Even though we are six months away from the American presidential election, it feels that we have been engaged in a Collective intense psychological energetic movement for several years. I believe that this energy gathered force at the election of President Barack Obama almost eight years ago, and has gained expression for the most part, in our obstructionist American Congress. The topic that dominates my thoughts in terms of the election, and all the Collective material that accompanies it, is the issue of racial relations and racism. As a part of a much smaller Jungian Collective, I consider these issues partly through a Jungian lens.
Jung addressed the topic of racial relations in America in several places in his writing, specifically in an article titled, “The Complications of American Psychology”. As Jungians, we sometimes forget that Jung spoke at different times about African Americans, and what their presence meant for American society. These words were not usually complimentary. As we continue listening, and wondering about the racism that has emerged from the American political Shadow, during this present election cycle, it does bring to mind Jung’s own difficulty with claims of anti-Semitism.
There are some—Jungian and others, who might wish for us to continue under the darkness of denial in terms of racism, not race—because we are all of one race. However, I think Jungian conversations about the need for diversity in our Jungian communities is very important. This is especially true as we face more directly the negative Collective voices that have arisen in support of Donald Trump’s election. These voices have been present even before the election of President Barack Obama, but have now found an icon, a leader who can push an agenda for the common “white” man. They now have a movement. Many have compared them to the Fascist Brown Shirts. We see that the Ku Klux Klan has endorsed Donald Trump’s candidacy.
It could be distasteful for some to read my thoughts about our Jungian Collective in light of the current Collective electoral racial tensions. This has been one of our problems as an American Jungian Collective—the lack of giving voice to the issue of racial complexes and our own historical lineage of prejudice against African Americans as contained within Jungian writings, even if (hopefully), not practiced in the clinical rooms. It appears essential that we begin to open our minds and express our voice towards seeing the light—the fact of our American multicultural society. The roots of Jungian psychology have offered a rich possibility for learning, growing and doing the wonderful work of Depth Psychology. We understand the need for growing in consciousness. Inviting dialogues regarding racial issues and racism is the place in the American Jungian soil that must be deepened. Jung set a standard in this area that does not suit our contemporary multicultural society.
There has been, with very few exceptions, a silence in our American Jungian Collective regarding issues of racial divide, Jungian thought on this matter and the historical language that permeates classical Jungian texts in regards to African Americans. I do not believe that we can remain in this silence, continue our reading of words such as “primitive” and “savage”, claiming theories such as “lower level of consciousness” belonging to those of Africanist ancestry while ignoring the multiculturalism of our broader American Collective.
The Make America Great Again movement brings us back to a time when people of color and African Americans in this country, were politically, socially and educationally disenfranchised. The language of rhetoric of this movement places us squarely in the consciousness of the post-Reconstruction era with its Jim Crow laws, lynching of African Americans and the psychological theories of Eugenics. There are those who would say my reasoning is outdated or inaccurate. Listen to the voice of Donald Trump and many of his followers. Read Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology by Robert V. Guthrie. Maybe, we can once again read Michael V. Adams in The Multicultural Imagination: Race, Color and the Unconscious.
My words are not written to encourage you to go out and vote for or against any particular candidate. Rather, I hope it helps us consider our own Jungian lineage, and how we can develop our own consciousness in terms of racism, and racial complexes within our American Jungian communities. It seems time that we deepen our roots regarding these issues, spreading them so that we contribute to the blossoming of a tree of life, that is worthy of being in our American Jungian Collective garden.
Adams, Michael V. 1996. The Multicultural Imagination: “Race”, Color and the Unconscious. New York: Routledge
Boa, Fraser. 1994. The way of the dream: Conversations on Jungian dream interpretation with Marie-Louise von Franz. Boston: Shambhala.
Brewster, Fanny. (2013). Wheel of fire: The African American dreamer and cultural consciousness, in Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche 7:1 pp 70-87
Guthrie, R. 2004. Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology. Boston: Pearson Education.
Maidenbaum, Aryeh, ed. 2002. In Jung and the shadow of anti-Semitism. Newbury, MA: Red Wheel Weiser.
Fanny Brewster, PhD., M.F.A.
Dr. Fanny Brewster is a Jungian analyst in private practice in New York City where she completed her analytical training. She is a lecturer and workshop presenter on Jungian related topics. In December, she gave a workshop through the IAAP in Rome, Italy on the topic of “Black Lives Matter and Jungian Psychology”. Dr. Brewster is a writer of poetry and nonfiction. Her most recent poems have been published in Deep South Magazine and Evening Street Press. Poems are forthcoming in the Psychological Perspectives Journal where she will be the featured poet of that issue. Her nonfiction book African Americans and Jungian Psychology: Leaving the Shadows is forthcoming this year by Routledge Publishing.