Today’s technology allows us to be seduced by the possibility of fame and celebrity tempting the ego to claim what does not belong to it.
In earlier times fame was garnered slowly through work in the arts, scholarship, religion and the military. Today, unprecedented, almost instantaneous communication has made fame a commodity in itself. Novelty performers, entertainers, influencers, and sports stars—especially if young and glamorous—can become the victim of “audience capture.”
Fame tempts the ego to claim what does not belong to it, and the person may become identified with his or her role, especially as others have an urge to find a hero, wise man, leader, or transcendent figure. Jung wrote about the mana personality—a larger-than-life person with charismatic power and energy. Magicians and priests, infused with special knowledge and god-like capabilities, are emblematic of mana personalities. Followers are then imbued with the mana person’s special qualities, as we see in audience reactions at concerts or rallies.
Fame also has costs. The celebrity press, as the British royal family well knows, is relentless. Criticism abounds, and those in the spotlight receive threatening calls and letters, lack privacy, and may have to contend with stalkers or insistent fans. Celebrities are almost four times as prone to suicide as others; others have died early: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, John Belushi, River Phoenix. When a star is accused of wrongdoing, fans can be quick to turn, delighting as much in their idol’s destruction as in success. Celebrities are the sacrificial victims of our projections, from veneration to evisceration.
Jung says, “We stand with our soul suspended between formidable influences from within and without, and somehow we must be fair to both. This we can only do after the measure of our individual capacities. Hence we must bethink ourselves not so much of what we ‘ought’ to do as of what we can and must do.“ To live meaningfully in the world and achieve a sense of kinship with men, gods, and beasts is the work of a lifetime.
HERE’S THE DREAM WE ANALYZE:
“I am called back to the university with other members of my cohort; not everybody goes back. I am supposed to take a few courses that were later added to the curriculum. Failing to take these courses can cancel my degree, so I go. I am having difficulty logging into my student account because I don’t remember my credentials, so I can’t find the class time and classroom. I miss my classes and feel ashamed because it will ruin my reputation in the eyes of my favorite professor. I started to feel critical and claim in my mind that I have a Ph.D., so why should I even take undergraduate courses while I am capable of teaching them? My cohort is hanging around, and I can’t be part of the group; almost nobody cares. I am there, even my best friends. I try to find the registrar’s office to discuss why I shouldn’t be there. Then, I went back to my apartment where I lived on campus. I don’t have the key, but the door is not locked. My room is still the same: clothes, bed, and furniture, but my roommates are college kids. Sometimes my room is replaced with another room that is not as good because I have not been there. I never see the roommates, but I see their rooms. I try to reclaim my room, but again, I can’t reach anyone to make the switch. I see this dream quite often.”
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