Through a Jungian Lens

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Complex Thoughts From Puerto Morelos

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Upside down female oriole

Upside down female oriole

“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings. [Jung, CW 8, par. 253]

So what has me thinking about complexes today? I guess the short answer is that for whatever reason, they found a way to make their presence felt here in a Mexican paradise. I catch myself having emotional reactions to the bits and pieces of life that normally don’t stir up any emotional response. I find myself feeling defensive without any cause. A simple dialogue that has no ulterior motive somehow becomes a very subtle assault on my identity, my worthiness as a person. Sometimes it doesn’t even need words; a glance can trigger the same result. And most confusing is the fact that these glances and scatterings of words are people specific. The same glance by a stranger would ruffle nothing. The same words uttered by a different person wouldn’t even register.

I have learned long ago that I am not unique in this regard. Pretty well everyone that is breathing and thinking is complexed. Being complexed isn’t all about negative affect, but since having overt positive emotional reactions feels good, there isn’t the same need to look more closely at the affect. As Daryl Sharp would say, “There’s no motivation to analyze it.” It is only when the emotional affect digs into your gut, makes you feel as if you are caught in a storm when we find the motivation to want to figure out “what the hell is going on.”

As I get older, I get wiser – at least that is what I tell myself. As I sense the presence of emotional affect that is negative, I pull back from participation as much as I can, in the drama around the activation of a complex. It hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t so long ago that as soon as the complex would be activated I would throw my whole being in ranting and railing and battling. It was like a no-holds barred wrestling match that left myself and others around me shell shocked and battered when the energy of the complex stole away. I didn’t “really” understand that it was my complex and perhaps the complex of another wreaking disaster. For both of us, it was about you or I.

But sometimes now, enough times, I don’t bite and take the bait and so avoid escalation. Sensing the presence of the complex lurking, I back off and wait until the complex leaves. I know that it will be back, and perhaps next time I will again be able to resist falling into its vortex. And then, my rights itself and it’s not so topsy-turvy.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

January 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm

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