Archive for the ‘Connecting the Dots Series’ category

From the Author of “It’s Not Always Depression”

March 1, 2019

While attending the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Immersion training last month, Hilary Jacobs Hendel’s book It’s Not Always Depression was identified as a very important offering reflecting the fundamentals of how AEDP works to address transformative change. She apparently has been able to strike a nerve in the collective, helping lay people and professionals alike understand the importance of identifying core realities about family of origin issues, including neglect, trauma, etc.

I did attend a presentation years ago by a mental health managed care company orienting primary care physicians to the importance of helping patients recognize their depression or anxiety profiles as biological, setting up the primary intervention as biochemical. For me, the unintended(?) consequence of this was it discouraged physicians from believing in the importance of their role in standing in for the good enough ritual elder, who, in caring about your life and your troubles, helps you believe in your goodness, and your resources, in finding a way to better manage life’s joys and sorrows. I knew at the time this was message was just plain wrong and said so. It was a spirited debate, but, alas, many good people, providers and patients alike, continue to believe in the need to treat depression as a disease, not a reaction to human life situations.* (see comment below) I do appreciate the important role medications can play in the mobilization and recovery process, but we all are in need of support to recognize our life trajectory, and create a narrative which strives to hold the joys and sorrows which are both our ancestral inheritance and the source of enlivenment and meaning.

I just received an email from the AEDP list serve from Hilary and at first glance, find her blog to be chock full of helpful information. A recent posting demonstrating how she works with the change triangle is very clear and concise. See:

Poking around, I see she has a series of four posts discussing “Getting to Know Your Three Brains”. See: These are very focused daily process guides to correcting one’s one-sidedness, in the direction of hearing from our minds, emotions, and bodies. She identifies the Self as the core consciousness which can function as the Maestro in the orchestra of the three brains: mind, emotion, and body.

With response ease in mind, I wanted to post these resources and encourage you to check out her work. She seems to be an embodied translator of the AEDP process work, with very accessible applications for self-guiding this work.

Once again, it is curious to me about the way this model identifies the role of Self without any explicit cross referencing to Jung’s original work with Self, ie: ego-Self axis. I find this fascinating and exciting, in that it suggests to me an intersection of depth processes. In the mid 1990’s when I attended an update on self-psychology with my early psychoanalytic mentor Rowe Mortimer, I was delighted to hear him describe how the psychoanalytic schools think about internalized others, ie: mother, father, as “active, dynamic, willing entities. This language seemed a perfect, yes, I said PERFECT bridge to what I had been learning about Jung’s complex theory. It is just this bridge that is at the center of my explorations here: the interface between the experiential state‘s self-other-affect, and the nuclei of a trauma complex, reflecting the archetypal layer evoked by the emotional overwhelm. See:

From my work, the archetypal layer and realm of the complexes contributes a depth which speaks to the possibilities of just how episodic memories of trauma get stored and are indeed waiting to be re-discovered by ego consciousness, in the service of healing original wounds. To be continued.

Finding our way: Trauma Complexes

December 2, 2018

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:


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?

November 21, 2018

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?


The Importance of Getting Triggered

September 15, 2018

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…

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.

The Secret of Salvation in Dante’s World

September 28, 2017

The paragraph below is excerpted from a source quote posted under Images of the Journey in Dante’s Divine Comedy, by Charles H. Taylor & Patricia Finley:

“The secret of salvation in Dante’s world … is insight into the nature of who one is, how one injures, what it feels like to be oneself the victim and to make others the targets of one’s desirousness, rage, pride, and deceits. Those who make it to Purgatory are not less shadow-driven, narcissistic, obsessed, or pathological than others, but they have not refused to make conscious what they are, to bear the burden of themselves, and to come in time to take full responsibility for their own natures. By coming to know what operates in us behind appearances, whether driven by unconscious instinct and aggression or by more deliberate betrayals we can choose to take a stand against whatever in our personal character moves us to wound others and our larger selves.

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: