So where am I going with this? Here, I refer to Bob Woodward's latest book, Fear. He introduces his book with the following quote:
"Real power is -- I don't want to even use the word -- fear."
Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in an interview with
Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016, at the
Old Post Office Pavilion, Trump International Hotel,
Woodward never develops this idea as such. Instead, he proceeds to demonstrate with quotes how fear was used in the service of one individual's seemingly enjoyment of brandishing power. The book's descriptions of attempts to portray fear are not for the faint of heart. The chapters throb with bellicose language, profanity, the shaming and berating of individuals in front of their peers, accusatory and demeaning tweets, unpredictability in following a schedule as well as changing ideas regarding policies, lies, firing individuals without facing them, disregarding tradition and time-honored institutions of government, and an ongoing cacophony of false, self-serving descriptions of achievements.
What are we to make of such behavior that appears as irrational, aggressive, militant, without regard for individuals or institutions, paranoid, self-centered, callous, and unconscious -- while also enjoying this display of so-called "manliness." But even more puzzling and disturbing is the question that follows: What are we to make of those persons who participate in this carnival of insanity; individuals and groups of people who occupy positions of respect, power, and responsibility -- and yet do nothing. In fact, some of these even appear to curry the favor of this self-appointed leader! How can this be, we ask. It makes no sense.
It makes no sense. At least from any psychic island of sanity where this bizarre phenomenon has not yet taken hold, it makes no sense. But for those so possessed, for those under the thrall of this madness Woodward describes, those persons appear to overlook the immoral and irrational behavior through the use of rationalization. Each of us can rationalize doing absurd things if we are driven by fear.
Fear is the most basic, primal emotion. Most of us know fear very well. We come into the world afraid to live; we leave this world afraid to die. And in between, we move in a serpentine path, dodging fear here and there, facing our fears on some occasions, suppressing or repressing them at other times, in which case they take up residence in our unconscious and re-appear in an array of symptoms, maladaptive behavior, self-medicating attempts, and actions taken in behalf of the fears now turned into psychic deities who command our thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behavior.
It seems to me that that we here in the U.S. have yet to come to terms with the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan's twin towers and our Pentagon. So shocking was this first attack on what we thought to be our unapproachable, impregnable mainland, that we collapsed into a histrionic fear of deep vulnerability, of not feeling safe, of having a faceless enemy who worked in fiendish ways to destroy us and our way of life. Villains lurked everywhere; no place was safe; "if you see something, say something." Paranoia grabbed us by the back of our necks and dragged us into a "war of terror" with shades of color to signify the level of danger, and an international hunt to capture Bin Laden -- the only face we could stick on this new world of terror.
Worse, there welled up from our collective unconscious a dark force that possessed us. Possession is a psychic state in which people are controlled by a strong inner drive, a dark, irrational power that could be described as a spirit, demon, god, or other supernatural force. (American Heritage Dictionary)
You recognize that feeling, that state of mind when you are "scared senseless," so to speak. To be "scared senseless" is in fact a very apt description for what I am attempting to describe here. Carl Jung calls that power by the name of "archetype." The Jungian analyst, Anthony Stevens, defines "archetypes" as:
Innate neuropsychic centres possessing the capacity to initiate
control and mediate the common behavioural characteristics
and typical experiences of all human beings irrespective of
race, culture, or creed. (Archetype Revisited, p. 352)
Of course, these "neuropsychic centres" do not "scare us senseless" as a rule. The emotions and cognitions vary from person to person, experience to experience. But the point is that the "felt sense" of an archetype intervenes in our conscious state of mind. Jung explains it in the following metaphor, taken from his essay, "Wotan," published in 1936, for the purpose of trying to describe what he saw happening in his neighboring country, Germany.
Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts
them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like
an old water course along which the water of life has flowed for
centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed
in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will
return to its old bed. ... Thus the life of nations rolls on unchecked,
without guidance, unconscious of where it is going ... . Political events
move from one impasse to the next, like a torrent caught in gullies,
creeks, and marshes. All human control comes to an end when the
individual is caught in a mass movement. Then the archetype begins to
function, as happens also in the lives of individuals when they are
confronted with situations that cannot be dealt with in any of the
familiar ways. (para. 395)
In other words, an archetype arises in an individual person, but when the same archetype occurs within a group of people, even a nation, then there develops a kind of psychic infection, a "group-think" a movement that usually carries the name of some kind of "...ism," e.g., communism, fascism, racism, etc. And for this to happen, the circumstances in the life of an individual must have reached a point of vulnerability in which the person seeks some kind of explanation, a savior, a cause, someone to blame, something that awakens strong emotion -- thereby opening the mind to an invasion or psychic infection. In this case, a charismatic person who poses as a heroic savior may infect a group, an entire nation. Jung goes on to say:
The impressive thing about the German phenomenon is that one man
[Hitler], who is obviously "possessed," has infected a whole nation to
such an extent that everything is set in motion and has started rolling
on its course toward perdition. (para. 388)
Thus did Carl Jung in 1936 anticipate the catastrophic collapse of a nation in 1945, of educated, civilized, technologically advanced citizens whose fear turned into anger, opening the windows of their souls to be filled with their most primitive instincts under the influence of an archetypal god, a warrior god, who had possessed a leader capable of charming them into a mass hysteria. He promised them economic relief, power to rule the world, and a privileged place within his illusion.
So,no, real power is not fear. But real fear can possess us; it can expose our souls to the invasion of a dark power that ever so slowly erodes our sense of right and wrong -- even our humanity.