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

Posted March 1, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Images of the Self, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically

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.

Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold

Posted February 2, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

I am in Florida this week attending a five day Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Immersion training with Diana Fosha, PhD. With two full days in, I am very happy and excited to report her model, with it’s experiential focus on the transformational experiences, seems to be a field guide for working with the blur. I am so looking forward to differentiating my work with AEDP!

Below is a page I first posted in 2012. I am re-posting it to highlight a few details. More on those later.

In recognizing the presence of emotion as the indicator the unconscious is activating, and in appreciation of the understanding healing only occurs in the blur, we are ready to consider the possibility that getting one’s buttons pushed is just what the doctor ordered. How might we recognize psyche’s timing as an opportunity for spontaneous healing and embrace the opening?

A Couple Experiential State Complex activation brings to the here and now the direct experience of one’s core family of origin vulnerability. Infused with the emotion of the dream-time, this co-created complex sets the stage and provides the script and props essential to facilitating a re-enactment of the wounding. Without considerable effort to understand and keep connected to consciousness, once constellated, the couple experiential state complex is likely to defeat the individual and couple’s best ego-based intentions. While it might seem wise to learn how to extinguish the complex, this approach doesn’t take into account the important meaning and role of complexes.

“During early traumas, our emerging egos split-off and repress aspects of the psyche that parents, siblings, or society found unacceptable. These split-off aspects could be thoughts, feelings, images, or associations. Often they are valuable and worth recall. They may carry hidden talents, intuitions, abilities, or accurate feelings that would make our personalities wiser and more complete if we could integrate them. Until reintegration can occur, our psyches are like the pieces of a broken mirror, which hold in fragments what was once a complete reflection.” (Moore, Robert, and Gillette, Douglas, The King Within, pp.32 33.)

However valuable as they may be, when it comes to opening to suffering them through, it is understandable to resist such opportunities to incarnate these entities. By definition they are the missing connections to the most unbearable experiences of our childhood, specifically the highly charged split-off images and affects at the center of the complex. Acknowledging their existence let alone consciously attempting to experience them directly is counter intuitive to the ego’s self preservation instincts (Edinger on Mortificatio).

Recovering one’s wholeness necessitates that at some point we embrace unbearable split off trauma in the service of suffering it through. On a side note, my long term care consultations offered the opportunity to bear witness to the return of the repressed: if one lives long enough to become demented, that which one’s defenses have kept out of conscious awareness will begin to resurface. With cognitive faculties on the ropes, these storms of affect can wreck havoc on the now beleaguered mind. Suffering through that which could not be borne consciously at an earlier time is what is required to complete the initiation.

Donald Sander and John Beebe (1985) have observed:

“Working through any split requires not only dis-identification by the ego from the more familiar pole of the complex, but also affective recognition of the contrary pole. Such recognition requires immersion in the side that has been unconscious. There is an unconscious tendency toward wholeness and relief of tension that fosters the emergence, under accepting conditions such as analysis, of the repressed pole. The consequence is that at least temporary possession by unfamiliar contents is a regular part of the life and of the analytic process, an inevitable prelude to the integration of unconscious portions of the Self.” (Jungian Analysis, edited by Murray Stein, pp. 331-332.)

In other words, the experience of remembering that which was dismembering at the time of the original overwhelm requires the ego submit to “at least temporary possession by unfamiliar contents.” What seems unfamiliar to the ego is the experience of finding itself immersed in the historically split off image and affect. This is the blur. 

Staying conscious in the here and now experience of the blur, as a betwixt and between, waking dream infused state of consciousness, supports us in recognizing the blur as an activated threshold. From a psychological perspective, this encounter with the blur for me represents the ego’s experience of approaching the Self, with as much consciousness as it can bear. Remember, the ego is wired for something like 110 voltage, and the Self is wired for 220 on up to 10,000 volts. Considering Edinger’s observation the collective unconscious does transcend time and space, we can only imagine the ego’s challenges, as the “agent of the Self in time,” in attempting to peer into the unconscious; this is something like being afforded an opportunity to look into eternity.

In this aspect, the Couple Experiential State Complex, when activated, captures and embodies the breadth and depth of the ego’s here and now experience when infused by the archetypal, eternal realm of the Self. From this perspective, it symbolizes the universe of possible meanings and interpretations. In this moment, however, it provides the opportunity to enter into an encounter with that which is presenting for healing, here, now.

Random(?) Dream Postings

Posted January 18, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

FYI: Poking around in my unpublished-to-date stuff, I found a couple of earlier dreams and thought I would post them as stand alone window into psyche. The Eye Fetish dream below is one of several in a sequence which set a future discussion on archaic human longing. It dawns on me I could put all the dreams in a file…some day.

From the Dream Time: An Eye Fetish

Posted January 18, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Communications from the Dream Time, Complexes and More, Dream, Images of the Self

During an hour this past week, in reflecting on an apparent mismatch in enthusiasm between two family members, and the amount of suffering this produced, consciously, for one of the party, the issue of archaic human longing came up. The dream below is one of several which moved me towards a deeply felt experience of this. I will be looking through my archives for a couple more in series as part of bringing this forward. As a stand alone dream, this one is pretty fun in terms of the sheer intensity of the energy. I had the dream the second night into a week long gathering of men with Robert Bly, Robert Moore, Malidoma Some and others, in the primitive Mendocino Woodlands Camp.

July 24, 1991: I woke up at 4:30 AM with a long dream in mind; details fuzzy/sharp and excessive. Doing men’s work here at Mendocino Camp; On and on and on; making shit, talking shit, doing shit; singing and dancing and drumming and imagining.

After all this stuff, what a mess of bodies and stuff happening everywhere, all over, all the time. Robert Bly picks up a little piece of wood I had painted to look like a green snake(?) eye; blue eye, mottled green and white serpents shape; fashioned from a stick with a knot in the center, or maybe plywood, jigged out, and painted. Pretty crude representation at that.

I’m delighted at his interest in something I made. “Why do you want that thing Robert? What is so special about it to you?” He just laughs that big grin and says: “I just like the feel of it, you know…” and caresses it in his fingers and moves on.

EyeFetishDream1.22.14I woke up somewhat disoriented, having gone to sleep with one ear plug in (snoring in the cabin) and decided to go outside with my journal to write it down. The moon was overhead, moving powerfully through the sky channel created by the creek running through the very tall old growth forest. After writing it down and spending some time with it, I went in to the Lodge and painted the image. Just when I was finishing doing so, I heard the voice of an elder coming down the path, quietly singing, who, coming into the lodge to get a cup of tea, walked up to me, took a long look at me, my painting, and then back at me, and said: “Something’s happened! When you are ready, we must talk!” Later that week, we did.

Luminous Wolf, Shared Piercing Dream

Posted January 18, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Communications from the Dream Time, Dream, Images of the Self, Initiation, Soul

January 26, 2009 Dream: “My friends are giving me a medal, to be ‘pinned’ on my left flank, belly. I’m apprehensive, say ‘are you going to use rubbing alcohol on that large pin?’

Just then, a luminous wolf crosses from left to right in front of me. Hard to say how far, how close, her actual size, as she seems to be arriving from another dimension. Very healthy with a full silvery black coat, and surrounded by an incredible aura. She stops, turns her head over her right shoulder, to gaze at me. I notice, as part of her energetic aura, from her left flank, extending above her back, is a large arrow shaft, with feathers, suggesting she has an embedded arrow point in her left side, about where I am to be pierced. Her aura incorporates the arrow, as if she is living with it in vibrant health…”


Waking Reflections: What struck me was how healthy she was, while still carrying the evidence of a likely mortal wound. Still, energetically, this arrow wasn’t limiting her presence and power.

In the dream it seems I am about to receive a blessing from the Spirit Brothers, a medal of some kind, in recognition of my relationship to my wound. (Unpublished back story) The pinning itself will be a flesh offering. At this moment the Wolf appears, affirming our work from the dream time. YES, she shows us, one’s wound need not be the death of one’s vitality. Something like that. Associations to the pelican piercing her own breast, the piercing of Jesus’ side on the cross, and the Sun Dance ceremony all come to mind.

And, we might ask, who is she, showing up with such vibrancy and generating such an incredible aura? An image of the Self? A transrational presence/being?

Brian Feldman on the Second Skin (and more!)

Posted January 7, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Learning to Think and Work Symbolically

Excerpted from:

“The lost steps of infancy: Symbolization, analytic process and the growth of the self” by Brian Feldman, Ph.D. (2002). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47:397-406

“I believe that there is a relational archetype that emerges at birth (and perhaps in utero). This relational archetype mediates object relations (both the internally and externally ones) from birth, and continues to have an influence throughout the life cycle. At birth the relational archetype forms the basis for early bonding and attachment experiences. Bowlby’s (1969) attachment research offers ample evidence that the infant is genetically wired to form emotional bonds with attachment figures from birth. In Jungian terms this could be seen as an archetypal configuration occurring at the infrared pole or instinctual pole of the archetype. At the ultra violet end of the archetypal spectrum exists imagery of the coniunctio: the relational couple. Jung explored the adult form of the coniunctio in the ‘Psychology of the transference’ (Jung 1946), and postulated that this archetypal configuration is at the core of the analytic process. I would agree with Jung that the coniunctio or the relational couple is central to analytic work. My research is an attempt to understand the developmental sequence of the coniunctio, starting from intrauterine life and infancy. Infant observation research has made me aware of the pivotal significance of the coniunctio or relational couple from birth. The mother-infant coniunctio forms the foundation of the later coniunctios that develop through the life cycle, and as we know from our clinical work, difficulties in the early mother/infant couple can lead to later developmental problems. It is helpful clinically to have an understanding of the early mother/infant coniunctio, as this often emerges first in the individuation process.

Author Information

In regard to the early mother/infant couple I would like to make the following points that also are derived from my ongoing research of observing babies:

1. The infant’s sense of agency, his capacity to create his universe in relationship with and in interaction with the significant figures in his environment is fundamental to understanding his development. This principle can also be related to analytic work and our need to support our analysand’s emerging agency in the analytic arena.

2. The infant’s mental, emotional and spiritual development evolves in the context of the early coniunctio. Mental, emotional, and spiritual developments do not evolve in isolation from the significant relationships in the baby’s life. The contextual component of the infant’s experience is fundamental to understanding his development.

3. The early mother/infant relationship is quite fluid in nature. There is an ongoing oscillation between states of connection and states of separateness. There are a rhythm and a tempo to these fluctuating states. The baby and mother undulate with each other in their particular dance. These observations are in contrast to Fordham’s (1985) conceptualizations that the infant is separate from birth, and are also divergent from Winnicott’s (1960) concept that the mother and infant are in a state of fusion during the earliest period of life.

4. The infant’s capacity for symbolization evolves from birth onward. The skin, as the first experience of a container, is fundamental in this regard. Through the experience of the skin the infant develops a concept of inside and outside spaces, with a boundary which separates the two distinct areas. The skin is the envelope in which the body is contained, and it is the skin that provides the points of contact with the external world. The skin acts as a delineator of boundaries between what is experienced to be outside and what is experienced as inside the self. This primary skin function involves the evolution of a psychic container within which thought, affect and symbolic experience can be held and reflected upon. This experience of the skin later evolves into a concept of an internal and external world. Difficulties in the evolution of the psychic skin, the mental representation of the sensory skin, can be seen in the analysis of primitive mental states where boundary difficulties are prominent. In these cases a secondary skin function can develop. The secondary skin function is a defensive manoeuver that helps to contain unbearable affects through the use of bodily and mental processes such as can emerge in eating disorders, sexual addictions as well as in other psychosomatic conditions (Feldman forthcoming). (Chuck’s bolding)

5. In my observations of babies I have been struck by the infant’s need to give shape to his bodily self by pushing his body up against hard and soft surfaces, and by the mouthing of and grasping hold of animate and inanimate objects. The experience of the infant being securely held in the arms of the mother or other significant caregiver, and the exploration of the body of the other, especially the touching of the skin of the breast during breast feeding as well as the touching of the mother’s face by the infant are fundamental in the development of a coherent body image.

6. The infant has a capacity for reverie as well as the mother. The infant’s reverie can be seen as the infant plays with the nipple and breast – the first play object. I would hypothesize that during these states of reverie the infant’s capacity for introjection develops and gradually the breast/nipple is introjected and forms the basis of a primal good internal object. The nipple in the mouth is at the core of the development of the coniunctio. It is the first interpenetration of subject and object, and this forms the basis for later schemes of object relations. This thesis is different from that developed by Bion (1962) and later Fordham (1985) where the mother’s capacity for reverie is seen as primary. I would place equal emphasis on the infant’s capacity for reverie and I would postulate that the first symbolizations are sensory and unfold in relationship and in connection with the mother and are not a result of separation and absence from her.”  

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:


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?