Complexes as Bridge to the Symbolic World

As I prepare to move into diagramming the next step on projective identification, I find I want to support reviewing complex theory as it comes into play here. My graphic representation signifying the presence of a complex is: ComplexSymbolpng The key is in seeing and recognizing the significance of the overlap between the experiential state image and the image of the complex nucleus. I have tried to capture this in my page on the experiential state as a complex nucleus. Below I am going to bring forward some of my psycho-educational symbolic overview page discussion of this detail:

“Complexes as Bridge to the Symbolic World: In its mysterious, true symbol system aspect, these images hold something beyond that which I can consciously fully grasp. An image functioning as a symbol both informs us about, while at the same time protects us from, an emerging, essential to conscious life awareness. Jung (1921) defined the symbol as “the best possible designation or formula for something relatively unknown yet recognized to be present, or required.” (Jung, C.G., CW6)

The symbol comes alive for me in the Experiential State as Complex image. The elements present combine the internal representation of self/other/affect, in its scene remembered composite form, with its associated complex. In its experiential state aspect, it captures the essence of one’s family of origin experience. Countless interactions averaged and generalized over time serve to inform the transference at the level of primitive invariant organizing principles.

From a complex perspective, the experiential state image mirrors directly the key elements comprising the nucleus of a complex: an archetypal energy, or dynamism, and the scene of activation depicting the object “in the act.” The presence of archetypal energy suggests the resources of the collective unconscious have been called into service and will need special consideration.

Jung’s formulation of the complex bridges personal experience with the archetypal world. Complexes are generated in response to overwhelming personal life experiences. Murray Stein, on the structure of the complex, notes:

“. . . Jung describes it as being made up of associated images and frozen memories of traumatic moments that are buried in the unconscious and not readily available for retrieval by the ego. These are repressed memories. What knits the various associated elements of the complex together and holds them in place is emotion. This is the glue. Furthermore, “the feeling-toned content, the complex, consists of a nuclear element and a large number of secondarily constellated associations.”(19) The nuclear element is the core image and experience on which the complex is based – the frozen memory. But this core turns out to be made up of two parts: an image or psychic trace of the originating trauma and an innate (archetypal) piece closely associated to it. (Stein, Murray, “The Structure of Complexes, “Jung’s Map of the Soul, pp. 52-53.

Traumatic experiences, by virtue of their energies having overwhelmed the ego’s ability to stay conscious, evoke specific archetypal responses, thereby connecting us to the hardwired resources of the Self. The associated nuclear element, the evoked node, provides access to the collective memory of the human experience with the same insult/injury at hand; through this activation pattern recognition resources become available to inform our personal response.

For an example of one such bridge, imagine a young child unexpectedly finding him/herself confronted with an extremely distraught mother or father. Edward Edinger observed: “When the child Maneros witnessed Isis’ terrible loss and grief upon seeing the dead Osiris, this awesome sight was so intolerable to Maneros that he fell out of the boat and drowned.” (Edinger, Edward, Anatomy of the Psyche, p. 60.)

This mythological image helps us understand the power of an upsetting personal experience at the level of the archetypal layer; it may be that while part of us that was able to stay in the boat, another part may have symbolically fallen overboard and drowned. We may not be conscious of or remember this detail. Edinger, reflecting on male psychology, goes on to say: “Most men, if they are honest, will acknowledge having had the experience of Maneros when confronted with a woman’s intense grief, desire, or anger”.

This “scene” can become the nucleus of a complex; when this happens, the complex nucleus records and contains the original activating scene of the trauma.

In this respect complexes serve to archive wounds of overwhelm, preserving them until such time the conditions allow us to revisit and heal that which has been split off from consciousness. They also function as dynamic, energetic, sub-personality-like entities. When activating, or what we call constellated, complexes challenge ego consciousness for the driver’s seat, pushing for unconscious enactments.”

Comment from today: We are all blessed with a repository of ancient knowledge via the hardwired resources of the collective unconsciousness. From an evolutionary standpoint, it seems this system is biologically auto-updating. When we experience in this life time an event of emotional significance, the corresponding evoked archetypal node contributes help in the form of image, affect, and energy.  The archetypal layer, by definition primitive, archaic patterning, resists ego level defense efforts to intervene directly. This detail speaks to the necessity of learning to think symbolically, as in the dream, mythology, and fairy tales, in order to cultivate one’s relationship with the archetypal realm.

My experiential state complex graphic representation is:


Explore posts in the same categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series

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