Why is Donald Trump so popular when so many people find his attitudes abominable? What is his secret appeal? Are we all drawn to him in some way but too ashamed to admit it?? What are the hidden forces at work here that allow someone who is abhorrent to so many people get so frighteningly close to power?
Let’s look at this from a shadow work perspective. One way of defining our shadows is this:
‘Parts of ourselves we have cut off, denied or repressed.’
That is, parts of ourselves that we are not comfortable with, or that we’re frightened of – that we basically try to pretend aren’t there. ‘Not a bad idea!’ I hear you cry. But, unfortunately, the difficulty with pretending that parts of ourselves aren’t there is that these parts then actually end up having even more power over us once they’ve been consigned to the shadows in this way. They enter a murky, less conscious realm and start running the show from the back seat – where we have little or no control over them.
Further still, we can picture it like this – when we don’t like a part of ourselves, we take it and toss it away behind us. We try to hide it from ourselves and others. We try to get rid of it. The problem is, when we throw it away with such force – it travels all the way around the world – and pops up in the person in front of us! We can’t get away from it. One way or another it will find us. This is known in therapeutic terms as ‘projection’. For example, if we’ve decided we are not an angry person, then we will spend all out time trying very hard not to be angry. This will be difficult, as anger is a human feeling and we all experience it. What we will notice however is that, if we’re denying our own anger, we will find we are constantly coming across angry people. They’re everywhere!. We will be particularly judgemental of the people around us who are angry, and we will find them very difficult to deal with. They will upset us a lot – and it will seem like we’re always attracting them. This is the principle of projection, what we don’t own in ourselves we will see around us in the world and it will annoy us a lot and may even be harmful to us. Robert Bly, author of ‘The Little Book Of The Human Shadow’ has this to say:
‘Every part of our own personality that we do not love will become hostile to us. We could add that it may move to a distant place and begin a revolt against us as well.’
The shadow work I do draws on ideas from many different traditions and healing practices, including certain aspects of shamanism. One of the ideas that I have come across in Shamanism is the idea that we all contain in us the seeds of a little bit of every single human attribute. We have a bit of a king in us, a slave, a policewoman, a thief. We have an inner cyclist in us, or gymnast, a cook a politician, a bully a victim and so on. Certain attributes get expressed at certain times in our lives and others don’t. Not expressing a part of ourself doesn’t necessarily cause us problems, but denying that it exists does. If we are in denial about certain parts of ourselves then one way or another they will end up causing us difficulties. The invitation is to reclaim these lost parts of ourselves if we are to become whole again.
‘I am human, so nothing human is foreign to me.’ Terence
The theory goes that if we can accept in ourselves the things we judge and hate in others then we will be better able to deal with such people when we come across them and less distressed by their presence.
As Carl Jung said ‘Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.’
So maybe this is worth a try – after all these are desperate times! Can we embrace our own ‘Inner Trump’?
Here’s a list of some of the things for which he has been most criticised:
Wanting to build a wall to keep Mexicans out
Wanting to stop muslims entering the States
Having multiple affairs
Opposing gun control Being anti-abortion – wanting women who have abortions to be punished
Calling global warming a total hoax
Criticising renewable energies
Supporting increased defence spending
Advocating violent confrontational ways of being
Please note, this investigation is not about a moral judgement. We may well have decided certain behaviours or beliefs are wrong, or immoral. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel that way ourselves sometimes! So even if you are morally totally opposed to everything Trump stands for, it is still worth asking yourself if there is even a tiny part of you that would ever say or do or feel the things he expresses.
Just take a moment. Take a deep breath and soften your resistance… and look at the list above. See if there is anything in there that you might have a just a tiny little bit of in yourself, however small.
If you can find something in the list above that is living inside you then stop for a moment. See if you can just allow it to be there, without trying to push it away or disown it. See if you can even understand a little bit why this part of you might feel the way it does. – Well done! – you have now embraced you inner Trump.
If we can all find a little bit if Trump in us, and own it as our own, then, the theory goes, we will stop projecting this out in to the world, and Trump like characters won’t need to exist to soak up all our un-owned shadows.
Although it’s hard to believe, changing our inner world can have a very real effect on the world around us. I see this every day in my work and have come to trust it. Sometimes the changes seem almost magical – seemingly impossible to explain – other times change can come about in quite tangible ways.
If we carry in our own shadow some of the ‘badness’ that we see in another then we are likely to judge them very harshly. If we actually want to bring about change in the world then harsh judgements are not always helpful. They’re coming from a ‘shadowy’ place where our own shadow is impacting on our responses. We may well be right that the other person is doing something ‘bad’ whatever that may be, but we will be in a stronger place to affect change if we own any similar ‘badness’ in ourselves and work to accept it. Accepting in doesn’t mean we act from this place – No no! but it means we are able to feel comfortable in acknowledging that we have elements of this in us, even if we choose not to act on them It also means that we can be forgiving of ourselves if we do slip up from time to time and behave in certain ways that we’d rather we didn’t.
Similarly, accepting that we have certain sides to ourselves that we’d rather not have doesn’t mean we don’t take action to try to change the things we see as ‘bad’. Not at all, in fact the opposite. When we are less consumed with our own powerful judgements we are more likely to be able to affect change. We are coming from a stronger place, a solid foundation of knowing ourselves well. From this place we can act with dignity and power and speak with true authority. In this way we are much more likely to bring about effective change in the world.
Sign up here to receive the monthly Healing The Shadow newsletter with details of upcoming workshops, new articles and other Healing the Shadow news.
For more information about exploring the shadow, including group workshops, individual sessions and couples work please visit Marianne’s website: