“I try to approach them the Jungian way – with understanding and love. I try to involve them in a dialogue but also to listen. Attempting to convince someone about the opposite only increases mutual resistance.”
Bizarre conspiracy theories, but also fundamentalist religions are found in history of humanity from times immemorial. Many different fields strive to understand those phenomena better. One of them is psychology. Jungian analyst VLADO ŠOLC examines them from the perspective of depth psychology.
How did you become interested in conspiracy theories?
Basically, through Jung. When I studied at the Jungian Institute in Chicago with George Didier, a colleague of mine, we researched fundamentalist forms of religion. Then we discovered various interesting parallels between those aspects of religiosity and conspiracy theories.
What are those similarities?
They manifest through archetypal patterns. These are for example demonization of natural events, the fight between good and evil, solutions to big cosmological questions, grandiose heroic fantasies, promise of salvation or redemption. Or a belief that a politician is a chosen saviour. Take for example QAnon’s conspiracy theory that claims that a powerful pedophile [democrats] satanists bleed children and extract from them adrenochrome, a substance that assures immortality. It is an ancient idea of the elixir of life. You see they perhaps envy that democrats have access to this divine privilege while they suffer and have so much anger. Conspiratorialists believe that Hollywood celebrities, influential philanthropists or billionaires are part of this cult. Well, a person who is going to bring an end to this is Donald Trump. During the final judgment day that Q called a storm all of them will be brought to justice and America restored to its lost greatness. Note the parallel with the apocalypse (Biblical revelation). The QAnon movement compounds too many parallels with the cult.
What role does the Dark Religion play here?
We can see it in the mode of how people approach such “theories”. We speak of archetypal fantasies. The main attributes are rigidity, literal and concrete thinking – remarkable lack of symbolic comprehension. Ego thus adheres to those contents through fascination and almost unshakable “faith.” Authorities and teachings are idolized and deified. They are elevated to the realm of gods. Then there is no questioning them as they hold the “truth.” Take for example the Flat Earth theory; its followers close their minds to any evidence or critical reasoning. They do not want to have their beliefs questioned. The truth is not as important to them as the benefits they receive from their theory. It’s a matter of immediate gratification. All investments would have to be replaced by higher value to be abandoned. They do not see it at the moment. All criticism is thus rendered as scam and manipulation. Here’s a strong similarity with fundamentalist creed that we termed Dark Religion, or theocalypsis.
What was your way of understanding those phenomena?
Our approach was a priori Jungian. We recognize and study the role the unconscious plays when it comes to human behavior, including feelings and cognition. We were concerned especially with unprocessed emotional contents that are consequently projected onto the outside world where they are perceived as images and form mythical stories. Such images often find archetypal expressions precisely in what we call conspiracy theories. To their followers they serve as containers for holding disturbing, unprocessed negative emotions; those can be now under certain control in the mind of a conspiratorialist. Conspiracy theories allow for the creation of superiority feelings and help relieve anxiety and the like. Conspiratorialists consider themselves a special, strong persons capable of accepting the “dark truth” of a given conspiracy. In their own eyes of course, they stand on the side of good; they are heroes of their own myth.
How can contents of personal unconscious lead to adherence to conspiracy theories?