This last Presidential debate made me think of an article recently written by author and speaker Charles Eisenstein. In “The Lid is Off” he talks about how it is getting harder to keep a secret these days. He refers to Trumps “locker room” comments, Clinton’s emails and Wall Street speeches and police brutality. One could say that all these things are the signs of the decay of a culture. It could be argued that the American Experiment is starting to look like 4th century Rome. Or perhaps something else is afoot.
Eisenstein points out something more hopeful, but not easy to witness: that we live in a time when the wall between the public self and the private self is crumbling. He suggests that the not-so-pretty aspects of Trump, Clinton and the videos of violent acts committed by police are just public manifestations of that dismantling. Some of what is said in the locker room no longer stays in the locker room. What happens in Vegas does not actually stay in Vegas. Some of what happens between politicians and Wall Street is now broadcast to us all. We are being invited, partly via the technology of cell phone recordings, into a world of greater integrity and authenticity.
These exposed “secrets”, which make many of us wince (especially if they are the secrets of our candidate!), are like seeing publicly what has been hiding in the shadows. It appears that we are witnessing a renewed and diminishing lack of tolerance for the secrets of our political leaders. And this lack of acceptance for that dissonance may be spreading to our thoughts about our business leaders and perhaps even to us. If Eisenstein is right, then we are witnessing a “…dissolving of the insulating compartments that allow contradictions and hypocrisy to exist.”
This is surely ugly, as we watch the debates, but is possibly good news.
He writes that perhaps they have been called, “in their public roles, to be an avatar of a cultural shadow archetype, presented to us in extreme form so that it cannot be ignored.” That sounds New Age-ish, but also makes some sense to me.
I agree with Eisenstein that the point is not to condemn Hillary or The Donald, but–and this next idea might be hard to swallow given the level of vitriol we have witnessed–to see a partial reflection of ourselves in them. They both are complex individuals like you and me, a mixture of beauty and pain, playing the roles laid out for them. Maybe we never groped anyone or hid thousands of emails, but we have surely all hidden parts of ourselves that are not always directed towards the common good. We all have a shadow self.
It is not only harder now to keep secrets, it requires extra energy and careful strategies for leaders—whether political, business or religious—to maintain a very different public and private self. And it can be expensive, on multiple levels when those secrets come to light—even if they are modest in comparison to what we’re watching on TV. Furthermore, it is internally expensive for all of us to have one persona we show at home and very different one we show at work.
And since I am in the business of human interaction, what does this insight mean for how we prepare to build strong relationships at home and work? When we are transparent, and do not have such a high wall between what we’d say in private and what we’d say in public, we have less to hide. When we have less to hide we have less to worry about and more to contribute. Our energy, our capacity to build solid relationships increases. People can sense our level of integrity. We are easier to trust.
Some of us are afraid to communicate our real selves because we are afraid our “shadow” will jump out and cause damage. And it just might. A client recently said he didn’t want to talk about his true feelings for his staff because he was afraid he’d be too angry at them.
In the words of my friend Endel Kallas, “…merely uncovering and exposing the old consciousness without the follow through of heartfelt compassion and healing, leaves open an amplified anger and exposed yet still denied projection.” Merely uncovering and exposing this unconscious-shadow is not necessarily a good idea. Bringing the underbelly of Vegas out into the light might be just part one of a four-part play. But it is a vital part.
I’ve decided to stop judging Trump and Clinton. I see them as foils who represent parts of us all. And by their not so virtuous qualities, unintentionally inviting us all to begin or continue a journey where at the end we will have less to hide and more to give.
This was a real risk for me to write this, please share your response to this with me!