Archive for the ‘Complexes and More’ category

Philip Bromberg on Self – States

June 19, 2018

Source quote plus comment:

“If an analyst is listening carefully he will often be aware that a sudden change in ‘topic’ is accompanied by a change in self-presentation, including affect but by no means limited to it. From my frame of reference, what is taking place is defined neither by the change in topic nor the change in affect but a switch in self – states and in the respective realities that organize them. One’s clinical ear hears the voice of another part of self and has the opportunity to invite it into relationship by accepting it in its own terms rather than talking about it as though the part that has just emerged is simply a change in mood. For those who are not yet totally at home with how the concept of self – state is different from a shift in affect or mood, let me offer a one sentence clarification: Self – states are highly individualized modules of being, each configured by its own organization of cognitions, beliefs, dominant affect and mood, access to memory, skills, behaviors, values, actions, and regulatory physiology. (Chuck’s bold)

When all has gone well developmentally, each self – state is compatible enough with the modes of being that are held by other self – states, to allow overarching coherence across self – states, which in turn creates the capacity for sustaining the experience of internal conflict. In treatment, however, when proactively protective dissociation is operating, self – state shifts are most likely to reach the analyst’s perceptual awareness if he is able to freely engage his patient with the stance of participant – observer. Or so I contend. Why should this be the case? Because the shifts may be discerned initially not as something in the patient, but as a destabilization of the analyst’s own mental processes, an awareness of discomfort that he does not immediately recognize is a discomfort that is linking him to his patient through a dissociative enactment that is taking place while they are participating at a verbal level.” Page 72-73.

Comment: I will be creating a separate page for this source quote at some point. For now, I wanted to get it posted in anticipation of commenting on it from the perspective of more language and theory about others, entities, agents, archetypes, components making up experiential state scenes, figures populating the nuclei of complexes, and the images and affects associated with invarient organizing principles. My interest in the blur reflects my tracking of the importance of finding a way to embrace these less conscious beings that keep trying to show up in the service of winning back as much of our lost selves as humanly possible.

Reading that last line above and my choice in using the language “less conscious beings” I am struck with the need to clarify “from who’s perspective?” The challenge is recognizing that these beings have their own consciousness. It’s more of a question of how much awareness, on a continuum, might we have in a given moment of their presence or influence. Something like that. 

Philip Bromberg, The Shadow of the Tsunami and the Growth of the Relational Mind. 2011.

Prince Lindworm: A Robert Bly Story Telling and Interpretation

January 26, 2018

This is a 38 minute YouTube audio tape of Robert Bly working the story known as Prince Lindworm. The description provided notes this is: “a parable of your relationship with the hostile twin coiled inside you—who was cast away during childhood, who waits years before roaring back into your life and begins swallowing those around you.” The story is … “Followed by an in-depth discussion of the story’s meaning at the 1993 Minnesota Men’s Conference. http://www.minnesotamensconference.com

I will be adding a few comments at a later date .

Standing up to complexes is always very difficult.

Intolerable Suffering and Neurosis

October 2, 2017

I chose the heading above to re-introduce this quote from Sandner and Beebe:

“Jung contended that neurosis sprang from the tendency of the psyche to dissociate or split in the face of intolerable suffering. … Such splitting ‘ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature’ (Jung 1934, p. 98), and gives rise to the whole range of and conflicts characteristic of feeling toned complexes. This splitting is a normal part of life. Initial wholeness is meant to be broken, and it becomes pathological, or diagnosable as illness, only when the splitting off of complexes becomes too wide and deep and the conflict too intense. Then the painful symptoms may lead to the conflicts of neurosis or to the shattered ego of psychosis. The way back, the restoration – perhaps always partial – is the work of individuation. …”

Let’s think about the idea that such splitting ‘ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature’.

Might we choose to embrace our inner guidance? Dedicate ourselves to making a place for our true selves? Not easy!

 

 

 

 

Complexes as Bridge to the Symbolic World

August 1, 2017

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.

analytical psychology complex nucleus image affect evoked node

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:

ExperientialStateComplexpng8.1.17

Projective Identification: Informing the Experiential State

July 9, 2017

In the Bollas quote posted below, we are invited to picture an interaction between a father and child complicated by the father’s not conscious enough awareness of his personal issue with feeling guilty over impulse buying or the pressure created internally by the urge to be impulsive.

The concise pattern language based example does not comment on a possible continuum of alternatives to this father’s reliance on employing this defense, only that for him the stage is set to rid himself of this discomforting conflict by simply putting it into someone else. This works, allowing him to break psychological contact with this impulse and its inspired guilt… Unfortunately, the cost of this ridding is to find/experience cause for alarm in what is described as, in reality, his child’s ordinary impulsiveness. Through his overly censorious criticism of the child, the father off-loads his burdensome urge-to-impulse-and-inspired-guilt (complex). This is a blur moment. Most people looking in on this exchange would recognize a deeper dynamic at play, something a bit or more off in some way, but not so with the father. By design, one’s consciousness is protected entirely from experiencing the dynamics responsible for the impulse/guilt conflict in need of discharge, as well as it’s origins.

Representing this image/affect graphically as an experiential state scene, we can try picturing ExpStateSelfOtherAffectthe father in the act of criticizing the child. Imagine the depth of expression for both, surrounding the giving and receiving of the wound. I am suggesting wound here, because of its identified unconscious dynamic. The father is, through this mechanism, transferring his personal conflict with impulses and guilt into the child.

How might we think about the whys? Why this mechanism? Why now? What is adaptive about its deployment? How is it likely to effect the child, over time? In the instance of this example, we see a parent has misinterpreted or miss-apprised what is identified as in reality the child’s ordinary impulse. The father is reacting to his child’s identification with the father’s projection, not his child.

From the perspective of the child being criticized with an unconscious-to-the-father overly censorious driver, we can picture this scene as one which will inform the child’s developing experiential state on the theme of something in me is not OK.

The experiential state image is a useful tool to think about what psyche does with encapsulated episodic memories. Recall, humans as early as several weeks of age demonstrate the capacity for episodic memory: in this memory storage system emotionally charged episodes get swallowed whole, encapsulated and stored, without being fully inventoried. It seems as long as unconscious contents remain unconscious, their intensities are not diminished by time and space.

When we get emotionally triggered, it is likely one of these highly charged capsules of traumatic experience has activated, contributing it’s resonant emotional tone to the scene. Typically, the encapsulated trauma memory does not announce it’s role in providing the emotion. Again, this is the blur.

If we were to orient the father to his vulnerability to employing such a defense, with increasing awareness, he might choose to experiment with checking his impulse to censor his child. If he is able to do so, what might he notice? The increasing internal pressure may well lead to a spontaneous memory or feeling. From a psychodynamic perspective, it is possible an unthought known can begin to be thought about.

The action disorder formulation gets at this starting with the observation: “Any affect or emotion which in its raw and unaltered form is too intense to be controlled by will alone may need its ritual. Without ritual, such energies may inundate the ego and force it into acting out or into obsessive behavior. Ritual brings about containment and acceptance, control of intensity, and ‘dosage’.” (Whitmont, E., Return of the Goddess, p.235.)

At a personal level, we may or may not have much of an idea about how much of a charge we are carrying related to still split off trauma.

At the level of at least doing no harm, the father in his unconsciousness is likely to be initiating a reenactment of his original wound.  From this perspective, what he puts on the child and what the child experiences, will quite likely be an out-picturing of the father’s core experiential state scene. Almost from the beginning, any two who would love will be generating a core internal image or representation of what it means to be in relationship. See Developmental Considerations)

dancepartytextlesspng

The father, suffering at some level with feelings of guilt about impulses, rids himself of the conflict by putting it into the child. His psyche sets the child up to become identified with the unacceptable impulsiveness projected onto him, setting up the father’s feeling justified in using a critical tone to find the child guilty as charged. This is the blur dynamic.

In truth, while the father is in the stage of life where in he can choose to embrace corrective experiences leading to the dissolving of the irrationality contributing to his experiential state scenes, the child is in the phase of coalescing of his/her experiential state. Recall, my first orientation to the concept of the experiential state was the fact that it was the single composite picture informed by every important interaction concerning wounds to loving. I find it helpful to think about multiple emotional challenges, on themes, which can still then be collapsed into one.

I’m going to post this now and try to approach it by reworking the graphics in the Representation of Persona Submitting to Emotion plate.

 

 

 

 

 

Take Two: Conscious Enactment

December 10, 2016

Conscious Enactment: from the Blur to Healing and Wholeness

What do I mean by the concept of  conscious enactment?

Let’s start with what it isn’t. Take a moment to reflect on an encounter with the blur.

When the blur is working, we believe in the reality of the manifest content. This means what gets our attention is our here and now problem, and our best guidance is too call it out and commit to resolving it together through conscious action. Sounds good. But, from the dream time perspective, if either of us has a sense of there is more here, something about the tone and intensity of the problem or need, then we want to consider the blur aspect.

This means examining the difficulty from the perspective of microfractures in communication.

What is being shown through the blur is an out-picturing of an original wounding episode(s). Psyche’s shorthand is to reduce this to an experiential state scene: something has happened, self and composite other are captured with expressions reflecting the core primary affects associated with the scene, eg: shame, abandonment, fear, anxiety.

This is the layer of the latent content.

In short, I am proposing conscious enactment as the intention to revisit the blur for the purpose of  surfacing the underlying experiential state driver of the microfracture.

Hence, take two. We want to embrace as many takes as it takes(!) to satisfy the opening and experience the deeper affects and witnessing attendant to the recovery of split off emotional life.

One more important idea: from the co-created system perspective, it is helpful to consider each participant is contributing to the core material being evoked through the blur. When consciousness can not contain an activation, if the complex is allowed to expand and split, then the figures in the experiential state, eg: raging/abandoning parent and reactive terrified child, will each attempt to hijack the ego and command the bus. When this happens, with the split, the “other” is projected onto the environment. We are both at risk for being possessed by either of the complex entities. This dance is now in the service of the re-enactment of the wounding. When one can see the blur as a kind of threshold, the opportunity for deeper healing is at hand.

In calling for Conscious Enactment, I am proposing we turn our attention to identifying the experiential state component hypothesized to be driving any blur state.

How directly might we make the shift from wound/defense to opening to the opportunity to have the most longed for dialogue? Can we imagine what would be the most satisfying expression of connection for both parties? This is the guiding image take two: conscious enactment strives for through this consciously authentic encounter. We can’t will it to occur, but it seems we can create the conditions to support dropping into the depth of the wound and then/there, bring something to the moment which was unavailable at the time of the wounding. This is what heals the complex, in some happy moment.

The micro-fracture in communication again offers a simple template: ruptures are the way in, repair and reconciliation of both the present and original wound the way to wholeness and health. More to follow…

Couple Power Struggle as Compromise Formation?

October 24, 2016

As I’ve been exploring the idea our most challenging and repetitive intimate partner conflicts may be generated by our dueling partial cures, Freud’s discussion of dreams and compromise formations popped into my head in the middle of the night. The unbidden thought/question was: Is it possible what we can remember and report about a painful fight is really the waking dream equivalent of a dream’s manifest content? I recalled Freud’s view of dream work is that the dream we remember – the “manifest” dream is actually a compromise formation: a psychic product, symptom, symbol, or dream form that expresses simultaneously and partially satisfies both the unconscious impulse and the defense against it.” (For more on manifest versus latent contents, see link below.)

What gets our attention, what we fight about, is something we can think about. Something deeper, and sensed to be threatening at some level, remains hidden – latent – from consciousness . (see link below) The compromise formation is psyche’s camouflage tool.

So what about the unconscious impulse and the defense against it? The Wilkinson discussion of micro-fractures in communication comes to mind. Micro-fractures as manifest content carry a charge reflective of a compromise formation dynamic at work. Through the opening/piercing they provide, something unintended is shown to us. What is being shown at some level can be thought of as an out-picturing of “raw material from the patient’s internal world and history.” As compromise formations, these spontaneously expressed offerings can become the engine of self – other analysis. Note it is best to recognize by definition that what is being revealed is wearing camouflage, and all parties want to respect the dynamics at play to keep hidden the true meaning until the conditions are favorable.

The phenomenon of the blur, as an altered and altering state of emotional consciousness, provides an important bridge between the here and now and the unconscious-to-ego “latent” contents. When triggered, internally or externally, activating complexes, if unchecked, provide the stage, actors, and script for the purpose of re-enacting the wounding. That is, until such time as one or both can gather enough consciousness to wake up within this dream.

How might it shift the dialogue to consider, mutually, what we are fighting about in the blur reflects to some degree a manifest content? Note one does not want to ask is this or is this not the real fight we’re having. Rather, if something of our reality is defensive, in what ways might this reflect our co-created manifest content? And if so, how might we  penetrate the defensive camouflage? Recall, if manifest content rules are in play, psyche is allowing into consciousness material which expresses simultaneously and partially satisfies both the unconscious impulse and the defense against it.

A simple example which comes to mind is if we argue about who gets to drive the bus and something about your tone awakes my inner child, I am likely to project my shaming parental figure/introject onto you. My impulse might be to scream or cry out “NO! I want this, that, or the other” but, fearful I might sound like a two year old, and/or be shamed or punished for trying to have a say, I may hold back, in silence or protest. The defenses responsible for our early survival will kick in automatically and silence the impulse to be heard, to matter, to be a part of all that is good in the family. How are the defenses enabling our survival then still being deployed today? Getting to the core character building origins of his/herstories is never easy.

I am struck with the overlap between the concept of compromise formation and Jung’s view of the symbol. 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)

Is it possible the blur, when recognized for what it is, may be the best possible designation or formula for something relatively unknown yet recognized to be present, or required? For more on this see my section on Complexes as Bridge to the Symbolic World in the Psycho-Educational Symbolic Overview, or my exploration of the teleology of the complex in Musings on Metamorphosis post.

When one can see the unconsciousness present in the blur as an unbidden opportunity, one can get perhaps more  wholeheartedly embrace the suffering which comes with the piercing of the the veil of camouflage. In telling our stories we create opportunities to reminisce deeply, experience again more and more of the original affects. We practice embracing our lost selves, taking care of them and bringing them home.

The take away is be on the look out for mysterious movements and meanings. The participation mystique is more than an abstract concept!

Here is more response ease for Freud’s use of manifest versus latent dream content:

“Manifest content
The manifest content can be interpreted as the information that the conscious individual remembers experiencing. It consists of all the elements of actual images, thoughts, and content within the dream that the individual is cognitively aware of upon awakening. Illustrated through iceberg imagery, the manifest content would be identified as the “tip”: it is barely exposed above the surface with an enormous portion still hidden underneath. As the hallmark of psychoanalytic theory suggests, what is observed on the surface is only a partial representation of the vastness that lies beneath (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Although images may initially appear bizarre and nonsensical, individual analysis of the dream can reveal its underlying meaning.

Latent content
Related to yet distinctly separate from manifest content, the latent content of the dream illustrates the hidden meaning of one’s unconscious thoughts, drives, and desires. The unconscious mind actively suppresses what can be revealed from the latent content in order to protect the individual from primitive feelings that are particularly difficult to cope with. Freud (1900) believed that by uncovering the meaning of one’s hidden motivations and deeper ideas, an individual could successfully understand his or her internal struggles through eventually resolving issues that create tension in their lives. In contrast to the information easily recognizable, latent content makes up everything underneath the surface. Illustrated once again through iceberg imagery, the depth of meaning that can be derived from examining this layer can reveal deeper underlying thoughts within an individual’s unconscious.”