Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Putting Aside Childish Things: Enantiodromia From Ancient Israel to the 2012 Presidential Election

Some of Barak Obama’s original supporters have grown disenchanted. The depth of disappointment moved inversely with the collective appetite to make him a king and savior savior during the 2008 election cycle. The combined effects of the economic maelstrom that began in 2008 and collective, infantile hopes are now apparent in the rabid disappointment.  The impulse to select a scapegoat is understandable. What, if any, insights does archetypalal psychology offer during the upcoming United States election cycle?

Obama burst on the national scene out of nowhere galvanizing the US electorate and people in other countries.  He was vested him with symbolic, transformative qualities that few leaders achieve.  Dr Tom Singer proposed suggests Obama carried the “transcendent function” for our collective psyche.   Obama’s own mixed heritage of  Caucasian and African American, Christian with a Muslim background, Ivy league educated but upwardly mobile with humble roots made him a suitable figure to bear the transcendent function.  Candidate Barack Hussein Obama was a lightning rod whose power arced through the electorate and through people across the planet in almost palpable ways.


Howver,President Barack Obama inherited an economy mired in debt, slow growth, and unforeseen consequences that resulted from complex investment schemes that went awry.  The confluence of these forces and our collective hopes for deliverance are now exposing the enantiodromia present in the prersent-day political fervor.  The pall upon the age of American expansionism (some prefer imperialism) is made worse by the naive hopes we projected upon the man who would be king.  Something shifted and the choruses of “yes we can”, reminiscent of Reagan’s  “it’s morning in America”, began to sound like a vengeful mob.

The Old Testament prophet warned of the perils of turning away from Yahweh in favor of a king (1 Samuel 8).  The nation of Israel wanted a leader, they wanted to be like other nations.


Samuel issued one final warning (1 Samuel 12:14) “If God’s people will remain faithful to God’s Commandments” and if they would preserve Yaweh as their ruler, God would do great things.  Samuel proclaimed that God’s people must not abdicate their responsibility simply because a king had been appointed.

Modern history offers another example in the rise and fall of the Third Reich.  The collective despair of a defeated Germanic people, burdened with impossible war reparations, was transformed by a charismatic leader who restored hope and purpose. The degree to which the German people invested exaggerated hopes in their Fürher (leader) correlated with their subsequent disappointment and shame.

Let me be clear, I am not asserting a link between Obama and Hitler, but others have.  I am proposing that collectively charismatic figures activate complex tendencies to project the wish for deliverance and the fear of evil rulership.

Time and again we witness how unbridled hope precedes a fall.  When emotional investment in being “saved” crests, like it did in 2008, we should prepare to be overtaken by a trough of disappointment.  From Heraclitus to Jung this principle of enantiodromia reappears again and again.  The pendulum swings swings back, again and again.  Here, archetypal psychology offers guidance through the recognition that collective influences are at play and through the possibilities provided by the transcendent function.

Obama became an icon, one who delivers.  Yeshua, a name used by Messianic Jews and certain Christian sects in place of Jesus, means “one who delivers“.  Strains of this run throughout Judeo-Christian culture and the Western tradition.  While the the duties of the President of the United States allowed Obama to place his hands on some of the levers of this world, his election did not imbue him with Yahweh’s power.  It barely equipped him to play a convincing Oz.  The last 2 1/2 years of proven that he neither governs the world nor can he  (or anyone) sustain the illusion of such a reign.

Perhaps some of the malaise and disappointment being expressed can be accounted to Obama but such disappointment can also become an invitation to recover the extreme projections we placed on him.   Perhaps we can admit our role in the outcome.  Instead of placing the sin of naive, exaggerated hopes upon a scapegoat (President Obama) let advance a more transcendent, individuated perspective.  Let’s admit the part we play in this and similar political dramas.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, the tendency to project hopes on a “führer” leader contributes to the subsequent clamor and complaint.   We’ve yet to learn this lesson.  Our individual work can help us pull the reins when exaggerated hopes of deliverance surge.  And when our exaggerated anger and disappointment surges we can remember that we paved the way.  Archetypal psychology frames these dramas at the personal and collective levels.  Here we a Jungian perspective has something timely and universal to offer.


I invite you to watch the conference on President Obama that was placed on sale this weekend in light of the current election cycle.  Look for examples in the present race to select a Republican candidate of the impulse to project exaggerated hopes on successive individual candidates first Palin, then Bachman, and most recently Perry.  Consider that with each overstated hope emerges the seed of later disappointment.  Then consider how these outer narratives can in-“form” a more integrated, mature engagement with the world and politics.

Don’t miss the sale (

To candidate Obama I hope he can maintain sobriety. May he be mindful of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer ” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”.

Those who cherish archetypal psychology might become purveyors of a new “golden mean” stirred by the cause of integration and individuation.  Share your thoughts with others (in this blog) and elsewhere in the months ahead.

– Len Cruz, MD

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Obama’s presidency and International Cultural Complexes

Thomas Singer recently gave an enlightening 2 hour seminar out of Sonoma, California, on the idea of how unconscious forces affect cultures and nations as they engage on various levels.  One of his main concepts is that of a “Cultural Complex,” a charged unconscious archetype that grips entire nations without our awareness.  Part of what happened on Sept 11, 2001 was the triggering of an enormous cultural complex, both in the attackers and in our collective psyche’s response in the United States.  Cultural Complexes are pervasive and subtle.  You know you’ve triggered one when a person or nation responds in a highly charged manner.  In the 10 minute video below, Tom Singer introduces this powerful concept.   Please feel free to post any thoughts or comments you may have. ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________
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Projections & Introjections in Global Politics: Obama, da Silva, Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Mandela

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

(See other Bible verse translations at end of BOLG.)

The constellation of forces that are activated between members of society and their leaders is among the topics being explored in “Symbols and Individuation in Global Politics: The Case of Barack Obama” on September 10, 2010.  This blog entry explores one portion of that realm involving projection and introjection.   It suggests some ideas for how any citizen might engage his/her leaders as part of their individuation process. I offer a simple definition of terms.  Introjection is a maneuver characterized by the unexamined incorporation of traits of another.  Individuals with weak ego boundaries are more prone to use introjection as a defense mechanism. (Winnicott, DW. Home is Where We Start From: Essays by a Psychoanalyst.New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986. 50.) Projection is somewhat antithetical to introjection in that one’s own unconscious content is projected outward upon the other.  What is projected is then encountered as if it actually belonged to the otherperson to begin with.  Projection is a fundamental mechanism by which we remain uniformed about ourselves.  (A word of caution is in order.) The recent discovery of mirror neurons in primates (including humans) should give us pause to cast all projection and introjection into some pathologic basket.  These neurons are present in the motor cortex and are activated when we observe someone executing an act.  It is as if our own motor strip is carrying out the act we observe; it may be a form of rehearsal.  So, neurobiology may one day help us to better understand projection and introjection. Political figures who are charismatic and able to resonate with individual & cultural complexes are likely to activate processes of projection and introjection in the individual.  These forces may illuminate unconscious material and facilitate its integration into the personality.  But it is also possible for political figures to become targets of our projections and also possible for us to introject aspects of these figures into our personalities without having authentic encounters with the Self. President Obama’s ability to galvanize the electorate and to generate widespread participation was unprecedented.  There remains some doubt about the claims that the vast majority of Obama’s contributors made small donations (under $200) but the breadth of participation that he either engendered or “appeared” to engender is notable.   Individuals were lifted up during the campaign and a sense of unity among people of different backgrounds and even across national borders was kindled.  Such broadly appealing (or irritating) leaders provide fertile ground for projection and introjection to take root. Ask yourself what sort of relationship you developed with Obama during the period leading up to his election.  Consider what sort of relationship you have with other leaders.  How did the rise of President Lula da Silva, a union leader with limited formal education  engage your projected hopes and/or fears?  What role did introjection have in celebrating the indomitable and noble qualities displayed by President Mandela?  How does President Sarkozy’s noble Hungarian family roots or his marriage to Carla Bruni contribute to his wide appeal?  (He might a target for projections of royalty with a common touch.)  Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi affords another powerful example of how leaders may receive our projections and introjections.  Does Berlusconi’s alleged ties to organized crime and his triumphs in several prosecutions tap our own desire to be outside the law?  And then there is the fascinating example provided by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a scientist whose family enjoyed unusual freedom of travel between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  How has her own personal capacity to unify opposites within herself captivated the German people who were struggling to unify East and West?  When Chancellor Merkel resisted EU pressure during the sovereign debt crisis what feelings toward the German people were provoked in your psyche? In asking those questions I am inviting each of us to explore how leaders become lightning rods for our own psychological process.  I was a youngster when President Kennedy was stuck down by an assassin’s bullet and watched in horror the reports of Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder.  Within two months I endured the defeat of seeing Senator Robert Kennedy gunned down.  President Obama was the first political figure to heal those wounds and I engaged more than I had ever engaged.  I allowed myself to hope and in the course of those months I remembered the painful wounds I’d suffered at a tender age.  Loss of several idealized objects produced a sort of exquisite corpse to which President Obama added the most recent touch.  I have remained deeply afraid for President Obama but I have also been delivered from what had been a forty year political slumber. Not long ago my sister expressed her outrage at what she perceived as President Obama’s betrayal of campaign promises.  He had cozied up to Wall Street’s powerful elites, I offered a more sober perspective.  I suggest that President Obama’s presence in office alone might have more lasting and transformative effects than many (perhaps all) the policies he pursues.  It will be difficult to look upon the Office of the President in the same way now that an African American has occupied that hallowed spot.  Though I know very little about President Lincoln’s tenure in office, the impression of a self-educated man capable of writing beautiful and lyric words (the Gettysburg Address) is etched into my political character. I am dimly aware that President Obama helped illumine the inner landscape of my childhood losses.  If projection and introjection were at play, the result was helpful.  But there is an unconscious domain to my relationship with this man I call President.  I am a Cuban-American born on US soil.  I have lived on that hyphen with a measure of uncertainty about where I fit in to the fabric of American society.  I suspect that President Obama receives my projections about the immigrant experience.  Early in his candidacy, conversations about whether or not he was black enough combined with the vehement attacks upon him for attending Rev. Jeremiah Wrights church struck deep chords in me about what it means to succeed in White-Anglo culture and the price I’ve paid for blending in.  But I have also marveled at the President’s capacity to reject the white majorities definition of him.  His example empowers me to be less concerned with what others might think about a passionate, expressive, festive Cuban spirit that has always been an irrepressible part of me. Whatever negative aspects of projection and introjection that have been aroused by my relationship with President Obama remain unconscious.  I suspect my desire to have a deliverer, a king in the mold of the ancient Israelites is one complex that has been aroused but there are likely many more.  I am hopeful that projection and introjection may recede with time and that in its place will emerge a mature political self. That political self may be better equipped to take full advantage of the psychological impact that leaders exert while avoiding the dangers that anyone who attempts to escape from freedom. Take a moment to examine your own psychological relationship with Obama or any other political figure.  We are interested in hearing from you about the psychological dance you’ve had with political leaders. Len Cruz, MD ___________________________________________________ Mas o povo recusou dar seguimento aos avisos de Samuel. Mesmo assim, sempre queremos um rei, responderam; queremos ser iguais às outras nações, à nossa volta. Será ele quem nos há-de governar e conduzir nas batalhas. 1 Samuel 8:19-20 Porque nesses dias Israel não tinha rei, de tal forma que cada qual fazia o que melhor parecia aos seus olhos. Juízes 17:6 Ciò nonostante il popolo rifiutò di dare ascolto alle parole di Samuele e disse: «No, avremo un re sopra di noi.  Così saremo anche noi come tutte le nazioni: il nostro re ci governerà, uscirà alla nostra testa e combatterà le nostre battaglie. 1Samuele 8:19-20 In quel tempo non c’era re in Israele; ognuno faceva ciò che sembrava giusto ai suoi occhi. Giudici 17:6 Le peuple refusa d’écouter la voix de Samuel. Non! dirent-ils, mais il y aura un roi sur nous, et nous aussi nous serons comme toutes les nations; notre roi nous jurera il marchera à notre tête et conduira nos guerres. 1 Samuel 8:19-20 En ce temps-là, il n’y avait point de roi en Israël. Chacun faisait ce qui lui semblait bon. Juges 17:6 Aber das Volk weigerte sich, zu gehorchen der Stimme Samuels, und sprachen: Mitnichten, sondern es soll ein König über uns sein, daß wir auch seien wie alle Heiden, daß uns unser König richte und vor uns her ausziehe und unsere Kriege führe. 1 Samuel 8:19-20 Zu der Zeit war kein König in Israel, und ein jeglicher tat, was ihn recht deuchte. Richter 17:6
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