A Clash of Complexes (Or Exploring my Cranky Six-Year Old)

It was one of those moments when I felt myself so tightly bound in the grip of the complex that I could not back up despite having a roomful of curious, confused and possibly judgmental eyes on me. “I only want to change some money” I exclaimed for the third time. I had just arrived in Bhutan, the group of eighteen of us were at lunch and the organizer had just announced the afternoon’s agenda that did not include going to the bank. During the discussion I had my position challenged by statements like, most people don’t have passports with them, you can spend American dollars and a money changer will come to the hotel tonight” and I finally succumbed feeling irritated, shamed and humiliated without really knowing why this seemed so important and why I could not let it go. I was tired and exhausted from having got up at 12.30 am to go to the airport, I had not slept and it would have been easier to put it down to fatigue but I clearly recognized the signs of the thing that James Hollis defines as “charged clusters of history”. I was in the grip of a complex.
I realized I needed some time away from the group so I excused myself from the afternoon activities and set off to find a bank. It was a simple process that took me five minuted. To my surprise here most people speak some English and I was soon contently holding 5020 Ngultrums in my hand (about $100.) wondering why on earth I had not changed money at the airport when I was standing by the cashier waiting for the group. It is though I was binding myself to the group’s agenda. We had been told we would change money as a group and for some reason I gave away my independence. In hindsight this is insane as a group changing money takes for ever while for an individual it is a moment.
I went for a long walk trying to come to grip with the thoughts, feelings and energy that had so bound me after lunch. Now I felt shame, embarrassment and judgment of my behaviour but that was not where it started. I traced the energy of that moment and began to unravel the Gordian knot of emotions, feelings and energy that resulted in the outburst. There were a number of considerations that at first seemed somewhat unrelated but combined they trapped me in a turmoil from which there seemed no escape.
1) I was inordinately tired and exhausted. I had only just recovered from jet lag having flown across the date line and adjusted my biological clock by 14 hours. Then having to forgo most of a nights sleep in order to check out at 1.00 a.m. and catch the flight to Bhutan.
2) I had learned from previous experience particularly in Bangkok Airport that this state causes me to become exceedingly ungrounded and make bad decisions however I did nothing to remedy that fact.
3) While the rest of the group was having a chance to rest I was stuck in the lobby as my room was not ready.
4) I do not do group stuff well and unwittingly making it worse by suppressing my challenge rather than exploring it. Atum (Our pilgrimage leader) had suggested a practice of selecting something to metaphorically leave in Bangkok, I chose ‘my being in a group angst’ thus ensuring that it would unconsciously increase it’s power over me. (Just what was I thinking? I put that down to fatigue.)
5) The issue of not having local currency taps into an absolute dislike I have of spending American dollars anywhere except the U.S.A. I have always considered it somewhat disrespectful the way Americans expect Canadians to accept their currency as though it is their own. In addition local currency gives me a sense of comfort and control, I knew it was highly likely I would want to pop into the grocery store for a couple of beers before the day was out.
6) There also was a sense of broken agreements as we had been told there would be an opportunity to change money and this had been reneged on.
7) This was compounded by a sense of not being heard or listened to and the distinct lack of sympathy from most of the group except for a sweet Canadian woman who related to my feelings.
All this combined to create a result that in some ways resembled a child’s tantrum at not getting its way. So who was this child that had resurrected itself from the past to wreck my day? I spent an hour meditating, contemplating and trying to understand where this child developed such an intensity but had trouble either recalling a specific instance from my childhood or relating to the child’s response.
I followed the steps outlined in my post and even though I could see the childish behaviour, as an adult I could neither understand or relate to it. It seemed so out of proportion to the situation. http://wp.me/phAyS-j3
I believe a major step in healing the energy of these complexes requires honouring the child’s experience and showing compassion and forgiveness but I just could not go there. I was stuck. I was too pissed off with the prospect of facing the group again. Then the miracle I needed to adjust my attitude. As I lay on my bed reflecting on how I had reacted, the words – “just like a tired cranky six year old came into my head and eureka I found my compassion. Suddenly I could see myself at six: tired, cranky and needy and my mother trying to cope with my new born sister and four year old brother. What hope did I have of getting attention without throwing a tantrum? I felt a flood of compassion for my inner child and finally I could move on. Now I could consider how the adult could face the consequences without giving in to the tendency to hide. I found it surprisingly easy to own my discomfort with my colleagues who of course were totally understanding and forgiving. In fact I found out that my willingness to share my experience significantly helped two others who had also been experiencing some angst in the group. As I completed my journey with this complex two poems came to mind. The first by Rumi from the Guest House – ‘The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Also from John O’Donohue who in his beautiful poem To Bless This Space Between Us suggests gratitude for the days “when the veil is lifted and the soul can see delight.”

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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