When I work with people in therapy I notice that often, just before they are about to make a big breakthrough – a significant leap to another level – they often have to come face to face with some of the worst things about themselves that are standing in the way. If they can confront and, as it were, embrace or integrate their dark side, then they will move to the next level and if not, they won’t. This process, however, is never easy. It is always painful when one has an image about oneself as being a kind, helpful person only to discover one has a shadow side living inside one that is exactly the opposite! Well, the same thing holds true of the evolution of the larger human collective – humanity as a whole also has a dark side – and so does America and I believe that, as a nation, America is poised on the threshold of making such a leap.
As a psychotherapist, I find that if people want to make changes in their lives, they need to see what doesn’t work in their lives and where there might be some part of themselves that is sick or ugly. Often change comes about through experiencing pain and being courageous enough to face dark truths about ourselves. The gift – and I really mean gift – that Donald Trump is giving America is that he is continually holding up a mirror to his country of an aspect of its own wounded, pathological, narcissistic and heartless psyche.
One of the reasons why the press has had such a field day with Tony Blair following the publication of the Chilcot report, is that we love to find fault with people, especially if they are wealthy and famous and have committed some indiscretion. And Blair, who took our country into an illegal war that should never have been fought, features on all three counts. He exaggerated the threat of the WMDs, he went to war even though peaceful options had not been exhausted, and he made no preparations for peace. He tried too hard to please the Americans.
QUESTION. ‘Serge, can you comment on the whole Brexit situation?
Well, it ‘s crazy times, isn’t it. This leaving the EU which we’ve been part of for so many years, has resulted in Cameron falling on his sword, a rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn and the possible splitting up of the Labour party, together with our seeing some rather ugly racism rear its head in England. As Lord Hazeltine said on the late-night news: ‘We are facing the greatest constitutional crisis the country has had since the great war.’
For me, who wanted England to stay part of the EU, this break feels such an abrupt one. It’s as if a partner whom you had felt secure with – even though there were always a few ripples of unrest – suddenly tells you that they want a divorce and that life will be much better for you without them. You don’t realise how important and secure-making the relationship was until it is no more. And now everything is up in the air. None of us know, least of all our politicians, where anyone or anything stands and what our ‘exiting’ really involves.
There is a character in a Thomas Mann novel who says: ‘If a way to the better there be, it lies in our taking a full look at the worst’. In other words, we need, all of us personally, and nations nationally, to confront our dark side or our shadow. In America, one is seeing this via Trump – maybe he is a gift, as he embodies one aspect of thy country’s very dark face – and only if we can see and then confront the dragon, can we properly transform it, and maybe over here with this referendum, we have to confront our egos.
Why this hostility between the stay in-ers and get-out-ers? It’s got like a religion – out of hand. We get so identified with our beliefs about what’s right and wrong that we think our beliefs are who we are. They are not. Those who think differently from us are not bad or wrong or deserve to be pilloried or humiliated. They are beautiful human beings who think differently about something and should not be crucified.
Remember Wordsworth talking about the healing principle in life that reconciles opposites. We must remember this and know there are truths on both sides and no one is bad or dumb or wrong and that we human beings just have a habit of liking to concoct facts to fit our beliefs. I bet that whichever side wins that few of the prophecies are proved correct be they on the positive or the negative side.
It is interesting how all bullies are, underneath everything, cowards. And tycoon Philip Green, recently fallen from grace, who loves to be in the hot seat where everyone bows down to him because of his money and where he is always in a position where he can control and push people around, may have realised that yesterday when he was in another kind of hot seat, a rather less comfortable one. He was being questioned by a parliamentary committee over the shortfall of cash in the BHS pension fund which he’d owned for 15 years, then selling it to a known bankrupt as a result of which BHS has collapsed with thousands of people being made redundant.
- Philip Green at the Commons Inquiry
Questions: What is your view of the state of the world at this moment? Do you think we’ve a hope of making it or are we toppling right over the precipice?
Well, if we just get our information from the media, you’d think we hadn’t a hope in hell as the media just loves telling us about what’s going wrong with everything, the result being that we all get a bit hooked into disaster and some of us even take a vicarious pleasure out of it, plonking down in our armchairs of an evening to watch the news to see was what’s the next juicy bit of ghastliness coming up? Who has Trump offended now? How many died in that earthquake? Have ISIS really got hold of nuclear material? And so on…
Question: I work for a large corporation and receive an excellent salary for my work. While I like my work, I am starting slowly to change how I see the world and I am seeing that my firm does not support my values and beliefs as much as a small company or charity perhaps might. So I have two questions for you: do you think it is emotionally damaging to continue to work for a company that does not share one’s vision of the world and do you think I should I give up working for it?
Boy, those are both biggie questions and I am sure you are not the only one around asking them, as with our world becoming ever more transparent, more and more of us are becoming ever more aware of the fact that the value systems of many companies may need shifting. Interesting, isn’t it, how having a conscience or becoming more aware of what is ‘wrong with our world’ often makes our lives more complicated!
Question: I have recently arrived in Mallorca to live with my wife and young daughter and we can’t quite settle in. I don’t know why this is. We also haven’t really made any close friends, yet we live in a part of the island with plenty of British ex-pats. Could you give me any advice about what most people do when they come to live here as we may be doing something wrong.
We need to start with why you decided to move abroad and live in Mallorca, as people come for many different reasons. To have some sun. To avoid the rat race. Because you’ve fallen in love with someone on the island. To retire. Because you don’t like England any more. To avoid terrorists blowing you up (if you live in London). For your health. To embrace a more relaxed lifestyle. Because you have found a job there. My list could continue…