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Can the Youth of Our Nation Save Us from Ourselves? by Janice A. Quinn, PhD, LCSW

Thursday, March 15, 2018 3:07 PM | Jung Society of Washington

At the end of Jung’s life, during the height of the Cold War and amidst fear of nuclear proliferation, Jung said in his famous BBC interview: “The state of the world hangs by a thin thread. That is the psyche. What happens to the world if something happens to the psyche?”

President Trump, as promised, is wittingly and sometimes unwittingly uncovering in our perhaps overly-politically-correct American society all of the darker corners of our American culture. He is dredging up that which Jung defines as the Shadow—all that which is unconscious in an individual as well as collectively as a nation. We may be living now with a new dividing line delineated by the Parkland, Florida shooting. What has emerged with the deaths of 17 beautiful, vibrant students and many others injured in body and mind on Valentine’s Day is a new Youth movement. Survivors of the massacre have found their voice and they are speaking truth to power.

As observed in our past during the Vietnam War, the politicians from President Lyndon B. Johnson knew deep in their souls that we were fighting an unwinnable war, but face-saving was the tenor of the day. No one wanted to be the President who lost the war. Thousands of young, virile men and not a few courageous women would have to die before these men of power politics were brought to their knees by the movements of the 60’s when higher consciousness was the order of the day—civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights—all culminated in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The average age of soldiers in Vietnam was 19 years old. The age of those in protest which originated mostly on college campuses and in the poorest areas of America were 18-21 years old.

Reputable news sources with direct access to the White House describes our current national leader as ‘unhinged’, as revealed in his daily Tweet reactions to perceived personal slights. The media reports his administrative staff in disarray as seemingly evident by numerous firings and resignations—a record number of any presidential administration in our history. President Trump says he likes chaos and pitting staff with opposing views with each other in order to help him then make the final policy decisions. His Cabinet are attempting to carry out his mandate to reduce enforcement of regulatory actions on the business community. And he has successfully coopted the Republican majority in Congress, who have refused to step out in front of the President.

All of this occurred in the first year of the Trump Administration and the media has been reporting the rapid developments of these vast political changes. Amidst this backdrop of Trump’s challenges and Congress’s inaction, on Valentine’s Day, a former 19-year-old student took an AR-15 to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school and went up and down the halls shooting students, killing 17 and injuring others. Out of grief and anger, a group of outspoken students who witnessed and survived the bloodbath rose up to hold a mirror to our American leaders crying for gun reform. The politicians expressed their sympathy but remained silent on any referenda of gun reform. One 18-year-old student, Adam, said directly to the NRA: “We are not afraid of you.” Another student, Emma Gonzalez, surrounded by fellow students, teachers and parents called out the politicians: “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA are telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We Call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS. If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congress people. Give them a piece of your mind.” And the crowd chanted, “Throw them out!” In other words, the students are saying, “You adults—wake up! Look! You are killing us with your negligence and blind eye of political expediency.

These students are even raising a larger issue, forcing Americans to ask ourselves: Who as a Nation do we want to be? Even those in Trump’s base are questioning themselves as if to say, “Did we really mean to carry it this far?” When the shadow emerges, despite our best intentions to suppress and repress it, it has its way with us. This wakeup call is what Jung meant by the Psyche. He was focusing on how we confront our shadow material and integrate it. The first step is becoming aware of our actions. But as many of you know, just becoming aware does not mean we change our actions. Our limbic systems, the sphere of our oldest instinctual urges still have the strongest hold on us. Sometimes, many times, even when we are aware that we are doing destructive, silly things to ourselves or others, we do them anyway. It takes conscious choice and discipline to hold to newer, at first often uncomfortable ways of being. This is what Jung calls holding the opposites—the old and the new together, as long as it takes to transcend the dualism with a new creative synthesis. This is what he meant by integration of our shadow; this is what we avoid as long as we can because it is hard and often painful. To slightly paraphrase a well-known quote from John F. Kennedy, “We must do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

This movement is not liberal or conservative. These are the opposites represented in our struggle. It is about being aware, knowledgeable and empathic with our opposing brothers and sisters as a result of facing the hard inner truths. Only then will we find a new way, what Jung called the Transcendent function or the Third thing, way of being. In our digital age, no one can hide for long. Everything can be revealed. Russian invasions into election processes—not only ours but other nations; Chinese and Russian trade and military support of “bad actors” as Iran and North Korea; sexual abuse in all power centers where one sex has power over the other; immigration issues that reveal ongoing, pervasive racial inequalities and tensions; even in religious areas where secrecy cloaks abuse of power. No one or no place is safe from exposure to the media glare and internet appetite for shining a light on our dark behaviors.

We cannot hide for long. So Trump’s intentions, the students of Stoneman Douglas and the media are challenging us to ferret out our so-called evil or sinful or destructive ways—those aspects lurking in our shadow. Then what do we do? We have a choice. We can turn the mirror inward and ask, “How is this like me? What do I have to do with any of this?” To extend Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, Jung might say: “Ask not what your ego can do for you. Ask what you can do for your psyche and the soul of your Nation.” What we might discover by looking at our own fallibilities may be, through newly-found humility, greater understanding and deeper compassion new capabilities which can bring greater relatability to others’ circumstances and beliefs within our fractured Nation and throughout the World. Our actions then may become easier, not so hard as our vision becomes clearer for resolution to human problems that may bring us closer to more sustained peace and security not only to ourselves, but to our country, and ultimately to the world.

Janice Quinn, PhD, LCSW, received her diplomate and PhD equivalency in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. Her thesis topic was: “Feminine Self-Worth”. She has several masters degrees – an M.S.W. in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, an M.P.A. in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and an M.A. in musicology from the Eastman School of Music at Rochester University. Dr. Quinn’s worked for 8 years in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) as well as the U.S. State Department. She also worked in Washington, D.C. for Community Connections serving extremely mentally ill and dual-diagnosis clients for 4 years.

Dr. Janice Quinn served two successive terms as President of the Jungian Analysts of Washington Association (JAWA) of which she has been a member since 1999. Her areas of specialty include self-esteem issues, depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, mid-life crises and creativity blocks. Dr. Quinn has conducted research on the nexus between spirituality, creativity and depression. She is a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology (IAAP), and serves as a senior faculty member for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysis (IRSJA). She works with individuals, couples and families. She has a private practice in Arlington, Virginia serving the Washington metropolitan area.

Dr. Quinn is a well-known lecturer in the Washington area, holding lectures, seminars and workshops for the Jungian Society of Washington, the Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, and American University. Lectures include: C.G. Jung’s Red Book and the Individuation Process, Music and Jung, Feminine Self-Worth, Baghdad Café and the Individuation Process. She also enjoys interpreting films from a Jungian perspective such as “American Beauty” and film noir. Dr. Quinn has made guest appearances on local TV news shows and provided consultative services for the Library of Congress.


  • Thursday, March 15, 2018 3:58 PM | Oxana Holtmann
    Thank you for this post. I read it with great attention and appreciated how you invited me, as a reader, to fully face the situation and see it in perspective and how you connected it with the Jungian thought. Holding the opposites is also a very timely reminder for me on a personal level.
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  • Thursday, March 15, 2018 9:06 PM | Erminia Scarcella MD, DLFAPA
    Well said Janice ! the difficulty in holding the opposites is so clear in what we are witnessing in our historical momentum
    We can see the tension getting stronger in many domestic and international issues with the danger of nuclear war
    Polarization is very strong nationally as well as internationally.
    Let's hope that the tension diminished by virtue of a democratic wisdom, being the wisdom a superior force.
    Link  •  Reply
    • Monday, March 19, 2018 12:09 PM | Anonymous
      Thank you so much for presenting it all in a few words! Your message is clear, inspiring and energizing. It also make us understand the importance of observing and being alert all at once, hopefully not for very long since positive forces seem to be coming out of the global psyche quite rapidly!
      Link  •  Reply


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