An Archetypal Explanation for Clinton vs. Trump

by Jennifer Jones Embry

My deep curiosity for this election is my strong sense that we as a country are at a crossroads.  Our fundamental American values are being called into question – church vs. state, the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, independent thinking, and religious freedom, we as a melting pot, access to voting and more.  The passage and ratification of the women’s right to vote will have their 100th anniversaries in 2019 and 2020.  From a psychological perspective, anniversaries are fraught with reenactment.  Hecate is the goddess of ancient Greek mythology and religion that stands at the crossroads with her dog, bow and twin torches, often depicted in current times as a hag and yet, in her time, was the only one of the Titans who Zeus deemed worthy of retaining authority when the Olympians took control.  Perhaps it is Hecate’s energy that we as a nation are desperately trying to avoid in the American reality show that is to prepare us for the vote of our lives thus far, a vote that quantifies our level of consciousness as a nation.

The right and the left wing are of the same bird

                                                  –Indian Proverb

If we look through the lens of Jungian psychology for a loosening of both what we have previously held to be true (Identity politics) and the Unknown, we might think about the four levels of the psyche that C.G. Jung (Swiss psychiatrist, 1875-1961) brought to light:1) Personal Consciousness, ordinary awareness; 2) Personal Unconscious, unknown material; 3) Objective Psyche or Collective Unconscious and 4) Collective Consciousness, a cultural world of shared values.  Are we as a Collective struggling to move or not to this fourth level of our collective psyche?  As in music, there is no half step between the third and the fourth.  There is no road map or mentor for this huge shift and it will not happen magically, or without choice, as the creative process of birthing is always messy.

We as a nation lost our innocence on 9/11.  That is also the emergency number that represents a call for help.  The two candidates who represent the two major political parties, moving forward out of an unprecedented field of 22 potential candidates, come from the same Swing state with 29 electoral college votes as the Twin Towers, are ranked #18 and #19 in age, male and female for the first time and Scorpio and Gemini by Sun birth sign.  With their chosen running mates, the sun signs of the red party ticket are Gemini/Gemini by birth and the sun signs of the blue party ticket are Scorpio/Pisces by birth.   As a nation we are extroverted, and yet without much conversation, and in need of more reflection.  Within our nation we are experiencing traumas and neuroses that threaten our sense of balance: earthquakes, flooding and water shortages with increased intensity; changes in our trust of food production; the increased ability to be tracked by drone and social media technology; the bombardment of media hype and drama without fact checking has led to a lack of truth-telling and trust; non-recognition of individual emotional intelligence and the need for emotional maturity; our Other prejudices (racial, feminine, immigrant, people who live in another region of our own country); our will to power over rather than empowerment; our worshipping of wealth and persona; our distractions and addictions (drugs, sex, violence and materialism); our lack of spirituality and relationship with inner guides; our short-term educational and financial solutions and the squeezing out of our middle class; the speed of our communication has outpaced the depth of our conversation, to name a few.  At the same time, we are much more connected to the worldwide web, nuclear testing in North Korea, the immediate sights and sounds of global terrorist activity, uncared for human needs and evil incarnations which brutalize, oppress and slaughter the human spirit.

Since the last time we voted for our leader, we moved from the Piscean age in which we had a Savior who loved us unconditionally and died for our sins to the Aquarian age in which we are each the water bearer who is a carry our own water, our unconscious, and is often depicted as pouring it out.  Could that be what is happening on a collective level?  If we think of this election cycle as a collective dream, that America is actually dreaming us and two general structures — complexes and archetypal images –inhabit the four levels of the psyche described earlier.  Our collective unconscious is surfacing.  It is so much easier to project it onto others – cruelty, envy, self-centeredness, ignorance, greed, hatred, dishonesty, corruption, and guilt, to name a few.  Complexes are energetic blockages that sap life force energy.  At the creation of a complex, an outer event jarred our inner sensibility to such an extent that we were unable to process the outer event and inner jolt emotionally and/or physically.  Energy, being aware of it, channeling it to our most authentic self, taking personal responsibility for our choices, becoming comfortable with our fate and moving out of fear and into love is at the core of Jungian psychology.  To loosen and broaden our American reality show, it is helpful to think about possible complexes we as a nation might be pulled into:  father, mother, Oedipal, Electra, superiority, castration and more.  A complex always shows up in the extremes.  How much as a country do we nurture, protect and abandon ourselves and the Other?  What is the best allocation of our collective resources?  Have we outgrown a two-year election process and/or Electoral college system?  Is campaign funding begging to be readdressed?  Would we be better served if our Congress people had similar benefits packages to corporations?  Change is here.  Now is the question of whether the next change will be forward or regressive.  Are we going to split or be able to hold the tension of the opposites as the red Party moves further to the right and the blue Party moves further to the left? Part of the belief in Jungian psychology is that if we can hold the opposites long enough, the transcendent function will mediate and bridge the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness.  C.G. Jung describes it as a “natural process, a manifestation of the energy that springs from the tension of opposites and it consists in a series of fantasy-occurrences which appear spontaneously in dreams and visions.” (CW 7, para 121)  Do we want to outgrow dualism?  Where is our ground of being as a nation? Has it been lost, overtaken, silenced, and/or bullied?

Archetypally, the image of the trickster is in our midst.  In mythology, the trickster often appears when the hierarchical order of the time is being dismantled.  Often the trickster is not relatable.  According to C.G. Jung, “the trickster is a collective shadow figure, a summation of all the inferior traits of character in individuals.”  (CW 9i, para. 484)  If we look at our Native American heritage, the trickster is sacred, playing a mischievous role, one that is outrageous and unpredictable, upsetting the status quo to create confusion.  Lying, tricking and cheating are part of his intrigue.  He usually comes in male form, but may also morph into a coyote, spider, ram, hare or raven.  As in fairy tales, recognition of this trickster figure is only the first step in its integration.  Like the individual shadow, it cannot be entirely eliminated.  The collective trickster figure reconstructs itself continually, often manifesting numinous power.

Other dominant archetypal images present in this election cycle are Poseidon and Athena.  Poseidon is known as the “God of the Sea” and one of the twelve Olympian deities of the Greek pantheon.  He is known to have a strong emotional presence, unpredictable in mood, often living at the bottom of the sea and able to change both tides and earth shifts.  Athena was born out of the head of her father, Zeus, fully formed and able to dance.  She is known for her guidance of Odysseus through dreams and visions.  It is not until late in his journey that she provides more tangible assistance.  When he arrives at Ithaca, Athena appears to him in disguise, initially lying and telling him that Penelope, his wife, has remarried and that he is believed to be dead.  But Odysseus lies back to her.  Moved by his shrewdness, she shows herself and tells him how to win back his kingdom.  The Poseidon/Athena myth that seems important to retell is the naming of a city.  Naming and re-naming signify a birth or a change that is so profound that the old no longer fits. Is global interdependence pushing us as a nation to rename ourselves, symbolically if not literally? What happened, according to the myth, is that the city asked both Poseidon and Athena to offer the city a gift.  The name of the city would be given to the favored gift.  Poseidon brought his trident and with all of his might, he pounded it into the ground so that salt water fountained.  All were thrilled because water was needed and the salt provided for greater commerce.  However, the water was too salty for human consumption.  Athena then brought her gift of an olive tree.  Through the tree, the people had food, oil and wood for shelter.  They choose Athena and named the city Athens.  What are the gifts the two candidates, or we could open the question to all candidates, would offer us as a nation?

Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.

                                                           Jung, CW 7, para. 78

Jennifer is a Zurich-trained Jungian Analyst practicing in Houston, Texas. 

She is interested in the mind/body/spirit connection through sound, astrology, mysticism and consciousness.