About Complexes

When talking about Adonis, Cleopatra or Napoleon do we really render account that these notable people possessed the greatest human flaws ever known? Or that their names would be attributed to the most complicated psychic processes by the psychotherapists? The greatest philosophers and the moralists of the world would praise these nobles. And, would the modern psychologists do the same?
The complex – (from latincomplex 2a connection) is a constellation of unconscious retentive emotions experienced towards one`s specific psychological or physical feature, which causes the inner psychic tensions and might have a deep impact on the harmonious development of the personality. In the historical researches the term “complex” first appeared in the works of the German neurologist and psychiatrist Theodor Ziehen who introduced it as a new psychological phenomenon after his experiments with the reaction time in word association and test responses (Daniels, 2003). The term “complex,” or “feeling-toned complex of ideas,” was adopted by Carl Jung when he was still a Freud`s follower. Complexes were so central to Jung’s ideas that he originally called his body of theories “Complex psychology” (Daniels, 2003). Jung described a “complex” as a ‘node’ in the unconscious; it may be imagined as a knot of unconscious feelings and beliefs, detectable indirectly, through behavior that is puzzling or hard to account for. Jung found evidence for complexes very early in his career in the word association tests conducted at the Burghölzli, the psychiatric clinic of Zurich University, where Jung worked from 1900–1908 (Daniels, 2003). Jung developed the theory out of his work on Word Association Test (Daniels, 2003). In the word association tests, a researcher read a list of 100 words to each subject, who was asked to say, as quickly as possible, the first thing that came to mind in response to each word, and the subject’s reaction time was measured in fifths of a second (Daniels, 2003). (Sir Francis Galton invented the method in 1879) Researchers noted any unusual reactions—hesitations, slips of the tongue, signs of emotion (Daniels, 2003). Jung was interested in patterns he detected in subjects’ responses, hinting at unconscious feelings and beliefs (Daniels, 2003). In Jung’s theory, complexes may be conscious, partly conscious, or unconscious. Complexes can be positive or negative, resulting in good or bad consequences (Mattoon, 1999). There are many kinds of complex, but at the core of any complex is a universal pattern of experience, or archetype (Wishard, 2004). Jung believed it was perfectly normal to have complexes because everyone has emotional experiences that affect the psyche. Although they are normal, negative complexes can cause us pain and suffering (Mattoon, 1999). One of the key differences between Jungian and Freudian theory is that Jung’s thought posits several different kinds of complex. Freud only focused on the Oedipus complex which reflected developmental challenges that face every young boy. He did not take other complexes into account except for the Electra complex, which he briefly spoke of (Carlini, 2005). According to Jung’s personality theory, complexes are building blocks of the psyche and the source of all human emotions (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). Complexes are thought to operate “autonomously and interfere with the intentions of the will, disturbing the memory and conscious performance” (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). “Jung stressed that complexes are not negative in themselves, but their effects often are.” (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). Jung also included the ego in a broadly comprehensive theory of complexes, often referring to it as the ego-complex as illustrated when he said, “By ego I understand a complex of ideas which constitutes the centre of my field of consciousness and appears to possess a high degree of continuity and identity. Hence I also speak of an ego-complex.” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par 706) Jung often used the term “complex” to describe a usually unconscious, repressed yet highly influential symbolic material that is incompatible with the consciousness (Daniels, 2010). Daniels (2010) described complexes as “‘Stuck-together’ agglomerations of thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and somatic forms of expression.” Jung spoke of one specific type of complex, an autonomous feeling-toned complex, when he said, “What then, scientifically speaking, is a ‘feeling-toned complex’? It is the image of a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally and is, moreover, incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness. This image has a powerful inner coherence, it has its own wholeness and, in addition, a relatively high degree of autonomy, so that it is subject to the control of the conscious mind to only a limited extent, and therefore behaves like an animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness.” (Jung, [1960] 1969:par. 201) Some complexes usurp power from the ego and can cause constant psychological disturbances and symptoms of neurosis (Daniels, 2010). With the intervention, can become conscious and greatly reduced in their impact (Daniels, 2010). Another contribution to the studies of complex was made by the Austrian psychiatrist A. Adler, whose ideas on the “complex theory” were much similar to the Jung`s and today make a part of the most significant psychological heritage in this field due to his novatory ideas and his scientific openness. Adler was the first to have admitted the existence of “the ego complex”, notably “the complex of inferiority” and “the complex of superiority”, which made the consecutive revolution in the approach to the studies of the consciousness as it proved the imperfection of the mind. But for the studies realized by Freud, Jung and Adler about the “complexes”, there is still a wide field for the academic researches on the subject.
   Main features of the complex:
– Irrational belief or a set of directives that regulate the acting of the person ;
– Repeated schema of behavior; inability to act differently ;
– State of duress, compulsive (sometimes biased) thinking or acting ;
– Fear that feeds the complex ;
– Disposition to take decisions on the pure emotional bases rather than on the logical conclusions ;
– Neurotic suffering;
– Long-term duration ;
– Praising or blaming from the part of the social morality, however the neutral attitude shall not be expected ;
Each complex stems from the basic instincts, e.g. the person who suffers from the Complex of the Superiority would try to self-assert by all means whereas the One with the Complex of Castration seeks for the possibility of the continuation of his origin like the person with the Complex of Persecution feels the need for safety. Each complex begins with its particular experience and in its origin might be found the old trauma as well as the highly accentuated emotionally endured situation, which traces may be tracked at present. Most complexes originate in the childhood or the youth. In a situation when the person responded negatively to a certain conditioned life`s challenge, the complex was consolidated, which cannot but grow in its strength as long as it is nurtured along the way. The one who suffers from the complex might find it difficult to judge rationally in the complex-exciting situations, which provokes the compulsive thinking and the state of duress. Some researches show that the complexes have got the wave-long nature, which is demonstrated in hours, days or weeks and technically can be presented with the following diagram : the arousal – the peak – the lowering. As we may see, the complex does not disappear completely, however it can be lowered and discarded into the unconscious, from where the minor booster would suffice to trigger it out. The complexes might even impact the dreams and send the informative messages to the unconscious in the form of the specific images that would be easily distinguished from the other ‘senders’ by their bright connotations and the direct meaning, which would evoke the habitual feeling of the complex, but in a dream. The complexes might even unclose themselves in the capacity of “voices” and “directives” heard within and therefore influence the decision-making of the person.
   Any complex has a positive or negative impact on the integrity of the personality.
Negative sides:
   Complex may lead to the lost of the sense of reality and the biased subjectivism. In a conversation, the person who suffers the complexes may find it difficult to express his/her genuine intentions and, as a consequence, the conversation would take the prejudiced flow and would lose its primary goal. The complexes might distort the memory and cause the ambivalence in thinking and interpretation. In a case of non-interference there might happen the neurotic assimilation and the consecutive identification of the person with his\her complex.
Positive sides:
   Everyone has got complexes. The complexes do not necessarily imply inferiority for the individual who has them, they merely indicate that there are some weak places in the psyche. E.g. The complex of the Height Insufficiency played the primary role in the life of Napoleon. Such disposition is one of the strongest motivation powers that induces a person to “defend”  his\her complex on the regular basis. Moreover, it guarantees the sense of “safety” and “protection” until the person resides in the “house” of the complex.  The complexes have got the positive influence on the person`s every day`s life as well as on its perspective as long as they do not possess the individual.
   Whether the complex will aggravate or find its cure depends entirely on the orientation of the person as well as the family and the social entourage. The complexes can be surpassed with the will of the person. In this case, he\she shall be sincere about his\her intentions and take a conscious approach towards its elimination. To start with, the one might respond differently from the habitual pattern of the behavior in a situation that provokes the demonstration of the complexes and in such a way consolidate emotionally and consciously a new schema of behavior. The systematic repetition would cause the conditioned response of the mind and would break the old pattern of behavior by letting new judgments and emotions rule in the consciousness.
There do not exist the isolated psychological processes, and the complexes prove this rule. From the philosophical point of view, but for the complexes the world would be simply dull, from the moral prospective, the complexes make the legends come true, and the medicine is still silent on the matter. So, with or without depends on what your approach is…