Through a Jungian Lens

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Archetypes and Complexes

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Washing in a WuZhen canal, March 2011

This is another WuZhen photo, one that is not about tourists or a celebration of a restoration of China’s architectural past.  This is just a simple scene, one that is played out in many locations in many countries in today’s modern world, a scene behind the scene so-to-speak.  l get to see this scene often, a scene in which a woman is crouched beside water, usually water that is far from clean, in an attempt to clean either herself or some articles of clothing.  Regardless of what is being washed, the image is there based on real events happening in a real world.

Symbolically, woman is associated with water, birth waters, cleansing waters, dank and dark waters.  Somehow out of the clouded dirty water, something is born, dirt is washed away and whiteness emerges.  Archetypal images – images that point beyond the facts contained within the images, point to something that goes beyond one person’s understanding and points to a collective awareness.  But what is this archetype?  Is it the mother who nurtures, to mother who eats her young, the life force that gives rise to libido in men, the receptacle who takes a man with her and sucks out his seed?  Because “she” is an archetype, “she” is all of these things and more.

Walking through my life, the archetype is in the dark background out of my conscious reach.  As I walk through my life, I find I bump into aspects of her which have been activated by my life experiences.  And these appearances are personal to me though they cause a lot of discomfort.  These disturbances are not  appearances of the archetype, but appearances of my personal complexes.  I can never behold the fullness of the archetype, only the “activated” bits that can only be identified as complexes.

There remains so much to say on this topic.  Perhaps I will find some of the words to help myself better understand this.  I will come back again with another image and more thoughts to explore this territory.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

March 28, 2011 at 11:51 am

6 Responses

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  1. “. . . Whereas the personal unconscious consists for the most part of COMPLEXES, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially of ARCHETYPES.”(All caps indicate italics in original). C. G. Jung, “The Concept of the Collective Unconscious.”

    It is our complexes that are accessible by our consciousness and are the pavement in the “royal road” to the unconscious.

    John Ferric

    March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    • Thanks for the quotation, John. I do appreciate your energy in your responses, your engagement. 🙂


      March 29, 2011 at 9:23 pm

  2. It’s very curious to read your comments about archetypes pertaining to women. Being a woman, it’s quite difficult to accept the duality of my interaction with the world when to some I might represent and archetype and yet to me, I am simply ME.


    April 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    • As I see myself as me. But the words mother and father have bigger meanings than the reality of us as individuals – too many differences in individuals, the archetypes embrace all of present, past and future iterations as well as the mythical.


      April 10, 2011 at 8:40 am

  3. Oh and because this blog doesn’t permit me to subscribe to replies, can you let me know via Twitter of further comments/discussions? Thanks!


    April 3, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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