Do you have a short fuse? Do You Blow Up and don't even know why?
Jung’s Theory of Complexes can help you to understand.
Jung says that our conscious intentions and actions are often frustrated by unconscious processes whose existence is a big surprise for us. We make little slips in speaking and writing, we exchange names and words, and do things of which we are not aware, we are betrayed by our best-kept secrets, often unknown by ourselves. Jung says that a complex was constellated or activated whenever an action or discussion loses its real purpose. Since a complex is activated, it becomes autonomous, that is, the complex acts as it was our own ego. It is typical in situations of fight or conflict in which we don't remember what we said (offensively) or did (aggressively), getting surprised when others remember or comment the fact, since we do not recognize ourselves in the action, neither the negative emotional content which led the episode.
Who testifies someone being dominated by a complex, don't understand what happens, and also do not understand the reaction that any comment made about it can unleash. We've all experienced this type of behavior in traffic, where a simple mistake or discourtesy of the driver beside us triggers rage reactions, often putting someone's life in danger. Other times, the simple request to someone reach the butter at breakfast can be received as an insult, as if we were stealing the right of another to use the butter.
Complex is a broad term, as Jung refers to the ego as a complex itself - the ego-complex - referring to the center of our consciousness and personal identity. For the examples that are exposed here, I refer to what Jung calls feeling-toned complex, which would be called neurotic, which carry an emotional charge capable of triggering over-reactions towards the actual situation in which the individual is.
The complex has many aspects, but today I would like to refer to those simple to observe, but which affect the quality of life of so many people.
We all have a relative or acquaintance who has what popularly call temper, someone who the slightest provocation, or fantasy of provocation, visible or not to the other, overreacts, in a disproportional manner. Sometimes we can assume that those involved in a quarrel are dealing with some other conflict (unknown to us) that affected the relationship. This is the recognition of a popular wisdom of what Jung called a complex. We, automatically, avoid certain individuals or attitudes that can trigger such kind of reactions, usually very unpleasant. When we react to an actual situation as we're experiencing another past situation, conscious or unconsciously, we are dominated by a complex. Sometimes we are aware we had a strange behavior or reaction, and we do not know why. We behavior as we are strange to ourselves, and we can try to find some rational explanation, i.e. a rational defense to justify the fact.
Jung asserts that a complex has us, since the complex dominates and leads us to have reactions and make decisions that under normal conditions would not be applicable. The popular wisdom advises not to take decisions driven by the excitement of the moment, but when someone is dominated by a complex, it seems to be very hard to stop, and there is no conventional wisdom or wise advice capable to stop it.
Do you know what are you doing?
Imagine a room full of smoke, the smoke disrupts not only the vision, as well as other instinctive and sensory senses, as touch, smell, taste. We were intoxicated by inhaled the smoke, in the absence of oxygen our ability to think clearly is affected. We see what's going on through the smoke screen, but without the necessary sharpness to know exactly what happens in that room. The complex acts as if it were a smokescreen, affecting our perception of reality. Our senses, thoughts and feelings are affected by it, committing all our action. It doesn't matter if the smoke comes from a cigarette, cigar, fragrant incense or a fire, the effect is the same. We are affected by the smoke. Now imagine that this smoke is the feeling-toned complex. That's how we see the facts and people when a complex is activated, we are intoxicated by inhaled and exhaled substances of the complex, and we're not conscious agents of our own action. Terrible, isn't it?
But how to deal with this, since we're unaware of what's going on with us?
-Watching what annoys us, excessively, and the situations in which this happens. This reminds me of a situation already lived, or someone from my past? Or is it that brings me a sensation, a feeling, an anguish, anger, which I don't know the source? Certainly, is no easy task to do this, it is often needed the help of a psychotherapy, but many times we can reflect on our own about, and try to listen carefully how people around us feel with our actions and reactions, since someone possessed by a complex usually bring many troubles for those who is around.
Complexes are loaded of negative emotions, feelings of inadequacy, lovelessness and helplessness, often caused by severe traumas or significant abandonments. Other times can be caused by a succession of minor traumas, which are being recorded throughout life as of lesser importance, but that pile up like a drop of water dripping in a glass, at some moment, even if it takes some time, will overflow. But before the glass of water overflow, the noise of drip is going to raising the level of tension and anguish, announcing the proximity of the overflow. Identify this sign can avoid the need for an overreaction, because there is always the possibility to stop the drip, that is, or unlink a given act commonplace a trauma of the past.
Imagine that this person who was upset when was asked to pass the butter grew up in a family with you'd be financial difficulties, where the butter was a luxury item, allowed only to his older brother, who was the favorite son of his mother. His mother, seeing that the butter was near him, quickly ordered that he would pass the butter to his brother.
Sometimes a butter is not a simple butter, but the summary of a lifetime of rejection and devaluing a person may have suffered in life.
And you? What is your butter? What's your trigger?
A Review of Complex Theory”, CW 8 – The Structure and Dynamic of the Psyche
“Memories, Dreams, Reflections” – C. G. Jung
“Experimental Researches” – CW 2
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