This is the latest cover of Newsweek magazine.
In case you can’t read it, the small print at the bottom says ‘[who isn’t actually any of these things].’ Just a sensationalist cover – or a huge projection of the dark shadow underpinning the American dream?
This cover is getting a lot of attention in Jungian circles because there is a view that Barack Obama, perhaps like many political figures, carries and receives a nation’s complexes and projections as well as its hopes and aspirations; and that maybe he will even be able to transcend and reconcile these polarities through his own individuation process.
I like to define individuation as ‘becoming the person you are meant to be’. As Len Cruz says in his recent blog on The Asheville Jung Center website, ‘…individuation is one of the most important tasks to which a person can apply herself or himself. The more individuated person will be capable of dynamically holding tensions such as those depicted on the cover of Newsweek. The process of individuation improves the likelihood that there will be persons who recognize that from the depths of their unconscious there arise life affirming, inspiring, seemingly charmed currents but there also arise sinister, destructive, rejected forces. These darker, unconscious forces often make themselves known through their projection upon others.’ People who are in the process of individuation are more able to own their darker side and do not get stuck in unconsciously projecting it on to others.
It occurs to me that maybe we have glimpsed the darker forces projected at moments even on this blog!
I’m also wondering whether our coalition government is projecting its own darker side on to the previous Labour administration and the increasingly beleaguered public sector (itself also carrying the bankers’ projected shadow).
It terrifies me when I see groups of people stir themselves up in a shared hatred of the despicable actions of others; there can be a holier-than-thou zeal present in such a crowd feeling righteously incensed by vindictiveness. Even when the outrage is justified, it worries me when there is an apparent lack of self-awareness that we all have the potential to do bad things, to act with self-interest as a governing motive, to fail to help or care for others.
A good example of such zeal is the way that Fox News (renowned for its own sensationalist tactics) has pounced on the Newsweek cover: you can watch it on
It is only through empathy and a recognition that we all have our shadows that balance and humanity can be restored.
A well-known phenomenon is to turn our ‘celebrities’ into heroes and heroines, often aligned with the Jungian archetypes.
Robert Romanysyn, amongst others, describes Diana as a fairy tale princess who tapped ‘into an archetypal, collective root. That is why it was such a powerful release of world-wide grief [when she died]. In this archetypal context we saw briefly something of her Orphan, waif-like character. She was for a moment the abandoned princess. Ironically, however, the image of the fairy-tale princess was also the way our collective consciousness could dismiss it. The princess dies – a nice fairy tale.’ http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=684&Itemid=40
Which are the archetypes associated with Obama and what will be the end of his tale?