Friday, November 25, 2011

Polly Young-Eisendrath - Archetype and Complex

"Core states of human life, such as bonding, attachment, separation anxiety, and grief, are expressed among human beings everywhere in similar gestural, facial, and protocommunicative forms and are infused with emotions. Human emotions—first the primary emotions that are recognizable at birth (see Tomkins, 1962, Tomkins, 1963; Izard, 1992) and then the "self-conscious" emotions (e.g., shame, pride, envy, guilt, embarrassment; see Lewis, 1991) that emerge in the second year — create universal motivational and relational tendencies. From those who study emotional memory (e.g., Edelman, 1989; LeDoux, 1996), we know that memories play a large part in the human construction of the so-called present moment. Edelman (1989) referred to our emotionally charged memories as the "remembered present" to emphasize the categorical or metaphorical rather than veridical nature of representational memory. LeDoux (1996) expanded our understanding of memory by showing that emotional memories can be representational or nonrepresentational. For example, he explained that the hippocampus formation of the brain is "well-suited for establishing complex memories in which lots of events are bound together in space and time…. No particular response is associated with these kinds of memories—they can be used in many different ways in many different situations" (p. 224). Representational memories are complex, affective images that I would call metaphors (in Lakoff's 1987, sense) because they map cues from earlier domains of experience to later ones. By contrast, memories that are triggered in the amygdala are "rigidly coupled to specific kinds of responses … wired so as to preempt the need for thinking about what to do" (p. 224). In nonrepresentational memories, we react to immediate stimuli because they have elicited a primitive emotion — usually fear—sometimes without conscious perception of them.

In Jung's later theory (after 1944), he claimed that innate potentials called archetypes (meaning primary imprint) predispose us to form coherent affectively charged images (archetypal images) that are expressed unconsciously in dreams, mythologies, folklore, art, religion, rituals, and literature in similar forms the world over. In Jung's view, archetypal images were "living symbols" intimately connected to emotional life, not "signs" that could be translated through cultural or linguistic systems. This definition of archetype as an action potential was the product of Jung's acquaintance with evolutionary biology and ethology, and comparable to Tinbergen's idea of innate releasing mechanisms. The archetype as core arousal state, connected to affective images, is now supported by Edelman's and LeDoux's work on emotional memory and by Goleman's (1995) model of emotional intelligence.

Psychological complexes form around archetypes and their images, as personality develops. Experiences of an individual's psychic reality—needs, perceptions, fantasy, action patterns, motivations, cognitions—cohere into associated dynamics because of the emotional energy of particular affective images that may be completely unconscious. All complexes are composed of core arousal states and emotional memories (in representational and nonrepresentational forms) that may be either reenacted or remembered. Psychological complexes are both universal and personal, both collective and individual, in that they form around archetypes and express the psychic reality of an individual life.

Complexes are similar to "subjective objects" because they are a mix of "subjective" and "objective" experiences, patterned from emotional adaptation and expressed in dreams, projective identifications, unconscious roles, and other enactments in ordinary daily life. They play out individual adaptations to archetypal themes with survival purpose for our emotional lives, although they may block development as the emotional environment changes over time. Complexes may be enacted between onself and others (e.g., playing the Victim Child to someone's Terrible Father), or within oneself (e.g., the ego complex being constantly threatened by intrusions from a negative mother complex).

In humans everywhere, we find such common complexes as Mother, Father, Child, and Ego. These all have positive (e.g., Great Mother) and negative (e.g., Terrible Mother) expressions because of the dichotomizing tendencies that develop from the earliest distinctions between pain and pleasure, and because our early care was a mix of good and bad. Also, each complex includes a subject pole (originally the experience of the subject) and an object pole (originally experienced as the object), but, after adolescence, we can usually identify with either pole and project the other in an enactment or projective identification.

When unconscious complexes overtake ordinary consciousness, they invite or offer or demand that another participate. Enactments of complexes often become projective identifications that may be acute or chronic, in which one person communicates unconsciously through inviting another to play out some aspect of the first's complex. The receiving person will have fertile ground in her or his psyche to be familiar with the projected material, because of the universal nature of archetype and emotion. Identifying with another's projection, we play a role in another's inner theater that fits closely enough with something of our own. Jung called this participation mystique, borrowing the term from anthropology and describing clearly the mix of the unconscious dynamics between people."
(pp. 427-429)

Polly Young-Eisendrath (2000). Self and Transcendence. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol. 10, pp. 427-441.

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