I slammed my iPad shut with a vehemence that surprised me. It was as though I needed to eliminate the offending e-mail from view as quickly as possible. I sat feeling a flood of energy flowing through my body like a hot flush. I noticed a desire to indulge in some mindless television viewing. I recognized the signs that a complex had engaged.
The concept of a complex is explained exquisitely by eminent author and Jungian analyst James Hollis in chapter 4 of his amazing book Hauntings. A complex is a reaction based on history charged with energy that is autonomous of our conscious state. Hollis refers colourfully to the moment when a complex engages as an historical “coup d’etat”. Our response to this take over is generally one of three reactions: “avoidance, dominance or compliance.
Mine was obviously avoidance so rather than follow like a lemming this unconscious dictate, I resolved to explore my reaction and understand it. Moving myself to an easy chair, putting on some sacred music I began to review the sequence of events that led to this moment.
I had made a commitment to organize another gathering of the spiritual community of which I am part. This decision had emerged from the completion process I had conducted at the conclusion of the very successful event in April in Assisi, Italy. One of the questions I had examined was: “What do I take away from this journey?” The answer was that I am very good at this type of thing then the realization that this was a way I serve both the teacher who becomes my partner in the event and the community.
My job is to underwrite the financial cost, organize the space for accommodation, meals and meeting, liaise with speakers, invite and register guests. The theme and program are developed with my input.
One of my priorities is to craft communications to the community. This involves details of the program, the location and costs. I had taken what my teacher had sent me and made some suggested edits. His response was the “offending email” that had so triggered me.
Upon sharing his words with a friend she observed, “it all sounds perfectly innocuous to me”. So what on earth had caused such a powerful reaction in both my body and my feelings? It was obviously not about the present moment.
The answer was not too difficult to understand. My over–the–top reaction was based on history. The child who works so hard on something only to believe his efforts judged as inadequate. It was reminiscent of my relationship with my authoritarian religious father.
My reaction to the email emanated from my sense of implied criticism and judgment because he wanted to use his words and not mine. I had worked hard on the proposal and it had been summarily rejected. My avoidant reaction was consistent with my child hood coping response to disappear.
From the adult perspective his words and response were entirely reasonable but complexes are neither logical nor rational but emotional. I noticed a sense of relief as the pattern became clear. It was as though the intense energy of the complex could now be released in the light of self-awareness.
I was still left with a lingering confusion about whether I had made the right decision taking on this major event – but that is part of another story.