The Unconscious is Real: Charlottesville and our Blindspots

The white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence over the August 12 weekend in Charlottesville, VA, presents a tragic case for examination through a depth-psychology lens. It’s a visceral example of how loaded, “dog-whistle” rhetoric can awaken, unleash, and reveal the unclaimed, unconscious blind spots of our human nature – both in the individual and the collective.

Early explorer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud, dubbed this the Id, wellspring of our most primitive impulses. C. G. Jung’s exhaustive exploration of this interior landscape, which he named the Shadow, over much of his life is a foundational tenet of his analytical psychology.

In recent decades, neuroscience and the technologies of brain chemistry and functional MRI have provided the first detailed maps of the many ways our behavior is guided or driven by different experiences, physical processes, biochemicals, and emotions that affect and interact with specific areas of the brain.  Only a small portion of this brain geography is involved with cognition or rational thought, those conscious area of our functioning from which we can say we act with intention and purpose.

And in their 2013 book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, research psychologists Mazarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, detail their extensive research findings around the universality of hidden or implicit biases. Although not self-identified depth psychologists, their findings affirm Jung’s view of the unconscious Psyche. Even their widely used Implicit Association Test (IAT) for tracking implicit bias mirrors Jung’s Word Association Test that was the focus of his doctoral dissertation just over 100 years ago and became the basis for his theory of the psychological Complex.

All point to a foundational principle of depth-psychology research as detailed by author-scholars Joseph Coppin and Elizabeth Nelson (2017), “The [unconscious] Psyche is Real” in our human experience, both individual and in community.

This piece from The Washington Post blogs reflects on the Charlottesville events. 


  1. Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.
  2. Coppin, J. & Nelson, E. (2017). The art of inquiry: A depth-psychological perspective. Third, expanded edition. Thompson, CT: Spring Publications.

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