Saturday, January 07, 2006


According to Jung, consciousness AND the personal unconscious are made up of various complexes, one of which is the ego/shaow complex. The ego complex is somewhat different from other complexes in that the ego complex is the center of consciousness. The shadow part of the complex resides in the unconscious and consists of all those qualities not admitted to consciousnes, their having been excluded in the conscious development of the individual. That is to say, in our conscious, waking reality we experience life through one agency which we commonly call the ego. All those formative experiences not acceptable to the ego or which the ego has not the ability to incorporate are encapsulated in the shadow which remains unconscious as long as is necessary for the functioning of the ego personality.
At the center of every complex is an archetype. Archetypes, and hence, complexes, are composed of opposites: good mother/bad mother; punitive father/loving father; victim/persecutor, to name a few. Usually, the ego recognizes one side or pole of the complex but not the other. The one not recognized, or residing in the unconscious, we meet through projection. Thus, if we recognize (or identify with, i.e., think we are) the victim, we meet the persecutor 'out there' in our projections. Of course, to qualify for a projection the object of must have some hook that makes the projection possible.
But what, following this line of thought, would be the archetype at the core of the ego complex? It is--again according to Jung--the Self. Underlying the exprience of the ego, or the "I" of my experience, is the Self, the organizing principle and center of the personality that has the ego as its exponent in the world. Recognition of the Self as a reality has the effect of deposing the ego from its usual center and replacing it with some felt sense of 'other' of which 'I' become the subject. We find this idea usually expressed in religious language, such as: "Not I but Christ that lives in me," (St. Paul); or "My heart is restless, Lord, until it rests in thee," (St. Augustine).
Here is how one patient of Jung's expressed the sense of well-being and wholeness that recognition of the ego's home in the Self wrought:
"Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality--taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be--by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before. I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume an attitude towards them. So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me. What a fool I was! How I tried to force everything to go according to the way I thought it ought to!" [ALCHEMICAL STUDIES, Para. 70]
The ancient text, the I CHING, expresses the same notion in this (paraphrased) way: Only when we accept things exactly as they are and accept ourselves as we are, only then will a light form out of events to show us the way.