An Archetypal Plan for Recovering
from the U.S. Presidential Election
The U.S. presidential election has left Americans more divided than perhaps at any time since the Civil War. This is the second in a series of three blogs in which I offer an archetypal approach to understanding the forces at work both in the U.S. and around the world that produced this outcome and that threaten catastrophe, and a possible means to achieve greater unity and renew our faith in our democratic system of government
Part Two: Acts III & IV
Act III: Awakening: The Turning Point
The Way of the Heart pushes back with a Caregiver, Seeker, Sage progression. This archetypal progression allows us, as individuals, to care for ourselves, others, and the earth, seek out ways to be helpful, and devise strategies to promote the common good based on facts interpreted with wisdom. However, when too little of this progression is present in the world, individuals and groups (often women) become overwhelmed and burned out trying to compensate by giving more than they are able to or in ways that are not congruent with their true callings. When Demeter values are lacking in a society, it becomes a hard, grasping, greedy place with everyone fighting for their own good, at whatever cost to others or the earth.
The Myth: Demeter, who finds her daughter missing, responds first with deep grief, followed by anger and outrage when she discovers that Zeus OK’d her abduction. She then leaves Olympus in indignation to search for a solution, eventually confronting and resolving her complicity in being treated disdainfully. She recognizes that by continuing to make the grain grow, she obscures the negative consequences of Zeus’s macho “conquer nature” worldview. So, she stops providing the life force energy for growth, conducting the first recorded sit-down strike.
U.S.: Many women and men with Demeter values have responded to the election results beginning with sorrow and outrage, then voting with their feet by leaving workplaces, groups, or political parties that do not share these values, and finally by exploring ways they can stop being complicit in the war on Demeter.
- Trump supporters also are beginning to worry that government supports they have taken for granted (e.g., Medicare) may be reduced or eliminated.
- Because caring still is culturally defined as women’s work and caring issues as women’s issues, and because progress on gaining equality for women has stalled and is now under attack, women likely will lead the pro-Demeter charge. A Women’s March on Washington has been scheduled for January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration, with similar events planned for other major cities.
- The next challenge for women and the men who partner with them is to recognize our complicity in continuing to accept the pay gap, the glass ceiling, and other forms of inequality, as well as inaction on climate change. More than 40 years ago, 90 percent of women in Iceland went on strike, and as a result gained many rights and attention to what had been considered “women’s issues.”
- Asserting Demeter values certainly is not for women only. For example, many college and university presidents have urged Trump to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and some have declared their schools sanctuary campuses, although not all use that descriptor. And many individuals and organizations are hard at work to help groups that Trump promised to deport or otherwise disadvantage.
You and Me: When we have too much Demeter, we give and give to the point where we lose ourselves. If this is your case, you might concentrate on moving up the archetypal progression to Seeker, focusing on what is yours to give and recognizing how over-giving may make you complicit in keeping negative Zeus in place (at home, at work, or in the larger society). If your Demeter constellation of archetypes is not very present in your life, you may feel deprived because you are not caring for yourself, or your relationships may erode because you forget to care for them. In frustration, you might find yourself saying the wrong things to get your way, using your words as weapons rather than for honest communication. If that is the case, showing kindness to the more needy part of yourself and to others could fill you up and make you happier and more successful.
Act IV: The Climax: Transformation or Things Fall Apart
The Way of Transformation is revealed to move beyond reestablishing threatened values to genuine transformation. Its archetypal progression is from Innocent, to Creator, to Magician. In its most positive form, this constellation keeps us optimistic, innovative, flexible, and desirous of a transformation that leads to a world that works for all. When it is out of balance or in the service only of self or group interest, it can lead to chaotic outcomes, personal confusion and randomness, and trickster con artistry. If it is missing, we can feel stuck and imprisoned in a life not of our choosing.
The Myth: Persephone gets creative in the Underworld. She trusts that her mother eventually will rescue her, but what she really wants is to live part time in the Underworld and part time in the Upperworld. An ancient law says that anyone who eats something in the Underworld has to return there, so Persephone figures out how to turn this to her advantage, eating the number of pomegranate seeds necessary to return for half the year. She not only lives a bigger life than she had imagined, she becomes the magical initiator of the living through the Eleusinian Mysteries and of the dead in the Underworld, helping mortals be happy, prosperous, and free of fear. In this way, she not only gets what she wants, but in the process positively transforms life for gods and mortals alike.
U.S.: Trump’s behaviors have created cracks in the social fabric, which can occur when the civility, attention to truth, and traditions that support democracies break down. When told that they should support the new president, many are freed by his disregard for what he calls political correctness to be innovative and unconventional. Demands by Trump and his backers that everyone make nice and support him, because that is the custom, are motivating his detractors to get creative. When cracks appear in the sidewalk, it can be seen as a sign of breakdown, but flowers also can make their way up. Moreover, outcomes can look quite different when the shaking is from the bottom up, not just the top down. Following are some examples of energies of the youthful feminine in men and women rerouting the shakeup from its Trump-led form.
- Prioritizing American values over supporting a particular president. Example: The leaders of numerous cities, such as New York City’s Bill De Blasio, are declaring them sanctuaries and safe havens, stating up front how they will not comply with much of what the president-elect has promised to do.
- Establishing work-around solutions to accomplish what the federal government looks like it will fail to do. Examples: California Governor Jerry Brown has formed an Under2 coalition of 165 jurisdictions worldwide to fight climate change and has made California a national leader in doing so. In an open letter, 365 business leaders and major investors urged Trump not to abandon the Paris climate deal and committed to taking action to alleviate climate change with or without government support.
- Rethinking outmoded structures to protect their positive purpose. Example: Citizens are invoking the founding purpose of the Electoral College, which was intended to be a responsible body that would make certain that “the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Electors are, in fact, able to vote their conscience, although that is not the current expectation. This prospect is slim, but we will know for sure if it happens on December 19th.
- Reclaiming a sense of ease and agency by taking responsibility to do our parts. Examples: The news media are raising conflict of interest issues related to Trump’s presidency regarding his business empire and its foreign entanglements. Congress could require the president-elect to act ethically. Rather than remaining helpless, saying he may not be breaking current laws, they could wake up to realizing that it is their job to pass new ones in order to restore domestic and international faith in our government and its integrity. So many individuals are just now emerging from shock about election results and find they feel relief when they focus on what each has the power to do, large or small.
You and Me: When we feel stuck, we can emulate Persephone by softening our gaze to view the possibilities on the periphery and going inward to recognize those trickling up from the unconscious in dreams, moments of inspiration, and embodied hunches. Moreover, when we move from desiring to shake things up only in the interest of “me and mine” to feeling connected to the whole and its good, our Magician archetype can emerge, so that we can heal ourselves and the world around us. The feeling of Persephone rising in and around us is one of relief, lightness, and a renewed sense of possibility.