Thursday, November 28, 2013

Singer and Kimbles - The Cultural Complex

“This book sets out to explore a single notion – what we have called “the cultural complex.” The very name of the notion is a synthesis of two very potent words – “cultural” and “complex” – each carrying a long and important history of research, speculation, and multileveled meaning. The notion of a “cultural complex” is a synthetic idea, i.e., it springs from a particular tradition – analytical psychology – and draws on different strands of that tradition to build a new idea for the purpose of understanding the psychology of group conflict. Over and over again in this book, we will underline the premise that the psychology of cultural complexes operates both in the collective psychology of the group and in the individual members of the group…

As personal complexes emerge out of the level of the personal unconscious in their interaction with deeper levels of the psyche and early parental/familial relationships, cultural complexes can be thought of arising out the cultural unconscious as it interacts with both the archetypal and personal realms of the psyche and the broader outer world arena of schools, communities, media, and all the other forms of cultural and group life. As such, cultural complexes can be thought of as forming the essential components of an inner sociology. But this inner sociology does not claim to be objective or scientific in its description of different groups and classes of people. Rather, it is a description of groups and classes of people as filtered through the psyches of generations of ancestors. It has all sorts of information and misinformation about the structures of societies – a truly, inner sociology – and its essential building blocks are cultural complexes. Cultural complexes are not the same as cultural identity or what has sometimes been called “national character,” although there are times when cultural complexes, cultural identity and national character can seem impossibly intertwined...

Intense collective emotion is the hallmark of an activated cultural complex at the core of which is an archetypal pattern. Cultural complexes structure emotional experience and operate in the personal and collective psyche in much the same way as individual complexes, although their content might be quite different... Individuals and groups in the grips of a particular cultural complex automatically take on a shared body language and postures or express their distress in similar somatic complaints. Finally, like personal complexes, cultural complexes can provide those caught in their potent web of stories and emotions a simplistic certainty about the group’s place in the world in the face of otherwise conflicting and ambiguous uncertainties.

To summarize, cultural complexes are based on repetitive, historical group experiences which have taken root in the cultural unconscious of the group. At any ripe time, these slumbering cultural complexes can be activated in the cultural unconscious and take hold of the collective psyche of the group and the individual collective psyche of individual members of the group. The inner sociology of the cultural complexes can seize the imagination, the behavior and the emotions of the collective psyche and unleash tremendously irrational forces in the name of their “logic.”

Everywhere one turns today, there is a group that seems to be feeling the effects of a cultural complex in its behavior and relationships to other groups, in its feelings about itself and its sense of place in the world. Group complexes are everywhere and one can easily feel swamped by their affects and claims. To suggest that a group is in the grip of a complex in its behavior or affect – particularly if there is merit to the claim and the group has been discriminated against by a colonial power or a white power or a male power or a black power or a female power etc., etc. – is to risk being attacked with the full fury of that group’s psychic defenses. Mostly these group complexes have to do with trauma, discrimination, feelings of oppression and inferiority at the hands of another offending group – although the “offending groups” are just as frequently feeling discriminated against and treated unfairly. Group complexes litter the psychic landscape and are as easily detonated as the literal land mines that scatter the globe and threaten life – especially young life – everywhere.” (pp. 1-7)

Singer, T. and Kimbles, S.L. (2004). The Cultural Complex : contemporary Jungian perspectives on psyche and society, East Sussex, UK: Brunner- Routledge.

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