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The Dark Shadow of Corporations

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The Dark Shadow of Corporations
Wanda Marie Woodward, M.S.

It was Jung who introduced the word "shadow" into psychology which, in turn, made its way into colloquial lexicon. He also introduced the term "collective unconscious." There is a personal shadow and a collective shadow. The personal shadow is unique to an individual whereas the collective shadow consists of contents that are shared by a family, group, organization, institution, or nation. This article is about the collective shadow of the corporation.

In Jung's (1959) Aion, he tells us the shadow is one of the contents of the collective unconscious (an archetype) which has the most disturbing aspects on the ego. While there is a favorable shadow (what Jungians call "the golden shadow") that contains normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc., I am focusing on the dark shadow. The dark shadow consists of all those hidden, unwanted, repressed traits and qualities in our unconscious. Typically, these are the part of one's nature counter to the sociocultural customs and mores (Stein, 1998); what June Singer (1994), noted Jungian analyst, refers to in Boundaries of the Soul as "all those uncivilized desires and emotions that are incompatible with social standards" (p. 165). Robert Johnson (1991) in Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, refers to it as "the despised quarter of our being" (p. 5).

Jung (1959) highlights the noticeable emotional aspect to the shadow. Marie von Franz (1995), one of Jung's most noted protà gà s, tells us in Projections and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology: Reflections of the Soul that the shadow consists of "laziness, greed, envy, jealousy, the desire for prestige, aggressions, and similar "tormenting spirits'" (p. 123). The ego usually defends against knowing what is in the personal shadow because of the disturbing effect it has on the ego. This is what keeps the shadow contents repressed in the unconscious.

The persona, our public personality that greets the world with charm and a hospitable attitude and protects the ego, is the counterpart to the shadow in the psyche. The persona forms as a result of education and adaptation to social and cultural norms. We conceal and reveal conscious thoughts and feelings as a way to fit into society. It can be thought of as "the psychic skin between the ego and the world" (Stein, 1998, p. 120). Its dual function is to relate to external objects while also protecting the inner ego (Stein, 1998). The ego is, more or less, identified with the persona, yet, on the other hand, the persona is also alien to the ego since it does not represent the authentic person. Shadow and persona are opposites in the psyche.

The corporation became a legal entity---essentially, a person with due process rights---as a result of the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. It set legal precedent by issuing a statement that corporations would be entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment which declares citizenship and conveys certain constitutional rights. Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1949 that the Santa Clara case was a momentous decision because it gave corporations constitutional prerogatives.

Corporations have an ego, persona, and a shadow. The persona is the mask that is presented to its employees who work in it, the investment community, the community, and the world, at large. The corporation---certainly large ones----spend millions of dollars to carefully craft, develop, maintain, and present their persona to these groups. It is the ego-ideal that is carefully crafted and presented to each of these groups. When the ego-image or ego-ideal of the corporation is tarnished by some scandal which threatens the favorable image of the persona, public relations campaigns are utilized to combat it. Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, is attributed as the father of public relations. Some would call these public relations campaigns, but it is, essentially, little more than propaganda. The dark shadow of the corporation, its Mr. Hyde, is kept hidden from all these groups.

Edward Bernays, nephew to Sigmund Freud, was born in 1891. He was a prominent businessman who wrote extensively on propaganda prior to WWII. He was hired by the U.S. government to manipulate the mind of the American public. Bernays, considered the father of public relations, was also hired by large corporations to generate higher profits through consumerism. Consumerism is defined by Widipedia as "a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts." Free market capitalism is an economic system that is predicated on consumerism, thus, corporations are among the largest supporters of capitalism. In his most famous book, This Business of Propaganda written in 1928, Bernays extolled the manipulation of public opinion stating that it was essential to overcome social chaos and conflict. He believed the manipulation of the public was necessary as he felt that the collective psyche of society was irrational and dangerous as a result of the "herd instinct." The narcissistic ego of corporations seized upon Bernays' talents for manipulating this psychological phenomenon, the collective psyche. Bernays made a large fortune from his self-proclaimed role as "public relations counsel."

Robert Bly (1988), in A Little Book about the Human Shadow talks about how, starting in childhood, we put all these shadow aspects of ourselves into "the long bag we drag behind us" into adulthood. Victorian society taught women to put sexuality in the bag. Contemporary society still teaches men to put the feminine aspect of their psyche in the bag. When I was young, my mother taught me and my siblings that it wasn't nice to be angry, so I learned to put anger inside my bag. To this day, I struggle with how to present that in healthy ways within legitimate and justifiable contexts. Corporations use advertising, marketing, and public relations campaigns, among others, to help put their shadow contents into their "long bag." To the extent that corporations are able to hide their shadows from the employees who are exploited to do their bidding, these brainwashed employees are also helpful in keeping the shadows hidden from the public.

Because these contents of the shadow are not favorable to society, we usually project our shadows onto others. It takes considerable moral courage to bring the shadow into conscious awareness and to take it back or what Robert Bly refers to as "eating the shadow." Perhaps four of the most infamous and heinous historical examples of the collective shadow are the Catholic patriarchy projecting its dark shadow onto so-called heretics and witches during the Holy Inquisition, Hitler's Nazi Germany and the shadow projected onto Jews, gypsies, and the mentally and physically disabled, the European and American White nations and the shadow projected onto Blacks, and the American White man's shadow projection onto Native Americans. In all four of these examples, the shadow was so dark, it sought to completely destroy (murder, annihilate) Jews, imperfect people, Blacks, and Native Americans. Contemporary examples are the equally strong dark shadows projected between Jews and Muslims. Israelis project their dark shadows onto Palestinian Muslims and keep them tragically oppressed while various Muslim groups such as Hamas project their shadow onto Jews. Both Jews and Muslims are projecting their dark shadows onto each other---yet neither side can see the evil within his own dark heart. I am reminded of Martin Luther King's saying, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools" and Gandhi's adage that "an eye for an eye leaves both blind." When we project our shadows and go to war, as we stand and shoot our rocket or gun or as we bludgeon someone to death or gang rape a woman as a way to bring dishonor on the enemy, we project evil onto the victim. That's what projection of the shadow does---it blames "bad" or evil on the victim when the bad or evil is in the heart of the destroyer.

As stated previously, there is a personal shadow and a collective shadow. The personal shadow is difficult enough to take back. To take back a projected shadow of the collective unconscious is particularly challenging. It's because we look into the face of "other" and we see an enemy---we somehow cannot see the similarity, the fact that we are all part of the same human race and that, as the Dalai Lama consistently repeats, we all are seeking the same thing---to be happy. If humankind could finally come to that momentous realization, we would have the hope of taking back our collective shadows. Can you imagine the Jews and Muslims coming to the realization that both parties are human and deserve to live a life of peace regardless of their different beliefs? How about if all the wealthy people in the world awakened and realized that every person on this planet is, essentially and fundamentally equal in value, and that poor people are not "the lepers and scourge of the earth" so the decision was made to share all resources and, ostensibly, end poverty, hunger, and homelessness on this earth? How difficult would that be? I would say damned difficult. But not impossible.

After studying psychology for 15 years, I have come to the conclusion that all people and all things have a shadow. No one and no thing is exempt. Not even me. The goal really lies in making this shadow conscious and integrating it so we no longer unconsciously project it onto others.

More recently, however, I have been thinking of what is the largest, most pernicious dark shadow that affects contemporary social affairs. Although I consider myself a spiritually oriented person, I long ago eschewed organized religion. I once thought the most harmful shadow was any organized religion that denigrates and devalues the feminine principle. Now, I believe it is the Corporation with the pathological greed and the malignant desire to allow free market capitalism to destroy every ounce of natural and mineral resource from Mother Earth as a means to achieve its goal. In fact, "corporation" and "greed" are now wedded terms. It is no distance from truth to say that the psyche of the corporation is malignant and poses a threat to the Common Good.

Corporations have what Otto Kernberg (1975; 1998), respected psychoanalyst and prominent researcher on narcissistic personality disorder, refers to "malignant narcissism" as resembling sociopathy, a more morbid and frank psychopathology than narcissism. Malignant cancer cells destroy good, healthy cells. Similarly, malignant corporate pathology is a harmful, destructive disease that is eating away at the Common Good. This increasingly sociopathic and psychopathic corporate pathology hides behind the persona and projects its shadow into the world. Perhaps the most common overall shadow projection tactic used by corporations and banks today is to lobby government to support legislation which privatizes profits and socializes losses. Increasingly, corporations are using the legal precedent of the Santa Clara case of 1886 to become more powerful "legal persons." One of the most recent key examples of the projection of the shadow is the bail-out of banks (which are intimately allied with corporations and governments as a way to sustain pernicious capitalism) like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Bank of America. These banks would not have to be responsible for their dark deeds and, instead, project the blame onto the victim---the American taxpayer. Banks and corporations used a common tactic that is prototypical of narcissistic, sociopathic, and psychopathic pathology. That is, they externalized blame---they projected their dark, evil shadow onto innocent people. They blamed the deceived victim---the American people---on the mortgage crisis when, in truth, it was prompted by a concerted, widespread effort by banks and corporations to reap quick, sleazy profits. Other examples of dark shadow projection are the use of genetically modified foods to foist onto the unwitting public, the use of the rbGH growth hormone in milk, the patenting of human DNA, and cloning. These organizations present their persona, Dr. Jekyll, to the public in an effort to preserve their power, maintain their ability to manipulate the social-public psyche to make choices that are against the best interest of the people, sustain their ability to exploit humankind for its cheap labor and give ever lesser amounts of compensation and health benefits in return, and so as to continue to reap profits which maintain the enormous schism between the handful of the wealthy elite and the billions of others whose income levels and lifestyles continue to decline. The projection of the corporate shadow is a way to avoid responsibility, accountability for egregious moral and ethical acts. Corporations can keep their shadow in the unconscious.

In Joel Bakan's (2005) brilliant book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, he compares the psyche of the modern day corporation to a psychopath. Bakan exposes the dangerous and enormous pathological power structures---corporations----that wield their control over society. Another outstanding book that talks about the psyche of the psychopath in corporations is Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and the noted psychologist, Robert Hare, Ph.D., who has spent 40 years researching and studying psychopathy. He exposes the web of manipulation and deceit of psychopaths in corporations and warns us how easily they rise in positions in corporations because most people cannot see through the deceptive games. A third exceptional book is Hare's Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us where he refers to "white collar psychopaths" in the corporate world.

I have spent 20 years working in Corporate America, 15 years studying psychology, and six years working in the mental health field. I've seen and felt the brunt of the psychopathology---the dark shadows---in corporate life. It is very much a real aspect of business. Goddess willing, I will one day escape it. Based on my first-hand experience and all that I read, many of these monolithic structures are headed by corporate vampires and werewolves who are eating at the heart of humanity. Once corporations begin replacing human labor with androids (, their transformation into archetypal evil will be virtually complete. Mary Shelley's prescient story of Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde will have played themselves out in corporate regalia. With examples of Kenneth Lay (Enron), Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), and Bernie Madoff, I would estimate that there are likely tens of thousands of these pathological characters currently running corporations. They just haven't been caught. And it is left to another article to discuss the fact that governments around the world are now mistresses to these toxic corporations. Thus, governments are in bed with the devil and are unable to save humanity. Humanity will save humanity.

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Wanda Woodward, M.S., is author of The Anatomy of the Soul: An Authentic Psychology which posits an original theoretical model of the Soul, or Transcendent Psyche. She is currently writing her second book, Malignant Masculine Power: The (more...)
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