Archive for the ‘complexes’ tag
“We can anyway not rid ourselves of complexes until they have given up on us. Their decaying time is longer than the life of the individual personality, since they continue in a kind of autonomous existence long after we have left th scene; they are part of the psychic inheritance of our children and their children, both natural and spiritual. The complexes are our dosage of sin, our karma, which if given up is really only passed on elsewhere.” (Hillman, Senex and Puer, p. 129)
Complexes and archetypes sort of blend in and shift shape as though the boundaries are porous. As I am learning to understand, they aren’t all that clear as each complex bumps into and merges with other complexes as though in a stew of sorts. The same seems to happen within the domain of archetypes where the shape-shifting makes them tough to contain, let alone name. As an example, Eros is considered to be the oldest of the gods yet also the youngest of the gods, the eternal youth from which life emanates and yet also the same youth who is eternally reborn. He is both the seed (masculine) and the container (feminine). On the complex front, the mother complex is twinned with a father-complex and is combined with the great Mother Earth archetype and the Father Sky archetype, a curious blend of personal complex, cultural complex and historical genetic memory as well as primal numinous image. Both are then combined to create a holy union of masculine and feminine that somehow end up being the holistic Self. Tell me you aren’t confused, that things aren’t definitely blurry. I have to admit that I am still in the dark and that it gives me a good feeling to be there. This is a cosmos that is far beyond the capacity of ego and intellect to really “know.”
It’s enough for me to realise that how I am in relation with another person is more about my history as it is about my present. My relationship to Other is a mixture of my relationship to my own unconscious contents (stuff of which I might never become aware) as well as to my relationship to community, to culture and spirituality; and, my relationship to the other person who also has his or her own history, etc., as well as a relationship to self, community, culture and spirituality. When all is said and done, I don’t really know the Other as the other person doesn’t really know him or herself. There is really nothing objective about objective reality, it is all about fuzzy projections.
We don’t all see the world the same way. The truth is each of us sees a different world based on a large number of factors, each one unique to each of us. When I am walking with others and with a camera in my hand I often find myself taking a photo of something that the others didn’t see. When I show the image that I have captured, they are usually surprised at what they hadn’t seen. When I put words to the images, explaining what I see, something usually comes to their attention and I often hear an “ah-ha” kind of response when the words and the images create a sense of connection for them. However, sometimes my stopping to take a photo is just plain annoying to others. For them I hear a complaint about how I can’t just “be there in the moment” without looking for something significant and deep. Why don’t I just accept things the way they are and be fully present instead of in a world of my own, somewhere in innerspace. What they don’t realise is that we are all living with pictures, controlled by the images that appear to us in the world, pictures that inspire us, pictures that almost defeat us.
“Our conscious lives are driven by “pictures” and their attendant “stories.” Some of these are quite conscious to us – get a job, establish a relationship, look both ways before you cross the street, and so on. Many more are unconscious – do not be who you are for that is not safe, choose security over honesty, relinquish your personal authority lest it isolate you from others. All of these messages, pictures and stories are complexes, namely, energy-charged clusters of our history. We have complexes because we have histories, and history has an extraordinary power to write our biographies, frame our futures, circumscribe our freedoms.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 26)
James Hollis has spoken some powerful words here, words that challenge me. The unconscious stories have long ruled my personal life, especially the last one Hollis talks about, “relinquish your personal authority lest it isolate you from others.” Needless to say, in following this story I haven’t been very successful in avoiding isolation from others. It all seems so pointless in the end. Because I fear isolation from others, I seem to be living the fear. I get defeated by the complex. At least I recognize the complex for what it is. I recognize it but don’t often succeed in avoiding having the complex lead me into messes. It seems to me that the more I fear something, the more that something becomes present in my life. That is what is seems like. That is what it feels like. But in the big picture it is all in my head. It is all in the way I am tuned into perceiving the world.
Today’s photo looks at the same scene from two points of view, with two different mindsets. On the left side one is blocked, isolated from the world, imprisoned behind a fence that keeps one from being at one with the world. On the right side, there is no blockage, no sense of separation of isolation. One chooses consciously and unconsciously how one looks at the world, participates in the world.
Yesterday’s walk to me to a new part of the city, the northeastern outskirts of the city proper. It was a surprise to find such a quiet and undeveloped space only two kilometres from the apartment. Needless to say, that meant a lot of new photo scenes were captured. As most of my walks go, I didn’t walk alone but with my wife who is seen walking down an unfamiliar path. Off to the right is a canal and off to the left is swampland that has a series of small vegetable gardens, evidence that there is no such thing as wasted land, useless land. There is little doubt that this area will be visited a few more times this fall and winter.
This Chinese city is similar to the typical human psyche. I will explain that it a moment but first, a bit more about this city. The core of the city has a population of just under two million with the population of the governance area of just over four and a half million. Though it is given one name, Changzhou is really a series of old cities, towns and villages. Today, the city is divided into five districts (each with its own administrative centres, towns and villages) and two sub-city administrative departments. Changzhou has a mayor as one would expect as well as five vice-mayors, one for each of the administrative districts, and two sub-city mayors. Within this administrative nightmare are the small towns and villages with each having their own administrative structures which are under the umbrella of the district government which is under the umbrella of the Changzhou prefecture-level government. That is a lot of government for what could say is a single entity.
As I said above, the city makes me think of the human psyche where ego serves as the “mayor” thinking that ego is actually the boss. But under the conscious governance of the ego, there are a a host of competing power structures. Some of these structures come out of the experiences of ego with the world, structures called complexes. Some of these structures come out of the collective human unconscious, structures called archetypes. Underlying complexes and archetypes there appears to be a undefinable presence that permeates everything, unifies everything.
On the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia near Kampong Chhnang, I came across these children who live on the river. These children are a proof that there is a beauty and vitality and hope for life. These children are the product of the human instinct for survival as a species and a deeper instinct for the preservation of the self as an immortal being. One doesn’t think of any of this when one meets the other with whom mating and giving birth and child-rearing becomes a life-consuming task.
Many reasons are given for marrying in our modern times – love, wealth, power, duty, loneliness – but whatever the initial impulse the two entering into a marriage begin to change because of the marriage, because of the intimate contact with an other person. Two people choose to be together in a contractual arrangement that is best described as a marriage. Yet, it isn’t too long before both parties of the contract have changed. Intimacy evokes a response as much as dropping a stone into a still pond affects change in an environment.
“Many marriages simply evolve beyond the implicit terms of the invisible contract. Whatever complexes or programmed ideas of self and Other may have inspired the marriage the psyche has moved to another place. It is not so much that people fall out o love, but that the original controlling ideas have waned in favor of others – or the complex has decided that the Other cannot meet the expectations of the original agenda. (Hollis, The Eden Project, p 44)
Imagine if the two in a marriage became stuck in the initial human psychological developmental stage (it happens). Two who become forever adolescent; two who never move past that initial Magical Other; the result is tragic from the view of individuation as individuals, and perhaps even more tragic if these become parents who are so fixated on each other that the children are basically orphans in a psychological sense.
The binds and blindfolds of the Magical Other deny the growth of self. One is frozen in place and in time. One never does find the person behind the projections. And, one never does find the depths of one’s self.
Heading northwest on the Mekong River not too far out of Ho Chi Minh City, these homes on stilts made me realise how life along this river must be always subject to the unpredictable water of the river. Looking at the network of supporting poles, small sticks that would by themselves seem insignificant spurs me to think about all the differences I encounter while living in Asia and in China in particular.
Working at a university, I get to see young men and women every day as they move through the steps from childhood to adulthood. Teaching them a second language allows me to find out a lot about their ways of understanding the world. When teaching a second language, the quickest method is to use base knowledge of the first language and life experience as hooks for the second language. In other words, teach them what they already know, only in the target language. Since at this stage of life, relationships are the biggest focus of these young people, giving them a chance to talk about relationships and their beliefs allows them to speak with more confidence as they don’t have to learn new concepts, just the vocabulary and expressions. Aside from their romantic notions that come out of watching American films, these young people have a very practical sense of what marriage is all about. Love is not synonymous with marriage as it is in the western world.
“Historically, love and marriage have not been synonymous . . . As a matter of fact, only in the last century and a quarter has the vox populi claimed marriage and love as one and the same. This is not to say that happily committed people have not loved each other, but rather that for most of human history the purpose o marriage was to bring stability to the culture rather than make an individual happy or serve the task of mutual individuation. Possibly the greatest number of history’s marriages would, by today’s standards, be described as loveless, for they were contracted arrangements made to produce, protect and nurture the young, thus to preserve the tribe, to transmit social and religious values and to channel anarchic libido in socially useful directions.
Similarly, in many marriages love, whatever love may prove to be, is simply not the determinative value. What more commonly has brought people together, the energy which seeks synergy, are the operative complexes of each. One or both may seek to find the good parent in the other, may even wish to find an abuser in order to confirm a wounded sense of self, or may be seeking what was missing in the family of origin. Or, one may marry for a sense of transferred power.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, pp41-42)
With these words, I understand better how the young men and women in my classes dutifully abandon a “love” mate because the parents don’t support the union. I understand better why young Asian women willingly enter into relationships with older western men. As one young female told me, it is about power. The want to marry power and thus gain power themselves, a sense of security in a crowded and competitive world where there is not enough for everyone. These young people believe in love, fall in love and rebel for love. But, for the most part, these young men and women fall back into line in order to fit in with the needs and demands of their culture.
Maybe there is something to learn here. Maybe we (I) put too many demands on the people we marry making all of us crazy in the process?
This photo was taken a few days ago on campus. I enjoy going to work and interacting with my students at the university here in ChangZhou. It is easy to be positive with the energy that the students bring to class. Add the colour of spring, and a bit of spring warmth, it becomes easy to see life through rose-coloured glasses.
As you are likely aware, I have been almost obsessed with the world and the Canadian situations in terms of power and politics. I need to step back and look at this obsession and see what it is trying to tell me. I do trust my inner voices that tell me what is right and wrong for me. There is much to do in terms of sorting through the feelings, the reactions in order to locate triggers and re-approach the political world with more balance. I guess that in this, it is not yet spring.
With the media shouting at fever pitch about all possible topics as if each is heralding the end of the world. it is almost impossible to sort it all out. I know that there isn’t a right side or a wrong side, but there are right and wrong actions for a collective’s security and sanity. I know when respect is intended and received. I also know hubris and disdain and greed and every sin possible for the individual and collective soul. The problem is to sort out my darkness from the collective darkness and move to act more consciously is hopes of allowing others to feel more hope and to feel loved and respected.
I’ve chosen a different photo today, one that is decidedly more messy, more full of life. When I first came to China in August of 2006, I took a stroll down this street. The left side was much like the right side, jam-packed with small shops and apartments that hugged a narrow street, a stark contrast to the city area in which I live which has wide streets with boulevards filled with grass, roses and sculpted bushes. My first taste of street food was on this street in a little tarp-covered stall that sold noodle and dumpling soup to construction workers for the most part. It still remains, at least in this small section, a messy place bursting with life.
Understanding all of this “life” that I encounter in China is problematic for me, and probably everyone else as well. How can I really be expected to understand a foreign culture, let alone my own culture when I struggle with understanding myself. It is a rare person who can say with honesty that he or she truly understands him or her “self.”
“Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are – as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic – do not need, nor do the ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it..
The appropriate attitude for a long-term relationship is not understanding, but acceptance. Each accepts the other, to the extent one can, and makes no issue of the rest. This is not easy. It means accepting not only the loved one’s persona, but also his or her shadow and other complexes. It certainly requires empathy, but it also involves a mutual acknowledgement that one is responsible only for oneself.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 74-75)
What I am learning to apply to my relationship with those I hold closest to me in my life, I am learning to use here in China as I build relationships with a country, a swirling mass of conflicting cultures, and the few individuals who see me and are willing to allow me into their orbit of relationships whether as friend, colleague, teacher or simply “laowai.”
I love the architecture of old China. Here just one block off the main downtown street in Changzhou, one of the last older sections is being removed so that modern China can rise in its place. This is a story that has been happening for thousands of years in China and all over the world. We build, we tear down, we build again. Purists claim that we are losing the authentic and real China in the process. Really? Which version of China over the thousands of years of history would be the real China? I could ask the same about any country. Of course the answer will always be, the “real” China is the one in which one is standing at that moment in time. The “real” anywhere is that which “is,” not that which “was.”
This building on the foundations of what “was” is what happens every time a bit of light uncovers some of the shadow contents within. As I withdraw projections I have placed on others, those I love and those who serve as hooks for my other shadow contents, I become a changed man, a new man. Does this constant changing make me any less authentic? Is the only authentic Robert, the one who existed with little awareness of the depths of “self?” I don’t think so. Each change is simply a change, Robert is always Robert though the person seen by others might see a changed Robert, wishing for the old Robert to re-appear. This can’t happen. I can’t undo the fact that light has allowed me to see my self more clearly, revealed things about me to which I was blind. But, I can control what others see. This is one reason for carefully rebuilding one’s persona.
“The development of a collectively suitable persona always involves a compromise between what we know about ourselves to be and what is expected of us, such as a degree of courtesy and innocuous behavior. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. In Greek, the word persona meant a mask worn by actors to indicate the role they played. On this level, it is an asset in mixing with other people. It is also useful as a protective covering. Close friends may know us for what we are; the rest of the world knows only what we choose to show them. Indeed, without an outer layer of some kind, we are simply too vulnerable. Only the foolish and naive attempt to move through life without a persona.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 42)
Protecting oneself, yes, that is important. I think it is also about respecting others and where they are in their own development of self. I do have a a different opinion when it comes to what Daryl Sharp says about “close friends.” I don’t think that anyone can know me as I know me. Some of what I “know” is always going to remain behind a veil. It is simply enough that I know. There is nothing to gain in terms of relationships to expose all. As well, I don’t know if I have the words to share this knowing with others. I may be aware of these things of my “self” but must live with my “complexes” that moderate my exposing of these contents, even to the closest person in my life.
Another point I would like to make is that others know things about myself to which I am blind. Should I be told about them, I would likely protest that I am not like that, that I never said those things, or showed those attitudes. I still have blind spots and my complexes do come out to play without my permission or awareness. As much as I would like to think I control everything about my presentation of “self” to the world, my ego consciousness is limited in terms of the overall “self” that lays under the persona and ego.
Like Changzhou, China, I continue to build on the foundations of who I was. Tomorrow, I will be yet a different man with a different face. But each day, the Real Robert stands here, an authentic man even though each day will transform who that Real Robert is – this is what individuation is all about.
I was able to catch this fellow during the ten minute break while teaching yesterday morning. Yes, I take the camera with me when I teach on campus as well. You never know when an image will show up. To capture this image I had to use a fast exposure time (1/640) . I took a few quick shots (burst) in a row hoping for at least one good image. Luckily a few good ones were my reward.
I have been talking about love and complexes, about how we seem to be possessed and lose conscious control. We love in spite of what we tell ourselves. We also hate in spite of what we consciously tell ourselves. And we think that this love and hate are about the other people rather than “stuff” that lurks unknown to us in our inner depths. This “stuff” is just another name for complexes. Yes, more than one complex hides in the darkness of inner spaces. In fact, there are quite a number of these complexes, each with its own “personality” so to speak. In the most severe instances, we have MPD – multiple personality disorder – where these different complexes forcibly take control of the “self” shoving the ego aside as if it is the weakest link, which in fact is most likely the truth. Thankfully for the vast majority of us, MPD is just something we read about in books, often books that mistakenly believe that there are “outer” forces taking over as if an alien invasion.
That said, the complexes do exist and do find a way to have a say in our lives. As both Jung and Sharp point out, these complexes form our personality in conjunction with our typology – a harmonious blend, so to speak. But not always so harmonious:
“To sum up: complexes have a tendency to live their own lives in spite of our conscious intentions. Both our personal unconscious and the collective unconscious consist of an unknown number of these fragmentary personalities. This actually explains a lot that is otherwise quite puzzling, like the fact that one is able to dramatize mental contents. When someone creates a character on the stage, or in a poem or novel, it is not simply a product of that person’s imagination. Writers may deny that their work has psychological meaning, but in fact you can read their mind when you study the characters they create.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 40-41)
I want to add to Sharp’s final words – one can not only read their mind, one can also read their shadow contents, stuff that they are even aware of as existing within themselves. No wonder they are so quick to deny. They really are unaware of their own inner personalities, their complexes. The ego doesn’t know it all, it only knows what is on the surface. Like this butterfly flying high, the only reality is that which is exposed to the light of consciousness. The rest? Well, one can always believe it doesn’t exist and find themselves “victims” of life.
Another bird that seems to work hard at not getting his photograph taken finally was able to be captured by the new camera and lens. There are a few species still avoiding the same fate as they are very skittish whenever I get within range of the 250 mm lens, for example, a bird that I refer to as a white-winged blackbird. I have spotted herons, doves, sparrows and magpies in the city as well.
I took this photo from a fourth story window opening. In the background, barely recognisable are the two characters that say Changzhou, the other characters aren’t familiar enough to be so easily recognized in a blur state – perhaps the third character is the number two, perhaps.
The past number of days, I have wandered around the mine field of typology in hopes of somehow being able to both express some Jungian ideas while at the same time come to an increasingly better understanding of my “nature.” I don’t for a moment thing that being able to recognise that I am an introvert by disposition and that my intuitive function is my strong suit with my sensation function being the weakest function, allows me to say that I know myself. There is so much more to knowing oneself than to be able to use an almost secret code that is limited to those who are initiated to the MBTI.
“Wrestling with your typological orientation is a good start in understanding who you are. But it is child’s play compared to to becoming acquainted with your complexes.
Complexes are normal and present in everyone, they are the building blocks of personality. Just as atoms and molecules are the invisible components of physical objects, so complexes are the hidden parts o ourselves; they comprise our identity and are what makes us tick.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 37)
As Sharp goes on the explain, complexes are seen as negative things, something that indicates some level of dysfunction, some malfunction of our brain, something that needs to be fixed. Well, complexes can erupt into one’s life making that life shear misery, a living hell. But, this isn’t what complexes are all about. Complexes only cause us grief when we are unconscious of them, when we don’t consider just why we act the way we act at any given time. How does one understand oneself with code letters when one gets angry? Any time that we “feel” an emotion in response to an image, a situation, a presence, a complex has been activated.
I guess I have opened up another can of worms here in introducing the subject of complexes. I hope that you will bear with me as I stumble through this minefield over the next while.