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Liberated Consciousness and the Tension of Opposites

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The Psychopolitics of Liberation
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Abstract

This chapter serves as a bridge between parts I and II. It brings together the ideas of Freire, Memmi, and Jungian psychology, presented in chapters 1–3, preparing the way for the application of these ideas to four cases in part II. Already in part I the central ideas of Freire and Memmi are linked to theories from Jungian psychology, as announced by the chapter titles: conscientization and individuation, humanization and complexes, and decolonization and narcissism.1 The bridge is a synthesis of the foregoing chapters and the theory of opposites, central to Jungian psychology Samuels states, “[i]n fact, virtually all of Jung’s major ideas are expressed in a manner involving opposites.”2 He goes on to say, “[w]hat really structures Jung’s whole conception of the psyche is oppositional antagonism and complementarity.”3 This chapter begins by presenting the theory of opposites, emphasizing their tension within the psyche.4 Next, this theory encompasses the relationship between the psyche of the oppressed and sociohistorical conditions. Then, the theory of opposites contributes to reformulating the ideas of Freire and Memmi in order to define “liberated consciousness.” This synthesis guides the four case studies of Native people in ethnically divided societies.

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Notes

  1. For a highly readable presentation of the “tension of opposites,” see Robert A. Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), chapter 2.

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  2. See Isaac Prilleltensky and Lev Gonick, “Polities Change, Oppression Remains: On the Psychology and Politics of Oppression,” Political Psychology 17, no. 1 (1996): 130, who distinguish between political and psychological oppression. Their distinction is consistent with the one between objective and subjective conditions of oppression.

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  3. See C. G. Jung, “The Transcendent Function,” in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, vol. 8 of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler, William McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 90, para. 189.

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  4. C. G. Jung, “A Psychological View of Conscience,” in Jung on Evil, ed. Murray Stein (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 112, para. 844.

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  5. Liliane Frey-Rohn, From Freud to Jung.• A Comparative Study of the Psychology of the Unconscious (New York: Delta, 1974), 58.

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  6. See David Sedgwick, The Wounded Healer: Countertransference from a Jungian Perspective (London: Routledge, 1994), 24–26; C. J. Groesbeck, “The Archetypal Image of the Wounded Healer,” Journal of Analytical Psychology 20 (1975): 132–133.

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  7. See Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970).

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  8. C. G. Jung, Psychological Types, vol. 3 of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler, William McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 195, views the loss of soul and the part it plays in the individuation process as follows: —… Human consciousness has not yet attained a reasonable degree of continuity. It is still dissociable and vulnerable, in a way fortunately so, since the dissociability of the psyche is also an advantage in that it enables us to concentrate on one point by dismissing everything else that might claim attention. It makes a great difference, however, whether your consciousness purposely splits off and suppresses a part of the psyche temporarily, or whether the same thing happens to you, so that the psyche splits spontaneously without your consent and knowledge, or perhaps even against your will. The first is a civilized achievement, the second a primitive and archaic condition or a pathological event and the cause of a neurosis. It is the ‘loss of soul,’ the symptom of a still existing mental primitivity.

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  9. See chapter 1. Von Franz, a Jungian analyst, shares a number of Gambini’s insights about the loss of ancestral soul as the expression of societal conditions in the individual psyche. Detecting a one-sidedness in a Mexican analysand, she refers to his “loss of roots” and “historico-spiritual roots.” See Marie-Louise von Franz “Highlights of the Historical Dimension of Analysis,” in Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche, ed. Marie-Louise von Franz (Boston: Shambhala, 1997), 7. He had apparently severed his “connection to his ancestral spirits and to his cultural and religious roots.” Once “he found his spiritual roots” his neurosis was cured. He found his roots first by opening the wound, and then experiencing the resentment and sadness over the Spanish conquest of Mexico under Cortes, according to von Franz, “Highlights,” 5–6. As in Gambini’s study, here it is evident that the individual psyche is an expression of the societal whole. Von Franz, “Highlights,” 11, finds a correspondence between “neurosis in individuals” and “a spiritual crisis” in cultures. Again reminiscent of Gambini, she believes that among North American Indian tribes, the loss of historical-religious mythology results in the loss of a meaningful whole and a disorientation of a culture. See von Franz, “Highlights,” 19. Further insights from depth psychology about the relationship between individual and society under conditions of oppression are found in Martin-Baro, 27, and Mary Watkins, “Depth Psychology and the Liberation of Being,” in Pathways into the Jungian World, ed. Roger Brooke (London: Routledge, 2000), 218.

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  10. Eduardo Duran and Bonnie Duran, Native American Postcolonial Psychology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 32.

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  11. At this juncture I may speculate about the origin of narcissism in the oppressed. A person’s narcissist disturbance, as presented in the appendix to chapter 3, originates as a psychic wounding brought about by an unempathic caretaker, usually one’s mother or father. Now that Gambini and the Durans have given substance to the notion of a soul wound or loss of ancestral soul, I am wondering about the nature of this psychic wound. If it were a narcissistic wound, it could be the origin of the narcissistic tendencies found in the oppressed, as described in chapter 3. At the time of the conquest, perhaps the soul wounding was experienced collectively as abandonment to the conquerors by an unempathic mothering figure, spirit, or deity. Zoja, a Jungian analyst, says that the Aztecs may have experienced the conquest of Mexico traumatically as abuse by their gods. ”… This wound stays open throughout the following centuries, to the point of being considered the basis of national identiry.” See Luigi Zoja, “Trauma and Abuse: A Psychological Approach to a Chapter of Latin American History,” Journal of Jungutn Theory and Practice 3 (Spring 2001): 40.

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  12. For a treatment of the issues of political violence, ethnic conflict, and ideological influence from a Jungian perspective on the shadow, see R. Kevin Hennelly, “The Psychological Roots of Political and Ideological Violence: A Jungian Perspective,” Alternatives 13, no. 2 (1988): 219–252.

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  13. Young-Eisendrath, a Jungian analyst, applies the theory of opposites to the analysis of racism. She considers racism to be “a psychological complex organized around the archetype of Opposites, the splitting of experience into Good and Bad, White and Black, Self and Other.” See Polly Young-Eisendrath, “The Absence of Black Americans as Jungian Analysts,” Quadrant 20, no. 2 (1987): 41. She describes the formation of identity, defensive racism, defensive splitting, all within the framework of object relations theory and Jungian archetypal theory. See Young-Eisendrath, “Absence of Black Americans,” 42–52. Her discussion contains much of what I have examined within the dynamics of oppressed and oppressor consciousness. Our starting points differ, however, in that she views the psychological condition of defensive splitting (racial stereotyping) as an understandable, if deplorable, occurrence in a racially diverse society. My starting point, like that of Memmi, is different: the oppression (discrimination, exploitation) of certain racial groups (non-Whites) by others (Whites) is the social context for which racist ideologies of superioriry-inferioriry develop as justifications. These ideologies, in turn, shape the personal identity and self-image of the oppressor and the oppressed as superior or inferior, grandiose or depressive, dominant or submissive, paternalist or dependent, through the splitting of these bipolar pairs of complexes.

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  14. Ibid., 84. Odajnyk’s description corresponds well to the image of the yin in the Yang and the yang in the Yin. See Lawrence Alschuler, “Yin, Yang, and Jung,” International Journal of Comparative Religion and Philosophy 2, no. 2 (1996).

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  15. Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles, Introduction to The Cultural Complex, ed. Thomas Singer and S. L. Kimbles (NewYork: Routledge-Brunner, 2004), 1–2.

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  16. Thomas Singer, “The Cultural Complex and Archetypal Defenses of the Group Spirit: Baby Zeus, Elian Gonzales, Constantine’s Sword, and other Holy Wars (with Special Attention to ‘the Axis of Evil’),” in The Cultural Complex, eds. Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2004), 19, 32.

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  17. Long ago Freire spoke of polarities in the psychology of oppressed persons at about the same time that modernization theorists spoke of polarities within underdeveloped countries. Polarized societies have a modern and a traditional sector. Modernization theorists view the relation between these sectors as benign, as the diffusion of culture and capital from the modern to the traditional sector. Dependency theorists consider the relation to be an exploitative one, by which wealth is extracted from the traditional sector to benefit the modern sector. See Lawrence Alschuler, “Satellization and Stagnation in Latin America,” International Studies Quarterly 21, no. 1 (1976): 39–82. My concern here is to consider as polarities two cultures in conflict: the modern-Western-Ladino culture (a mixture of indigenous and Spanish values) versus the traditional-non-Western-Indian culture. The conflict of values and identities is associated with the traditional and the modern. Values and identities subsume such psychological issues as self-image, collective consciousness, and collective persona.

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© 2006 Lawrence R. Alschuler

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Alschuler, L.R. (2006). Liberated Consciousness and the Tension of Opposites. In: The Psychopolitics of Liberation. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230603431_5

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