Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pat Spear, a friend with a long-time interest in Jung, read my blog essay, "The Ego as Complex," and very kindly sent me her thoughts on the subject of complex. Following is Pat's commentary:

In The Essential Jung Storr wrote that Jung seemed to link the complexes with unconscious personalities. He quotes Jung as saying that complexes can have us. Every constellation of a complex postulates a disturbed state of consciousness. The unity of the consciousness is disrupted and the intentions of the will are impeded or made impossible…(p. 38).

In The Portable Jung, Joseph Campbell quotes Jung as he describes how isolation can activate the unconscious (p. 331) and discusses freeing oneself from childhood (p. 339). "So that when in later years, we return to the memories of childhood we find bits of our personality still alive, which cling round us and suffuse us with the feeling of earlier times. Being still in their childhood state, these fragments are very powerful in their effect. They can lose their infantile aspect and be corrected only when they are reuinited with adult consciousness. This 'personal unconscious' must always be dealt with first, that is, made conscious, otherwise the gateway to the collective unconscious cannot be opened" (p. 339).

So to answer your questions: In my experience, the intention of the complex is to preserve the status quo, and is not conscious. It derives its energy as a split off piece of the personality in order to maintain its integrity. It begins as benevolent (i.e., when first established, its purpose is to protect the psyche) and over time becomes malevolent (cf. Kalsched). The triggers that set a complex in motion are an unconscious emotional field and sensory experiences, and in the case of addiction, the need for a “rush of pleasure” to restore balance or compensate.

The ego complex is a manager, like a director or conductor, with an intent to organize experience. (And now that I’ve written all this, I would like to say that not only does Jung’s theory now align with quantum physics, it’s also shamanic and exists in all the shamanic traditions I’ve studied from around the Earth.)

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, Pat. Should any other readers wish to add to this discussion, please e-mail me your input, and I will post it also.

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