A Collision of Complexes

July 23, 2013
“The lawn was just cut when I was there-
I did start it and it started fine for me-
I left Cortes on the last ferry Saturday – 5:50 PM – the lawn repair shop was not open to drop it off.”

I am bemused. How can such a simple, clear communication create such a clash of conflicting emotions and energy. It began with a surge of energy through my body over which I had no control then the ensuing feelings of hurt, feeling let down, sadness, overwhelment and angst. Clearly some complexes have abruptly engaged. My friend is staying at my recreational property on Cortes Island; I had given her a generous deal but I had asked her to cut the grass and take the lawnmower in if it needs servicing; she had done neither. “It’s no big deal”, a voice in my head argues but I know well enough that to leave this untended is simply a suppression that would emerge in some passive/aggressive outburst at a later time.

The background to this incident is complex. Another friend who lives on Cortes and has been the manager of my property, encountered a big problem with the lawnmower. It had simply stopped working. The engine would start but then cut out when he put the blade down. This happened over and over. In his frustration he has used his weed whacker to finish up and ended up exhausted, frustrated, over-whelmed and realized that he no longer wanted the job. He promptly resigned. This had engendered its own journey around my complex of abandonment. This had been resolved and led to an experience of cathartic journaling that had been profound. (https://ta44.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/cathartic-journaling/ ) It looked as though the cosmos was blessing me with a follow up. Great! However this had also had left me with a problem with the grass and the mower. It had seemed like a perfect solution for my friend to take care of this for me as she would be there anyway. Now the problem was back in my lap. It was infuriating.

I began to explore the collision of complexes that were at the root of my feelings and energy. The first one was simple I felt my friend had let me down. This was an emotional and energetic response connected to my wound and had nothing really to do with her. The adult could clearly see her perspective; I had never explained the whole story behind my request so her response was quite logical. She did not think neither the grass needed cutting nor the lawnmower fixing. I recognized an old wound. It was one of abandonment that I had explored on a regular basis. I suspected there was more to my reaction than this one thing.

The next piece made me feel very small. This friend and I have a complex relationship around this property. She found it, and renovated it while I became the silent partner. Eventually she realized that she needed to sell and I bought her share becoming sole owner. She still loved the place and I frequently allowed her to use it either free or at a nominal charge. In fact recently I gave up a prime rental week costing me $1100 so she could use it for a family reunion. She had offered to pay but I had instantly declined. It was my choice but now I felt aggrieved that her response failed to recognize my generosity. This was a humbling insight – was I nothing more than a conditional giver?  I thought back to the moment of my generosity and recalled my spontaneous gesture. It had been reactive; there had been no space for consideration to the fact that I was giving up one of the only five weeks of the primary vacation rental season. In hindsight it seemed a crazy decision counter to my own interests. The universe had rubbed this in by presenting three alternative renters for the same week. I realized this too as a clear sign of another complex engaging.

It is important for me to be generous; I am always quick to pay for drinks; I hate quibbling over restaurant tabs. I consider myself fortunate that I can afford to be this way and yet I sensed there is some unaddressed conditioning at play. It was not difficult to identify. I was very poor as a child growing up in a family where my parents struggled over every penny. The only treat my father gave himself was a package of mints once a month. I have always suspected that I was sent to boarding school on a scholarship because it saved my parents the cost of food and clothing for two thirds of the year. At school I had a reputation for being stingy; it seemed so unfair when I had nothing to share. I can still recall the sting of the comment made by another student “Simpson is so tight he uses both sides of the toilet paper.” For the first time my impulsive generosity is understandable. I still need to disconnect from the wounding from that time in my life. This helps me understand that while I can still choose to be generous I need to become more conscious about it. It is so fascinating to realize that behind every generous reaction is a wounded thirteen year old trying to cope with his past.

I thought perhaps I had completed this exploration but there was yet one more complex that helped me understand my sensitivity. I know one of my coping mechanisms is to take control of a given situation. It is a way I learned to cope with feeling overwhelmed by a powerful world as a child. It has proved an effective tool in the world of ego. I am good at developing solutions that give me control. Faced with uncertainty around the lawn mover I took control of the situation and had orchestrated a solution by asking my friend to handle it. When she did not cooperate, she unwittingly took away my power leaving me overwhelmed and reacting like a powerless child rather than an adult.

This exploration helps me realize how complex I am, how my reactions are often dictated by unconscious forces or “shadow governments” as James Hollis calls them. I notice that in an ensuing conversation with my friend this understanding helped me avoid snapping at her over something inconsequential. James Hollis whose signature work in the field of complexes has helped me immensely suggests that doing this work helps us to find inner balance and navigate our way through the dark wood. I thank him yet again for his amazing audio book, Through The Dark Wood. I have listened to it eight times and still receive something new each time.

Postscript: When I finally go to Cortes the grass was long but manageable and the lawnmower worked just fine. “God has a great sense of humour.”