Friday, May 13, 2016

Befriend your spiritual complexes to contain them

Thomas Moore recommends we befriend our "Spiritual Complexes" in his March-April column for Spirituality & Health magazine. He writes:
"A psychological complex is a set of emotions, memories, anxieties, desires, and habits focused around a theme — my need for family comfort, for example — that urges a person in a certain direction that may or may not fit his or her conscious and rational purposes. For example, you may do certain things automatically, desperately, and compulsively in spite of yourself.

Most of us have a certain collection of complexes that shape our lives and identity. They are not bad things, yet they cause trouble when they get out of hand. It helps to get to know them and tame them and get them in tune with your values and ideas. I’m not telling you to repress these complexes and imagine that you have to create a perfectly healthy self by controlling them. The goal is more to befriend them. C. G. Jung said that they’re like separate people inside us and that we can dialogue with them and give them some acceptance and containment. James Hillman advised not “feeding” them, and thereby not increasing their hold on you. He once told me to put my depression in a suitcase and carry it with me — close but not dominating." 
He continues, "Fanaticism, close-mindedness, self-denial, guilt, proselytizing, excessive devotion to a teacher or a teaching, and moralism — all are signs of a spiritual complex. Try to talk to well intentioned people caught in these complexes, and you can’t reach the human being. The complex is too strong. Often, like-minded church members or leaders support the complex by maintaining a closed system and encouraging extreme positions."

Moore suggests ". . . you can learn to distinguish between passion, which is usually a good thing, and being taken over by an anxious and demanding idea that makes you rather crazy and out of synch with the people around you."