A Psychological Analysis of Prejudice for the EALA
A Psychological Analysis of Prejudice
by Pastor Peter D.S. Krey, Ph.D.
I have been analyzing prejudice and bigotry mostly from experience and from Jungian Psychology. Conspiracy theories and scapegoat psychology are closely related.
Systems’ analyses and change are also in order, of course, but without changes in the deep self, they will be in vain. What does Christ say? You need new wine in new wine skins or they will burst. But what good is putting old wine in new wineskins? (See Matthew 9:17. The preceding verse about sewing an unshrunk cloth onto old cloth refers to the same thing.)
See the sermon on my website: “Vicarious, Representative Suffering vs Scapegoat Psychology.” If you just click on this title, you will get it.
To the question whether or not anti-racist counseling is possible: The idea is to counsel someone so that they become aware of their own shadow side. (That’s Jungian Psychology.) We like to see ourselves from our good, sun-shiny side. In scapegoat psychology, we see goodness in ourselves and we project our shadow side onto those whom we do not know, who are a blank screen, so to speak, upon whom we can project the evil that is in our own hearts. Good people can have hearts that are full of evil desires and “bad” people can have hearts that really desire the good. Have you ever seen The Ref? (Kevin Spacey, Dennis Leary, and Judy Davis play in it.) It is a video movie about a criminal that takes a family hostage over Christmas. It is a good illustration of what I’m talking about.
Once I took my inner city Black kids from St. Paul’s Church in Coney Island to a Long Island Lutheran Church that supported our summer programming. I was inside a stall in the men’s room when the white kids from that church were talking with each other not knowing I was there hearing them. I was so shocked by the evil and violent way they talked! They considered my Black kids criminals. My kids were hard, because they had really hard lives. But the Long Island suburban kids took violent language to a whole new level.
The sermon above was based on my study called “A New Ethics for the Total Person.” I translate portions of Erich Neumann’s book, which can be quite difficult. Check my footnotes. It has also come out in English. His idea translates to the insight that a person can be quite ethical from a rational point-of-view and have an ego aware of his or her consciousness alone. But a person also has to take responsibility for his or her unconscious as well, for one’s shadow side in the deep self. Interestingly enough prejudice, bigotry, a search for scapegoats, and conspiracy theories are all related and can be understood from this perspective. I can’t say that I understood Neumann completely, but he certainly throws a great deal of light on the psychology of personal prejudice.
I believe that prejudice, bigotry, and racism could probably be dealt with in counseling. Going to therapy and learning to take responsibility for our shadow side is a harrowing experience and it should help a person deal with the externalization of our own undesirable self. Myself, I worked on it by knowing I did not want to be prejudiced like the German people had been under Hitler and I stayed with the people who confronted me enough and did some painful growth that made me somewhat more humane, a Mensch, so to speak. Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt. Who can understand it?” Christ is the one who can and does.
My Gettysburg lecture on “Luther’s In Depth Theology and the Possibility of Theological Therapy” is in the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Review, Volume 11, No. 1-2, (Autumn 2008- Spring 2009). I have only a little summary of it in my website. I usually correlate Luther with In Depth Psychology as I did with Erich Neumann, because Luther had to struggle in the reaches of his deep self in order to overcome his episodes of spiritual distress (his “Anfechtungen”).