Blog, Media + Politics, Psychology

The Unconscious Choice: The Forces of the Dark and Light Sides

Originally published on Nation of Change, September 8, 2012

Make no mistake about it. This election is about the choice between two worldviews that are as psychologically different and far apart as any two could possibly be. The choice is difficult not just because so much is riding on it—this much is obvious–but like most crucial things in life, much of it rests on factors that are largely unconscious. The later is far from obvious.

On the one side is the Republican view of the world (the Dark Side) that is as mean and repressive as anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. On the other hand is the Democratic (the Light Side), which while far from perfect, shows real signs of humanity and maturity. With no apologies whatsoever for my clear bias and partisanship, let me explore the psychological differences between these two worldviews. Hopefully, this helps to illuminate the unconscious factors that play a major role in what people vote for and why. To do this, let me discuss very briefly: 1. Jungian psychological types; 2. ego psychology; and 3. American mythology. All three interact in powerful ways to produce the enormous, and unfortunately, unbridgeable differences between the current versions of Republicans and Democrats.

As long ago as 1921, Jung identified, among many others, the psychological differences between: 1. Sensing and Intuitive, and 2. Thinking and Feeling personality types.

Sensing types instinctively break all problems down into separate and independent parts for which they then proceed to gather “hard data” or “facts” that “measure precisely” the “exact status or performance” of each of the parts. In addition, they are anchored firmly in the “here-and-now.” In short, if you can’t see, feel, hear, smell, taste, or measure something in the here-and-now, then it’s not real, let alone important.

In contrast, Intuitive types instinctively look at the big picture, the whole system. They are not concerned with parts per se, but only with how they all fit together. Indeed, by themselves, the parts have no meaning or existence. In addition, they are concerned primarily with future possibilities, not with imperfect things as they are today. If they believe in measuring anything, it is the “state of the whole.”

Thinking types are primarily concerned with analyzing things impersonally in terms of logic and science. Feeling types are concerned with people’s feelings.

Putting these together in all possible ways results in four basic personality types: 1. Sensing-Thinking; 2. Intuitive-Thinking; 3. Intuitive-Feeling; and, 4. Sensing-Feeling.

Next, let me say a very brief word about ego psychology. Ego psychology postulates that there are at least three characters or voices in everyone; 1. Parent; 2. Adult; and 3. Child.

The Parent is the character that sets rules and lays down laws of acceptable versus unacceptable behavior. It is the voice that says, “Do this!” Or, “Don’t do such and such because if you do, then you will have to suffer the consequences!” The Child is the character in all of us that forever wants to play and have toys and goodies right now with no consequences whatsoever. The Adult is the character that has to mediate between the immediate, incessant demands of the Child and the harsh strictures of the Parent. The Adult says to the Child, “If you eat all your broccoli as your Mother and Father want you to do, then you can have your cookies!”

As I listen to the current Republican mantras, Sensing-Thinking and Sensing-Feeling are the dominant personalities that literally occupy center-stage. But more than this, they are Sensing-Thinking and Sensing-Feeling overlaid with a very strong Parent. The Parent Sensing-Thinking measures success solely in terms of monetary wealth alone. It disparages all occupations other that of a CEO. No wonder why the super-rich are raised up to exalted status and revered as gods. It also consigns women to secondary roles and issues harsh dictates regarding women’s rights and what constitutes “legitimate rape!” As the “natural heads of the family,” men have been “chosen by Nature to rule over women and children!” And, if “they know what’s good for them, they will obey without question!” The Parent Sensing-Feeling regards his or her immediate family or tribe as the only social entity worthy of consideration, i.e., human feeling.

Although the Democrats have more than their fair share of the Parent as well, their personalities lean more toward the Adult Intuitive-Thinking and Adult Intuitive-Feeling. The Adult Intuitive-Thinking finds expression in their concern for the “health of the planet,” which the Republicans sneered at haughtily at their latest convention. (Republicans were also conspicuously silent when at the end of his acceptance speech, Governor Romney called for compassion towards the poor and unemployed.) The Adult Intuitive-Feeling finds expression in the Democrats concern with a much broader expanse of humanity, e.g., working people, the middle class, poor, etc. In spite of their great differences, Republicans and Democrats are united in their endless chant and use of the myth that “America is the greatest nation on Earth.” It’s not that America is not great. Rather, a truly great, i.e., mature, country would not need to prop up its flagging self-esteem by ignoring and washing over its great problems, e.g., the large numbers of uninsured, incarcerated prisoners, gun violence, poverty, etc., etc.

But here again, Democrats are much more able and willing to face harsh problems than Republicans. The real tragedy is that all four personality types need one another. Intuitive-Feeling types need Sensing-Thinking types to “ground them.” And, Sensing-Thinking types need Intuitive-Feeling types to see the “larger human picture.”

Intuitive-Thinking types need Sensing-Feeling types to literally see real, concrete human beings. And, Sensing-Feeling types need Intuitive-Thinking types to see the bigger, whole system. But this is possible if and only if the Adult governs each of them. One of the strong characteristics of the Adult is that no matter what its particular Jungian personality, it says to itself, “So I’m a Sensing-Thinking type; so what!; I need all the others to complement the weak sides of my personality; we all need to work together.” However, from a psychological perspective, don’t count on it at the present time. When one party is primarily in the Parent stage and the other is in the Adult, communication, let alone cooperation, are almost impossible.

My prime recommendation to the Democrats is don’t waste your breath with the Republicans. Keep saying what you’re saying, but in the clearest, most succinct stories you can muster. No matter what one’s psychological type, stories are what move us to great feats.

Finally, as a strong Intuitive Thinking and Feeling type myself (one can be more than one), I say, “Never give hope.” As dire as things are, I believe with all my heart that the Adult eventually will prevail. This is the ideal by which I choose to guide my life.

Originally published on Nation of Change, September 8, 2012

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