We all have different complexes. In Jungian analysis, consciousness and our experience of ourselves is made up of various complexes. Ignored, a complex has the power to significantly disturb us. When we are in the grip of a complex we are likely to behave irrationally and possibly make bad decisions.
Have you got a money complex?
Some years ago a client told me: ‘I realised I had a money complex. I have particular anxieties about money that I can see aren’t realistic, but when I am in the grip of them my mood changes and I am drawn into an area of profound doubt.
‘I knew that there must be more to this than money, but when I am in the grip of the money worries there was just no room to think clearly. Then I made the link that one of my worries about money was to my mother, and that my mother would cut me out of her will. Growing up, and even to this day, if there are any signs of arguments she would tell me I would be cut out of her will.
‘As I started to find a way to think about this I became aware that one of the issues of all this lay in a fear of maternal rejection. It sounded a bit odd when I first thought about it, but it made some sense, so I stuck with it.
When money worries are linked to a fear of maternal rejection
‘I think for me, money and anxiety around money is particularly linked to an experience of maternal rejection. The more I thought about this, the more I realised that I was no longer thinking about the money, about the spiralling fears of not being able to pay my bills, of not being able to support my family and so on. The more I made the link with maternal rejection the less I was worried about money. The more I returned to my ordinary state of mind.
Being able to make the link between money and maternal rejection, getting hold of his money complex, changed this man’s life.
When writing about complexes, Jung wrote:
“Everyone knows nowadays that people ‘have complexes’. What is not so well known, though far more important theoretically, is that complexes can have us.”
“The existence of complexes throws serious doubt on the naïve assumption of the unity of consciousness, which is equated with ‘psyche’, and on the supremacy of the will. Every constellation of a complex postulates a disturbed state of consciousness.” Jung C.G. (CW 8, para 200)
For Jung, a complex is a psychic factor which can exceed our conscious control and capacity. This means that there are areas of thought and feeling that have a particularly powerful impact on our experience of ourselves, but they act on us from off stage as it were. We can be in the grip of them without knowing it.
Jung: “When we are in the grip of a complex we are likely to lose sight and connection with other parts of ourselves.”
The complex must therefore be a psychic factor which, in terms of energy, possesses a value that sometimes exceeds that of our conscious intentions … And in fact, an active complex puts us momentarily under a state of duress, of compulsive thinking and acting, for which under certain conditions the only appropriate term would be the judicial concept of diminished responsibility’ Jung C.G. (CW 8, para 200).
Jung writes that a complex: “is the image of a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally and is, moreover, incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness. … it has a relatively high degree of autonomy, so that it is subject to the control of the mind to only a limited extent, and therefore behaves like an animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness” (CW 8, para 201).
Jung was clear that once these complexes have developed they act and exist in an autonomous fashion
Complexes originate in regard to particular experiences and times in our lives, but once they have become established they have the power to disrupt us at any time.
It is a bit like having a portal in the mind that we accidentally fall through. In the middle of our day to day experience a set of chance circumstances will occur that will propel us through the portal and into the complex. Then we are in an altered state of consciousness in which we lose sight of who we are. It is a bit like being possessed.
To change things, so they we are no longer vulnerable to slipping into these disturbing experiences we need to find a way to learn more about our complexes. That is what my client managed to do.