Finding our way: Trauma Complexes

Posted December 2, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series

Catching up with old friends over the weekend, I found myself trying out the frame “trauma complex” as a way to describe what I’ve been working on in terms of my resource blog. My apical meristem if you will.

I am using the term trauma complex to suggest split off, encapsulated, episodic memories, memories which when viewed in their experiential state form, image and associated affect, were likely to have evoked archetypal layer resources. Jung’s complex theory suggests the nucleus of a complex is composed of two elements: the image of the scene of the wounding and it’s associated evoked archetypal node/energy/affect.

In my Getting Back Into the Boat post, speaking to the level of emotional intensity sufficient to trigger the episodic memory system, I noted:

“From the conceptualization of the ego-Self axis, such wounds symbolically knock the 110 voltage wired ego temporarily out of the boat of consciousness, and drop down into the deep waters of total psyche, in the realm of the Self. Here, they remain as if in suspended animation until the conditions are favorable for their re-integration. These are the original encapsulated episodic memories which form the nuclei of our complexes. On a side note “suspended” is misleading in terms of these are not energetically inert bundles of split off trauma. Their energies are not diminished by time and space.”

If I were to diagram this evolving detail, I could try just representing the experiential state complex image contained within a capsule. This highlights the encapsulated trauma complex’s functioning as a bundle. Let’s try this:

EncapsulatedExperientialStateComplex12.2.18

Note the the experiential state, including the red C ComplexSymbolpngdesignating it is also the nucleus of the complex, all contained within a capsule. The encapsulation detail helps us remember the importance of recognizing the partial cure as a solution which must be mortified. The dissociative defenses maintaining the partial cure will not allow direct, healing contact with the original wound episode. Until we can drop the partial cure defenses, we will continue to be locked out.

Gazing upon the image, I must say it also looks a bit like a bandage!

Here my emphasis is the trauma complex is a more or less effective container for binding and containing an episode of this-world-relational-failure, with, importantly, it’s associated evoked mythological/archetypal image and affect. I proposed this in my Musings on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis post.

This system for managing the original split off trauma relies on encapsulation of the original wounding, like the oyster’s ability to create a pearl.

Next time around I want to talk about this from the perspective of dueling partial cures.

DuelingEncapsulatedExperientialStateComplexes12.2.18Yours? Mine? Shall we dance?

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery and Complexity versus Nuts and Bolts?

Posted November 21, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Connecting the Dots Series, Soul

Perhaps like the alchemists of old, I continue to have energy for trying to find the keys to open the locks to all that would bind us. In practical terms. In everyday life sound bites.

The band The Moody Blues recorded a couple of songs on their 1969 album “To Our Children’s Children’s Children” that I have always loved. Their titles are “I never thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred” and “I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Million.” In the first, they reflect:

“I never thought I’d ever have my freedom. An age ago my maker was refusing me the pleasure of the view.”

This morning, early, I am feeling gratitude for this life and this view. May we all be blessed with the gift of the questions which keep on coming.

So, the work goes on: How can/will I describe the ineffable, today?

 

Hags and Heroes: A Feminist Approach to Jungian Psychotherapy with Couples, 1984, by Polly Young-Eisendrath (Source Quotes)

Posted November 18, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Complexes and More, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

These source quotes are part of Polly Young-Eisendrath’s set up for the telling of the Arthurian legend Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell: “What is it that women desire most, above all else?” She orients us to the relationship problems associated with the loss of basic trust, and a cluster of associated archetypal energies: the archetypal feminine, the archetypal masculine, the Great Mother, the Terrible Mother, and the Jungian idea of the negative mother complex.

”The story of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell provides a unique map or template through which to view a woman’s response to loss of basic trust. Basic trust is defined as both a sense of “continuity of being” (to use D. W. Winnicott’s term) in relationship and as the experience of secure reliance on another person to provide for one’s primary emotional needs within the interpersonal field of that relationship. Basic trust is synonymous here with attachment and specifically related to John Bowlby’s concepts of attachment and loss in human relationship.

The attachment of infant to parent is the initial interpersonal field in which the archetypes of Great Mother and Terrible Mother, as typical human experiences, are activated… we need only the images of the Great and Terrible Mother, of the provident goddess and the dreaded hag, to help us grasp the characteristics of attachment that we will explore. More specifically, when a woman feels continuous and “held,” or adequately embraced, in a relationship of basic trust… she experiences herself as an agentive “person.” As members of our species, we are “personal” when we feel ourselves to be agents of our own lives (or “useful” to others) and to be worthwhile or esteemed. We feel ourselves to be contributing members of our species, reflected by our partners as adequate, agentive and valued.

The image of Great Mother, as authority and nurturer, is the positive emotional experience of knowing one’s love is “good.” Interpersonally, it is the experience of being loved, held and nurtured by the other, of feeling oneself as good. We all need Great Mother experiences to feel that our nurturance is bountiful and powerfully good. The image of Terrible Mother, as savage goddess or hag, is the negative and overwhelming emotional experience of knowing one’s love is “bad” and feeling oneself as ugly, mean, overwhelming and destructive. Both negative and positive attachment experiences involve strength and power; both are necessary in relationship, but neither should become the dominant mode for personal identity on a continuing basis. As with other archetypal states, Great Mother and Terrible Mother are transitory identity experiences which are “bigger” then the person.

The story of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell sketches out in a clear and practical way the problem of identifying with the hag or Terrible Mother. The hag, nag or bitch of contemporary couple relationships is quite prominent in psychotherapy literature as the domineering, suffocating, and overwhelming mother who must control family life at everyone’s expense. Through the help of the story, we come to respect the hag and to see her dilemma empathically. We learn that when relationships reach a breakdown in basic trust, when all rational solutions have failed and both partners are alienated, we should listen to the hag. Only she knows the answers that we’ll restore trust to the relationship.” (pp. 10-11)

The Importance of the Archetypal Feminine

For our purposes here, the archetypal feminine is the province of relating and caregiving. This is the domain of sustaining human and natural life within the human group. In other words, it concerns joining, attachment and involvement with people, things, and ideas. Its opposite, the archetypal masculine is the domain of distancing and separating. The masculine is characterized here as binding off, separating from, and aggression toward nature and human beings for survival purposes. The masculine involves dividing and separating, waging war and making boundaries, as well as analyzing people, things and ideas as opposed to the experience of joining with them. The following statement from Peggy Sanday, an anthropologist who has studied gender-related power differences in over 150 tribal and modern societies, further clarifies these distinctions as they pertain to human relating and culture:

‘One is struck with the degree to which the sexes conform to a rather basic conceptual symmetry, which is grounded in primary sex differences. Women give birth and growth children; men kill and make weapons. Men display their kills (be it an animal, a human head, or a scalp) with the same pride that women hold up the newly born. If birth and death are among the necessities of existence, then men and women contribute equally but in quite different ways to the continuance of life, and hence of culture.’ (Peggy Sanday Female Power and Male Dominance; On the Origins of Sexual Inequality, p. 5.

Because there are serious anthropological questions about whether these archetypal themes of “primary sex differences” are actually universally sorted out along the same gender lines i.e. feminine for women and masculine for men, I do not assume that women and men represent these archetypal domains through their gender identities. Rather, I’ve come to see both domains as potentially available to each gender for both identity and action purposes.

Our story helps us to understand what happens in intimate relations when the ordinary tasks of caregiving – managing a household, rearing children, sustaining emotional contact and soothing and healing wounds are devalued. When women and men devalue these activities, whether consciously or unconsciously, they fall into those habitual patterns and modes of relating which are connoted by the Jungian idea of the negative mother complex. This complex comprises behaviors, ideas, images and feelings that are concerned with escaping the intimacy of giving and receiving care. The negative mother complex is thus related to the idea of devaluing or excising the feminine from one’s identity and activity.

In our present society, men have a tendency to devalue the feminine in themselves and in women. Many feminine attributes are considered ”weakness” in traditional male gender identity. Consequently, men struggle to exclude and differ with women and with the concerns of care-giving in order to maintain separate identities as males…

Since women are the primary caretakers during almost everyone’s childhood years, the voice of female authority rings powerful tones. Men do not simply differ from women rationally or objectively; they often feel what Karen Horney has called “dread of women” and feel compelled to fight the feminine (both inside and outside) in order to experience any personal power in their male identity.

Women, on the other hand, must identify both with the devalued, “inferior” aspects of the feminine and with the powerful projections of female authority. Women feel at once too weak and too powerful in their mothering and authority. When basic trust is low and devaluing the feminine is high, then a woman tends to feel quite wholly identified with the negative and inferior powers of the hag, the witch or the Terrible Mother.” (pp. 12-13.)

“…We are ready, now, to turn to the story of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell, which poses the question: “What do women really want?” This question, more than any other, provides a guide for us in doing therapy with couples who have lost basic attachment and trust in their relationships. Furthermore, it is a question which can lead us to the liberation and revaluing of the feminine both inside and out, in ourselves and in the lives of all men and women, for it directs us to the very heart of our humanity, to a concern for intimate relationship. Our failures in family making (not to be understood as the nuclear family ideal), our waste of human, animal and other natural resources, our despair about cooperating with human beings in other societies, and our oppression of our own partners and friends all reflect our devaluing of ordinary caregiving.” (p.15)

These source quotes are from: Young-Eisendrath, Polly, Hags and Heroes: A Feminist Approach to Jungian Psychotherapy with Couples, 1984.

For a Wikipedia orientation and brief overview of the story see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wedding_of_Sir_Gawain_and_Dame_Ragnelle

See also my post on Embracing the Hag.

The Importance of Getting Triggered

Posted September 15, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Initiation, Poems, Transference and Countertransference

Thinking about my conceptual frame Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold, I have been struck this week by the importance of focusing on tracking when we, self and others, get emotionally triggered.

By using the word triggered, I am hoping to tap into our collective, universal sense of knowing we are getting hijacked by something intensely emotional. As in getting one’s button(s) pushed.

A classic extreme example referenced in the early diagnostic manual for PTSD is if you were raped in an elevator, just seeing an elevator can evoke or trigger intense emotional and physiological reactions.

I have been making the case a spike in emotional intensity is the simplest indication we are activating/activated, announcing to all who can perceive, the presence of the blur.

From this perspective, if/when a microfracture in communication pulls us into a blur state, how can we recognize the conflict as meaningful? Might this really be an unbidden, spontaneous opportunity for healing? What if there is no such thing as fighting over little stuff?

Fred Kaufman has a post on LinkedIn Every Emotion Is A Love Story. I find this to be a great opener. If we can trust the emotion is right, but our consciousness of context and setting may be confused, we can turn our energies towards trying to drop into the deeper story. As Rumi advises in A Night Full of Talking: Everything has to do with loving and not loving. If we try on making the case the emotion is correct, how can we access the trauma complex driving the blur? Under what circumstances is this present overwhelming emotion appropriate?

Preparing oneself to enter into such a healing moment includes learning to see the power struggle as a co-created complex. From this perspective, the ritualistic elements reflect what we think of as repetition compulsions or re-enactments of the wounding. In alignment with Bromberg’s description of co-created dissociative enactments, these serve to bring the essence of the original wounding, with it’s associated transference and countertransference dance, palpably into the present moment.

In his discussion of the complexes, in their favorable aspect, John Perry observes: “The repetition compulsion, as has been pointed out so often, provides the ego the occasion again and again to encounter these rejected components of development in order finally to assimilate them in some happy moments….” My sense of what he means by “rejected components of development” is simply the recognition the absence of an elder presence allowed the violation to overwhelm the vulnerable child or adult, necessitating the activation of archetypal layer defenses, ie: a trauma complex. What was needed at the time to understand and work through the emotional overwhelm is still needed. I have played with this in thinking about the function  complexes serve in my Musing on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis post. I have to confess for me, teleology is a big word! But, I believe it works!

In closing, I have included the graphic above to highlight the Participation Mystique &/or Trauma Portal detail.  We are all involved all of the time with some deeper level of consciousness, a multiplicity of self-states if you will, which wants to inform us about what more is going on. Because I tend to think about getting hijacked into negative emotion enactments, I find the idea getting triggered serves the blur’s function in opening a portal into the associated trauma. The repetitive couple complex enactments do seem to provide a portal into our most painful relationship failings.

Clearly, we need each other to approach going there. What is needed may be as simple, and as difficult, as dropping into the original scene, so that we may feel all of it, within relationship, bear witness together, and get the story told. (See Sandner and Beebe for an articulation of what it takes to heal a split.) This reflects the conceptual notion traumas, until they can be suffered consciously in the service of re-integration, are incomplete initiatory experiences. Creating the conditions, essentially accessing a consciousness that can bear to suffer the wounding without splitting, is the work.

If we can only hold onto the here and now, this world enactment – what you/he/she/they did or did not do to uphold our loving – we are doomed to continue with our co-created dissociated enactments.

Why not make a dedicated effort to sit with our deeper selves? We have to find a way to get to what was my part in initiating or participating in the dissociation just now? Can we strive to bear to feel as vulnerable as we may be feeling? To be continued…

When “…sexual attraction is … used by the unconscious to represent the urge toward reconciliation with split-away parts of ourselves”

Posted July 18, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Transference and Countertransference

Processing a dissociated relational enactment this morning, the following observations on the transference from Ann Ulanov came to mind:

Ann B. Ulanov: “Jung remarks that the sexual attraction is always used by the unconscious to represent the urge toward reconciliation with split-away parts of ourselves (1976, p.173). The sexual transference, then, is a spontaneous way by which the psyche seeks to bridge a gulf between the patient’s ego-identity and the contra sexual contents projected upon the analyst (von Franz, VI, pp. 3-4). What would otherwise be a humiliating fixation upon the analyst is redeemed by its hidden purpose – to bring light into the patient’s relation to the anima or animus,… Patients in this position need not then just go on feeling foolish for desiring someone they cannot have, and indulging in childish sulks, mopings, or resentments when refused gratification. Instead, such patients see the task set them by this welling up of emotion, impulse, and aspiration, and the sense of soul with which they cloak the analyst figure. When patients long for the analyst, it is their first direct experience of their strong longing to be reconnected to a missing part of themselves, to some aspect of their own souls (p. 73-74). Jungian Analysis (my bold)

For me, not a certified psychoanalyst, it can be helpful to think about this dynamic as potentially at play if ever/whenever we sense there is a bewitching element present in an attraction or infatuation. I included this source quote in a collection from Jung’s Psychology of the Transference.

 

Dream: When life is a parade!

Posted July 11, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Dream, Poems

Sunday, 5 AM: Dream Setting, my office in the Academy, with my couch against a wall, when all of a sudden the couch started to seemingly push itself away from the wall, revealing a hidden door, opening, with someone coming through the door into my office. And it was, he was, the first in a procession of an increasing number of circus like performers, mostly wearing red, who colorfully, exuberantly, take over the space, singing songs, putting on a show; quite a musical actually, reminiscent of the Music Man…

Waking reflections: I was struck with how it was like a musical production, and the fact that historically I have not been a fan of musicals. While writing the dream down, I associated the emergence of the singer/dancer, as if out of the woodwork with the Rilke image of “…that which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness.” (from his essay on Love and Other Difficulties.)

Comments: With all the  heaviness in the country, and in each of us, this was a fun, magical, refreshing interlude, reminding me of the existence of resources in psyche which can come in when needed. This dream felt a bit like my delight in reading the Rilke image:

“Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude, of which he learns only through that which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness.” (my italics)

Secondarily, I did recently enjoy watching the movie The Greatest Showman which was amazing and likely helped populate my dream images. I watched West Side Story earlier this year and found it very powerful – and still highly relevant.

In terms of family of origin, as a family we did love to sing. I did grow up in Mason City, Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Wilson, best known for his play/movie The Music Man.

 

Psychoanalysis … Always looks for the egg … In a basket … That has been lost*

Posted July 9, 2018 by chuck bender
Categories: Conscious Enactment, Transference and Countertransference

This aphorism referenced by Philip Bromberg on the last page of his book, The Shadow of the Tsunami, sets the stage for a paragraph discussion which I do find remarkable in it’s capturing of the process which I picture as the meaning behind the importance of waking up within the blur:

“For over 100 years, psychoanalysts were trained to talk to their patients about an inferred basket–an inferred unconscious–through associations and interpretations. Discovering the “egg,” which analysts have chosen to term unconscious fantasy, has been the endeavor said to demonstrate that even though what is unconscious is lost to direct observation its contents can be pieced together. At this point in the evolution of psychoanalysis, however, it is increasingly recognized that the “egg” can manifestly be brought into palpable existence by accepting that the “egg” is not buried content but the symbolization of a dissociated relational process that is not unearthed, but mutually cocreated through enactment.”

I want to quote a bit more below, but right now, I am pondering the image “…it is increasingly recognized that the “egg” can manifestly be brought into palpable existence by accepting that the “egg” is not buried content but the symbolization of a dissociated relational process that is not unearthed, but mutually cocreated through enactment.” I appreciate this frame in it’s suggestion that what needs our attention is palpably present in “the symbolization of a dissociated relational process … mutually cocreated through enactment.” From a cocreated system perspective, for me, this is the blur. It seems what’s needed is for us to work together to increase our tolerance of being in the dissociative soup together.