Make Life a Mythic Journey
Here in the U.S. the presidential nominating conventions are upon us. The Republicans go first although a day late due to Hurricane Isaac. The person at center stage appears to the Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, the ideologically pure ultra-conservative Tea Party and billionaire embraced Congressman from Wisconsin. Ryan is known for his draconian, anti-New Deal budgets that would complete the transfer of income from the poor and middle-class to the super wealthy, recently dubbed the 1% by the Occupy movement. He would do this by privatizing Medicare and dismantling related social programs
Mr. Ryan claims Ayn Rand, the Russian, Jewish, atheist expatriate, as his ideological mentor, despite his consistent and extreme anti-feminine, Catholic pro-life voting record. Rand, like Ryan, suffered from a major personal upheaval as a young girl. In her case it was the Russian revolution that led her to abandon any sense of altruism for the social collectivity. Her theory of so-called Objectivism is an attempt to shore up this loss through reliance on the self that advocates a strident, even anarchic, egoism. This attempt to paste a misogynist façade of strength over weakness caused by loss is a common symptom of abandonment. Its hallmark is replacing Christian compassion with cruel callousness, selflessness with selfishness. All weakness and all weak people must be abandoned—sacrificed to those with strength and power. And, the social, government-backed programs that support them must be ended.
What would Jung have said about Mr. Ryan? I wrote the following slightly modified letter to The New York Times providing an answer:
While it is appropriate to criticize Paul Ryan’s selective reliance on Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for his economic views, it misses the psychological impairment it reveals. By all accounts, the teenage Mr. Ryan turned to Rand’s book for psychological support after the sudden loss of his father. The immense pain and abandonment he felt is visible in the anger he projects in his public policies. Mr. Ryan desperately wanted and still needs that masculine father energy so suddenly taken from him.
Unfortunately, he still languishes in the negative emotionality reflected in the harsh, uncharitable policies he supports based on Rand’s work. So, Mr. Ryan hates being dependent and endorses policies to end the social safety net or, as he calls it, “hammock,” that he, as a career politician also depends on. While his workout regimen may compensate him physically, it does not work psychologically. Instead, his Rand-fueled projection of what Jung called “shadow” would suck us all into his psychological black hole.
Jung worried about balance. Our society today is, by all accounts and social indicators, extremely out of balance. Mr. Ryan would only push it further perhaps to a catastrophic breaking point.
Paul M. Wortman, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Psychology, Stony Brook University
August 27, 2012