The Sunken Place: Silence as the Propagation of Toxic Whiteness and the Compensatory Function of Feeling as its Antidote
Frantz Fanon defines the collective unconscious as an aspect of the unconscious “not dependent on cerebral heredity… but a result of the unreflected imposition of a culture,” (Fanon, 1977, p. 191).
In this presentation I will explore silence as a defense of the ego complex against the rising tide of affect built up over years of collective and cultural suppression. Silence as the gatekeeper of emotion, thwarting a working through of the intergenerational trauma of white body supremacy (Menakem, 2017).
Jung advocates for a process of individuation as a “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization” (CW, Vol 7). He argues that alienation of the self, “ways of divesting the self of its reality in favor of an external role or in favor of an imagined meaning… favor the collective and correspond to a social ideal,” (par 267). While individuation is one of Jung’s cornerstone tenets, it is, in practice, much more complex than perhaps understood at face value. As Jung further explains, “individuation means precisely the better and more complete fulfillment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to a better social performance than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed” (ibid). For Jung, individuation frees an individual to be who she is truly, in all her idiosyncrasies, so that she is freed up to reinvest in the collective, to take up her work within the collective with greater consciousness, differentiation and, dare I say, love.
Unfortunately, there are some levels of inner oppression that are so deep, they have required lethal levels of projection and alienation that remain unknown, unclaimed, and unacknowledged within the collective unconscious of whiteness in America.
The work of individuation requires enough emotion to break through the paralysis to relate to the colonizer in one’s own internal world, the inner Other. I will take up Jung’s notion of the evil that one must do, the personal and collective affective transgression that one must take on as a part of one’s own individuation, even when it means having to differentiate, stand aside from/separate from, one’s own places of becoming and belonging.
Tiffany Houck, M.Div., Ph.D., L.P., is a Certified Jungian Analyst in private practice in New York City. She is the author of many publications including her latest article, "A Womb of One’s Own: Trauma, the Transcendent and the Transference in the Borderline Phenomenon", (Sexuality and Gender Studies. Routledge, 2021) and her latest book, "History Through Trauma: History and Counter-History in the Hebrew Bible", (Wipf & Stock, 2018). She is a training Analyst with and on faculty of the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association in NYC.