When we named my eldest daughter, we thought we were naming her the most unique, unheard of name in all the land. It felt magical. It felt special. We certainly thought we were gifting her something rare.
Her name is Ella.
I know. Like THE most popular girl name of my generation. My mom said that the same thing happened to her when they named my oldest brother Jason. It also ended up being the most popular name of his generation.
What does this mean? And why I am talking about this?
Because, as much as human beings want to each be a unique star, we are primed and designed to absorb unconsciously and then imitate so that we can then belong. No matter what. Even if you’re a rebel rouser, this is true for you. I mean, look at hipsters. They all just wanted to differientiate themselves from the cultural resonance of materialism and corporate life, however, they became carbon copies of each other. Are they lame because of that? Am I a dunce because I was ignorant to the fact that I and gazillions of other moms were sitting around petting our egos with originality as we picked our child’s name?
No way. We are human. And our culture is an organism of many humans. All of the expressions therein are archetypical representations, which we embrace oftentimes without meaning to. This means that they are tiny dots and images that provide insight into the personal or cultural psyche. We can’t escape them. And if we learn to look at them the right way, they can give us incredible insight and strategy for how to progress. This is literally how modern psychology came to be - using dreams and unconscious/subconscious habits to help determine the overall pathology and then find a way out of it. Carl Jung says in Man and His Symbols, “Such are contemporary human beings who produce the symbols we psychologists investigate. In order to explain these symbols and their meaning, it is vital to learn whether their representations are related to purely personal experience, or whether they have been chosen by a dream for its particular purpose from a store of general conscious knowledge.”
Enter Donald Trump, or whatever his real name is. I’m going to make a claim in this post that he is, dangerously and shockingly so, our culture’s new hero archetype and we HAVE to bear this development immediately or else. I’m not gonna be neutral here and I will make no apologies about the fact that his election is horrifying to me. The last few days, with nominations and developments that seem right out of a dark and surreal Tim Burton Batman movie, are much more then tragic. And like you and you and you, I’ve spent the last week running around ineffectively in a combined state of action and paralysis.
That is until yesterday. I discovered that, for me, I have to find a different way to be with this. I certainly will not be someone who is going to find tolerance for his position, his supporters, and the election. But, I am also not gonna spew out hateful things and choose against understanding, the very avenue for recovery. It’s such a mindfuck to feel like I have to pick one way or the other, though. Can’t I be furious AND can’t I be curious? And I find it so interesting that the STRONGEST and most POWERFUL of my female friends are the ones who are having such a hard time with this. We are triggered and consumed. And I read something last night that made it all very clear. This is from my go-to book when I lose my footing in this weird world, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in a chapter entitled, “The Collapsed Mother.”
“When people collapse, they usually slide into one of three feeling states: a muddle (they are confused), a wallow (they feel no one adequately sympathizes with their travail), or a pit (an emotional replay of an old wounding, often an uncorrected and unaccounted-for injustice done to them when they themselves were children).
The way to cause a mother to collapse is to divide her emotionally. The most common way, time out of mind, has been to force her to choose between her loving child and fearing what harm the village will visit on her and the child if she does not comply with the rules. In Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, the heroine, Sophie, is a prisoner in a Nazi extermination camp. She stands before the Nazi commandant with her two children in her arms. The commandant forces her to choose which of the two children will live and which will die by telling Sophie that if she refuses to make a choice both children will be killed.
While to be forced to make sure a choice is unthinkable, it is a psychic choice that mothers have been forced to make for eons. Obey the rules and kill off your children, or else. It goes on. When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture, there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture. A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the culture’s proscriptions is a very sick culture indeed. This ‘culture’ can be the ones a woman lives in, but more damning yet, it can be the one she carries around and complies with within her own mind.”
BRILLIANT. You guys. This is exactly what I am feeling and witnessing. After reading this, I immediately stepped outside of myself. I got off of Facebook and I had to stop signing every petition and I had to root myself in this before I start taking action (which I will, wildly so). Here’s what came to me that I think might be helpful to at least a few of you:
Donald Trump is the new hero archetype of our culture. Well, he’s at least the one that won out. And how intensely and incredibly frightening is that? As Dave Chappelle said, “Well, America did it, you guys. American elected an internet troll as President.” It’s true and if archetypes are expressions of our culture’s psyche, then it actually makes sense. If we dial it back here and consider that Donald Trump himself was one of the first leaders in reality TV (The Apprentice), we will remember that he was also the first to identify the power of the villain in modern culture. Not only did the arrival of his character (and I say “his character” deliberately) of Omarosa make his show a massive success, it yielded him and her an incredible amount of profit that is still rolling in TODAY. So, wouldn’t it make sense then that Donald Trump would use that exact strategy to win this election? Exactly. It was a reality tv show in which he was the villain and, here is 2016, that villain character has become the new archetypical hero. How? Well, I think that it’s got to be a combination of things:
- First, if we look at the loss of objective print media (newspapers), we are a culture that has developed information, and therefore ruling order, off of opinions and sound bites. We don’t sit down anymore and read an actual unbiased article in entirety. No one does. And nothing is unbiased anymore. There’s a huge loss in critical thinking right there and a huge gain in ignorance.
- Secondly, racism never ever went away. It was just hiding underneath the surface of a seeming progressive society the whole time, happy to watch educated people pretend to stave it off with inept campaigns like “color blindness” and awaiting the leader, or hero, to emerge that would give it back a predominant platform. Tadaaah, here are.
- Thirdly, we are a culture that is SATURATED with pop culture. I mean, if you google “quotes on tolerance,” you’ll get a result on brainyquotes.com from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. What the heck is that? Where are our big thinkers and writers and influencers? And even if we can find them, why aren’t we saturating ourselves in the process of reading and contemplation? Because we’re tired and busy and we’re addicted to the soothing devices of television and sound bites and celebrity culture and materialism. All of us, even me.
The result of the above saturation is just as what happens when you binge watch a new series on Netflix and suddenly these characters are in your dreams and you almost imagine them appearing in your life as real people. And, so, with politics, we develop new archetypes and we vote for them. Donald Trump is a hero to so many people and that's either because these people are overtly racist or because they aren't racist, but felt voting for a racist was worth it in hopes that this hero might solve their poverty, community brokenness, disdain for the establishment, and their lack of power.
Whew. Now, there’s a bright side to this. And this is important. I think that - while I am destroyed by his rise to power - Donald Trump might be the purging of the shadow of America and, if we handle it correctly, could very well be happening at an exact moment when women and oppressed peoples are the most ready. If he is the gurgling, oozing representation of something our culture has been repressing and ignoring for so long, then bring it. I know that the women who surround me right now, personally and professionally, can totally handle this unstable and hollow hero. I know that the Black Lives Matter movement has been primed and ready for this exact moment. I know that many white men are so over be lumped into a history of inequality and misogyny that they would do anything at all to nurture the end of both. I know that oppressed people, if we wake up and we don’t allow “them” to collapse us, can and will resolve this ugly pimple in no time at all. He’s like the “Bosses” at the end of each level of Super Mario Brothers game. It may take some strategy and practice, but he’s predictably surmountable and incredibly weak at the core. It’ll be easier than you think.
But, we have to be smart. We have to be willing to think and listen. We have to saturate ourselves and our attention spans with stable and strong heroes. And we can’t collapse, physically or emotionally. It’s our time. THIS IS MY BATTLE CRY.
“The remedy is in gaining mothering for one’s young internal mother. This is gained from actual women in the outer world who are older and wiser and preferably who have been tempered like steel; they are fire-hardened for having gone through what they have gone through. Regardless of the cost even now, their eyes see, their ears hear, their tongues speak, and they are kind ...
Rather than disengaging from the mother, we are seeking a wild and wise mother. We are not, cannot be, separate from her. Our relationship to this soulful mother is meant to turn and turn, and to change and change, and it is a paradox. This mother is a school we are born into, a school we are students in, a school we are teachers at, all at the same time, and for the rest of our lives. Whether we have children or not, whether we nourish the garden, the sciences, or the thunderworld of poetics, we always brush against the wild mother on our way to anywhere else. And this is as it should be ...
As in nature, the soul and the spirit have resources that are astonishing. Like wolves and other creatures, the soul and the spirit are able to thrive on very little, and sometimes for a long time on nothing. To me, it is the miracle of miracles that this is so.”
- Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With the Wolves)