Tony Abbott ... meet Dr Carl Jung

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott's bruising psychoanalysis session with Sigmund Freud has left him angry and disappointed, so a second opinion has been demanded. Psychologist Lyn Bender reports.

The Ides of March loom and threaten Tony Abbott. Abbott has bungled his second chance, despite surviving an attempted coup.

His encounter with Sigmund Freud, published in IAwas bruising and a second opinion has been demanded. A Jungian analysis might be a softer, gentler approach given the prime minister is currently suffering a deep crisis.

Carl Gustave Jung was 20 years younger than Sigmund Freud; but they had an intense and fruitful personal and professional relationship for six years. Freud called Jung his “adopted son” and his successor, but they fell out over Jung’s public criticism of Freud’s psychosexual Oedipus Complex. There is overlap in many of their ideas.

Jung went beyond Freud’s view of the unconscious to the collective unconscious which he said was the

"... whole spiritual heritage of mankind's evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual."

Jung extended psychoanalytic theory to encompass the mystical, spiritual, symbols and dreams. For an emotionally illiterate man like Tony Abbott, Jungian analysis might be helpful because it analyses the symbolic meaning of dreams and actions. It is a potentially transformational therapy for the wounded psyche.

Considering "Jungian" concepts, what wisdom might Carl Jung offer Tony Abbott as he faces his impending political assassination?

1. The Shadow: The person we choose not to be

This is part of oneself that is regected by the conscious self as unacceptable and denied.

For example, the man who rejects homosexuality as “unnatural”, but may have secret homoerotic dreams and desires.

Dr Jung says...

This Prime Minister’s denied shadow is his vulnerability. This has been reflected in his cruel and punishing policies regarding the poor, the disabled, the aged, Indigenous people, those fleeing war and his remorseless persecution of children.

He consciously despises vulnerability and considers any show of empathy, or compassion a weakness. His view of strength is that of unyielding pugilism. Tony Abbott sides with oppressors. For example the previous Sri Lankan Rajapaksa corrupt regime. Also the rich, ruthless and powerful, such as Rupert Murdoch, and Gina Rinehart.

2. Archetypes: Roles

The archetypes of Tony Abbott are:

  • The father: The authority figure — stern and powerful

Tony Abbott acted in this mode in the security speech. He wanted to appear as a strong authoritative, protector pitted against the evil bogeyman the so-called ISIS “death cult”.

  • The wise elder: Guidance, knowledge and wisdom

The PM gets a total fail in this area.

  • The hero: Champion, defender and rescuer

Abbott tried to appear heroic by spending millions on a futile search for the lost Malaysian plane MH370 — all to no avail.

  • The trickster: Deceiver, liar and troublemaker

Abbott has been successful at causing trouble both internationally and domestically, as well as at lying and deceiving.

  • The Warrior: The fighter, the pugilist, the marauder who takes no prisoners

Abbott’s main mode is the boxer in the ring.

I am a fighter. I beat Kevin Rudd. I beat Julia Gillard. I can beat Bill Shorten”  

Dr Jung says...

Tony Abbott is captivated by the warrior archetype, but when cornered, his default position is to put up his dukes. He uses the language of war and of the punk fighter, threatening to  “shirtfront“ Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He has suffered much mockery. He feels small inside — the little man trying to be a giant. Taking on the Russian bear, he is a pussycat hissing and scratching. Wanting to appear strong, he is left looking weak.

His denied sense of insignificance is revealed in his inflated battle imagery. Unable to gain the confidence and allegiance of an army, he battles single-handedly. Opposing U.S. President Obama’s plans to tackle climate change, he tried and failed to form an alliance against climate action. Abbott now seems weird and odd in his Canutian struggle war against climate change action.

Abbott denies his own aging and fails to develop into the archetype of wiser older man. He seeks to project an image of the ever-youthful surfer, runner and bike rider, who does physical workouts with the troops. "If I can’t fight with you, at least I can sweat with you."

After a slight rise in the polls – like a man who has ingested a drug to restore temporary potency – he declares: “I am feeling young and vigorous ... [at] the height of my powers.”

3. The malnourished anima

All humans have maleness (animus) and femaleness (anima) in their psyche. Put simply, the male and female energies in each of us need to be expressed and balanced. Women rate the PM poorly on all fronts.

Dr Jung says...

Tony Abbott reveals an impoverished expression of the female self or anima. He appointed only one woman – later increased to two – into his cabinet. He has consistently expressed confining constricting views of women as lesser than men, and mere housewives, concerned about ironing and the household budget; rather than the fate of the planet.

Exhibiting an exaggeratedly masculine personality, Tony Abbott’s macho stance enrages many women and Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech accurately describes his debased “feminine side”.

4. The terror

Tony Abbott declares ISIS a "death cult" and an existential threat to Australia. He then stuns experts by proposing that Australia invade Iraq on its own and take on ISIS without any allied support. He also proposes sending police and military personnel into the middle of a civil war in Ukraine to secure a crash site. Why is he so reckless and gung ho?

Dr Jung says...

Abbott’s outraged rhetoric reveals his terror as he declares that the world is facing: “a new dark age”. Abbott is in his own ominous dark age and terrified. Having shouted in Parliament, about a loss of confidence in Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs; he wants to sack her and replace her with a man who is on his side.  He believes that women in power cannot be trusted. But it is the people who have lost confidence and trust in him. Abbott cannot sack the people; but they can discharge him and look set to do so.

I feel “young and vigorous” at the “height of my powers” he may have announced, teetering on the edge of the abyss, but Abbott is ageing, while not attaining wisdom. His “terror” is of being tossed on the scrap heap, so he stands surrounded by flags and the Commonwealth police.

5. The fall

Tony Abbott stands on the brink, one misstep away from total humiliation — being deposed in his first term, even worse than the despised woman who humilated him with defeat in 2010 and through the world famous Misogyny Speech in 2012. Yet his ploughs on, calling any comment on his likely decline as "Canberra insider gossip".

Dr Jung says...

Tony Abbott is a man on the brink of a gigantic fall. His ego and its inflation, has now unleashed a vast unstoppable crisis. He is the failed leader, exaggerated warrior and failed hero, raging against his enemies, denying defeat and refusing to surrender. His unyielding ebullience has alienated many and hastened his downfall. His ancient battle heroics have been a battle within himself. Installed by opportunists, who exhibit no loyalty in his final hour, he is shooting down his own army. He cannot win this battle, which is directed outwards, but reflects his inner turmoil. He denies all guilt, but frequently alludes to his Catholic faith, which requires confession. Failing to gain wisdom, he remains an immature conflicted soul.

This is his dark night of the soul; that will see him completely forsaken; but may provide an opportunity to embark upon reflection and dream analysis. Behind his futile mask and thin false persona, who is Tony Abbott? That is the question, asked by many — including Leigh Sales.

Tony Abbott is racked with internal conflicts that are wreaking havoc externally. He must retire from politics swiftly, for his own sake his own mental health and that of the nation.

But beware also those who surround him, many of whom share his unbalanced, thoughtless, ruthless worldview.

You can follow Lyn Bender on Twitter @lynestel.

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