Uh Oh. I am dreaming of Sarah Palin. Can Carl Jung Save me?

When I awoke two years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska and heard that John McCain had chosen Sarah Palin as a Vice-Presidential candidate, I felt I had woken up in a never-ending dream, an improbable parallel reality.

(We Alaskans knew she had to be better than the previous governor, Frank Murkowski, but that was a very low bar, given that he had a 20% popularity rating.  She appeared to be a bit of a feisty fluff-head,  a breath of fresh air — but Vice-Presidential material?  This must be a dream, I told myself.)

Apparently this dream-like improbable parallel reality has now continued for more than two years.  I tell myself, “I am a psychologist.  I work with dreams. If I am ever to wake up out of this dream, I clearly have to figure out, ‘What part of my psyche does Sarah Palin represent’”?

First thing that comes to mind: I have been in a culture that has been male-dominated for centuries, and it is time for a renewal of the feminine.   OK.  I get that.  I’ve read Jung.  I’ve seen the Da Vinci Code.  I would have voted for Hillary.  Yeah, that must be some of it; I want the woman-within-me to have more power.

So what else is it about Sarah Palin so that she inhabits this parallel dream world of mine? Well, she’s pretty, sometimes very pretty.  As a male, pretty women kind of make my thinking function go a bit kerwonky.  So I had better convince that Neanderthal lower self, We’re talking about a possible President here, not mating material… Just because she looks good doesn’t mean she should be President.  It’s  not convinced.

And what else? Well, Sarah can kill and gut a moose without being bothered by it.  Now that could be a useful skill.  At least here in Alaska, anyway.   The one time I shot and butchered a moose it bothered me a lot, and I didn’t ever want to do it again.   I can be just too sentimental about those beautiful, ungainly creatures.   But maybe this killer instinct could be useful in politics.  I could think of some politicians that might benefit by being disemboweled.    Ah,that must be part of it, she represents the fearless hunter, the no- sentimentality-for-the-other, the hunter-killer-politician within.

Hmm.  I wonder what else she could represent. Well, she has said some pretty off-the-wall things.  Maybe she is the part of my psyche that isn’t afraid of speaking my mind, no matter how uninformed and idiotic it may sound, even if it takes new words to do so.  So that must be more of it — she represents that opinionated part of me that is willing to speak without much knowledge about the facts.   I know that part,  all too well.

A voice within says, Don’t forget that she identifies with grizzly bears and pit bulls. Hmm.  So maybe that  grizzly part is my Shadow, my dark side — the aggressive, take-no-prisoners part of my personality.    Yeah, I could use some of that grizzly bear/pit bull within.   Sometimes I am just too willing to listen to the other person’s point of view.

Uh Oh. I suddenly realize that Sarah is not only a woman, and a pretty woman, but also an Alaskan woman.  After 30 years in Alaska, I have learned the hard way never to underestimate Alaskan women. This could be a long dream.

Cartoon: Peter Brookes

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31 Responses to Uh Oh. I am dreaming of Sarah Palin. Can Carl Jung Save me?

  1. Thank you for this post. It certainly opens up very many of the aspects of Sarah in the collective conscious and unconscious. I think another aspect of Sarah that is very worth mentioning is the way in which she constellates the mother archetype, seen perhaps most strikingly in her evocation of the “Mama Grizzlie” image. Certainly a grizzlie is a wild animal, but bears are also a feminine animal. This dimension was impressed on our human forebears by the very striking manner in which mother bears deal with anything that gets between them and their cubs. I grew up just outside Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. When I was about 10, I remember reading a story about a tourist in the Park who had succeeded in luring a black bear cub into his car for a “cute” picture, and then had closed the door. Unfortunately, the mother bear was actually quite nearby, and she proceeded to get her cub out — by taking apart the car. And that was “only” a black bear, not a griz. Sarah emanates this kind of primal, atavistic mother energy through her very visible, public mothering persona, and she is a conduit for that energy in the American psyche. I think that we would all do well to recognize it’s psychic power. I fully agree that Sarah’s political life could be a very long dream, and a very archetypally rooted one at that.

  2. It is good to finally read something about our Sarah that isn’t high praise (lawdy lawdy) or vicious slander. Voter sympathy for that “purty lady with that pore retard kid” just might get her elected president.

    I am a thirty year Alaskan too, be very afraid indeed.

  3. Brian:

    Very interesting. She certainly has usurped the symbol of the grizzly bear. (When the USSR used the symbol of the bear, it sure wasn’t popular in this country — strange how she has made it positive.)

    She may have a public mothering persona, but I have my doubts about her actual mothering. Has anyone really dared to look at this and comment about it?. She wouldn’t have have much time for mothering if she had been fully dedicated to the job of being Alaska’s governor… She wasn’t much of a governor and she quit early. ( I don’t think she quit early so she could be with her family.)

    I think the projections on her (both negative and positive) by so many folks really needs to be made conscious, and hope there is more dialogue about. Really appreciate your response.

  4. Yes– she seems to bring out both. I must say I had to restrain myself a bit not to lapse into knee-jerk polarized reaction. You have brought out a good question — why does she polarize so much?

  5. Actually, I don’t think so. It is just as psychologically dangerous to project overly-negative emotions on Sarah Palin as it overly-positive ones. I think the major issue is to try to understand what is being projected on to her and why it is being projected on to her. I think the way through these polarities of projection is along the lines of the Dalai Lama’s statement, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

  6. While I agree it can be dangerous to project overly-negative emotions on a public figure, I don’t agree that merely recognizing why we might be doing so is the ‘major issue’ to take care of, as Dr. Parker suggests above.

    It is time to wake up from the sliding, creeping belief that it’s all about us individually, about our polarities of projections.

    Not entirely–

    I think Sarah brings us into collective unconscious territory in the most contemporary way.

    When Sarah comes along, and is rewarded for being mean-spirited and hateful, we can look at ourselves as a CULTURE and trace approximately how low the level of discourse has gone, and WANTS to go.

    We can see Obama treading water, or appearing to tread water, as he commits to working together with the Republicans, to taking the high road.

    As a president, he is accomplishing a lot.

    And yet, Palin comes along and is allowed, by the collective, to negate his very personhood–without even having to know the difference between North and South Korea, or the meaning of several words she still chooses to use.

    She is a sociopath in the clinical definition, and she is being rewarded by a nation fascinated by sociopaths.

    Those of us who seethe at her, laugh at her, call her names, project on her,
    simply need to grow up into some mastery, learn to take effective action to help the culture at large let her go back into obscurity.

    She represents libertarian/corporate interests who would gut the constitution and who already have access to the largest standing private army in the world.

    Hitler came to power through a democratic election, and Sarah is similarly black and white in her thinking, and similarly comfortable lying about her opponents.


    All that said
    (and thank you for bearing with me),
    in the spirit of the post…

    Sarah Palin represents the Golem,
    an animated mud creature
    with no (little) innate intelligence, but buckets of confidence, even… hubris.

    She represents the inner toddler,
    the unformed parts of us that want what we want when we want it and the grown-ups are bad people! Kill them! We don’t need them! We can do it ourselves!!!

    She represents the siren,
    winking at sailors who are tired of the complicated riggings of their ships, of the distant destinations and the slow winds. It would be so much easier, so much more satisfying, to sink into the soft, easy waters of the unconscious. To make that one, last decision… to let go.

    She represents the killer.
    Sarah Palin jokes about reloading in a culture where most of the prime-time media is about killers with guns and dead bodies on the floor.
    Killers, especially serial killers, are heroes in a culture that no longer has enough space between ‘kills’ to differentiate between hero and anti-hero.

    She represents the Demon Lover:
    we know she is lying, but we are mesmerized. We know she isn’t for us.
    On some level, I think all humans, all animals, can recognize predatory eyes. They fascinate us and draw us in. She has them.

    She represents the invulnerable winner.
    Sarah shows the vulnerable parts of us that self-confidence is better than love.
    What a relief! Loving is so hard when you haven’t been taught how…
    But it’s okay to rush forward, saying whatever pops to mind, because we are invulnerable. And when we make a mistake, or go too far, why, then we just ask for pity, we just blame those rotten other people for attacking us. We win, and we refuse to be held accountable.

    Those are my thoughts,
    Thank you for your blog — best discovery I enjoyed today!


  7. Sarah Palin draws us to her by being incorrigible. Until the child gets to be a social nuisance, we admire its precociousness and outright mischief. Sarah is a consummate crowd – pleaser: she does and says what she knows will raise hackles and draw the press to her. She thrives on publicity, and all publicity is good publicity to an obsessive performer. She has little use of fact or correct thinking, because she knows, with great confidence, that people are watching and hearing her, and not paying too much attention to the lack of substance in what she is mouthing. She remains accountable only to herself.

    Is Sarah Palin clinically hyper-paranoid, amassing popular power to destroy the imaginary world of her enemies? In true Goebbels fashion, she creates an alternate reality of her own choosing and sucks in those who are empty of principle. All this she does, as in Animal Farm, by twisting the common language into spiraling images of surreality: she lives in her own fantasy world of greatness and power, defined by muddy phrasing..

    Sarah Palin is a timely reminder to us of how bereft of unshakable reality we have all become: a social culture that buys in to propaganda and half-truths just to while away the time before the next real event. She has a Science-fiction quality of some life-form that escaped from the flat TV screen and invaded the neighborhood.

    She may have been Second-Runner-up as a High School cheerleader, but she is the ultimate darling of the media, a fount of material that makes up hours of press coverage. They live in a world of mutual dependence.

    Finally, it is now time to ignore her, lest she becomes the dark side made manifest.

  8. Stephen —
    Thanks for leading this discussion.

    Reading others’ thoughts about Mrs. Palin articulated within a Jungian context was a relief to me, and taking a few moments to clarify my thoughts around her helped lighten my attitude.

    I will visit back to read your post about dreams from a cultural angle.

    Best regards,

  9. Among other things, I think many people — including myself — are scared that Sarah might actually, somehow, end up being nominated to run for President. I think the fear amplifies the psychological projections on to her. I continue to be amazed that she is taken seriously.

    A (badly named) and well researched concept in psychology is the Dunning-Kruger effect, which suggests that

    Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

    1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
    2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
    3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;

    Dunning has since drawn an analogy (“the anosognosia of everyday life”) to a condition in which a person who suffers a physical disability because of brain injury seems unaware of or denies the existence of the disability, even for dramatic impairments such as blindness or paralysis.

    I think this is one of the more remarkable and frustrating things about Ms. Palin, that she does not recognizer her own inadequacy. Although I don’t agree with her values or methods, as a small-town mayor she was probably more effective than many. (She was able, for instance, to cut property taxes 75% in Wasilla — which brought box stores and strip malls to the area. Driving through Wasilla is an real American Experience. It is the ugliest stretch of road in Alaska.) She might have been barely adequate as Alaska’s governor, though people here were afraid to cross her or say bad things about her because they could lose their jobs. As President, she would be way out of depth, which she doesn’t realize.

    (I would also note that she won the Miss Wasilla pageant, and was third in the Miss Alaska contest, just to keep the record straight.)

  10. How fortunate to have run across this site today. As a Montana woman who hunts, is a mother, lives among bears, etc., I’ve wondered what on earth could be the draw to Ms. Palin for so many people. I’ve decided it’s a type of macabre curiosity. The signs of potential disaster are right there to see, so I can’t look away for fear the train wreck will happen and I’ll miss it.

    While I cringe at the creative language distortions, I keep my ear tuned for the ones to come. Part of my consciousness is appalled at how many people don’t realize the words they are hearing only exist in Ms. Palin’s world; the other part is hoping I can remember them so I can chortle about them later. (There are misuses of words that should be worrisome; for example, is anyone else bothered that Palin would have the Obama administration come up with a strong enough policy to sanction whatever North Korea “is gonna do”? I won’t be chortling about that one, I’m already dismayed.)

    The danger here is that while I am poised to catch the next gaffe, the train may indeed wreck right in front of me, and I will sustain damage to myself, my home, my state and my country.

  11. Sarah simply uses her Femininity as a Bludgeon, and a shield, when it is expedient. She represents the embodiment of everything negative about the Female persona. I cannot stand to even look at her anymore. I am so appalled at people in the Country that can EVEN consider her in any capacity, except as a curiosity. When President Obama is treated the way he is, with absolutely no respect, the object of scorn and derision. It absolutely makes me ill. Imagine even considering her as Presidential material, or a contender that could WIN against a man that is so vastly her superior IN EVERY WAY.

  12. You sound like you are all a bunch of knuckle-heads. All I’ve read here is each person trying to out-do the previous writer in “enlightenment and deep, never-spoken-before profoundness that will awe and inspire your fellow bloggers, catapulting them to new heights of awareness.” (Get my drift? I have laughed my heads off at how you are getting so into this. Walt Whitman you are NOT so keep your day jobs, unless you don’t have one…and in that case I’d suggest you start with driving a bus or working at McDonald’s.) All I’ve read here is a bunch of rhetoric that tells me that your heads are minus a few brain cells. Can you repeat after me, “If she lost, why IS everyone still talking about it? I obviously need to find a life.” Obama is your savior and he’s going to protect you from grizzlies. So go back to your drugs and drinking and leave space on the internet for some news.

  13. Ferryl: The point of the satire is to get people to think about the psychological material they are projecting onto Sarah Palin, from both sides of the political spectrum.

    For some reason — which I hope you will try to examine — you find it necessary to insult people whose opinion you don’t agree with.

    (In your imagination, people who write comments here are “knuckleheads”, missing brain cells, etc.) This tendency is exactly what I am trying to get at — what is it about Sarah Palin that is so polarizing, so that people split off their humanity and demonize the other side?

    How do you know that I think or that anyone commenting here thinks that Obama is a savior? Obama has his flaws too, and will also be the subject of future satires…. This country isn’t going to make it unless people start getting some basic psychological awareness that they are projecting their darker side onto other people: “We have met the enemy and he is us” — http://jungcurrents.com/the-shadow-politics-and-the-american-psyche/

  14. Ruth:

    Yes, I too keep wondering what the fascination with Sarah Palin is…. From a Jungian point of view, where there is fascination there is a complex… And where there are complexes, there are train wrecks…

  15. Enjoyed the discussion. I think Ms. Palin is so polarizing because she is absolutely, positively, without any doubt whatsoever right and correct about every and any opinion and/or fact she expresses. On the other hand, she sees any different (not necessarily opposing) opinion or contradicting fact expressed by anyone as not having even a thread of honesty much less accuracy. So no discussion is possible.

    Her rhetoric itself, what she actually says, divides people into real Americans and, I guess, not so real ones. Once that division takes place, it is impossible to bridge.

  16. Steve;

    Indeed! Part of what I find most interesting is evident in some Palin appreciators who are well known to me. On other subjects and in other arenas I know them to be well grounded, astute assessors of the world around them, careful of believing what they are presented with. So a spirited defense of Ms. Palin seems out of character. When the inevitable train wreck comes (I’m referring to fender benders here), their responses tend to attempt a return to the balance I’d come to expect of them in the first place: “I’m so thankful that 6% of those touched by the accident were spared serious injury or death!! How unfortunate for the 94% who weren’t”.

    I appreciate the opportunity to voice my observations without having to either defend President Obama or vilify the Republicans. I don’t belong to either party, and I find enough to puzzle over from both sides of the aisle to keep my mind busy.

  17. Judith:

    Re: When Ignorance begets confidence

    I think Sarah Palin’s apparent lack of self-awareness and self-examination is one of the most problematic aspects of her political “views.” I personally find it difficult to comprehend how people can operate this way, and keep going back to the Dunning-Kruger effect:

    “The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect)

  18. Dr. Parker’s PHD must stand for Pilled Higher and Deeper !
    Keep drinking the Kool-Aide Doc and consumming the BS!
    Best regards,
    Phil Bailey
    Somebody, Esq.

  19. As a Canadian with relatives in New England, I cringe when I see how seriously Americans are taking the possibility of Palin running for President. We once had the Rhino Party which operated within the Canadian tradition of political satire. The Rhinoceros Party’s basic credo, their so-called primal promise, was “a promise to keep none of our promises.” They then promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public. Anyone who voted for them did so only as a protest, not that they were seriously considering them as representatives of the populace. Yet Americans seem to be taking Palin seriously. How can you?

  20. Ruth:

    How can America take Sarah Palin seriously? Excellent question. That is what I am trying to figure out in these posts. Something in the American psyche. Sure would like to have it figured it out and for America to get more conscious of what the “complex” is.

    Note the response before yours about “keep drinking the Kool-Aid Doc”; it is this kind of level of response that is connected to the Palin complex.

  21. I wonder if both her supporters and detractors see her as the more or less average girl next door, the person least likely to, who nevertheless attained fame, fortune and notoriety, a person to whom others turn for comment (Fox), whose opinions are widely publicized, and who authors best sellers. To her supporters, it is the realization of the American dream; to her detractors, it is undeserved prestige.

  22. I find it odd that everyone makes these comments having never read either of Sarah Palin’s books. Even the introduction of ‘America By Heart’, would have one wondering “maybe I’m wrong about her”. I’m not suggesting she should be president but I am suggesting her beliefs are noble, honest, and very American. But perhaps, those commenting negatively, don’t believe in American values.

  23. Papa Jack:

    I suspect that almost everyone reading this blog believes in “American” values — in honesty, in democracy, in the freedom of speech, in hard work, the right to choose one’s religious practices, the separation of Church and state, in helping neighbors, in liking grizzly bears. (Let me know what I have left out.)

    I would also hope that “American” values are not exclusive to just America. (The core basic value of almost all religious is to treat others with kindness and compassion; I haven’t seen that with Ms. Palin’s behavior, frankly. )

    As you suggest, espousing these values (I am not convinced that she lives them) doesn’t mean she should be President. I think if she were more tolerant of other people’s view and had a better intellectual grasp of the the complex domestic and foreign policy issues facing America and the world. people would be less anxious about her potential candidacy. I think it is her personality that is polarizing, not her values.

  24. Well, while you’re looking at that oh so Alaskan image, you might want to check into the fact that she’s never…ever…had a hunting license, and it’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t know her way around a gun. Moose hunting and skinning indeed!

  25. Very interesting about her not having a hunting license . Not sure that she has “never had” a hunting license — but clearly from an Internet search she has not had one since 2008. Clearly a difference between myth and reality, between spin and substance. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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