As is so often the case with people, the source of their enthusiasm and success, paradoxically, becomes their nemesis. The deposed governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, has been a case in point. The most salient feature of the story is how he vigorously went after prostitution — shutting down several prostitution rings, and seeking to raise the penalty being a John from a misdemeanor to a year in jail — while himself frequently engaging the services of prostitutes. Certainly, he is a colossal hypocrite, but there is something deeper at issue, which explains how he could be blind or indifferent to his own hypocrisy. Here is a case, to use a Jungian concept, of a person not in touch with his shadow, with his own dark side. Consequently, he projected his dark side on to other Johns and to prostitution rings, and then went after them with a vengeance. Of course, he had other favorite targets, such as Wall Street, as well as other politicians. He viewed them as greedy and immoral. They were, though, merely projections of his own immorality. Spitzer cast a very large shadow indeed!
Secondly, there was something quite insane about Spitzer’s recklessness. He did not seriously believe that he could get caught. He was blinded, first of all, by megalomania, by his hubristic belief in his own power. And he was blinded by his contempt for everyone; i.e., he believed that the public not smart enough to catch him.
In regard to his recklessness, some theorists contend that people like Spitzer actually wish to get caught. Why would this be so? To go through life with a vastly inflated ego feels unreal and insane. That is the psychological downside of megalomania. Unconsciously, such a person desperately seeks to come down to earth, and often does in an Icarus-like fashion. They do so by unconsciously arranging their own downfall. Rock stars do it through drugs. Politicians do it through scandal. In regard to Spitzer, paying for sex is itself degrading. Furthermore, Spitzer sought to have unsafe sex with prostitutes. He was unconsciously arranging to be punished by contracting venereal disease.
Spitzer is a man who never knew himself. He never had time to, for his entire life has been a ruthless and determined effort to advance his career. Lack of self-knowledge can often give a person great energy and charisma. Here is another paradox: just as Spitzer projected his dark side on to other people, so it is that those who voted for him — 70% of New Yorkers! — projected their archetype of a savior, who avenges evil, on to Spitzer. Thus, just as Spitzer never knew himself, so it is that most New Yorkers never knew Spitzer, until now that is. So it is that two costly mistakes in life consist in not knowing oneself and not knowing other people.
In his resignation speech, Spitzer vowed to continue to work for the public good. How much better it would have been, for the sake of everyone, if he had vowed to know himself. When public service is a flight from the truth about oneself, it always turns demonic.