Seeking Certainty: The Seduction of Conspiracy Theories

Sep 3, 2020

An image of Neil Armstrong on the moon illustrates a popular site of conspiracy theory.

In times of uncertainty truth is hard to discern, collective cohesion frays, and social factions become embattled. Unmediated shadow then seeks expression through the archetypal realm and takes on extra-ordinary attributes. Persecutory mythologies arise, for big psychic situations need big stories to compensate for big feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, and marginalization.

Insecurities are projected onto the outer-world as clandestine enemies of mythic proportions: alien rulers, government cabals, and other images of secret domination. Understanding conspiracy theories as symbolic expressions of unconscious contents can allow us to take them seriously without taking them literally. We may then respond with consciousness and empathy instead of judgment–and begin to shift the collective psychic field toward wholeness. 


“I am with my housemate, L, and we are in a city. The dream begins with us trying to get an answer to a question about the psychology of animals (I do not remember specifics of the question). We have gone to see a psychologist whose last name is Green. He is writing something on his laptop and when we ask to speak with him he asks for 30 minutes. There are churros in the waiting area, and for some reason I am taking some in a bag. Somehow I know there is a party that I am supposed to be bringing these back for. There isn’t even a churro machine, a stack of them just continues to appear in the same spot on a desk. Once I have entered the conference room with Dr. Green, I am in the middle of eating a bite of churro and cannot respond to what he is saying, though he is laughing at the fact that my mouth is full of churro. Suddenly, the entire world has changed, I am entering what looks like a room from the back of a club, or maybe an abandoned house? The dreamscape room has a deep purple color and though there is no light in the room, I can still see. At this point in the dream I become lucid and think “I should make something appear here”, however, a man appears in the room and he begins to wrestle me to the ground. We begin fighting and the face of the man seems to be changing as we roll. I do not recognize him. I have an intuition that I am dancing, however, I decide to fight back against the attacker. I punch the man and the dreamscape changes again. I am in the middle of a living room at the bottom of a tower and realize that I have just punched Dr. Green. I apologize profusely, and end up saying, “sorry, Dad… I mean… Doc”. I put my hands on my head after this slip up and am feeling very confused. Dr. Green says it’s ok and that we should begin making our way up the tower. I look up and see L climbing the stairs and her face is covered in sweat. Dr. Green begins up the stairs but I realize I can float. I allow myself to float just to see what it is like and then I wake up.”


C.G. Jung. The Undiscovered Self: The Dilemma of the Individual in Modern Society (Amazon). 

Iain McGilchrist. The Master and His Emissary: The divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Amazon). 

Jonathan Haidt. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Amazon).


  1. kate

    Thank you

  2. Kelly

    Thank you so much for your podcast. This episode in particular answered some questions I’ve been wrestling with, given recent world events and the way different people are relating to them. I wondered if it would be possible to get the name of the study that Joseph referenced, about the relationship between narcissism and the likelihood of believing in conspiracy theories? Many thanks again.

  3. Marie

    I can’t even tell you how much I am loving your podcast talks, which I just found! I am a psychotherapist, looking for some insight on working with clients who bring up conspiracy theories in session. Also have a friend who is deep in it. I’ve always loved Jung, but now more than ever his writings and life work are spot-on. A man before his time. Thank you for sharing all this.

  4. John

    What a great discussion, thank you!


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