Archive for the ‘complex’ tag
“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings. [Jung, CW 8, par. 253]
So what has me thinking about complexes today? I guess the short answer is that for whatever reason, they found a way to make their presence felt here in a Mexican paradise. I catch myself having emotional reactions to the bits and pieces of life that normally don’t stir up any emotional response. I find myself feeling defensive without any cause. A simple dialogue that has no ulterior motive somehow becomes a very subtle assault on my identity, my worthiness as a person. Sometimes it doesn’t even need words; a glance can trigger the same result. And most confusing is the fact that these glances and scatterings of words are people specific. The same glance by a stranger would ruffle nothing. The same words uttered by a different person wouldn’t even register.
I have learned long ago that I am not unique in this regard. Pretty well everyone that is breathing and thinking is complexed. Being complexed isn’t all about negative affect, but since having overt positive emotional reactions feels good, there isn’t the same need to look more closely at the affect. As Daryl Sharp would say, “There’s no motivation to analyze it.” It is only when the emotional affect digs into your gut, makes you feel as if you are caught in a storm when we find the motivation to want to figure out “what the hell is going on.”
As I get older, I get wiser – at least that is what I tell myself. As I sense the presence of emotional affect that is negative, I pull back from participation as much as I can, in the drama around the activation of a complex. It hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t so long ago that as soon as the complex would be activated I would throw my whole being in ranting and railing and battling. It was like a no-holds barred wrestling match that left myself and others around me shell shocked and battered when the energy of the complex stole away. I didn’t “really” understand that it was my complex and perhaps the complex of another wreaking disaster. For both of us, it was about you or I.
But sometimes now, enough times, I don’t bite and take the bait and so avoid escalation. Sensing the presence of the complex lurking, I back off and wait until the complex leaves. I know that it will be back, and perhaps next time I will again be able to resist falling into its vortex. And then, my rights itself and it’s not so topsy-turvy.
It’s September 1st and I have taken my first “China” photo for this new adventure in ChangZhou. Back in our old apartment, life is feeling familiar especially since I got a good sleep for the most part last night. Bonsai, though thought by most to be a Japanese art, is originally a Chinese form called penzai. Regardless of the historical roots of the art of forming miniature trees, the appearance is very pleasing.
In a way, this is what we do as humans as we work on refashioning ourselves to become better people. In bringing our shadow contents into the light of consciousness, we are effectively pruning the shadow. By bringing light to darkness we are not creating something new for there is nothing new, just a shift from the unconscious to consciousness.
For example, complexes exist within the shadow and play havoc with one’s life. I have a pattern of acting in relationship with other men, men in authority positions that often doesn’t make sense. As I came to grips with the fact that I had a father complex, I was able to sometimes change the way I interacted so as to avoid unnecessary conflicts. The complex doesn’t disappear, it remains lurking in the shadow and at times comes up to bite me when I least expect it. At those times I find myself saying to myself “What the hell was that all about?” And then, after the fact I realize that it was the complex the catalyst for my unconscious response to a new situation. And it is in the realisation that I again take the small pruning shears to nip away at the darkness. And in the process, I become just a bit more appealing as a person in relationship with other men.
I am rather pleased with how well this low light photo turned out, a photo I took in a cave in Marble Mountain just south of Da Nang, Vietnam. It’s not a perfect photo, but then again, that isn’t the point. The idea is to capture an idea, a feeling, a hint of something beyond the actually image.
I get both a sense of power and of almost acceptance for who I am in relation to the whole, to God, to the Self. I know that I am not the whole though I do feel part of the whole. I know this; it resonates within. Yet . . .
In the face-to-face world, I don’t measure up even a little bit and come up short on too many scales. I am an outsider for the most part. I am distant. I am flawed with a high level of distract-ability which often finds me leave projects in various stages of completion only to have them forgotten and abandoned. I am becoming more and more “selfish” in terms of relation to others. What does this mean? I guess it means taking more time to listen to myself, to honour myself and to accept myself in spite of what others might want, need or demand.
And I get angry with the attitudes that tell me I am getting worse as I get older. I get angry at myself for getting caught up in this anger. And I get angry with others who let me know that I am failing in terms of what is expected of me in relationships. I know that there is no need for anger within me, that I should not take the attitudes of others to heart and let those attitudes wound me. I know that the attitudes are not really about me at all, but about each of those who look at me and evaluate me as “worse.” But, there is this damned “hook” that I carry that catches all of these projections and then suffer the turmoil until the energy has dissipated enough so that I can see what has happened to me, by me.
I have learned a few things along the way during these six decades of living. One of the valuable lessons is to own my own stuff and not take on the stuff of others. Of course, this lesson is always after the fact. At least this allows me some peace when the conflict/complex is deactivated within me. I turn away from the black hole that could consume me, that of being a victim, and turn towards a hint of the numinous that embraces me and tells me that I belong.
I am bringing another photo of roses here as I want to look at eros, love and relationship with the feminine as a continuation of the thread I have begun earlier. Humans are drawn to beauty and I am no exception. Wandering in a large garden area filled with roses I am pulled to capture as much of the beauty I see with my camera. There is a rush of feeling, of energy that courses through my veins and all is good. I remember being captivated in a similar manner when I was young, when I came into the presence of that which I perceived as beautiful. At different times as a youth, the pull was intense though rarely did I give in to the pull as I was filled with as much self-doubt as I was by desire and what I felt to be pure love for an other.
Each time I was certain that this was it. The girl who sat several rows away in my classroom was the perfect woman for me even though we never talked. I was too shy, too aware that I was poor and didn’t fit into her social world. The girl who responded to my request for a dance once high school was over and I had begun working; a girl who was so damaged by her childhood that our brief moments of being in love, a pure unconsummated love that ended as I left her to the care of psychiatrists in a hospital, cured me of a belief in pure love, leaving me jaded and empty.
I didn’t realise that what I felt was not about these girls, these young women. Rather, this tumbling head over heels was more about my search for a magical other. James Hollis describes this search, this feeling:
“The other great false idea that drives mankind is the fantasy of the Magical Other, the notion that there is one person out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul-mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history; one who will be there for us, who will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and, if we are lucky, spare us the perilous journey of individuation.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 37)
I am no different, I believed in this Magical Other, and to tell the truth, that belief is still lurking in the background because of my good fortune to have stayed with the woman with whom I fell in love with when I was twenty-one, forty years ago – two strangers from different backgrounds, different cultures, different everything. Is there a truth to the Magical Otherness that captured my attention? I am not sure. I do know that time taught me that the stranger with whom I fell in love is a good person, a caring person, someone I continue to want filling my life. But in meeting the real person that was hidden by layer upon layer of projections, I discovered holes in my own psyche, my own sense of emptiness and darkness that no person could ever hope to fill or hear. My Magical Other could not protect me from suffering, could not read my mind or know my deepest needs, needs that are real but not definable even by myself. All that I wanted from a Magical Other, from my soul-mate, from the love of my life could only be given to me by myself.
Today we both still cling to each other as anchors in life in spite of our differences. A different love has emerged and it is no less problematic. Yet, it is gentler and kinder and more tolerant of differences.
This is another WuZhen photo, one that is not about tourists or a celebration of a restoration of China’s architectural past. This is just a simple scene, one that is played out in many locations in many countries in today’s modern world, a scene behind the scene so-to-speak. l get to see this scene often, a scene in which a woman is crouched beside water, usually water that is far from clean, in an attempt to clean either herself or some articles of clothing. Regardless of what is being washed, the image is there based on real events happening in a real world.
Symbolically, woman is associated with water, birth waters, cleansing waters, dank and dark waters. Somehow out of the clouded dirty water, something is born, dirt is washed away and whiteness emerges. Archetypal images – images that point beyond the facts contained within the images, point to something that goes beyond one person’s understanding and points to a collective awareness. But what is this archetype? Is it the mother who nurtures, to mother who eats her young, the life force that gives rise to libido in men, the receptacle who takes a man with her and sucks out his seed? Because “she” is an archetype, “she” is all of these things and more.
Walking through my life, the archetype is in the dark background out of my conscious reach. As I walk through my life, I find I bump into aspects of her which have been activated by my life experiences. And these appearances are personal to me though they cause a lot of discomfort. These disturbances are not appearances of the archetype, but appearances of my personal complexes. I can never behold the fullness of the archetype, only the “activated” bits that can only be identified as complexes.
There remains so much to say on this topic. Perhaps I will find some of the words to help myself better understand this. I will come back again with another image and more thoughts to explore this territory.
Another flower seen while walking along the banks of one of the many canals and small rivers found in Changzhou. These flowers are actually quite common and are in bright yellow, orange and red. They have a sense of richness, of fullness an alluring fecundity.
I have been using the word “complex” yet I have not given a good definition, good enough so that the understanding of the “emotion” that is activated when one is in “love” is more about one self than it is about the person one is in love with – the other. Here, I turn the words over to Daryl Sharp:
“A complex is a bundle of associations, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, always accompanied by affect. It has energy and life of its own. It can upset digestion, breathing and the rate at which the heart beats. It behaves like a partial personality. When you want to say or do something and a complex interferes, you find yourself saying or doing something quite different from what you intended. Your best intentions are upset, exactly as if you have been interfered with by another person.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 40)
I think that this aptly describes what “overcomes” a person when falling in love. The world is turned upside down and one is “possessed” to the point of losing control of the situation and one’s perceived “will.” Try to explain to yourself that to love a certain person is not a good idea and see where it gets you. Married people over all of recorded history have been falling in love with others while married to a different person. An extreme force of will can prevent an affair with this “love” but it can’t stop the thoughts, the dreams, and being pulled away from being present with others. One is lost in inner space.
How does one account for this? There is no relationship in reality, there are no shared values – the “other” is a mystery. What there is, is the numinosity of the “other. The self is caught in the image, not in the person behind the image. But of course, at the time the self can’t tell the difference. And so, with complex activated, the drama unfolds and life becomes a confused mess.
A bench found on the mountain path through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve appears as though it hasn’t been used in quite a long time. As I walked the mountain paths over a distance of perhaps eight kilometres, there were three benches placed for those who felt they needed a time out from the strenuous trek going up and down the path as it wound around the mountain.
I will admit to doing a bit of touch up to the photo, a reduction of contrast as well as reducing colour saturation in order to come closer to the feeling and reality of the scene as I remember it. Sometimes the camera lies when it records a scene, giving more contrast or richer colours in one instance or removing contrast, shadows or the richness of colours.
What the eyes see is not always what the lens sees. What one person sees is not the same as what another person sees either. And, as I learn as the years pass, what I have seen at one point in time changes over time, not because the scene has changed, but because I have changed. This is true about seeing people as much as it is about seeing things.
Since this is my experience, I wonder about the experience of others. For example, I know that my children saw me as someone quite large in life. Yet, over the years, that vision has been replaced as those children grew into adults. Now, I am a much smaller person in physical size. As well as the way I am seen by my children, there is the question as to how I am seen by my partner, the woman I married almost forty years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that over the years I have become more of a stranger that a constant familiar presence. In my mind, both of these examples can be seen in a positive light. My children now look at me from the position of being adults, my wife now sees me as a complex and real person while living her own complexity. For all of us, the lens has changed.
I return to the subject of relationships, that as found between men and women, relationships that could be characterised as marriages. Typically, a relationship has one partner be the container and the other partner being the contained. This works well until midlife when the rules change:
Middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding, when a man still gives himself to his work with his whole strength and his whole will. But in this very moment evening is born, and the second half of life begins. Passion now changes her face and is called duty; “I want” becomes the inexorable “I must,” and the turnings of the pathway that once brought surprise and discovery become dulled by custom. (Jung, CW 17, par. 331)
At this moment, this entry into midlife, the lens through which we view and understand the world has also changed. And, with the change of the lens, what had been familiar and comfortable now becomes less comfortable. Above, I mentioned that in each marriage one is the container and the other is the contained. Well, that is true to a certain extent, but in reality both partners become both.
It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained spiritually in her husband, and for a husband to be wholly contained, emotionally, in his wife. One could describe this as the problem of the “contained” and the “container.” (Jung, CW 17, par 331)
Both are containers, both are contained. I could easily see how this becomes a problem, especially as the lens changes in midlife. I will draw more on Jung to clarify this business of container and contained. But as I draw on his words, it is important to realise that references to the male and the female can easily be switched. Gender has no ownership to a specific relationship that of being either container or contained.
The one who is contained feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of the marriage; his attitude to the marriage partner is undivided; outside the marriage there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests. . . . The great advantage lies in his own undividedness, and this is a factor not to be underrated in the psychic economy. (Jung, CW 17, par 332)
Yikes! This is as close to a personal portrait as I could ever find in terms of relationship and containment within my marriage. The problem for any marriage with this is the building up of need in terms of dependence. Fears, not based on anything in the outer world, but based on one’s shadow, cause one to cling to the other, the container unreasonably. That fear manifests in a heightened sense of insecurity, fear that at any moment the reciprocal love of the partner who is the container will disappear and with the disappearance of that love, the disappearance of the partner. It’s as though one begins grieving long before an ending. But what about the container?
The container, on the other hand, who in accordance with his tendency to dissociation has an especial need to unify himself in undivided love for another, will be left far behind in this effort, which is naturally very difficult for him, by the simpler personality. While he is seeking in the latter all the subtleties and complexities that would complement and correspond to his own facets, he is disturbing the other’s simplicity. . . . And soon enough his partner, who in accordance with her simpler nature expects simple answers from him, will give him plenty to do by constellating his complexities with her everlasting insistence on simple answers. Willynilly, he must withdraw into himself before the suasions of simplicity. . . . The simpler nature works on the more complicated like a roon that is too small, that does not allow him enough space. The complicated nature, on the other hand, gives the simpler one too many rooms with too much space, so that she never knows where she really belongs. So it comes about quite naturally that the more complicatexd contains the simpler. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
There is so much here, so much to say, so much to chew on. I guess I will have to return to this theme again in the next post so that I can say what I need to say. I want to find out more about container and contained about simple and complicated …
Since I am a man, my contra-sexual other, my soul is Anima, the inner feminine guide. Strangely this anima is integral to who I am as well as being a distinct other, an other with its own autonomy that transcends the boundaries of “self.” This photo captures the essence of anima for me, that dark, moist feminine that is both mystery and comfort, and more often, frustration. Who ever said that having a soul was easy.
Before going further, I want to just add that animus, the contra-sexual other and soul for women becomes the second half of the larger universal soul, an essence that requires both for balance and wholeness.
That said, I will let Jung explain it better than I ever could:
The autonomy of the collective unconscious expresses itself in the figures of anima and animus. They personify those of its contents, which, when withdrawn from projection, can be integrated into consciousness. To this extent, both figures represent functions which filter the contents of the unconscious through to the conscious mind . . . Though the effects of anima and animus can be made conscious, they themselves are factors transcending consciousness and beyond the reach of perception and volition. Hence they remain autonomous despite the integration of their contents, and for this reason they should be borne constantly in mind. (Jung, CW 9ii, par 40; cited in Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 10)
Heartening news, I can reclaim those lost aspects of self that are embodied in the anima, but as Jung carefully notes, anima is more than those aspects of self. Becoming aware of this nature of anima, I can pay better attention to her appearance in dreams and in my projections. She serves as a beacon and as a guide. She lets me know when I am betraying my soul, when I am causing grief to my self and to any woman who is the recipient of my projections, those denials of inner darkness.
As I meet anima as a figure in my dreams, she takes on a host of roles, that of mother, lover, child, witch and grace. She allows me to learn to come to grips with complexes surrounding the feminine. And in gifting me with her presence, I slowly gain awareness of those dark spaces. And like the moon in the photo, light is brought into the darkness. And like the moon, her existence is more than as a set of faces in my dreams. She is shared with a larger world, a world in which together with her opposite, animus, becomes the holy whole of a universal soul.
I have taken this photo before. It became one of the “Tunnel Vision” photos late last spring. Every time I drive to the city I see these two buildings as part of a larger farmyard that had been abandoned long before I came to this part of the province. There is no doubt in my mind that they would fit well into the scenery of any dreamscape. Dreams are funny things aren’t they?
Lately I have been a fair bit of dreaming, dreams that defy reality as we generally know it, dreams that are filled with improbable people. I know that these dreams are busy informing my psyche of various issues that indicate some conflict between my conscious intentions or lack thereof, and what the psyche is expecting. These are dramas that centre around various complexes that rule my inner and outer life.
The prime players of these dreams have myself as the leading man, a role that I am yet unsure of as being either protagonist or antagonist in these psychodramas; and in co-starring roles, a host of archetypal characters. Archetypes have an autonomy as well as an intentionality that defies our conscious intentions or desires. We can wish them away, deny them, or try to distract them; but, they continue their missions in spite of these strategies.
As Hillman says, archetypes are:
the persons to whom we we ultimately owe our personality. In speaking of them, he (JUNG) says that “we are obligated to reverse our rationalistic causal sequence, and instead of deriving these figures from our psychic conditions, we must derive our psychic conditions from these figures … It is not we who personify them; they have a personal nature from the very beginning.” (Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, 1975, p. 22)
Hillman quotes from Jung, CW 13 par 299). It is here we see that archetypes exist out of the individual psyche. Somehow, the individual psyche taps into the bigger image. Here “mother” becomes more than one’s mother, more than our experiences of other mothers. The “great mother” becomes the source of motherness that becomes acted out in each individual mother, all connected yet still separate.
We might disown, abandon and forget these archetypes, but they refuse to be forgotten and abandoned. They will find a way to make their presence known and their power felt.
Wheresoever patterns are found, there are complexes at work. Wheresoever complexes are found, history prevails over the present. Wheresoever history prevails over the present, we are stuck. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p.31)
Again, I include another photo from April, 2008, taken during that same time which could be considered as stealing from the conference in China. For me, this walk in the rain was a magical time, where the world took on a numinous quality, where I entered into a larger place which once part of a childhood that knew the world was infinite and that it was bigger and fuller than could possibly be imagined. For a moment, I felt free, filled with possibilities that had been both consciously and unconsciously denied.
What had I been denying myself? I don’t know, really. I do know that I was (and still remain) more focused on pleasing other(s). I had looked outside myself for approval, an action that was and remains doomed to failure because without self-approval, the accolades from outside become just more tinsel. Of course this is points to being dominated by complexes.
For example, a mother complex or a father complex. Not getting one’s needs filled in childhood by one’s opposite parent usually results in one entering into a relationship with someone who either will fulfil the need or one who reinforces the devaluation by the parent (see James Hollis for more on this theme in both the book quoted above and in his book, The Eden Project). The person becomes stuck in the relationship. And in being stuck, it becomes that person’s task to confront himself or herself with the reality of the complex and the nature of the relationship. Not willing to risk the relationship only dooms the quality of the relationship. Worse, it dooms one’s soul.