Being In The Grip Of A Complex!

May 13


John Betts

John Betts

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We all can remember being gripped by a complex, but how can one deal with that state, and, more importantly, how can I find out what my complexes are?

Carl Jung defined the complex as being a collection of images and ideas,Being In The Grip Of A Complex! Articles clustered round a core derived from one or more archetypes, and characterised by a common emotional tone. Critical in our daily life is the existence of complexes. We all know ‘someone else’ that complexes out (we of course never do!), but, as Jung goes on to say : "Everyone knows nowadays that people "have complexes”. What is not so well known, though far more important theoretically, is that complexes can have us . " (Jung, CW8, para. 200). What is the structure of a complex? We can imagine a complex having three layers to it: the first, your individual experiences, are all those memories that you have about an issue, for example, with a money complex, all the times you have had to deal with money, how your parents spoke about money, your first pay-cheque, not being able to pay a bill etc. The second layer is the cultural, being the way your culture views money, for example, the status that comes with earning money, the attitude society has towards the poor. The third layer, or the core, is the archetypal. This is a common structure in all people and refers to the symbol-generating capacity of the psyche. In a money complex it most likely is a money archetype. Complexes can be seen as having a positive and a negative aspect. The positive aspect of the money complex would involve how we earn money, then save it, and use it to make our lives more comfortable. The negative aspect would be all our insecurities about money, all the fears we have when our credit card debt gets too high. When a complex is ‘constellated’ or switched on, it is through seeing something in the external world, for example seeing someone that really reminds you of your mother. We then begin to ‘complex out’ when that trigger causes us to feel a strong emotion, for example, feeling really irritated by someone who reminds you of your mother because she is acting in the exact same way that your mother did. (don’t you just hate that!) We can become possessed by a complex as well. This means that when a complex is constellated, we feel in the grip of a complex – we act and speak and think quite differently from our normal self, and others notice this. How often have you had an experience where someone took you aside after a dinner party or an office meeting and asks what is going on – they ask why you are acting in such a strange way, and why you said such hurtful things to someone when this is so unlike you. They are telling us that we have been possessed by a complex. This does not have to be the way it is for all time as you can change the complex, by ‘depotentiating’ it. Think of this process as draining all the gas out of the complex so that it no longer has any power over you. Here is a simple exercise to help you identify and begin to depotentiate a complex. Using a piece of paper and a pen, write down the following answers to these questions. (1) Think of a complex you have (or that has you); (2) Name it (this is vital); (3) List the individual experiences that developed this complex; (4) List the cultural experiences that support it; (5) What is the archetype at its’ core?; (6) What triggers your complex?; (7) How do you know that?; (8) What do you look like when constellated? If you work through your complexes in this manner, you gradually drain off their power and can live a more full life. Complexes are vital to our lives, but that doesn’t mean we have to be slaves to them.

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