exploring the unconscious world of Dreams through Myth, Symbols & Metaphor
the psychology of dreams....a Jungian perspective


A complex is a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious organized around a common theme, such as power or status. Primarily a psychoanalytic term, it is found extensively in the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

An example of a complex would be as follows: if you had a leg amputated when you were a child, this would influence your life in profound ways, even if you were wonderfully successful in overcoming the handicap. You might have many thoughts, emotions, memories, feelings of inferiority, triumphs, bitterness and determinations centering on that one aspect of your life. If these thoughts troubled you, Jung would say you had a complex about the leg.

Complex existence is widely agreed upon in the area of depth psychology. It assumes the most important factors influencing your personality are deep in the unconscious. They are generally a way of mapping the psyche, and are crucial theoretical items of common reference to be found in therapy. Complexes are believed by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud to influence the individual's attitude and behavior.
Jung's Complexes

Early in Jung's career, he developed the concept of the "complex", a "complex" meaning a personal unconscious, core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes organized around a common theme. According to Jung's personality theory, complexes are building blocks of the psyche and the source of all human emotions. Complexes are thought to operate "autonomously and interfere with the intentions of the will, disturbing the memory and conscious performance". "Jung stressed that complexes are not negative in themselves, but their effects often are".

Some complexes usurp power from the ego and can cause constant psychological disturbances and symptoms of neurosis. With intervention, it may become conscious and greatly reduced in their impact (Daniels, 2010). Jung described the power complexes can hold when he said "what is not so well known, but far more important theoretically, is that complexes can have us. The existence of complexes throws serious doubt on the naive assumption of the unity of consciousness, which is equated with 'psyche,' and on the supremacy of the will. Every constellation of a complex postulates a disturbed state of consciousness. The unity of consciousness is disrupted and the intentions of the will are impeded or made impossible. Even memory is often noticeably affected, as we have seen. The complex must therefore be a psychic factor which, in terms of energy, possesses a value that sometimes exceeds that of our conscious intentions, otherwise such disruptions of the conscious order would not be possible at all. And in fact, an active complex puts us momentarily under a state of duress, of compulsive thinking and acting, for which under certain conditions the only appropriate term would be the judicial concept of diminished responsibility".

On the other hand, Jung identified the development of the differentiating functions as essentially the development of useful complexes. However, even here there are often undesirable side effects.

It is true that we do not refer to this [training and development of functions] as obsession by a complex, but as one-sidedness. Still, the actual state is approximately the same, with this difference, that the one-sidedness is intended by the individual and is fostered by all the means in his power, whereas the complex is felt to be injurious and disturbing. People often fail to see that consciously willed one-sidedness is one of the most important causes of an undesirable complex, and that, conversely, certain complexes cause a one-sided differentiation of doubtful value. (Jung, [1960] 1969:par. 255)

In Psychological Types, Jung describes in detail the effects of tensions between the complexes associated with the dominant and inferior differentiating functions in highly and even extremely one-sided types.