Cunningham, R: The March from Selma to Montgomery and the Nonviolent Movement in Analysis


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On January 18, 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. and four hundred marchers set off from Brown’s A&E Chapel to the County Courthouse in Selma, Alabama to protest illegal voting rights practices being committed against African Americans in the Southern United States. What began as a movement to confront racism in America ended up as a revolution forever transforming the American narrative and the archetypal experience of Democracy in America.

This talk will focus on the archetypal experience of nonviolence and how nonviolent philosophy works to confront, dissolve or break apart violence, first through the “other within” via the inner master/slave, and subsequently, the exteriorized “other in culture,” expressed through oppression in racism. These paradigms are shifted from the inner to the outer realms through the implementation of the “eightfold path of nonviolence.”

The eightfold path of nonviolence consists of Martin Luther King Jr.’s six tenets of nonviolence and Mahatma Ghandi’s philosophical principles of Satyagraha (Truth force) and Ahimsa (love force). The marchers daily practice of nonviolent philosophy, coupled with prayer, song and marching prepared the marchers for the daily confrontations with Selma’s Sheriff (the other within) in an effort to gain access to the voting Registrar’s office to register to vote. Each march and confrontation (between the archetypal master-slave) with the town’s Sherriff symbolized the engagement between conscious and unconscious forces enabling a slow but necessary integration of shadow, which ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Selma marches form the metaphor for the civil rights movement which takes place in an analysis with the patient. Indeed, the patient brings into treatment their own trauma which gets unconsciously enacted in the analytic relationship. The analyst symbolically holds the tension between conscious and unconscious forces (like King), and implements the tenets of nonviolence in and effort to guide the patient home to themselves.

Presenter Bio:

Renee Cunningham, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona who has been an active clinician for twenty-seven years. She is a Jungian analyst trained through the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, Texas Chapter. She is also a member of the New Mexico Society of Jungian Analysts, International Association for Analytical Psychology and the Chinese American Psychoanalytic Association. Renee is a national speaker who teaches and supervises Chinese Psychoanalytic Candidates. She is the current Program Chair for Phoenix Friends of C.G. Jung. She has been published in Psychological Perspectives and Progress: Family Systems Research and Therapy. Her current book entitled, Archetypal Nonviolence, King, Jung and Culture, is due to published by Routledge in 2020.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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