Author Topic: Working with Complexes  (Read 15896 times)

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Working with Complexes
« on: June 04, 2007, 09:51:56 PM »
I moved this from another topic to its own thread.

Pre-apologize for my rambling, incoherent muddle of a post on this . . . but it's a very important topic that I hope we will discuss.

-Matt



My question is this:  how does one know when one is under the influence of a complex or reacting in a way not fully conscious?  What are the clues or signs?  How can I begin to get out of one?

Big questions . . . and ones that even a self-appointed pundit like me knows he can't answer in any credible way (which doesn't mean I won't try  (-)howdy(-)).  I can only speak about my own complexes.  I recognized them because they compelled me to do things that I didn't entirely agree with, or that I felt guilty about, or that were destructive to me (and often to others).  I tried to look at these times as objectively as I could (which, I feel inclined to say, is not all that objectively!).  I realized that I did not want what they led me to.  In essence, I saw that they were irrational, but that they had power over me (power I wished they didn't have).

So the first questions I asked were, "What is this power and where does it come from?"  Of course, we also ask, "And how do I stop it from controlling me?" but that ends up being a kind of "false question", I think.  That is, I don't think we can really throw off our complexes or somehow excise them through some act of realization or will.

As we follow them down the rabbit hole, we start to see how deeply and thoroughly interconnected they are with parts of ourself that are valuable and cannot be removed.  So I think we are left to bargain with the complex.  First we have to figure out the god (i.e., the intelligent will) behind the complex.  What we perceive of the complex is not the god, but our unconscious reaction to the god.  But if we follow that down far enough, we will find the "toad at the bottom of the well".  There are an infinite number of fairytales that talk about such a journey (some of which we may have posted in the fairytale section).

I think this "hidden god" is a piece of the Self that has been prevented from healthy functioning, prevented from getting its will to live into the act of living for the whole organism.  Probably, it has been stifled, because we formulated a defensive ego-strategy to protect ourselves from violation in this particular psychic spot (although there is often a bodily component to go along with this wound, a place of "sacred injury" on our flesh that we associate with the wound).

What I think is usually in order next is to find a way to dialog with the god of this wound, to find out what it needs, how it wants to live.  Then you have to ally yourself with this will, and set off to take on the flawed ego-strategy that has covered over this sacred injury.  I.e., the so-called Hero's Journey, in which you try to find a braver way of addressing this wound and taking on the ego-strategy which will seem to have demonic power.

The trick of such a heroic journey is not that one merely needs to be brave and strong and conquer the obstacle or demon.  It's much harder than that, I'm afraid  ;D!  It turns out (and it will always come as a surprise) that the courage you muster is not meant to conquer the foe, but to, in essence, conquer oneself.  That is, to change . . . and to change in such a way that you (the heroic ego-strategy) and the demonic ego-strategy are conjoined.  In essence, the hero finds she is, in some sense, the Wounder and aggravator of her own Wound.  The demon-ego (i.e., the shadow) is not the Other, but the mirror-self.  As long as we show it aggression, it will be empowered, it will have power over us.

Somewhat shockingly (it seems), we eventually come to the realization that we (i.e., our heroic strategy) must be willing to sacrifice our own aggression, our own heroism even, because only with this sacrifice can the complex be depotentiated.  We can recognize this rather convoluted dynamic because we have come to recognize that we have the power to create and sustain the demon.  It is not Other.  But its power or gravity is Other.  I mean, we can't just snap our fingers and "take back our power".  We can only take back our lost/unconscious empowerment of the shadow, that fixation of energy onto this demon.  The power or libido itself belongs to the Self, but it has been displaced or misappropriated by the demonic strategy/complex.

But as we claim that demon, that shadow, we see and feel that the Self was always behind this whole quest, that it coaxed us into heroism and drove us to this showdown only to show us that we ourselves (the ego) were responsible for splitting off our demon natures.  And it is therefore only in our self-sacrifice (the sacrifice of the heroic strategy to the devotion to the Self instead of to the Foe, the Enemy) that we are able to depotentiate this Foe.  The hero and the monster are one in this sense.  It is the hero in us that takes us through hell and right smack up against the mirror.  But if we run off and keep trying to play hero after this confrontation, we'll lose ourselves back in the complex. 

Wow, that was really convoluted and sloppy.  Sorry about that.  I could probably word that a lot more clearly, but my mind is a bit heavy now.  Or rather my heart.

What I really wanted to get to with this complex analogy, though, is that for some complexes, I think there is no absolute resolution.  We can go through something like that convoluted process above (which is probably even more convoluted than my description is  ;D), and we may find that there is something so essential to us in the complex that all we can ever do is form a good, conscious relationship with it.  This is the way it seems to be with my own core complex, the scapegoat/shaman complex.  I have tried for so long to get rid of it, get the best of it, "solve" it, but my life keeps reinforcing it . . . and every step forward I've made (in my Work or in my personal satisfaction or self-acceptance) has been a step deeper into the complex.  That is, a step in which I have found myself faced with the "reinforcement" of the complex in the real world.  Even after I learned how not to see myself as the creature of this complex, someone else always comes along to see me as it.

It brings you to a point in which you have to make friends with the Wound.  You accept that some things are going to make it hurt or spark up . . . but you can also get to a point in which this makes you feel alive, feel human (instead of a creature of the complex).  Sounds contradictory, but after doing all this complex work, you have probably crafted a whole myth of yourself that flows from the Wound.  That is, from the Wound and not from the defense of the Wound.  So getting pushed back into that Wound, which is ever-raw, hurts like hell, but it also returns you to the sense of your own myth, the will that pushes you to live.  Suffering consciously and creatively like this is one of the most alive, most human experiences we can have, I think.

Casteneda (as I learned from the Shame article I mentioned previously) said to break routines; that if you recognize a familiar pattern, you should purposefully do the opposite thing.  What is your method?  My powers of rationalization are strong, so I’m always wondering if I’m just talking myself into something or if it’s based on something more solid.

If you can break a compulsive pattern by the "magic of opposition" then that's great.  Try it, if it works consider yourself lucky, I guess.  I haven't had such luck.  The problem with complexes (in the Jungian sense of the term) is that every complex is one thing and its opposite both.  So, for me, the manifest complex is the scapegoat, but its flipside is the shaman.  If I try to break away from the scapegoat by acting the shaman, I have achieved only the repression of the scapegoat and an inflation.  More importantly, these complexes are very deep.  Deeper than habit or addiction.  Some strand of these complexes goes all the way down to the Self, to the instincts, the "inner being", the source of libido.

Usually "magic" cures are symbolic.  They are like talismans.  These magic talismans are equivalent, I think, to the power of realization to cure neurosis.  Both Freud and Jung dabbled with this notion that initially, i.e., that bringing the patient to an awareness of the root cause of his or her complex would free them from it, or at least free up some libido for other uses.  And, sometimes, for whatever reason, this will work.  But usually, with true complexes (and not merely superficial bad habits or bad strategies), this just doesn't work.  I.e., willfulness does "cure complexes.  Rather, one must surrender to an instinctual process (which can become the Work).  I knew the root cause of my complex in my early teens.  It didn't make any difference.  It still compelled me and got me into all kinds of trouble.  To me reason and magic are about equally effective with complexes.  Both amount mostly to just throwing certain words at the complex.  But the complex wants some deep relationship, a mutual journey, even a painful compromise . . . like the way Persephone had to live in the underworld part of every year for eating the pomegranate seeds.  That myth is really a very good myth about the complex, I think.

The painful compromise is felt in the change of the seasons . . . that's how deep, how natural it is.  Persephone is a victim, but she is also a queen.  She become empowered by her "compromise" with Hades.  Even the enraged or woeful Demeter has to make a major compromise.  But in the end we get a sometimes happy Demeter, a functional change of seasons for humankind, a happier Hades, a sometimes happy Persephone (or perhaps always happy as she gets to live in both worlds).  It's a new order, but it works.  There's equilibrium even though it all began in trauma.  This is a lot like the new, adaptive strategies that can come with the Work, I think.  It's never what you expect, never as great as you desire, but you find, in the end, that it works, it's functional.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sophia

  • Known Members
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2007, 08:22:51 AM »
Matt, i like very much what you said about the comprise of Persephone in the Hades and that of Demeter. i resonate so much. I think life itself is a big comprise that each of us have to make. The Chinese philosophy emphasizes on the harmony between the sky, the eath and the man, being in the middle, man has to make out the best comprise of the sky and the earth in himself.

i was just wondering, how you could have figured out your own complex: Scapegoat/shaman---and your "unconscious reaction" to which God. how each person, could possibly figure out his own complexes---its relation to Gods? i know about Jung's Association test only superficially, but i wonder what other methods we could possibly use to find out in this work? you said that finding  out one's complex does not necessarily free ourselves from them, then what for finding them out, just to cohabite with them with more tranquility? just to tell ourselves---OK this is the point of comprise that i've to make?

do people suffer from the same "disease" have the similar relationship to the same God? i think of all the schizophrenic, and all the anorexic etc. i understand that the complex of each of them much be very personally related, but at a deeper level, are all the anorexic "responde" to the same God? are all the schizophrenic? and who is this God?

thank you. Sophia




Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2007, 10:14:21 AM »
Sophia,
A good starting place is the Jung Lexicon, found several places on the internet.  Here is what the Lexicon says about "complexes:"
Quote
Complex. An emotionally charged group of ideas or images. (See also Word Association Experiment.)

Quote
[A complex] is the image of a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally and is, moreover, incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness.["A Review of the Complex Theory," CW 8, par. 201.]

Quote
The via regia to the unconscious . . . is not the dream, as [Freud] thought, but the complex, which is the architect of dreams and of symptoms. Nor is this via so very "royal," either, since the way pointed out by the complex is more like a rough and uncommonly devious footpath.[ Ibid., par. 210.]

Formally, complexes are "feeling-toned ideas" that over the years accumulate around certain archetypes, for instance "mother" and "father." When complexes are constellated, they are invariably accompanied by affect. They are always relatively autonomous.

Quote
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.[Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour," ibid., par. 253.]

Quote
Complexes are in fact "splinter psyches." The aetiology of their origin is frequently a so-called trauma, an emotional shock or some such thing, that splits off a bit of the psyche. Certainly one of the commonest causes is a moral conflict, which ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one's nature.["A Review of the Complex Theory," ibid., par. 204.]

Quote
Everyone knows nowadays that people "have complexes." What is not so well known, though far more important theoretically, is that complexes can have us.[Ibid., par. 200.]

Jung stressed that complexes in themselves are not negative; only their effects often are. In the same way that atoms and molecules are the invisible components of physical objects, complexes are the building blocks of the psyche and the source of all human emotions.

Quote
Complexes are focal or nodal points of psychic life which we would not wish to do without; indeed, they should not be missing, for otherwise psychic activity would come to a fatal standstill.["A Psychological Theory of Types," CW 6, par. 925.]

Quote
Complexes obviously represent a kind of inferiority in the broadest sense . . . [but] to have complexes does not necessarily indicate inferiority. It only means that something discordant, unassimilated, and antagonistic exists, perhaps as an obstacle, but also as an incentive to greater effort, and so, perhaps, to new possibilities of achievement.[Ibid., par. 925.]

Quote
Some degree of one-sidedness is unavoidable, and, in the same measure, complexes are unavoidable too.["Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour," CW 8, par. 255.]

The negative effect of a complex is commonly experienced as a distortion in one or other of the psychological functions (feeling, thinking, intuition and sensation). In place of sound judgment and an appropriate feeling response, for instance, one reacts according to what the complex dictates. As long as one is unconscious of the complexes, one is liable to be driven by them.

Quote
The possession of complexes does not in itself signify neurosis . . . and the fact that they are painful is no proof of pathological disturbance. Suffering is not an illness; it is the normal counterpole to happiness. A complex becomes pathological only when we think we have not got it.[Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life," CW 16, par. 179.]

Identification with a complex, particularly the anima/animus and the shadow, is a frequent source of neurosis. The aim of analysis in such cases is not to get rid of the complexes-as if that were possible-but to minimize their negative effects by understanding the part they play in behavior patterns and emotional reactions.

Quote
A complex can be really overcome only if it is lived out to the full. In other words, if we are to develop further we have to draw to us and drink down to the very dregs what, because of our complexes, we have held at a distance.["Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype," CW 9i, par. 184.]


This copy of the Jung Lexicon is found at:  http://www.voidspace.org.uk/psychology/jung_lexicon.shtml

The archetype at the core of a complex is the "god" you ask about. 
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2007, 05:03:54 PM »
i was just wondering, how you could have figured out your own complex: Scapegoat/shaman---and your "unconscious reaction" to which God. how each person, could possibly figure out his own complexes---its relation to Gods?

Hi Sophia,

I guess recognition of the complex always begins in overwhelming psychic pain.  Although my parents are very good people in most ways, there was a big shaming dynamic going on in my family.  This had mostly to do with the fact that my mother was raised by a shaming mother, and had to carry the shadow projection of her mother.  But this enormous burden was something my mother had not at all resolved by the time I was born . . . and becoming a mother herself threw her back into the shaming complex.

But this time she had to assume the mother's role, so now she was both the shamer and the shamed . . . a completely new and terrifying experience for her.  This manifested in a blaming me for not loving her in the way a mother is supposed to love a child.  That is, she sought the unrequited love of her mother in me . . . that unconditional, maternal, protecting love.  This problem was accentuated by my masculinity.  My mother's father had been her sanctuary, her escape from the shaming mother.  She idealized him . . . and always carried an idealized masculine or paternal archetype in her psyche.

So this was the situation I was put into: I "had" to become the redeeming masculine who could put my mother in touch with her positive mother (the positive, all-loving mother that she never had and so sought to become herself).  But, of course, this is an impossible mission for a small child.  I had a will of my own . . . and it was by no means perfect and all-loving.  Every time I asserted my will in a way that was not demonstrably all-loving and all-sacrificing (i.e., maternal), my mother was heartbroken and shamed me, accusing me of being hateful and selfish.  This began in infancy for me, so I grew up from a pre-conscious, pre-lingual state directly into a context of shame and scapegoating.

As this wound in my mother was terribly deep and powerful, its affliction on me became traumatizing.  So even though I wouldn't describe my mother as abusive (and I should point out that, not surprisingly, her behavior was "bi-polar" and balanced out with a kind of smothering, invasive love), I grew up with a radically traumatized psyche.  That is, I have the psychology of an abused person . . . very similar to one who has been sexually or physically abused, repeatedly and ritually, over a long period of time.

But I not only inherited my mother's projected shame, I also inherited her idealized masculinity (the unconscious opposite polarity to her shame).  So the hero archetype was very powerfully constituted in me.  I had to rely on the hero to survive the devouring shame and scapegoating.  And I became, in certain ways, enormously heroic.  That is, I became a "conquerer of darkness" and also an "un-devourable element".  All of the unconscious, projected shame that was thrown at me only placed greater demands on my heroism.  And I fought viciously with my mother from at least my early adolescence onward.  I kept fighting until I became stronger in my heroism than she was in her shaming.  And then I saw that I had conquered her . . . and that I had become, therefore, terrible.  Because all along, she had been weak, injured, and needy.  I had become shamefully heroic.

In effect, she had given away her own heroism largely to me (via projection).  I had developed the heroic ability to defeat her demons that she could never embrace . . . because she embraced her weakness, her shamefulness most of all.

Of course, this was only the very beginning of my conscious confrontation with the complex (the scapegoat/shaman or hero complex).  Having become conscious of the fact that the shame I had been reared on was not originally mine, and that something strong in me had survived and seen through this, I also became conscious of a new birth within me: the birth of the ascending hero.  That is, I had always (like my mother) kept my hero in the shadow and identified with my shame . . . so now the hero was emerging from the shadow.  I wasn't yet able to fully realize that it, too, belonged to the Wound (and therefore, too the Other).

But, although I might have thought the shame was hard to bear, I was in for the most traumatic episode of my life, because the hero/shaman was drastically more menacing and dangerous.  When something wells up out of the shadow, it is filled with numen and driven by the compensatory Self, by instinct and Otherness.  So my recognition of the emergent hero came simultaneously with the birth of the Self or god within me.  As a result, my ego, my sense of who I was, was simply obliterated . . . and I became more or less psychotic.  That is, I had no functional ego left to ground me or keep me adapted to the outside world.

What I had was only the powerful, numinous flow of libido from the instinctual unconscious.  I was inclined, for whatever reason, to trust this libido implicitly and allow it to go to work on me . . . which it did, gradually reconstructing me through a psychic, alchemical process.  What I would now call the first (pre-conscious) stages of the Work.  And what I more recently realized was the classic shamanic dismemberment/reconstitution experience.  The emergent heroic-ego in my psyche was being courted and refined by the instinctual Self through the emissary Jung called the anima  (you can check out the first chapters of my Anima Work journal for more detail on this).

The hero archetype, as it evolves, is the archetype that is able to love and seeks to understand the Self or the instincts/archetypes.  This figure rises up in the psyche in compliment to the anima or animus.  Together they form the syzygy or the alchemical pair of Sol and Luna.  The syzygy represents the return to the instinctual center of the unconscious in post-adolescence.  The instinctual drive here (which I have been calling the super-adaptive instinct) seeks to reorient the ego to the instinctual Self, the source of libido.  In infancy and early childhood, our orientation to the instinctual unconscious is akin to our orientation to the Mother or the Parent in general.  That is, the Mother provides for, sustains, enables, and protects us as infants.

But as we approach adolescence, we enter more and more into a peer environment.  There we are socialized.  This is something that has been noted by some of the evolutionary psychologists (see Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and Judith Rich Harris's The Nurture Assumption).  That is, adult personality formation seems to mostly consist of peer learning and genetic predispositions . . . meaning, the way our parents raise us (barring trauma) is a smaller factor.  Very shocking and counter-intuitive, but my understanding is that a number of studies have supported this idea.  It definitely accords with my own experience.

But, using that model, adulthood then becomes a period of giving up some of our socialization and adolescent peer learning for our more genetic inclinations . . . or as we romantically call it, our "true selves".  These "true selves" tend to have a lot more in common with our parents' traits than with our peers' or societies'.  Again, this has accorded with my own experience.  I am pretty much a perfect alchemical combination of my parents' personality traits: half mystic (mother), half rationalist (father), aggressive (mother), but pretty tolerant and patient (father), interested in depth psychology (mother) and also rationalistic science and secular humanism (father), manic-depressive (mother) and obsessive-compulsive (father) . . . and on and on.

What I think is happening with the archetype/instinct of the syzygy is that the ego is being wooed back to its innate, instinctual source and compelled to restructure its' living strategies.  In Jungian terms, individuation.  As this progresses, our orientation toward the Self transforms drastically.  Instead of seeking out a return to a providential or maternal notion of the unconscious, we are compelled to formulate a sustaining, facilitating attitude.  The gods of the unconscious no longer provide for our needs (with "manna"), rather we maintain and enable the libido of the Self to flow adaptively into the world.

The hero archetype then is the instinctual force that encourages this more adult, responsible role for the ego in the psyche.  The hero is willing to surrender to the task of facilitating the instinctual unconscious as opposed to his mirror-self, the aspect of the personal shadow that wants to perpetuate maternal providence indefinitely.  So the hero is always a split archetype: one half wants to enable the Self-as-Other, while the other half wants to usurp or be enabled by the Self-as-Mother/Provider.  This is why the hero's final and greatest battle is with himself.  It is only his own usurpatious, infantile desire to be eternally provided for that is his true enemy.  In myths and fairytales, the enemy is usually externalized onto a villain or monster . . . but this sacrifice/providence dynamic is something that can be universally observed.

Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort are perhaps the most fleshed out hero/shadow twins to come along in a long while.  One could learn everything one needs to know about this dynamic from reading the Harry Potter books.

So, back to my personal relationship to the complex.  The scapegoat/shaman complex is "perfect" for orienting one to the Work, because the hero is so powerfully constellated.  But the Work then involves a great deal of differentiation of the shaman/hero/messiah archetype from the ego . . . which is very tricky business, because this archetype seems "all-good" and redeeming.  But what happens is that the scapegoat or the shamed shadow of the shaman plays head games with the ego by "impersonating" the hero.  You see, the hero is strong, transcendent, powerful, self-assured, highly skilled.  The still largely obliterated ego looks at that emergent archetype and say, "Hmm . . . if I could be like that in real life, I would be sittin' pretty!"

So there is a desire to "put on the costume" of the hero in order to formulate a defensive persona, the white knight who can deal with any crisis, solve any problem, help any suffering soul.  There are plenty of people out there who want to be saved, healed, and enlightened . . . and if you can learn how to appeal to this unconscious need in them and flash the numinous "mana-personality" around (a kind of psychic sleight of hand), you can not only attract them to you, you might even really be able to bring them a little meaning or aid.  I.e., transference/countertransference or the placebo effect.  And if we are able to attract such people and supporters, we can use them to further fortify ourselves against our own shadows, the fact that we feel insecure and terrified about the potential of our true heroism.  Of course, these "friends" can never be intimates, because they don't see the real you.  They can only be disciples and believers.

The true hero, though, is nothing like this glorious.  The hero's real "job" is to die.  If you are a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, there is a time in the fourth season when Buffy is haunted by visions of the "First Slayer".  She finally learns that "Death is your gift".  And in the next season she does willingly go to her death to save the world.  The season after this, she is resurrected.

This is the hero's journey.  The heroic deed is self-sacrifice . . . and it is only through self-sacrifice that we can be reborn.  Psychologically, this is the sacrifice of greed for providence from the unconscious, the sacrifice of any hope to be able to use the numinous power of the instinctual unconscious to empower the old ego-strategies.  When the ego aligns itself with the hero, it accepts this sacrifice, choosing instead the Will of the unconscious as reason for living.  In this moment of self-sacrifice, the syzygy is united, the coniunctio . . . because the ego and the Self are joined in one Will.  But the coniunctio's bliss is extremely temporary, because the willingness to self-sacrifice, means that the drive toward the Self (through the anima or animus) is depotentiated in its consummation.  The drive is no longer there to seek the Self as a complimentary Opposite, because the Self has been reached.

But this reunion with the Self is not a fall into Mommy's arms for an eternity of bliss.  In fact, the coniunctio cannot happen until any hope of a return to the Mother is sacrificed (this is why the animi are portrayed as partners and not parental figures . . . and are always radically in conflict with parental figures).  Suddenly, the Self-as-animi is not there, and we are faced with death, depotentiation.  At this point, we must gradually build a new selfhood, a new ego.  It is not going to be given to us by society or directly by the unconscious.  We are self-responsible at this point, even for our own creation.

In alchemy, this is called the Putrefactio.  The symbol of the rotting corpse is the rotting away or sloughing of the old ego strategies.  This is the beginning of individuated consciousness, the real conscious beginning of the Work.  Up to this point, everything only required surrender to the process and it all ran together in one movement (as long as surrender was made) . . . but now we must actively, consciously start peeling away our old flesh.

What we managed to learn from the hero-animi syzygy will be extremely helpful here, but we won't have the instinctual, heroic libido to buoy the process.  We will feel emasculated, maybe even soulless.  But the painful differentiation will eventually reach a stage at which the hunger for revitalization becomes overwhelming and the knowledge of what (in the psyche) is Other and what is ego has primarily been discerned (in alchemy, symbolized by the albedo/whitening or purification).  We will wait around for salvation and wait and wait, and it won't come.  Then we will force ourselves to try to get up and walk, to try to create (recreate ourselves) . . . and only then does the soul return.  It returns almost invisibly in the process of self-creation . . . and along with the conscious will, it co-creates the new personality (the new ego-strategies).

The ego provides its conscious drive and the Self provides those latent genes, the gods.  The ego learns to design its conscious contributions as a kind of shrine into which the gods-as-genes can be born, become mythic.  The ego's contribution is language, a new language that facilitates the mythification of the instinctual, genetic traits.  That is, we must create ourselves consciously by deciding how to tell the stories of what we are and are capable of being.  We make the language that allows us to become fully instinctual (or in Jungian terms, "whole") beings.  And we will be able to know if the language we made was sufficient, because the gods will show up only when we set the table just right, cooking them their favorite dishes, uncorking their favorite bottles of wine.  And there, at the feast, we can sit down and talk with them.  To the gods, we are hosts and servants.  They stay across the table from us.  They are Other.

I performed that language-making, hosting ritual very literally: I wrote a book of poems about it.  It took me about seven years before I got the language just the way the gods wanted it, and ever since then, it has provide many memorable meals and good company.  It has been a text from which I continue to learn about myself.

Throughout this whole process, it became increasingly clear to me that this scapegoat/shaman complex, this place in my psyche that hurt and bled like crazy, was not destructive.  All of the poems I wrote came out of the complex . . . and all of the subsequent prose writing I have done shows clear signs of the complex.  That is, there is in it an ability to clearly see the shadow, to identify with or empathize with it . . . and also to redeem it, to find how it can be useful and golden . . . to transmute its lead.  There is still the hero-shaman with his ambitious descents and ascents, his focus on the journey . . . but also his isolation and loneliness.  Insomuch as this complex drives my writing and living (and the extent is pretty much absolute), I will be drawn to shadows, but see them as rich, untapped mines filled with precious things.  I will continuously risk being a stranger and even a scapegoat in order to serve the task that this complex imprints on everything that mysteriously compels me.

Everything that will have meaning to me will come out of the shadow form some shamanic journey.  That is, things will be meaningful to me insomuch as they can be related to this paradigm, this myth.  I will continuously gravitate toward situations where I might be able to play this out (preferably in some constructive way . . . but if I am unconscious about a prevailing dynamic in a group, I might be drawn toward an inevitable scapegoating).

But one has to have a bit of distance from one's god or complex.  You have to see it as a general pattern that can take on many different manifestations.  If you see it as pure myth that must be literalized, you can fall into an inflation and drive yourself over a cliff or into the wilderness.  The fulfillment of the complex is not at all in its literalization.  One of the many problems with literalization is that one cannot identify with one pole of the complex without engendering the other pole.  One cannot choose literally be the shaman without assuring that one will also have to become the scapegoat in some way.  Or perhaps, the repressed scapegoat will come back to attack the shaman from the unconscious, undermining his efforts to embody the mana-personality.

And if one identifies with the scapegoat, then one is castrated by shame, never getting to utilize one's heroic attributes.

But the complex has to be constellated in order for me to find libido in an action.  So for instance, with the creation of Useless Science, I get to play the "problematic but useful individual" on the fringe of the Jungian tribe.  I can harness my shadow delving to a shamanic task: trying to contribute to the revitalization of Jungian psychology.  It doesn't matter that I am not having an impact on the field . . . or that I may never (either because I lack the intelligence or because the Jungian tribe refuses to grant me a shamanic green card due to me contrariness).  The point (as far as libido reciprocation is concerned) is that I am working within the dynamic of the complex.  This doesn't require that I believe in the complex . . . that I believe I am essential to Jungiana as a shaman (or a scapegoat).  It is only a pattern of interaction in which I can generate energy to be or act or write.  It is a loose framework in which I have to self-create.  If I literalize it overmuch, I lose the necessary flexibility or plasticity required to adapt it to my social situations.

In other words, the complex begins as a wound, but becomes the pattern through which I enter into the world and engage with life.  But to make the complex creative, constructive, and adaptive requires the Work, a re-mythification of the complex that grants it both consciousness and plasticity.  If we use (or are used by) the complex like a sledgehammer to try to smash holes in the world, it will not be adaptive.  Rather, it will destroy and punish us.  We have to learn to mediate between the complex and the world with grace and flexibility.  We need to find a way to boil the complex down to its elements and then apply those elements to living as practically as possible.

To recognize the continuity of one's core complex from a primal Wound to a revitalization and adaptive restructuring, to recognize the pattern emerging in one's life again and again . . . and to learn how to both see it as and mold it to be constructive rather than destructive . . . this is to know one's god.  Or if you are a monotheist, to know God.  This is gnosis.  Life with a god is not typically uplifting or transcendent.  To be both self and Other in one sack of skin is usually painful . . . but always meaningful.  We always reopen our Wounds to come close to our gods.  And the pain of doing this usually distracts us away from really seeing the value of the Wound.

We tend to prefer our gods "out there" in the abstract ether . . . where they are completely under our control.  To believe is to control the gods (or to convince oneself of such a fantasy).  To know is to wrestle with the gods, to know their dangerousness, their desire, their immediacy.  Working with our complexes, then, is a religious process.  A Faith without belief.

You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Keri

  • Dream Work Vessel
  • *
  • Posts: 407
  • Gender: Female
  • Sedna
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2007, 07:59:15 PM »
Dear Matt and Kafiri,

Your words are extremely helpful to me, but I still have more questions.  Sometimes the archetypes are spoken of as archetypes and sometimes as complexes.  Are they both?  If they are also complexes, how can they be instincts - I mean, what is their adaptive role?  I think I'm getting a glimmer of what you mean, Matt.  It's not that you conquer a complex, but recognize it and its effects and work with that consciously as a way of relating?  It's been suggested to me that the Prostitute is my archetype or complex, and when I read about that on an online archetype "gallery," I think it may be true.  I've sacrificed (or "sold") a lot (maybe all) of myself for what I felt was survival.  But I'm getting/remaining confused about some things.  This archetype gallery listed tons of archetypes, but we mainly talk here about a few that seem to play larger roles - the animus/anima as mediator or communicator or reorienter between the Self and Ego, the Hero that seems to be the major player in individuation (the one who pays the ultimate sacrifice).  Are the others as important, or important at different times in life, or just complexes that some people fall into, or something else I'm not understanding?  I've read that complexes are from the personal unconscious and archetypes from the collective unconscious.  Does this mean they're both "archetypes" but that the complexes have more feeling-tone because of associations we make?  Can you have multiple things going on at once?  For example, starting on the individuation process/hero journey but still be under the influence of different complexes?  It seems to me that what I really need to do is differentiate - everything is all a muddle because I'm not using my functions well; everything still seems pre-conscious to me.  I think I'm getting closer, but I haven't figured out how to discern or discriminate or differentiate, or whatever the proper verb is.  Sophia, your questions have really helped me figure out what my own questions are!

Yours, Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2007, 09:27:19 AM »
Quote from: keri
Dear Matt and Kafiri,

Your words are extremely helpful to me, but I still have more questions.  Sometimes the archetypes are spoken of as archetypes and sometimes as complexes.  Are they both? 

No.  See the Lexicon above,
Quote
Formally, complexes are "feeling-toned ideas" that over the years accumulate around certain archetypes, for instance "mother" and "father." When complexes are constellated, they are invariably accompanied by affect. They are always relatively autonomous.
Quote from: keri

If they are also complexes, how can they be instincts - I mean, what is their adaptive role?  I think I'm getting a glimmer of what you mean, Matt.  It's not that you conquer a complex, but recognize it and its effects and work with that consciously as a way of relating?

Keri,
The analog I use for complexes is the weather.  I cannot control the weather, I cannot change it has an existence of it's own.  However, to survive I need to watch the weather, for if I don't a tornado, blizzard or hurricane may come along and kill or injure me. Most of the time the weather is somewhat benign and I can unconsciously adapt to it.  What I have do is be aware of when a dangerous weather condition exists(complex), and take action.  For example, out here on the plains when a tornado comes I need to consciously take action, and get to a safe place.
Quote from: keri

It's been suggested to me that the Prostitute is my archetype or complex, and when I read about that on an online archetype "gallery," I think it may be true.  I've sacrificed (or "sold") a lot (maybe all) of myself for what I felt was survival.  But I'm getting/remaining confused about some things.  This archetype gallery listed tons of archetypes, but we mainly talk here about a few that seem to play larger roles - the animus/anima as mediator or communicator or reorienter between the Self and Ego, the Hero that seems to be the major player in individuation (the one who pays the ultimate sacrifice).  Are the others as important, or important at different times in life, or just complexes that some people fall into, or something else I'm not understanding?  I've read that complexes are from the personal unconscious and archetypes from the collective unconscious.  Does this mean they're both "archetypes" but that the complexes have more feeling-tone because of associations we make?  Can you have multiple things going on at once?  For example, starting on the individuation process/hero journey but still be under the influence of different complexes?  It seems to me that what I really need to do is differentiate - everything is all a muddle because I'm not using my functions well; everything still seems pre-conscious to me.  I think I'm getting closer, but I haven't figured out how to discern or discriminate or differentiate, or whatever the proper verb is.  Sophia, your questions have really helped me figure out what my own questions are!

Yours, Keri


Keri,
The myth of Persephone may help you understand something of the process; particularly when she had to separate the seeds. But to help you understand the difference between an archetype and a complex consider this:  Jung tells us that the archetypes comes to us genetically.  The archetypes are like a saturated solution of a chemical, say salt.  When environmental conditions are right the salt will crystallize and precipitate out, the form of the crystal was there, hidden in the liquid all the time, archetypes are like this also.  Something in the environment will cause a given, or particular archetype to constellate or precipitate, this gives rise to our individual experience of the environment and our behavior toward the particular environment. Since the particular interaction between the archetype and the environment is unique and personal, it ends up in the personal unconscious.  Also, somewhere I have read Jung saying that there are as many archetypes as there are typical situations-I don't have time today to find it, but if and when I come across it I will send it to you.
Hope this helps a bit.
Cheers,
Kafiri
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Keri

  • Dream Work Vessel
  • *
  • Posts: 407
  • Gender: Female
  • Sedna
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2007, 09:44:38 AM »
Dear Kafiri,

It does help a bit, thanks.  I'll look for the myth Persephone also.  One reason I think I'm also having difficulty because I'm confusing the personification of the drive with the thing itself (eg, thinking of the Hero as some other entity I have to relate to rather than as the drive to connect with the Self or form a new relationship with the Self).  Is this because this is the most helpful way to think of it, or because it's the only way our minds can conceive of it?

I guess recognition of the complex always begins in overwhelming psychic pain. 

This one I understand!  :)

Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Keri

  • Dream Work Vessel
  • *
  • Posts: 407
  • Gender: Female
  • Sedna
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2007, 09:48:44 AM »
Oh, whoops, I just saw again Matt's previous post on "Defining Archetype."  It will probably help a lot to read this again! (-)laugh(-)
Love, Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Sophia

  • Known Members
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2007, 10:30:42 AM »
Dear Kafiri, thanks for the link. i have one copy of it, but i think i lack in profund understanding of the lexicons. in fact each item inside seems a whole thick book to me, i will try my best.

Dear Matt, thanks for such a long detailed response. i don't know how to describe my feelings but it seemed as if i read part of my own path of growth. thanks for your generosity to share. the hero's journey is so moving.

my mother is, like your mother, the bi-polar type during the time when she was not absent. but due to her early traumas, she is not only shameful, but above all narcissic. Yes she Is a narcissic parent.  life was impossible with her in the eyesight. in short, i finished by cutting off from her totally. Though i recognize her weakness, neediness, fragility in being a narcissic, i can't make up with her since i'm always in pain. but like you i feel that i would not have succeeded in what i've succeeded without her--the strong amimus projection that i inherited from her. Like you i suffer a lot.  but i always think, i'm not the only child in such a situation, there are millions of persons in this world whose parents don't have a balanced psychology and project their own shadow over their children, but not very child finishes by being burned up by a heavy complex and become psychotic. what could make the difference?

i made an enormous error in thinking that a God correspondre to a certain complex. and you're right that the God is the projection of something from within. from your experience it does not seem that recognizing one's complex is such an easy thing, it takes so much time and so many pains.

i found this forum extremely attractive, above all by your sincerity and honesty. there is something very appeasing here, and believe even for those who have not registered as simple guests, many people somehow get healed in simply reading the posts. Matt, you're doing the right thing. your journey is not only worthwhile for yourself, but also for many many people like me, best,  Sophia

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Archetypal Foot in Mouth
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2007, 10:55:17 AM »
Everyone,
I mis-wrote earlier; the myth I wanted to refer Keri to is the Psyche-Eros myth, NOT the Persephone myth.  Sorry, for the error.
Kafiri
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2007, 01:30:42 PM »
Dear Keri,

I think you put your finger on one of the major problems with Jungian theory.  The confusion over archetypes and complexes is mostly due, I think, to the fact that the Jungians didn't pursue the phylogenetic angle after Jung (or even during his life, I think) until around 1982, when Anthony Stevens published Archetype (I'm reading the 2003 update of this book now, Archetype Revisited, and this should have been a revolutionary text in Jungian psychology, yet it was largely ignored or not incorporated).  Still, Jungian interest in evolutionary biology didn't really start to stir until the late 1990s . . . and even today only a handful of Jungians have embraced evolutionary biology's contributions.  Stevens points out in Archetype Revisited that of the (at the most) 10 people that have seen (and written about) the overlap in Jungian thinking and evolutionary biology, only two or three are actually Jungian analysts.  Most are from other fields.  Bruce MacLennan for instance, who recently stopped by Useless Science to leave a post (after we mentioned his article and Kafiri e-mailed him a question about it), is a computer scientist.

Before I saw your post last night, I was reading Stevens' book and thinking that, even with the recognition that Jungian archetypes have a distinct biological dimension, it's still difficult to decide what to actually call an archetype.  I feel you have to go with the one's Jung focused so much on, like the animi, the shadow, the Self, the wise old woman/man, the Mother and Father, the Hero.  These are the personifiable archetypes, the "archetypal personages" that are perceived to have numinous Will and autonomy.  But there is definitely a hierarchy of archetypes.  For instance, the anima, Mother, heroine, and wise woman all belong to the archetype of the Feminine . . . and one finds in the anima work that the anima manifests maternal, heroic, and wise woman qualities at various stages.  And, of course, the animus, Father, wise old man, and hero all belong to an archetype of the Masculine.

To make things even more confusing, the shadow is an archetype that, at its core, represents all that is non-ego and potentially threatening to the ego.  But the most threatening psychic element to the ego's fixed strategies and sense of identity is clearly the Self, which drives and regulates all libido through the ego.  So the shadow and the Self, on a core archetypal level, are inextricable.  One of the reasons I often talk about the Shadow-Self or the Self-as-Other.  But wait, there's more!

What we can observe in the animi work is that the animi are emissaries from or representations of the Will of the Self.  The animi are also first perceived in or as shadow, and become more and more clearly defined as the animi work progresses.  So there you go, the list of the key Jungian archetypes above all boil down to one!  Not terribly helpful if we hoped to find some kind of one-to-one correlation between a specific archetype and a specific instinct.

It makes me suspect that the archetypal hierarchies and differentiations we tend to make have a high degree of arbitrariness to them.  Eventually, we begin confusing them with typical ego strategies and attitudes.  I guess I would favor a definition of archetype that is pretty strict about an archetype showing clear signs of evolution and a clear drive to adapt the organism to its environment (specifically its environment of evolutionary adaptedness).  So you mention the Prostitute, but that sounds more like an ego-strategy to me . . . unless you relate it all the way back to the Goddess religions and the Sacred Prostitute or priestess.  At that point, though, we are really getting into the archetypal Feminine . . . and so we would lose the sense that the archetype or attitude can somehow symbolize one's personal egoic ur-strategy.

Which brings us to the difference between complexes and archetypes.  I tried to write about this last night, but I was too tired and couldn't make as clear a distinction as I would have liked.  Hopefully a night's sleep will have done the trick.

The major confusion between complexes and archetype (in my opinion) is that complexes have archetypes in them.  As Jung said, the gods have become diseases in the modern world.  Sometimes Jung seemed to downplay the issue that complexes are neurotic in character.  Perhaps he wanted to distinguish his theory from Freud's (as Jung surely felt Freud overly pathologized healthy, natural, archetypal forces).  Or perhaps he just took it for granted that his readers would not forget that complexes were neurotic in character [His warning quoted in the Lexicon entry in Kafiri's post above not to confuse suffering with illness, though certainly wise, only serves to muddy the issue of complexes, in my opinion.  We generally don't become aware of a complex until its "pathological fallout" trips us up.  The core of the complex (what I am calling the Wound, to differentiate) is not pathological, but it is usually "tender".  It's the reaction to the Wound, the dissociation of a "splinter-psyche" (which I've called a "maniacally fortified ego-strategy") to deal with the Wound's tenderness that is notably pathological, neurotic, or maladaptive.]  But the long and the short of it is that, when stricken with or possessed by an unexamined or unacknowledged complex, we do not live fully.  The complex restrains our ability to achieve equilibrium with the environment and therefore generates stress.

I see the process going something like this.  We are struck with a primal Wound, some kind of trauma.  Something from the outside punctures our ego and leaves a gaping hole in it.  The ego's main desire is to protect itself, its sense of identity.  It also seeks self-enablement, but I think  its primary concern in such pursuits is still defensive.  Empowerment is fortification.  The ego is concerned with its coherence more than anything else.  But trauma blasts through the ego's coherence like a large asteroid that penetrates the Earth's atmosphere, slams into the crust, and radically disrupts the climatic ecosystem on which all life on the planet depends.

The ego is then "broken" to some degree, and when the ego is broken, the Self (via the super-adaptive instinct, in my theory) self-regulates and tries to encourage a re-strategization that will rebuild ego-coherence in such a way that the ego will function efficiently as an organ that adapts the Self's libido to the outside environment.  But the ego has other plans.  The ego sees its coherence ruptured and wants to patch up this wound with a "perfect strategy" that will never allow such wounding again (or it wants to "splinter off" the Wound, imprisoning it in a kind of fortified, impenetrable Alcatraz).  Of course, there is no perfect strategy for ego-fortification, because the healthy ego is extremely plastic and adaptable.  Building a fortress around the Wound makes for a very rigid, crusty scar that won't flex at all.  But the ego believes in abstract things like perfection.  "First response" is almost always containment, and we'd like to think we can forget about what is contained . . . but it's never so simple.

The ego constructs its initial defensive strategy unconsciously and reflexively.  It is a kind of adaptation, but not an effective one on the long-term.  We don't like to look into our Wounds.  It's very painful . . . and when we find ourselves compulsively reliving our traumas, it prevents us from living effectively.  The ego is a short-term thinker, but healing from trauma takes very long-term strategies.  Also, we do not have the ability to control our Wounds and devise a clever, longer-term strategy.  We react instinctively to damage to our ego-coherence (fight/flight or paralysis/concealment).  We can't reason ourselves into a detachment from our Wounds.  To pay attention to them at all is to writhe with pain (to be thrown into a fight/flight type of defensive response).  So the rigid, fortifying/splintering ego-strategies fall into place around the Wound.  Anything to make the pain stop, to get containment.  And eventually we can get back to some form of living.

But the form of living we get back to is usually stunted in someway.  We tend to follow life paths that takes us as far away from the Wound as possible, away from situations in which the fortress around it might come under attack.  In this kind of behavior, we atrophy pieces of ourselves . . . and this is maladaptive or neurotic.  The autonomous or splintered piece of psyche that characterizes the complex is a dissociation.

The complex then is largely characterized by our maladaptive fortification or concealment strategy.  Sometimes tiptoeing around our Wounds (or trying to live "on the lam" from our Wounds) can upset our behavior so much that we manifest severely neurotic symptoms.  This is accelerated because the Wound is actually a battleground where a war still rages.  The war is between the Self's instinctual libido to self-regulate or heal and the ego's mania for fortifying the Wound.  It becomes an arms race, because the Self is compensatory and powerful, so the ego fortifies with increasing, defensive mania (and Alcatraz gets bigger, crazier, and dangerously over-populated).  The ego perceives the Self's attempts to open up the Wound (by breaking down the favored ego-strategy or "busting out" the imprisoned libido) as a reenactment of the primal wounder.  The Self is seen as the demon who struck the blow come back to finish the job and pray on the weakness and vulnerability of the Wound.

But of course, the Self's Will is actually aligned against the neurotic, maladaptive ego-strategy and doesn't want to destroy the organism.  But as this arms race reaches a severe level, the individual's ability to live a functional life is drastically undermined.

That's sort of an over-view, but now let's look at the "mythology" of the complex.  I touched on this (albeit rather incoherently) in my first post in this thread.  I'll try to do better this time.  The two major "armies" in the complex are the maladaptive ego and the Self.  The ego just can't recognize that the Self's presence is meant to heal the Wound, because the process of healing is a long-term process.  The ego wants to be able to snap its fingers and have done with.  Also, the Self's attempt at healing requires breaking off the "scab" of the ego's fortified defensive strategy (which in essence, would reopen the Wound or reassociate it with the coherent psyche).  The Self isn't, I think, terribly concerned that this "organ" of living is wounded.  What it opposes is the atrophy of this region created by the ego's fortification strategy.  The Self wants libido to be able to flow through here again.  Some fundamental restructuring may be necessary to get libido to flow.  The "leg" may never work like a never-wounded leg.  There will always be a limp.  But even with a limp, the leg is being used, and it will adapt to usage with its limp. 

I like to think of how amazingly graceful three-legged dogs can be.  Without excessive egos to get in the way, dogs that lose a leg adapt pretty well.  I have a poem that uses this image and, now that I think of it, really says a lot about working with complexes (my specific complex being the stranger/shadow/scapegoat as the poem expresses): "Self-Portrait in Canine".

In the mythology of the complex we are led to recognize that the ego's mania for fortification requires the image of the wounder to be always active (even if unconscious).  Although this image gets projected onto the Self as mentioned above, it really belongs to the ego.  This is the Demon.  One of the neurotic aspects of such ego-fortification is that the fortification itself engenders the Demon.  For every maniacal attempt at fortification, we give power to the Demon.  What this means is that, in trauma, we don't only become the victim, we become the Demon.  This is generally well-understood even outside of Jungian thought.  It is even glimpsed in pop psychology.  The victim and the Demon are one.

In Jungian terms, the personal shadow.  That aspect of the ego that the ego can't accept as part of it's identity.


The First Step of Healing the Complex

Eventually, we recognize that the complex has possession over us and that this is damaging our ability to live fully . . . and that it is irrational.  We see that this dynamic (maniacal ego-fortification) is in some sense arbitrary and that it isn't really a healthy way of dealing with the Wound.  We might at this point decide to go into therapy (or find "treatment" in some sort of ideological discipleship, or try our hands at self-analysis).  By bringing this first light of consciousness to our complex, we provide the Self with an opportunity to slip a little "self-regulating virus" into the ego's strategization.

The hero is born.  The ego will partially identify with the hero.  The hero will initially seem to be the ego's new-found power to defeat the Demon.  That is, the ego has recognized that the Demon is somehow illusory or irrational . . . and the strength of the hero can capitalize on that weakness.  With the birth of consciousness (regarding the make-up of the complex) as his/her sword, the hero descends into the Hell of the complex looking for a showdown.  Of course, there will be many obstacles along the way, riddles to solve, minor battles to win, increasing consciousness and courage to find.  But should the hero prevail, s/he will eventually come to the Demon.

But as I sloppily tried to say in my first post, the Demon ends up being a shadow twin of the hero, a mirror image.  This is the hero's recognition that the ego and its fortification strategy are responsible for engendering the Demon supposedly being defended against.  Sometimes the showdown between the hero and the Demon is portrayed as a match between equals, a fight to the death.  But fairly frequently, the Demon turns out to be a weakling . . . and the hero must then come face to face with his/her own terribleness in the heroic desire to destroy the Demon.  That is, the hero learns that the real and more powerful demon is in him/herself, in the heroic rage and mission, and becomes aware that the hero's quest is based on self-opposition.

At this point, the hero is also capable of making a differentiation.  In this shadow, in the Demon, there is not only the ego's projection of its wounder, but also the compensatory Will of the Self.  The Demon glows with the numinousness of the Self.  The hero must make a Cut, differentiating the adaptive Self from the projected egoic Demon.  In fairytales, this is typically portrayed as the rescue of a princess or maiden that had been taken captive by the Demon.  The princess is the anima, representing the instinctuality of the Self.

In many stories, the demon is not so much killed as depotentiated . . . as the shift of focus moves onto the anima figure.  The real quest, as it turns out, is not to kill the demon, but to save and unite with the anima.  In fairytales that involve a heroine, the prince in need of rescue is usually not a "maiden in a tower".  Rather, he has been enchanted (usually by a witch) and trapped in some kind of animal or monstrous form.  The quintessential tale would be Beauty and the Beast.  The Beast-animus needs to be redeemed by revaluation, not saved directly.  But it's the same theme, psychologically-speaking.

When the hero on the journey into the complex is able to make the redemptive differentiation between the Demon and the Self-as-animi, a new surge of energy enters the healing process.  But the Demonic complex still exists well after the Demon is deposed or depotentiated.  Like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter stories, he is vanquished overtly, but his remaining essence seeps inside the hero.  The remainder of the hero's quest to heal the complex and reanimate the atrophied psychic organ with instinctual libido is in many ways a battle of the hero with his/her own heroism.

The reason for this, although perhaps not at first apparent, is actually quite logical.  The hero is an instinctual gift from the Self (that "self-regulating virus").  It is an archetypal model for ego re-strategization, but it is not the ego, per se.  After vanquishing the Demon, heroism becomes a problem.  The ego would love to use its new hero-power to fortify its defense strategies (as the hero seems to have originally gone on the quest in order to save the fortification of the ego).  That way, the ego could conquer everything in its path . . . the perfect defense.  But this is not the Will of the Self.  It isn't adaptive.  The Self "sent" the hero to get the ego to realize that the ego needs to reconstruct its strategies flexibly in order to facilitate the adaptive flow of libido from the Self into the world.  Over-identification with the hero-as-conqueror is an inflation, is maladaptive.

This is what the animi work is about.  The relationship with the animi is dissolving.  The heroic will of the ego is dissolved.  As the animi work progresses, the heroic ego finds itself more and more committed to the Will of the Self (through its emissaries, the animi).  The hero learns to surrender to the Self via the dissolving love of the animi . . . until, in the finality of the coniunctio, the heroic ego sacrifices its conquering heroism and allows itself to be conquered by love, but the possibility of a new, Third Thing, a new birth that combines the ego and the Self in one "mission".

More "biologically", this is a process of further divesting the ego of its inflexible, defensive strategies, bringing it to a new kind of strategy formation dynamic that is "super-adaptive" rather than rigid and brittle and splintered off.  The ego learns here that its strategies are always highly arbitrary, and that therefore, they are not "True", they are not even particularly important in themselves.  They are really only fictions.  The goal of super-adaptivity is not to believe in or literalize these fictions (making them rigid and totemic), but to understand that the fiction-making process of ego-strategization can be applied flexibly and creatively in the attempt to best adapt the Will of the Self to the outside environment.  This super-adaptive, highly plastic, self-creative fiction-making is what I mean when I use the term "Logos".  Logos is the language of ego-making that is designed to facilitate the instinctual libido rather than serve the coherence of the ego.

But even as the Logos is learned/created, no magic cure materializes.  The three-legged dog still has only three legs.  But now, where the Wound was struck, libido can flow.  Logos can retell the story of the Wound, mythologizing it in a way that enables the Wound to be seen as (and function as) constructive and life-giving.  We become aware that the "healing" of such a Wound or complex is not the removal of the Wound or even the pain from the Wound, but a reorientation of the Wound to an adaptive sense of living.  And only fiction or Logos or creativity can allow this to happen.

We can see a pantheon of archetypes in this process: shadow, hero, animi, wise old man/woman.  These archetypes (and perhaps others) are, thus, "in the complex", but they manifest in different ways in different stages.  In the above, I have basically just called the instinctual force encompassing these specific manifestations, the Self.  But this usage of the term "Self" is as a category.

To return back to your mentioning of the Prostitute as core archetype for your personality, I think we are looking at the complex that composes your main ego-strategy (especially as it fortifies your Wound and seeks to keep your ego coherent) . . . or perhaps a splinter-strategy used to relate to specific situations that might aggravate your Wound.  You wrote, "I've sacrificed (or "sold") a lot (maybe all) of myself for what I felt was survival."  That is an ego-strategy . . . but deeper in the complex is what has been lost with this sale of self, what has fallen into the shadow (under control of the Demon) and can still be redeemed.  But redemption requires heroism.  Perhaps in the shadow of the Prostitute there is a Demonic pimp or madame that tells the ego it must use the Prostitute strategy in order to survive.  But here, the Demonic ego is prostituting you, selling you, assigning you a limited value or a limited purpose.

To find the instinctual archetypes within, you would have to identify the Demon and set off on the heroic quest to confront it.  Another element of the Prostitute might be that erotic relationality is given over to the distancing ritual of "trade".  So there may be, behind the Demon, an animus figure that enables a revaluation of Eros in which no price is placed on it.  Pricing Eros is a way of protecting oneself from the vulnerability Eros requires for true intimacy to happen.  Intimacy might show us our Wound, our weakness . . . or it might disappoint us because we have cloaked it in an artificial fantasy . . . for instance, a satisfaction fantasy, i.e., what can intimacy give me?  How does intimacy "pay"?  But it doesn't, of course.  That's the wrong dynamic.

Maybe intimacy's true gift is that it lets us be frail and vulnerable and uncertain.  It allows spontaneity without judgment.  It allows Otherness without defense against it . . . because we know/trust that Otherness to respect and not conform or use us.  But intimacy also accepts the Other's will without feeling that that will is violating.  Desire itself is fragile at its core.  It wants the dormant or forgotten pieces of self (usually those buried in the Wound beneath the complex) to run with life, I think.  Only in this lost part of the self can we have true intimacy, only there does intimacy matter enough to really be called intimacy . . . and so that intimacy is like water that flows through the dry riverbed, taking the shape of the channels the Wound has left.

And that makes it very difficult to be intimate when a complex has not been "healed" or re-mythologized/reanimated.  When the complex is still demonic and possessive, it will force us to manipulate any flow of intimacy/Eros directed at the Wound into a defensive structure: a habit, a routine . . . some way of distancing and controlling Eros in line with the fortified ego-strategy. 

The re-mything of the complex has to allow the waters of intimacy to wash over the Wound.  The water might sting a bit, but it also makes us feel alive.  We are then using the complex and the Wound to relate to others and to life.  Living in intimacy is appropriately tender and raw.  If we are abused in the place where the Wound is, we might recoil or act out unconsciously . . . but then (if we have worked productively with our complex) we will pretty quickly be able to relax and recognize that life just snuck in and made us feel "real".  Our whole being was animated, electrified . . . and the experience, despite some pain, was profoundly meaningful.

This happened to me shortly before I opened this forum.  I fell into a scapegoating experience that ground salt in my Wound and sparked up my complex, but it ultimately gave me a great deal of meaning and set me on a truer path or "righted" me . . . and I'd like to think I have been applying this meaning adaptively here at Useless Science.  But if that experience hadn't triggered my complex, nothing would have been catalyzed or learned.  I wouldn't have been able to reactivate libido and move into a new project that channeled it creatively.  It was because I chose to learn how to make my complex adaptive that I ended up benefiting from the experience (even if the experience itself was superficially ugly or destructive).

Yours,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Keri

  • Dream Work Vessel
  • *
  • Posts: 407
  • Gender: Female
  • Sedna
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2007, 09:22:21 AM »
i found this forum extremely attractive, above all by your sincerity and honesty. there is something very appeasing here, and believe even for those who have not registered as simple guests, many people somehow get healed in simply reading the posts. Matt, you're doing the right thing. your journey is not only worthwhile for yourself, but also for many many people like me, best,  Sophia

I couldn't agree with you more, Sophia.

Matt, thanks for your reply.  There's a ton to digest here (as usual!), and that will take a while, but just a few quick associations I made:

I like to think of how amazingly graceful three-legged dogs can be.  Without excessive egos to get in the way, dogs that lose a leg adapt pretty well. 

I saw a three-legged dog the day before you wrote this   :)

But as I sloppily tried to say in my first post, the Demon ends up being a shadow twin of the hero, a mirror image.  This is the hero's recognition that the ego and its fortification strategy are responsible for engendering the Demon supposedly being defended against.  Sometimes the showdown between the hero and the Demon is portrayed as a match between equals, a fight to the death.

Sealchan wrote in a post to my dream, "Resistance", that he found it interesting that my group and the Aliens seemed fairly well-matched.  That it was a fight to the death, and that the outcome was not clear because both sides had strengths and weaknesses.  He also wrote that at one point, "this is the moment of the Wound."  So I can definitely see this process in play in my dream.  The Ego defending against what feels like the reopening of the Wound.

The re-mything of the complex has to allow the waters of intimacy to wash over the Wound.  The water might sting a bit, but it also makes us feel alive.  We are then using the complex and the Wound to relate to others and to life.  Living in intimacy is appropriately tender and raw.  If we are abused in the place where the Wound is, we might recoil or act out unconsciously . . . but then (if we have worked productively with our complex) we will pretty quickly be able to relax and recognize that life just snuck in and made us feel "real".  Our whole being was animated, electrified . . . and the experience, despite some pain, was profoundly meaningful.

This resonates with me.  You had written previously that we often find, if we examine our fears, that what we are protecting is our ego-strategy and that what is actually beneath that is not really that vulnerable, not really needing protection.  That it can be "stung," but that this is only part of living and relating, and that we will not be destroyed by it.

This happened to me shortly before I opened this forum.  I fell into a scapegoating experience that ground salt in my Wound and sparked up my complex, but it ultimately gave me a great deal of meaning and set me on a truer path or "righted" me . . . and I'd like to think I have been applying this meaning adaptively here at Useless Science.  But if that experience hadn't triggered my complex, nothing would have been catalyzed or learned.  I wouldn't have been able to reactivate libido and move into a new project that channeled it creatively.  It was because I chose to learn how to make my complex adaptive that I ended up benefiting from the experience (even if the experience itself was superficially ugly or destructive).

And we're all benefitting from that now.  Thanks!

Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2007, 10:47:56 AM »
For some time I have wanted to respond to Matt's post regarding the Hero's tasks and journey.  While my situation was/is similar to Matt's, it is also different.  But it is the commonality I wanted to speak to today. And what I write about grew out of my personal experience, and my involvement in the Men's Work.  In the early 90's I was one of the co-founders of the Denver Men's Council.  I no longer live there, but the lessons have stayed with me.  During the time I was actively involved with the Men's Council I, literally, came in contact with thousands of men.

Out of this involvement, and my own history I have concluded that the vast majority of American men are, in one form or another, Momma's boys, and Matt's tale simply reinforces my conclusion.  Whether the mother is a positive or negative influence she dominates, unless and until a man "Works" his way out of the "Mother complex" he cannot mature psychologically.   In my case, it wasn't until my late 40's early 50's that I finally found the means to confront and deal with the complex.  But as Matt points out something has to occur before the complex can be approached, and then only indirectly.  This something is the Hero's journey.

And what needs to be understood is that the Hero's journey is an initiation.  And what is more mind blowing is that the Hero's anima is the initiator!!

Quote

...The idea of initiation was the base from which Jung interpreted dreams and progress of psychological pilgrims with whom he worked analytically.

It was this discovery of initiation-the painful submission of the hero to the greater authority of archetypal forces with the power to mediate the development of consciousness-that marks Jung's mature understanding of masculine process and his radical departure from other depth psychologists of the modern era.  As Jung's pupil (and analysand) Joseph Henderson was able to make clear in Thresholds of Initiation, the hero is the archetypal stage in the unconscious, denoting the formation of a strong ego-identity which precedes the stage of the true initiate.  This is the subtle point that Erik Erikson and other Freudian authors who have followed Jung's idea of 'the stages of life' with their own models of ego development throughout the life-cycle seemed to have missed.  For Jung, as for no other psychological writer, the essence of genuine psychological development involves a giving up of the hero.  When heroic unconsciousness dominates, one thinks one knows better than the unconscious who one is and feels one should therefore be in control of one's life. The hero is the mythologem of ego psychology and of the countless self-help books that keep appearing in this age of those who would 'develop' the unconscious.

...

...Jung knew that the full psychological potential of being a man is possible only when the hero finally bows his own head and submits to inititation, not at the hands of an outer man or woman but according to the dictates of his own anima....

Acceptance of the anima is almost invariably difficult.  The anima, as Jung points out, is the root word in animosity, and the anima(as mood) can be another name for resentment.  Initiation by the anima means submitting to painful experience of betrayal and disappointment when the projections she creates with her capacity for illusion fail to produce happiness.  Accepting the pain of one's affects toward those critical experiences is a critical part of integrating the anima.  Jung sometimes called the anima the 'archetype of life,' and he saw the individual as forced to suffer at the hands of life until life's power is sufficiently impressed upon him:  the resultant conscious attitude, truly ' a pearl of great price' is a sense of soul, which is also a respect for life's autonomy, the sort of wisdom personified by the Taoist sage Lao Tzu, whose name means 'the old one.'  The wise old man stands behind the anima as an archetype of meaning, the masculine purpose and masculine result of this initiatory acceptance and integration of the feminine.  Many contemporary analysts have questioned whether the anima may not also be an archetype that can mediate a woman's experience of herself.  If so, the deep inner self revealed will be a feminine figure of wisdom, a personification of the goddess.

C. G. Jung, Aspects of the Masculine, from the Editors Introduction by John Beebe, pp. xii-xiv.

The fundamental issue is that our culture has no initiatory events that break that "golden cord" that bind us so unconsciously to "Mother."  Many so-called primitive cultures knew full well the necessity of severing this cord.  Frank Waters in "The Man Who Killed the Deer," and Marie Sandoz, in her essay "The Son" found in the collection "Sandhill Sunday's" describe how two different Native American tribes dealt with the issue.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2007, 08:37:59 AM by Kafiri »
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Apostelytizer

  • Guest
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2010, 12:09:35 PM »
When a complex forms, it has an archetypal root or axis (though it cannot hold the root archetype). When it forms it also accesses the numinous. Each time it is inflated it echoes the archetype or calls to it. Is the original numinous access rooted to the same archetype? Can the triggering of the complex somehow lead to that connection between the complex, archetype, numinous?

Sealchan

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 516
  • Gender: Male
Re: Working with Complexes
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2010, 07:00:07 PM »
I think power, fear, numinosity...whatsoever promises relatively high levels of libido (psychic energy) does so by virtue of the core complex that the personality has formed itself upon.  Staying within one's psychic boundaries one feels contained and unperturbed by "serious weather systems" of the psyche.  But we are merely tucked into the eye of the hurricane and will either wander out or get found out.

I was just re-reading some of my dream analyses and seeing new things, remembering old things...I have a mother complex which I have suffered from but also have used to develop a great strength of self-consciousness...to get close to my Wound and not go blind with terror...only immobile but somehow still conscious, perhaps (see my Dune, Desert Planet dream).  I would call it the style of my personality rather than a problem although one always has a problem with one's own personality if you look closely and honestly at it.