Facing The Dark Side: Spiritual Challenges of the Capitol Attack

United States Capitol - Wikipedia

I love our Capitol. I remember visiting it on a tour when I was a boy. I was awed by the statuary. I was excited to see Everett Dirkson on the Senate floor. Yes, I am aware that some scoundrels have served in Congress. And yes I am aware that some shameful legislation has been passed there. But to me it is nonetheless sacred. This week that sacred space has been desecrated and my heart is breaking.

Yesterday I was talking with a woman well-versed in the Twelve Step program. She was discussing some blaming she had been doing but then said “But if I name it, I have to wear it.” This was a reminder to me of the great spiritual challenge I am facing subsequent to the attack on the Capital.

Years ago, I wrote to the great psychologist Carl Rogers, arrogantly believing I had found a flaw in his theory centering around the therapist being angry with the client. He wrote back challenging me to face the judgment I was making of the client, in essence suggesting that I too was part of the problem.

All the spiritual approaches I embrace — from Carl Jung’s psychology (facing one’s Shadow) to the Twelve Step program (“If you’re pointing your finger at someone, just remember that the rest of your fingers are pointing back at you”) to Christianity “Love your enemy”) — now challenge me to face something that makes me shudder. I have to face and embrace the Donald Trump within me.

There are a number of people whom I dearly love and who are Trump supporters. I ask those people as well as other readers this: if you wish to respond to this posting in support of Donald Trump, I will read your words with respect. However, I would also respectfully point out to you what this posting challenges you to do — to look within and to find the Joe Biden within you.

Shadow work has been a challenge. Yes, I have tried to face the Darth Vader within me. I have tried to find within me that which I quickly judge in others. I can even acknowledge that, yes, there may be themes I have in common with the guy wearing the antlers or the other guy arrogantly sitting in Pelosi’s chair, a crumbled American flag nearby. (Do you hear my judgment sneaking in there?) But the idea of acknowledging common ground with Donald Trump repulses me. Yet that is what I am called to do if I truly believe the principles mentioned above.

I’ve come to see that doing Shadow work does not mean I am excusing someone’s behavior. God is a God of compassion but He/She is also a God of justice. And so those who invaded the Capitol as well as those who encouraged them to do so must all be held accountable.

And so as I reflect on Donald Trump, I have to face and admit my own arrogance. I have to face and admit that I too have coveted power. I have to admit that I too have lied to protect myself. I too have disrespected others to inflate my own ego. These are all character defects within me that I am called to face and heal. It would be much easier for me to settle into a place of anger and judgment.

Loving my enemy does not mean that I should start wearing a MAG hat. It does mean that I should pray for a man I find repulsive. It means I should pray for his healing and for him finding some inner peace. The words choke in my throat like swallowed sand. But then Shadow work or 12-step work or Christian practice are never really easy.

REFLECTION: How have the attacks on the Capitol affected you spiritually or otherwise?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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2 Responses to Facing The Dark Side: Spiritual Challenges of the Capitol Attack

  1. Susan Bass says:

    At the risk of leaving the spiritual matters aside, I want to point out that there was a more practical approach to this. Although I did not vote for President Trump, I did notice that he did not lose by much. Any athletic coach knows what to do when you lose. You say, “We’ll get ’em next time!”. If you believe that your opponents won fraudulently (which does happen in sports) you resolve to be SO good that their cheating won’t matter in the long run. The Founding Fathers did set up an elegant, if not perfect, system for democracy . So the thing to do would be to say, “We’ll be back in four years”. Instead people needlessly lost their lives.

  2. Michele says:

    Thank your for the invitation to speak freely Rich. I know you and I come from different perspectives in politics. I love and respect you and always feel safe being open with you. As far as the attack on the capital, I think it is reprehensible. Violence is never the answer except in self-defense. I think half the country is feeling like they are under attack because they did not get their voice heard in the election. Whether that is true or not was not allowed to be vetted out. That is causing a claustrophobic, frustration reaction in many of us who’s voice is being silenced. It is my belief that among the people who stormed the capital were imposters complying with a staged set-up to enable just what the Biden administration is doing now, more silencing and dehumanizing of Trump and his supporters. I believe horrible, unprecedented levels of injustices are happening now and it is causing a lot of division and fear. All the inconsistencies, hypocrisy and the language of the new administration confirms my beliefs. People are not acting their best selves and the shadows are definitely getting triggered and showing up more often than any of us would like to admit. Long gone are the open discussions and intellectual debate. Hate and defamation of character slung from both sides are the communication tools of the day. Often from loved ones. Definitely learning to love our enemies is very difficult and so far as I can tell only Jesus got that right. But Jesus does tell us to do that and He never asks us to do the impossible. We must all strive for compassion for our fellow humans (aka the enemy). Doing the shadow work you’re suggesting will help us to bring balance and humility to ourselves and extend love to our fellow sufferers. Thank you for your vulnerability and allowing space for these crucial conversations. Xoxo

    Many blessings my friend,

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