~Autonomous Complexes~

Autonomous complexes are parts of the psyche which have split-off due to shock, trauma, or breach of our boundaries, and have developed a seemingly autonomous life and apparently independent will of their own. Though we are unconsciously identified with them, autonomous complexes are subjectively experienced as other than ourselves. Besides their inherent obscurity and strangeness, our unconscious identification with autonomous complexes is the essential reason why it is so hard to get a handle on them. Autonomous complexes act upon us, feel like our most intimate self, eventually need to be owned, but paradoxically, don’t belong to us. The seeming autonomy of the archetypes and complexes is what gives rise to the idea of supernatural beings. Endowed with a numinous energy, autonomous complexes are what our ancestors used to call “demons.” Autonomous complexes are a psychological name for the demons in the archetypal process of addiction that animate us to compulsively act out our addictive behavior. A demon or autonomous complex, to quote Jung, “behaves like an animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness. The complex can usually be suppressed, with an effort of will, but not argued out of existence, and at the first suitable opportunity it reappears in all its original strength.” Due to their lack of association with the conscious ego, autonomous complexes are arche-typically not open to being influenced, educated, nor corrected by “reality.” An intruder from the unconscious and a disturber of the peace, an autonomous complex, Jung points out, “behaves exactly like a goblin that is always eluding our grasp.” If left un-reflected upon, these demons or autonomous complexes wreak havoc for everyone within their sphere of influence.

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