Episode 87 – The Racial Complex with Dr. Fanny Brewster

Nov 28, 2019


Dr. Fanny Brewster, Jungian Analyst, colleague and friend, joins This Jungian Life to discuss her forthcoming book, The Racial Complex: A Jungian Perspective on Culture and Race. Complexes tend to operate autonomously and unconsciously, have strong feeling-tones, and contain archetypal fuel. The racial complex, a complicated mix of color, class and culture, operates individually and collectively and in multiple ways. Although shadow projection and “othering” are intrinsic to the racial complex, America’s history of slavery further intensifies it. Like other complexes, the racial complex cannot be either denied or defeated—it can, however, be lifted into consciousness. As with any complex, learning, discussion and self-reflection can expand awareness, connection and compassion. 


“The scene begins with me driving my car to a hotel. I park up in a space near the entrance and go inside. After I have looked around a bit I look out of the large window to see that I have left my dog, a brown Labrador, tied to the car. As it is a grey day the dog is laying down underneath lest it rain. A white woman in her 40s with curly hair appears along with two burly white bald men. The woman squats over the car and urinates onto the dog. I am furious and rush outside to rescue the dog, but the two men get in the way, manhandling me roughly. I know they are bigger than me and that I am outnumbered but I fight for my dog as I suddenly wake up.” 

References (books available on Amazon) 

Brewster, Fanny. The Racial Complex: A Jungian Perspective on Culture and Race (as of 11-21-19).

Brewster, Fanny. Archetypal Grief: Slavery’s Legacy of Intergenerational Child Loss. 

Brewster, Fanny. African Americans and Jungian Psychology: Leaving the Shadows.

Adams, Michael. The Multicultural Imagination: “Race”, Color and the Unconscious (Opening Out). 

Singer, Tom and Samuel L. Kimbles. The Cultural Complex.

DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism. 

Film: Get Out

#ThisJungianLife #AnalyticalPsychology #JungianAnalysis #Archetype

Check out this episode!


  1. Marina

    I found the podcast very intresting especially the racial complex. I found The openess of the discussion very rewarding. In fact I stopped paused and visualised on points that resonated within me which has stimulated a few questions.

  2. Karen

    Deb: We haven’t had 400 years of slavery. The first slaves were transported to the east coast of the US in 1619, though the slave trade was most active in the 1700s. The Civil War ended in 1865. At most, that’s 246 years of slavery.

    I usually love your episodes, but comments like this made this a bit one-sided. I grew up in a town much like the one you described as your childhood home, and basically knew nothing about African Americans when I moved to New Orleans many years ago. But the constant barrage of black-on-black shootings over decades have had a negative effect on the color-blind image I once held. The current politics doesn’t permit mention of such things: e.g., the recent 11-victim slaughter on a crowded street downtown was covered nationally, but the race of those involved was not mentioned. It’s one of those things you have to read between the lines. If we’re going to discuss a racial complex, I think we can’t leave out huge disparities of this sort. It’s deliberately sticking one’s head in the sand, self-censure, and is beneath of level of Jungian analysis. (I was in analysis for a decade, and it changed my life.) Interestingly, I didn’t feel much of the one-sidedness was coming from Fanny, who simply said we all have racial complexes, some, presumably, being positive and some negative. But her story of being rejected by taxi drivers didn’t consider that stories of shootings might affect the refusal of drivers to pick her up. I am sending this as just another viewpoint, after many years in one of the most violent cities in the US.

    • Julius Rodriguez

      I appreciate your comment, and I want to challenge it as well.
      It’s good to air differences and influence each other.

      One challenge is about historical knowledge.
      Slavery continued for a long time after the end of the Civil War, through new and changing methods. Slavery did end. But, white folks developed methods for continuing to achieve the ends of slavery – exploiting black workers, dominating culturally and economically, living as an advantaged group. To this day, it is legal to enslave prisoners. Tied to that is the overrepresentation of black folks in prisons and longer sentences.
      Considering all that (and more), it makes sense that there is disagreement about how many years of slavery to ‘count.’ My opinion is that in the american psyche, the concept of slavery still impacts practices, policies, and mindsets. It feels to me like ‘it isn’t over’ and hasn’t been metabolized in white culture, hasn’t been transformed into good racial relations. The descendants of slaveowners and descendants of enslaved peoples have this big wound between them.

      There is much I don’t know. I have heard black scholars talk about de-facto and modern-day slavery and persistent legacies. I imagine it is scary to live and raise children in a place where it feels possible that something akin to slavery could happen again. And that it’s distressing to wonder if some forms of slavery is currently happening. Maybe a responsible thing to do for white folks is to share in the fear of repeating history and question (often) if an aspect of slavery is playing out in the present. It would be good to let these two practices guide decisions. Faring a repeat of history and confronting the living leftovers can maybe help white folks to more confidently and less defensively engage with the moral quagmire we’ve inherited.

      I see a need for understanding, collectively, why some may refer to 400 years of slavery and others to 264 years of slavery. What I hear is: 400 years means white folks underestimate the impacts of slavery; 264 years means black folks exaggerate the impacts of slavery. That is a conversation worth having directly, as a society. I imagine it requires hearing each other and feeling some feelings about what is said.
      I think the descendants of slaveowners play more of a listening role in that conversation than a speaking role. This can feel unfair and stifling, and I feel resistant to it. One factor is how gruesome and shameful the history of slavery is. So maybe we need tools for dealing with overwhelming grief, guilt, and helplessness, and a clear understanding of what we’d gain from confronting our role in racial relations. Otherwise we white folks may continue to stay defensive and protect your egos. I have had liberating experiences of accepting responsibility for historical harm, and I’m not sure how they differed from the times I’ve felt cornered and shamed.

      Your comment helped me articulate all this. I hope my response is also useful to you in some way.

  3. Diana

    Now is 8 months later and this is even more timely. These comments were helpful for me but I have stumbled into the anger of others in trying to be a conscious ally. Some people even object to that word. Have done a bit of heavy work on white privilege but also always from the place of white shame. I have recently encountered the idea that if a person feels “less than” in self regard, there is an impossibility of being able to really assist another. Thank you for this key.

  4. Chris

    We must also be aware that the real issue isn’t about “wound comparison” in regards to past slavery or current acts of violence. Anyone who understands the work Jung presented should also understand the idea of “projection” and facing our shadows, first as individuals then as a community and ultimately on a globally wide basis.

    If white people are always trying to avoid and dodge the horror this country brought upon and brings upon its black citizens who were forced to provide the free labor that built this country, they will never be completely healed on a psychological and subconscious level. It’s not about white guilt. It IS about acknowledgement and not being in denial about our Country’s dark (past and present) history. Facing these racial issues is equally as important as addressing complexes and childhood trauma in our own private lives.

    The manipulative and divisive tool and condition of racism is a part of the collective shadow. A lot of people who are not black just can’t bear to spend even one minute in an oppressed person’s shoes and resist being able to take one brief moment just to empathize with any of it. Racism is cunning and systematically woven into our socio-political infrastructure.

    No other race of people have a system in place, such as ours, that literally allows their corrupt law enforcement to get away with murder time and time again. We need to revisit Jung’s work, now, more than ever, with open minds, as well as Ms. Brewster’s contemporary studies. We have much to unpack here. We are in need of serious Moral Psychology.

  5. LAB

    This was such an amazing episode. I really appreciate the honesty and compassion that came through on the parts of the guest and all three hosts here. Often in the U.S. we talk about race as Black or White, but since the racial complex is something that lives in all of us, I’d be curious to hear Dr. Brewster’s and the hosts’ thoughts on other ethnic groups that have had fraught and complicated, relationships with racial identity upon moving to the U.S. as immigrants: Chinese and Japanese, Arab, and Mexican peoples, for instance. Many members of these groups discriminate against themselves and against Black people, while also being discriminated against (I would know – I’m one of them). And then there’s the added layer of some Arab Americans identifying as “White,” for instance. I think this is especially pertinent given the disturbing rise in anti-Asian activities, even violence, in the U.S. since the pandemic began. Please bring Dr. Brewster back on the podcast in the future! I enjoyed this.

  6. Julie Cloudy

    Another “Karen”.



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