Humans, neurotic and complexed

Image: Kushnir


As every individual unconscious complex is based on a collective unconscious complex, each concrete case of complexes will be associated – deep down in the individual's unconscious – with an archetype

Often accused of pseudoscience, psychoanalysis has been serving as a tool for uncovering the foundations of the human psyche for more than a century. By focusing on the unconscious, whether the personal or collective unconscious, psychoanalysis studies what makes us effectively human, since reason can be emulated in machines and emotions are present in other, so-called irrational, animals.

At the beginning of his work, Sigmund Freud analyzed dreams and discovered that they are not only fruits of the unconscious, but also that they are fulfillments of desires in their implicit content. As many of our desires are associated with confusing events in our childhood or are sexual or evil desires in general and, therefore, are considered reprehensible by our superego, these desires present in dreams are distorted in their explicit content. Furthermore, Freud also explains, in his method of dream interpretation, that dreams are not only distorted but also strongly condensed. Because of this, it is so difficult to interpret a dream reliably.

At the risk of oversimplifying such complex ideas, we can say that to defend ourselves from the superego's reproaches, which cause us anguish, our ego uses defense mechanisms to protect us from psychological suffering. It turns out that these mechanisms end up being repeated in our behavior not associated with the initial cause of the superego's disapproval, in addition to also appearing in dreams and in failed acts in our everyday speech. Furthermore, when defense mechanisms act very strongly to block anguish, neuroses arise in our individual psyche.

One of the ego's defense mechanisms is inhibition, which is when the ego represses or reverses a desire of the id that is considered reprehensible by the superego. When the ego opts for inversion, a feeling of hate condemned by the superego can be inverted into a feeling of love, for example. Another mechanism, not linked to internal id desires, but to id desires linked to the outside world, is the restriction defense mechanism. In restriction, when faced with the material impossibility of a desire of the id, such as success in a certain profession, the ego restricts it and replaces it with another desire that is different and opposite to the initial desire. The ego of a failed artist, for example, can avoid his suffering by making him change his profession to an accountant, which in the case of success, reaches the principle of pleasure and escape from anguish that the ego follows at all times.

Another ego defense is denial. Faced with an external danger that can cause pain, the ego denies the existence of that danger and reverses it. An example of this type of situation would be the ego of a person who has another highly violent and dangerous person as a dislike, but his ego starts to see this dangerous person as harmless, if he considers that he has no other alternative to avoid the anguish that fear generates .

A curious defense of the ego is introjection. In it, the ego begins to imitate characteristics or actions of the person who represents danger, in order to psychically invert its position from victim to that of aggressor, avoiding the anguish that fear causes. A prisoner's ego, for example, can make him imitate the mannerisms of a jailer who constantly attacks him or even become aggressive with everyone around him, imitating the actions of the evil jailer.

A routine ego defense mechanism is projection, where the ego of the one who has desires or performs actions condemned by his superego starts to blame those desires or actions on other people, getting rid of the judgment of his superego. It would be the case, for example, of a man who, due to a drive in his id, desires the wife of one of his brothers, but lives unjustly accusing a cousin of his of such desire, or just keeping that certainty to himself in secret. , also in order to escape the judgment of his superego.

If the interpretation of dreams, the ego's defense mechanisms and neuroses can be seen as one of Freud's main theoretical elaborations, we can say the same about Jung when we talk about the collective unconscious, archetypes and complexes.

Studying the culture and symbols of various people from different cultures, Jung discovered that there are common symbols throughout humanity. These symbols would come from a collective unconscious common to humans. From these symbols, Jung created a series of “stereotypes” that he called archetypes. The hero, the great mother, the wise old man and the sacred prostitute, for example, are some of these archetypes, and are also the most frequent. These archetypes usually guide our unconscious through the complexes linked to the collective unconscious.

Thus, in addition to defense mechanisms and neuroses, complexes linked to the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious are also present in our unconscious. The archetypes are the deepest primordial symbol in each of the complexes. Every complex has its layer linked to the personal unconscious and its layer linked to the collective unconscious, the latter being deeper and based on one of the archetypes.

Jung and other authors also explain that complexes act in our unconscious in a constellated way. Therefore, one complex acts in a derivative way from another, and different complexes can be at different stages of repression in the unconscious. In other words, some complexes will be further from consciousness than others. Furthermore, these countless complexes that are in our unconscious usually derive from three main complexes, which usually explain most of our psyche, they are: the Oedipus complex, the maternal complex and the paternal complex.

The Oedipus complex is one in which the son, even as a child, becomes emotionally closer to his mother and starts to compete with his father. While the daughter becomes emotionally closer to her father and competes with her mother. The Oedipus complex is one that usually causes a man to seek a partner who resembles his mother and a woman to seek a partner who resembles her father. Such similarity can be due to behavior, personality, and sometimes even physical. An unresolved Oedipus complex in childhood can leave an individual in an incessant search to overcome their father/mother or, on the other hand, it can leave them trapped in a sequence of unsuccessful romantic relationships caused by the search for partners with the same problems. behavior that your father or mother had.

The maternal and paternal complex can leave the individual in a life made up of a looping attempt to deal with issues from their childhood. In this case, various situations in everyday life that are not related to facts from their childhood are magnified or distorted in the individual's psyche in such a way that they become a repetition of the same problem that existed in their childhood. For example, a child who was often left alone by his parents may repeat this feeling of abandonment in situations in his adult life that have nothing to do with abandonment or neglect, but in the view of this complex individual there will be a repetition of this distressing situation.

In another case, an individual who in childhood was very repressed by his parents, with every slightest attitude judged as incorrect, may generate a negative parental complex and may live a life of eternal vigilance, in fear of judgment and condemnation, thus having a life more restricted and limited, which can generate strong frustrations regarding personal achievements and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. These are just two hypothetical examples of parental complexes that can arise in the psyche of an apparently healthy individual.

Specifically regarding the positive maternal complex, a classic example is that of the male child who was so loved and admired by his mother that in adult life he developed narcissistic self-esteem, leading to pathological selfishness and great difficulty in dealing with his frustrations and limitations. desires for the outside world. A classic negative maternal complex can be exemplified by the case of a daughter who, seeing her mother as submissive to her father, generated a history of unsuccessful romantic relationships due to a fear of repeating her mother, that is, the daughter prohibited herself from having relationships. emotionally with their boyfriends afraid of marriage and the traditional family.

The positive paternal complex can be exemplified by the son who, being so admired and encouraged by his father, generated a complex in which he lives an incessant search for personal and professional achievements in order to live up to his father's admiration, at the risk of also generating the called the Hercules complex, in which the individual seeks missions that are impossible to accomplish and, therefore, generate strong frustrations. On the other hand, an example of a negative father complex would be a child of an authoritarian and extremely strict father who, in adult life, seeks to oppose his father and ends up in a life of hedonism and irresponsibility.

As every individual unconscious complex is based on a collective unconscious complex, each concrete case of complexes will be associated – deep down in the individual's unconscious – with an archetype. In the case of archetypes associated with paternal complexes, the most common are the hero and the wise old man, which can act in both a positive and negative way in the complex. In the case of maternal complexes, the most common archetypes are that of the great mother and that of the sacred prostitute.

The hero archetype is associated with morality and great achievements, the wise old man archetype is associated with cold feelings and great knowledge, the great mother is linked to the idea of ​​protection and demonstration of affection, while the sacred prostitute is linked to exacerbated sexuality. Despite being commonly associated with a single paternal or maternal figure, these four complexes can be associated with both the father, the mother, or even other figures with a strong family and emotional bond, regardless of gender.

Both neuroses (generated by the ego's defense mechanisms) and complexes (generated by archetypes) are present in the psyche of each human being. However, only a few individuals will become ill due to the psychic anguish that such neuroses and complexes may result in in their daily lives. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that we are all not only human, but neurotic and complex.

*Bruno Machado is an engineer.

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