This episode of Living Myth is about the need for having a sense of irony and a tolerance for the paradoxical if we are to maintain our sense of self in an increasingly divided world. Michael Meade addresses how difficult it is to build bridges to other people if they have decided that being on one side of a division is exactly the thing that gives them a sense of personal identity.
The radical changes sweeping through contemporary life have caused some people to feel neglected and left behind in their own countries. As patterns of division and disconnection intensify, people can lose their sense of self and fall into a crisis of identity. When that happens, the need to find a savior figure can seem to be the only way out of feeling abandoned and helpless.
Looking back, it becomes clear that a great irony of fate occurred when Donald Trump, descending down his golden elevator, presented himself as bigger than life and as the only one who could fix the growing problems of the country. While what for some was the epitome of narcissism as Trump descended from his golden tower, was for others the arrival of a “self-object” that they could emotionally relate to.
The effects of that event continue to reverberate and cannot simply be explained by political factors nor by historical perspectives; it is likely that it can only be grasped psychologically. Typically, a person will project their sense of self onto someone or some entity that appears bigger than life to them. The psychological aim of such a self-projection is for the outer figure to reflect back to the person the presence of a greater self within their own psyche.
When Trump made his arrogant claims of personal power and blamed all our troubles on “other people,” he became, in psychological terms, the elected “self-object” for many of those already suffering a loss of self-identity.
The trouble is that even after Trump disappears, painful and dangerous issues created by the sense of sense of a loss of self-identity and self-worth will still be present. While part of us may want to help other people change and part of us feels the urgency to change the world; the irony of life and the paradox of existence indicates that the only genuine way that we can change the conditions around us is to change ourselves.
You can hear Michael Meade talk more about thresholds of change by joining his new online series and workshop beginning on July 16. Register and learn more at mosaicvoices.org/events.
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As always, you can also support this podcast by leaving a review on iTunes and sharing it with your friends. On behalf of Michael Meade and the whole Mosaic staff, we wish you continued well-being and deep community connection during this period of great uncertainty and transformation.