Narcissistic, grandiose, vulgar, disagreeable and nasty are just a few of the Donald Trump descriptors that immediately populate a Google search for the Republican Presidential nominee. His supporters want to talk about “an American success story” or real-estate mogul with a “knack for business.” Love him or hate him he is a man that rarely elicits a tepid response.
For the next four months, and perhaps the next four years, Americans will be in a dance, not just with Donald Trump, but with the dark side of America’s psyche. As Deepak Chopra blogged in America’s Shadow: The Real Secret of Donald Trump, Trump is bringing into the light of America’s consciousness the parts of ourselves that we know are there and don’t like to talk about—the fear of vulnerability, the belief that someone will harm us, especially if they look, believe or behave differently than us, and the self-loathing that makes us want to damage others to erase the pain of the damage we do to ourselves.
Everyone has a shadow side. The psychological benefit of our shadow is to point to the places that need more light. But each of us has to choose what we do with our shadow. Do we choose to lead, or be led, by it? Tweet this thought!
With Trump, the shadow of American culture is prominent. The challenge of the Trump presidential quest is that it hasn’t propelled Americans toward introspection and transformation of these shadow qualities. Instead, Trump’s campaign has been perceived as permission to unapologetically put them on display. The belief that anyone who is thought to be a threat should be forcibly dismissed, deported or demonized has unleashed a spate of violence that is creating more pain and darkness; and not just for the perpetrators and victims, but also for all of us who want to live in a peaceful, prosperous society.
Trump’s candidacy provides the opportunity to examine our shadow qualities and to find the places where we can choose differently. Making a conscious choice is a fundamental leadership quality. In this case, an effective leader would choose to move beyond reaction to the shadow to transforming the dysfunctional thinking that created it.
Which leads to the confounding challenge so many Americans are feeling this election cycle. While many find the policies and values extolled by Hillary Clinton more palatable than Trump’s platform, many perceive equally shadowy behavior in her approach to politics. At various points in her career, she has embodied fear, anger, aggression, denial and veiled behavior, rather than leading from her considerable strengths. It confuses the choice when both candidates are mired in the muck.
With two Presidential choices lacking the qualities of robust leadership rooted in conscious choice, the one thing you and I can do this election cycle is to use this shadow behavior to examine our thoughts and feelings of fear, of not trusting what is different from us, and to shift our own behavior. Where are the opportunities to reach out to people in our communities? Where can we show more compassion for those who are “not like us?” How can we become a catalyst for connection rather than conflict in our lives?
As we practice more of what we wish for in the world, the world changes; and as we use our shadow to show us where to point the light, we are leading, rather than being led.
What I hope for in this election cycle is that Secretary Clinton will make conscious choices to bring more of her true leadership out from the shadows of her fear of being seen for who she truly is. Yes, she has most likely received more negative attention than any public figure in modern American history. It is certainly understandable that she wants a well-constructed protective wall to limit her vulnerability. Yet, it has been the preservation of this wall that has cast long, dark shadows over her stellar record of service.
If Donald Trump’s candidacy is the impetus for Secretary Clinton’s shadow work to succeed, he will have done a great service for our country. If she misses this opportunity, the burden will fall to all of us to reconcile our own shadows as we enter the ballot box in November.
More has been asked of Hillary Clinton than her male counterparts for the privilege of serving in high office—and yet again she is being asked to go beyond what others would be asked to do. Nevertheless, if she can do her shadow work, if she can bring light to her leadership, she would not only ensure her victory in November, she will be leading the way for all of us to dance with the shadow and win.