Carl Jung — Short Excerpt of Complexes and What They Mean For The Individual

I’m still trying my best to wrap my head around what a complex is, so I’ll use Wikipedia’s definition of what a layman’s definition of a complex might be:

Carl Jung thought that the expression “autonomous complex” was a great way of describing the phenomena since the unconscious triggers the emotion and, in my understanding, possesses the individual and is almost like a force of nature that comes and goes as it pleases. We have no control over them until we dig into our psyche and analyze what could be causing us to suffer from such complexes.

We all have things that we hyperfocus on that we think other people notice about us. Maybe we’ve always been insecure about a certain body feature and feel as if everyone else is judging us or secretly making fun of us about it behind our backs.

To defend ourselves from emotional harm, we react in ways that only strengthen the control that these complexes have over us. We become defensive and feel stronger emotions than what would normally be called for.

Where do these complexes come from anyways? Why do we carry around emotional baggage and hidden ‘insecurities’ that trouble us emotionally and psychically?

My mother used to always tell me that she wished I had grown taller. She would make me feel like I was lacking something vital, something that would stop her from seeing me as the “son she always wanted”. To hear that from my mother growing up all the time and have her comparing me to my friends, I felt like I had done something wrong to impede my own growth and started to feel insecure about my height.

Whenever I would meet my friends I would try to stand in a way to look taller than them and try to wear shoes that would give me an extra inch or two. Any time I would be compared to my friends or if the topic of height came up, I immediately got quiet and would become defensive. I would curse Being (or God, whatever you want to call the force that dictates the fate or nature of our lives) itself for cursing me and not allowing me to become taller.

Looking back this was extremely silly, but I remember the hopelessness I would feel as my friends grew taller while I stayed the same height.

I don’t feel any bitterness toward my mother, and I’m glad that I was able to become more confident in myself and not care about immutable characteristics like height, but if I had to think about a complex I might have had in the past it was definitely the issue of my height. Only by telling her how I felt whenever I heard a comment from her did she stop comparing me to my friends or telling me how she wished I would have been X amount taller.

Think about something that has bothered you more than it should have in the past. You knew it was silly to be so annoyed about it, since it was probably out of your control, but you still felt a negative emotion whenever something reminded you of it or if you had to address it directly.

Maybe it was a birthmark that was quite evident. Maybe it was a scar. Maybe you didn’t like how your ears looked. Maybe you didn’t like how your eyes looked. Maybe you wanted fuller lips. Maybe you wanted a higher nose bridge. Maybe you wanted to be smarter. Maybe you wanted to be taller. Maybe you wanted to be more handsome/pretty.

Most of what I’ve listed out are physical insecurities, which you cannot do anything about (unless you’re willing to go under the knife, which is a completely different story and one that I do not encourage or think is a good idea for most people… but that’s for another story).

And having these insecurities really impede us from living the lives we could be living. We are often the ones who set the biggest obstacles in front of ourselves. We create problems that we know we are not willing to face so that we don’t have to go through the uncomfortable, strenuous, and excruciating pain of changing who we are, or at least our perceptions of ourselves.

But hiding these problems don’t make them go away — it only makes them worse and more powerful when they are allowed to grow in the shadows. The more times we fail to face our fears and fight against the complex that tries to overtake us, the more we lose sovereignty of our own psyche.

Complexes are painful for a reason — we are called to address them or else we continue to suffer. And the more we ignore them, the more we will suffer unnecessarily.

These complexes give us direction — they point to the things we are scared to acknowledge about ourselves. They point to the things we must overcome in order to mature psychologically.

Complexes themselves are not necessarily negative; only their effects are. We cannot necessarily get rid of them, but they are to be confronted and made peace with.

You must accept the things that you cannot change, and work to change the things that are in your control.



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William Cho

William Cho


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