Who’s in Control?

Student driver - who is in charge?

Student driver – who is in charge?

On a recent trip, I made a stop for gas in Brandon, Manitoba. I saw this armored personnel carrier sitting beside a Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I took the photo before realising what the sign on the front said. Today, while searching for an image that would fit today’s topic, this photo jumped out and said “pick me, pick me.” With that said, I will now turn to today’s post. By the end of the post, you will perhaps see why this photo fits.

I have a lot of books on my shelves, most of them have been read, highlighted, filled with notes in the margins or on little sticky notes so that I can find the gems I have found along the way. Some of the books on these shelves have sat quietly, waiting for the time when I will notice them. Today, one of these books got my attention. It’s a little book called Digesting Jung, by Jungian analyst, Daryl Sharp. I had thought I had read this book a long time ago but in picking up the book and opening it, I found that I have yet to turn the pages. So, today I will begin reading the book. I hope to bring my thoughts here as I read.

The first words of the book were familiar. If one has read most of Sharp’s books, one realises that there is a lot of repeat, or reinforcement of earlier thoughts and explanations. At one time this caused me to think that Daryl was simply publishing another book using a cut and paste method from past books – but, now, I know better. The psychological process demands a return again and again, to taking what is known and going deeper. These first words bare repeating here:

“We like to think we are masters in our own house, but clearly we are not. We are renters at best. Psychologically we live in a boarding house of saints and knaves, nobles and villains, run by a landlord who for all we know is indifferent to the lot. We fancy we can do what we want, but when it comes to a showdown our will is hampered by fellow boarders with a mind of their own.

In the jargon of Jungian psychology, these “fellow boarders” are known as complexes.” [p. 9]

You and I are thinking, feeling, and aware people. We have lived, loved, worked, cried, laughed and been in relationship to the world around us. A lifetime of experience has helped us to arrive at some sort of identity. More or less, we know who we are and take responsibility for ourselves. We have worked hard to be individuals and make a positive mark on the world. This sense of self is only one aspect of the totality of who we are. Freud referred to this sense of self as ego. The ego is who we see as “me” the conscious self, the part of our psyche that exists when we are awake and aware. The only problem that arises is that of our lack of awareness of the fact that we are more than our ego.

We learn the hard way, and sometimes we don’t learn at all, that we (ego) really aren’t in control. From somewhere we find ourselves responding to life irrationally, emotionally, reactively. Sometimes, for no rational reason we can think of, we get our backs up when someone in authority instructs us to do something a certain way while at other times we respond reasonably to the directives of those same authorities. Something about the tone, the manner, or something that we can’t quite pin, triggers a negative reaction in us. The source of that reaction is a complex. Each of eventually bumps into quite a few complexes that seem to dwell somewhere within us – mother complex, father complex, superiority complex, inferiority complex, the list is long. We learn that we have complexes but in spite of knowing  this we can’t control these complexes as they get triggered, as they seemingly take over.

We also get to see other faces of ourselves when we fall under the influence of other agents such as alcohol and drugs and what can best be called mob mentality. I see this in myself when I have a glass of wine too much. Yes, alcohol does serve to open doors that we don’t know exist within us. When I am under the influence, I respond with more fear, reverting to more of a childish state when I didn’t have control when life was seen as threatening. I become defensive and unable to process without passing everything through the filter of fear. My adult mind, my conscious self (ego) knows better; but in spite of that, this inner fear-filled child takes over. When the dust settles later on, I (ego) am left to clean up the mess left behind.

I have seen the same thing happen to those close to me and those who I have worked with as a therapist. What possesses a man to flip and internal switch and beat up on his wife and/or children? What possesses a person to cut themselves? The word, possesses, is an apt word. The ego loses control to another part of the whole self, the psyche. We are familiar with the Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde story where ego and shadow fight for control of the psyche. Activated complexes aren’t always this stark in contrast. Sometimes a kinder face emerges, a gentler face. As Sharp points out, there appears to be a boarding house full of these complexes, each ready to emerge when triggers activate them. As years pass and as awareness grows, we learn that we (ego) share the psyche. And, as with all sharing, it is best to get to know as best as possible these complexes so that they don’t totally overwhelm us to the point of ego collapse (insanity).

So, who is in charge?  In the armored carrier pictured above, I counted eight men. Yet the driver was potentially the person the least in authoritative control. Perhaps the ego is in the same situation, the student driver of a powerful and potentially dangerous whole. Something to think about.

About rgl

A retired Canadian educator and psychotherapist living in Mexico in the winter and in Canada the rest of the year.
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2 Responses to Who’s in Control?

  1. Anthony says:

    I carry such complex(es) and yes they relate to childhood when My mother was very disturbed and spent many times in hospital. I was then just around 3 and My brother 1.5 years older. My father was on military posting and would return sometimes and am sure he was close to leaving My mother and putting his 2 sons in care, the worst My mother got. However he Did not but My brother and i were too young to tell him that some old man lodger lived with us when he was on military service and that My brother
    And i had to share the bed with the lodger, one of us with lodger and other with My mother. This use to rotate between My brother and i, yet we would both differ whose turn it was. I never hugged My own father only close to when he died, the lodger was the first person who Did something to me that felt nice, touching us in our sensitive parts. I lost site or froze that until when later as teenager and at sea, a young rating having left home at 15, My brother before me into the Army. When at sea the older ratings Did things to us like when a young child. You could call it raping young teenagers mind/body. I eventually escaped out of that environment by telling My Captains that i was gay as i was confused/scared and admitted an offence brought against me by one of the worst ratings who had abused me. Long story but when under stress or whatever complex life dealt me (My father was our Rescuer as a child so he was always My hero, he was a school teacher in the Army, later school children). Going into adoloscence it felt girls were nice and as a child. Today married with 2 boys 21 and 16, 24 years marriage is that since i lost close intimacy a lot during My marriage due M

    My dear wife feelißng it difficult to have sex, both children were C-section – Did My complex of wanting that feeling first sensual one as that 3 year had experienced. I had experienced a quite difficult time in 20s with gender and had a strong libido, all My life. However not that i Hope am not – a Narcisist, when My complex returns it seems My brain is lacking the need to dampen fear etc, its effects and i always then need to release this complex energy through what men do without full sexual contentment. I am not in control of this major complex then and feel that doing My own psychology is thAt when first most control of these emotions early in life was as though like in rApe cases, the victim looses control over their own body. By releasing this energy in the manner I do- is like taking back the control lost at important stages of growing up. The symbol for me is my body- the lodger showed me his adult body or subjected me to early abuse, later at sea was like rape. But in both circumstances control was taken from me. Do you think thAt what I do when this complex returns especially more since k
    Less intimacy with my wife’s problem – pain she can feel during sex, etc that I want to release this complex energy. I do feel better after. I am a Christian and my wife really Iove. Having my mother taken away when young, a had to be control father, that my life circumstances are my complex. Be nice to discuss with Daryl but I hesitant to sAy unlikely. Have read Jung from my 30’s and now in 60’s. If he were here now, I would get on the first plane to Switzerland with expect no idea why I act as I do. Be wonderful to get a reply. Am a sensitive listener. Anthony innerda@gmail. Com
    Ps My mother had another child even I was 5, My father was away and we never knew who the father was. There was a lot of shame and dysfunxtional families after the WW2, even my father drank more than average, expect some war pains, My mother etc. However he was My hero, had an IQ over 140, teacher and later Samaritan counseller and would have been officer in The Army if not for My mother’s illness. He had to retire at 60 as he had poor hearing on one Ear (war accident besides damage back. He drank more than average and expect some to ease pains and his early life amongst men in the Army. He however went to school everyday but we use to fear adults when young. Anyone older would take advantsge, even My older brother was not nice but he had to take control as older brother when mother was sick. We are closer. Le in older age. I had a neighbour’s daughter when very young and mike a big sister a d protected me against ny brother. We were at infant school st 3 and moved from her parent’s house when I was 11. I sort always liked girls even though very sexual precarious 20 onwards with what gender feelings came up and came out of that when found right partner – not knowing that My earlier life sort of gave me a difficult complex. Read Jung in
    My 30’s up to no late 60’s. My fAther had a high IQ so was wanting to like him. Not sure I had a father complex but wanting to please men did enter into my problem with gender until I began girl relationships but as of now – my complex can return under stress. Expect have to understand it, try key it go yet been a problem -like a childhood danger – what do you think? If my mother had not gone ill then possibly had a different life experience later growing up. One runs from bad experiences – being a Christian in mid 40’s helped and my wife – a strong believer has helped. However I still get in that victim triangle where one feels trianglized – Victim- Rescuer(victim) and revert back to Persecuted(victim). Jung talked about being an orphan, no father or mother. I wonder ig he felt often alone. Yet there was one omniprescent he talked about that is everywhere. If he was alive today, would get first flight to Switzerland. Is not often one can even meet anyone like Daryl Sharp here in the North Lapland of Sweden though come from Uk. Was counseller CBT after My father died, wonderful to share with a woman Clinical Psychologist(Dr) – the first woman I shared My life with. Can never forget the transference – like she should have Bern there st 3 year old. She confirmed that I would get re-ocurring Dreams i
    On abuse but just accept that it was a silly dream. Also said I was heterosexual and this helped me to want to start a family after earlier marriage had Endre – no children. The day My Counselling was to end, before i left through the door – i said “i knew you would be leaving me”. I never forgot her reply – “Tony, I will never leave you”. This remainded in my psyche and reinforced that early trauma is some loss. For my counsellor to say what she said then – was like love’s rediscovery. I guess it was helped because same time had I met another great person – my wife who continues to care for me though been tough with different libido energies. Please reply. Anthony

    and on his way to be an army Captain after the war if not stopped through My mother’s illness. He was top rank non-comissioned Warrant officer when I was born after WW2. Though he drank to ease war pains, he nursed My mother all his life and went to school every week until had to retire due deafness, he lost hearing in one Ear during war accident.

  2. Anthony says:

    Sorry last piece of text got stuck in earlier part of failed post
    / try make sense

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