Source: Murry Stein on Complexes

“Further on the structure of the complex, 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. The dual core of the complex grows by gathering associations around itself, and this can go on over the course of an entire lifetime. If, for example, a man reminds a woman of her harsh, abusive father by his tone of voice, by his way of reacting to life, by his intensity of emotional response, and so on, he will understandably constellate her father complex. If she interacts with him over a period of time, material will be added to that complex. If he abuses her, the negative father complex will be further enriched and energized, and she will become all the more reactive in situations where the father complex is constellated. Increasingly she may avoid such men entirely, or on the other hand she may find herself irrationally drawn to them. In either case, her life becomes more and more restricted by this complex. The stronger the complex, the more they restrict the range of the ego’s freedom of choice.” (Stein, Murray, “The Structure of Complexes, “Jung’s Map of the Soul, pp. 52-53.

Generally, the psychological effects of complex constellations perseverate over an extended period of time after the stimulus has left off impacting the psyche. Certain experimental investigations seem to indicate that [the complex’s] intensity or activity curve has a wavelike character with a ‘wavelength’ of hours, days, or weeks.’(16) The stimulus that provokes the complex may be slight or great, of long or short duration, but its effects on the psyche can continue for extended periods of time and can come into consciousness in waves of emotion or anxiety. One of the signs of effective psychotherapy is that the complex-induced disturbances perseverate for shorter lengths of time than they did before. A more rapid recovery from complex-induced disturbances indicates increased ego strength and integration of psychic material as well as decreased power in the complexes. A shortened perseveration time means that the complex’s power has diminished. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that a complex can never be completely eliminated. The wavelike effects of complex “aftershock” are exhausting and draining.  (Stein, Murray, “The Structure of Complexes, “Jung’s Map of the Soul, p.50)

One Comment on “Source: Murry Stein on Complexes”


  1. […] question is will the present moment be experienced as yet one more re-enactment of the wounding, contributing more material to the complex, or might we, this time, see the opportunity for healing, and break the enchantment, in some happy […]


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