When we speak of being triggered, what exactly is it that sends us into a familiar arc of feeling and behavior we may later regret? That mysterious force seems external and can elude our ability to locate it within. Jung called these autonomous and unconscious incursions complexes, and he discovered them through his Word Association Test.
A subject’s delayed or inappropriate reaction to a stimulus word such as tree or house indicated an unconscious disturbance that could then yield to understanding. Complexes are a fundamental part of our inner landscape: our experiences cluster around innate human patterns, emotions, bodily sensations, and personal memories.
We are complexed when we are automatically, emotionally and physiologically aroused, often in ways that are out of proportion to the situation. We begin to transform a complex by noticing, naming, and claiming it as our own. Then we can catch it before we react—and instead, respond. Complexes are constellated, clustered together like stars—and they can shine their light on our unconscious patterns.
“I am going to become the next queen of England. But first, I had to clean a lot of food and trash from an audience seating area (like stands at a sports arena). I asked the Queen if I was making a mistake by becoming the next queen. She said yes, and that I will have no time to give to my own children (once I have them). A young male advisor to the Queen was assisting her and helping to set everything up for the transition. On a break from cleaning, I went down to a craft fair and visited some old ladies and talked to them about the beautiful art they made. My grandmother was there, trying to print a photograph I took of a Legislature building. I returned to my task and at 6:00 PM, I made my way to sit on the right arm of the Queen’s chair, ready for the ceremony. “
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