It was no surprise that the right-wing response to Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment criticising Bush’s out of touch statements (lores version at C&L) would be both vociferous and personal. However, much to his credit, Olbermann acknowledged in his response to these personal attacks that a key principle in depth psychology was at play.
It is perhaps instructive, that to the right-wing commentators, and the right-wing blogs, those terms should first evoke not the war-mongers of the Pentagon or the gun-men from Blackwater but U.S. troops.
“I cannot imagine that kind of evil knee-jerk reflex. I feel very sorry for those who have shown it.
It seems to me that these right-wingers have inadvertently shown their true colors, their instinctive hatred of and contempt for, these self-sacrificing Americans, who have been needlessly placed in harm’s way by these very commentators and the politicians they support.
They hear criticism of our nation’s collective conduct in Iraq, and immediately assume it’s the fault of the soldiers.”
Olbermann recognised that his critics were projecting their own subconscious hatred for US soldiers onto him, and then attacking him for carrying what is essentially their own shadow. In the words of depth psychologist, C. G. Jung:
“We still attribute to the other fellow all the evil and inferior qualities that we do not like to recognize in ourselves, and therefore have to criticize and attack him, when all that has happened is that an inferior “soul” has emigrated from one person to another. The world is still full of betes noires and scapegoats, just as it formerly teemed with witches and werewolves”
Those who fail to recognise they are subconsciously projecting their shadow on anyone they disagree with are often considered to be, in Jungian terms, not totally enlightened and self-realised:
Every person who is not totally enlightened and self-realised has an “ego” (that) is full of lower emotional poison (toward) its own ugliness and imperfection… it cannot acknowledge this ugliness in itself, because to do so would shatter the narcissistic illusion of its own wonderfulness and specialness, and confront it with its true nature. The result would be either madness or a spiritual self-judgement by which the ego is forced to confront its own negativity. Therefore, in order to maintain its own equilibrium, its own sanity in other words, as psychological defence mechanism, the ego has to constantly project its ugliness onto an appropriate scapegoat.
This is how they cope with their unacknowledged and repressed psychic contents, which can only be tolerated as hatred for another, for a pereceived enemy who has slighted them or their family or tribe or culture or ethnicity or nation or religion or ideology.
This happens everywhere, prejudice, bigotry, intolerance, xenophobia, fear and hatred of the “other” are universal. … Only one who has totally gone beyond the limitation of their finite self, and realised their identity with the Supreme, will no longer project their ego-ideal onto those they identify with, and their shadow onto all those they choose to scapegoat, whether out of prejudice picked up from parents or peers or social condition, or whether these are people who have slighted or insulted the object of ego-identification, or who even if they haven’t are paranoidly misinterpreted as wanting to or actually doing so.
Prolonged failure to acknowledge one’s shadow can lead to what Jung termed possession:
A term used to describe the identification of consciousness with an unconscious content or complex. The most common forms of possession are by the shadow and the contrasexual complexes, anima/animus. A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps. Whenever possible, he prefers to make an unfavorable impression on others.
What sort of impression does this Olbermann critic prefer to convey?
According to Gerhard Wehr, those possessed by their shadow act out in the voice of the shadow without consciously choosing to do so and often without realizing this is happening. He mentions that mob psychology can make one particularly vulnerable to shadow projection. Psychology of the mob may be the best explanation for why those most likely to misinterpret criticism of the Bush administration as an attack on the troops, are the very same people who defend actions that would increase US soldiers’ exposure to danger and who refuse to support improvements in veteran benefits.
According to Wehr, an essential step towards the path to what Jung calls individuation, is to acknowledge when one is projecting or being possessed by one’s shadow, and refusing to let our personality be dominated by this. Many cultures have historically provided spiritual support for this journey through shared rituals. Many are starting to believe that modern western civilization fails to provide this much needed support. Perhaps all the scapegoating that pundits carry out night and day over mainstream media are a reflection of a society lacking in meaningful ritual. Through shadow projection visible enemies are conjured up so that the mob can commence a verbal stoning of the devil. It is as if the unindividuated have substituted their own inferior rituals as a release for a spiritual calling for inner reflection that they refuse to acknowledge and yet cannot ignore.