Gavin Newsom: the affair of a mayor makes the New York Times

Gavin Newsom fulfilled a universal ego ambition. Out of 350-plus mayors in the United States, it was he who made the New York Times on Friday. But not for reasons the ego would conspicuously approve. Newsom had an affair with a 33-year-old woman who’d just had a baby — and she was married to the mayor’s equivalent of Karl Rove. In fact, both the married woman and her husband were on Newsom’s payroll.

But don’t ask Soul’s Code to lead with black-and-white moral indignation (we save all of that for Dr. Phil!). To pass judgement on this guy is to turn him into a blotter for our own downside projections and denied dark matter.

Newsom acts out of the same collective database, so to speak, that feeds all of our experience. And love triangles are one of the most primal plug-and-play programs coded into the human psyche, from Helen of Troy-Paris-Menelaus to the lovers Tomas, Tereza and Sabina in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Actually, Newsom’s triangle sounds similar to the affair that the patrician Walter Lippman had with the wife of his best friend and colleague, Hamilton Fish Armstrong.

The media and people on the street are calling Newsom stupid, a liar and a cheat because he broke an archetypal taboo: he violated the territorial rights of a male member of his tribe by having sex with his woman. In her book Dreams of Love and Fateful Encounters, Columbia U. psychiatrist Ethel Person fleshed out the unconscious motives that typically possess men in Newsom’s shoes:

However, some men appear to be fixated at the level of defying this taboo . . . the real goal in such cases being destruction of a rival male. Men who respect the taboo have replaced competition with identification; they have accepted the laws of rightful possession . . .

Rivalrous triangles may serve some secondary purposes. They may afford the lover a safeguard against forbidden impulses . . . by deflecting it onto someone largely unavailable. Triangles may also protect the lover from his fears of falling in love, particularly from a fear of engulfment. They allow the lover to yield enough to fall in love, but they simultaneously guard against the loss of the self which is feared, because complete union with (or commitment-to) the beloved is averted by circumstance.

Newsom’s string of flings are likely a reflection of that fear of intimacy. The mayor’s staff announced today that Newsom is seeking therapy for alcholism. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, he might undergo a more powerful transformation by resigning from his job, and utterly withdrawing from the self-image and social environment which acted as the cradle for the behavior he is now trying to renounce. As the dictum attributed to Einstein goes, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”

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