of light, compassion and loving-kindness that we know humanity can be.