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Carol Smaldino

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Rally to Restore Sanity is Political. So Is Our National Insanity.

Posted: 10/27/10 06:55 PM ET

Thank goodness Arianna Huffington has taken a stand on the upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, headed up by Jon Stewart and company. And while she is calling out the more elitist mainstream media for telling their employees not to attend this rally since their presence might be construed as "political," I'd like to suggest there is nothing wrong with using the word "political" and sticking with it.

Political, as a word, can be used as relating to social views involving authority and power, or so says Princeton on the web. Media -- all of it -- is political in what it chooses to print and to push and what it chooses to withhold.

Earlier this month, I was invited to provide a series of guest lectures for members of the Masters of Psychology program at the University of Denver. Titled 'Bullying from the Inside Out," my talks concentrated on the Shadow, as coined by Carl Jung. The Shadow is used to describe the emotions we hate and fear (around which we feel shame) and which we compartmentalize and allow to fester to the point of explosion. These outbursts manifest as demonizing others for those traits we despise in ourselves. Once we demonize anyone, killing or torture or denial make sense to us because we have also invented "the other" as not being human.

Certainly our national Shadow is on display daily at Tea Party rallies and is embodied by noisy pundits like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk.

I find it disturbing that my own mental health field is relying too long on so-called professional neutrality and has failed to stand up for precisely the medicine (as opposed to pure pharmacology) that might help us become both saner and more holistic in our vision. That would be the value of human development which helps children and adults become comfortable with owning ambivalent emotions and learning how to tame or regulate those emotions instead of denying them.

The notion of "Sanity," to my mind, is wholly political, especially when it needs to challenge the prevailing habit of oversimplifying everything into good and evil, negating scientific knowledge in favor of censoring it, continuing a phobia and hatred of homosexuals, and distancing ourselves from one another. To regain or to gain sanity, we have to own the various shades of emotion that are within us, rather than projecting the ones we don't like onto others; that is called paranoia.

To own our shadows is to know that if we do not know and tame our emotions, we will surely be capable of the violence done in the most brutal of dictatorships, bar none. Whereas, to become sane is to use the empathy for ourselves--all of ourselves--and to enable a more caring connection with each other.

In this larger context, I suggest that we might see "political" as being an integral part of our actions and inactions. To paraphrase Ms. Huffington, some of us are finally waking up to the fact that too many of us are sleeping while there is gasoline fueling a huge fire. Ecologically speaking, we have been living in a state of emergency for such a long time. It's difficult to think of the planet as being small enough that one action, one culture, one disaster affects all others, like the proverbial flap of butterfly wings.

In a society in which insanity has played out by our minding -- literally and figuratively -- our own business and business interests to the exclusion of caring about what is going on next door with our children much less on our insides, we need not only to wake up, but we need emergency assistance for to those who are willing to begin the journey to wakefulness.

The most inconvenient truths are the internal ones -- the ones that shake us up on the insides, the ones that alert us to a need to shift. To become more awake is to be honest about all that is in us. This is not just a mental health value. It is a family value. It is a community value.

And what's wrong with it being political if it challenges the power of media as well as our inner fears to take over our lives, and if it helps us unite with sustainable supports?

For way too long, the mental health field has hidden in silence under the banner of its own neutrality. That is a luxury which seems more like a lie, and one we cannot afford. As Arianna says, to do nothing is still to do something -- to say nothing is to say a great deal. If we help people adapt to insanity we are guilty. But for sanity, my addition would be that we become gentle with how much fear there is of admitting our shame, our fears of badness and weakness.

While we're bringing back sanity, let's allow a space for vulnerability as a method of exposing signs of danger, as a precursor to courage, as a necessary emotion that helps us empathize with all that is human. This is what I propose. And I volunteer as well.

 

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