The following is a continuation of my blog series based on my book The Midnight Hour: A Jungian Perspective on America’s Pivotal Moment. If you are just now picking up on the series, you might start with the Introduction: Welcome to the Challenges of Change.
I hope that it will help you, as writing it has helped me, to find a candle to contribute to your light.
Whether you agree with me or not, I hope my work helps you clarify your own position, both within and to the chaotic times surrounding us. Above all, I hope it helps you create a new vision of the future and a new hope that draws you to commit to it.
Asheville, North Carolina
The Midnight Hour:
A Jungian Perspective on America’s Pivotal Moment
Afterword: Light is Always Born out of Night
Heroes and heroines, often lost in the woods, faced witches, dragons, dwarves, and trolls in our stories from medieval times. In our complicated age, I, like most of us, have had to learn that as a foundation for change and growth, I have to face dark forces within myself. I have had to learn that there are no new creations without passion, without rage. I am constantly challenged to stay aware of the complexity within myself that shapes how I respond to the events I am experiencing. I take on confronting myself as a personal duty because I care about the world I am helping to create for my children, grandchildren, and the family of humanity.
This is a duty that, while I have tried very hard to fulfill it, I have often failed. Then I am called back to stop, look into my own shadow, my history, my depths, and seek to understand myself better in order to enlarge who I am, and my capacities. There is always an evolving transaction going on between my inner aspects and the forces in my environment. There is constant interplay between me, the person, and me, the evolving member of society.
Any real change in my life involves the breaking up of both my outer world view and my inner world view as I have previously known them. Large or small—any real change brings the loss of some things that gave me my identity and feeling of security. When I have lived through such times, such as my wife’s illness, my career changes, my cancer, the recession in 2008, and the 2016 election, there was a time in the middle of the process when I was unable to see the future or trust what it was bringing. Then it seemed as if my natural inclination was to trust what had worked in the past and the traits and values I imagined I possessed.
Yet over the decades and through painful experiences I have learned that it is only when, without bitterness and resentment, I let go of my old vision of who I was and how life should be, and face my shadow that I become free for higher dreams and a greater life. Then, facing the world with its pain and grief opens the door for my creativity and passion to bring new joy and meaning into my life.
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My first approach to understanding my situation after the election was to look at myself in my bubble. It surprised me to discover how limited, indifferent, and almost childlike my position was. When I opened myself to the perspective of my dark shadow, I was startled by the aggressive rage and shame that boiled out. My dark shadow added a new level of realism to my outlook, which rang of a deeper truth. At that point, delving into those two positions extensively left me exhausted. When my energy returned sufficiently for me to consider what my golden shadow could contribute, I began to see new opportunities that awakened renewed feelings of hope, passion, and determination in my spirit.
Individually and as a society we must be able to learn from our experience in order to improve. Confronting our shadow is the mechanism for analyzing and understanding our problems, seeing our part in them, and unveiling new possibilities and potentials. We must confront the causes of the anger, hopelessness, alienation, and violence in our society and in our political discourse. We must all be willing to participate in this undertaking—as I am trying to do in this book—to learn from our experiences and improve. We must confront the dark shadow of our social character, the meanness and the cruelty beneath our superficial appearances of success and power, and our belief in the myth that anyone can succeed in this country through hard work and discipline. We must also confront the kind of religiosity that doesn’t recognize the infinite potential that God has given us. We are fragmented politically, class-wise and power-wise. The anger and despair that is breaking through our societal persona and the dehumanization of our fellow citizens—not to mention ourselves—and the alienation causing it is growing. We must accept this reality and understand it as the first step in changing it. The second step is reclaiming the heart of our democracy from the wealth and power structures now dominating it.
If we can devote ourselves to this process, we will discover it is in our nature to strive to give form to a better future by recreating and revitalizing the way we are living. While we are in this process, we may also discover that it is a profound act of love to embrace our current reality and let it invite us to take the risks that usher in the promise of a new future.
As I am summarizing my months of reflections and encounters with myself—I have also been trying to follow Dr. Jung’s admonition, “… the psychologist cannot avoid coming to grips with contemporary history, even if his very soul shrinks from the political uproar, the lying propaganda, and the jarring speeches of the demagogues. We need not mention his duties as a citizen, which confront him with a similar task. As a physician he has a higher obligation to humanity in this respect.”
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Thank you for joining me on my difficult journey of awakening.
Asheville, North Carolina
The above is the Afterword of my book The Midnight Hour: A Jungian Perspective on America’s Current Pivotal Moment.
Book Excerpts and Resources
, 2016, 2021, America, being human, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, hope, living authentically, responsibility
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