Happy Full Moon/Supermoon/Blue Moon–all the moon stuff!
Today’s Piscean vibes support reflecting on + releasing elements of the past that no longer serve.
I had a trippy dream recently that got me thinking about psychological complexes (think: elements of the past on steroids) in a new way, and it seems quite apropos to today’s Moon milieu.
A complex is like a mini solar system within the unconscious. Composed of ideas and images that orbit around an archetypal core, when complexes are activated they can exert a potent effect, behaving, as Jung describes them, like “splinter psyches.”
He writes, “Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb conscious performance.”
Will is essential if we want any measure of agency in our lives.
Will, as Jung defines it, is the amount of psychic energy available to consciousness–think of it like gas in the car of consciousness. When the tank is empty, we’re driven around by instincts and other unconscious factors, and we have way less control over where the car of our life is headed.
To sprinkle on more metaphors, the magic wand is a symbol of the will, so what Jung says above is of particular importance for us magical folk. When our complexes are large and in charge, the batteries in our magic wand go kaput.
Let’s keep reading:
“[Complexes] produce disturbances of memory…they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings.” (“Psychological Factors in Human Behavior,” par. 253)
If you’re familiar with Internal Family Systems (IFS), which sees the psyche as composed of the Self and smaller “parts,” (the inner child being one variation of a part), this is the same idea couched in different terms. The parts of IFS are complexes in Jungian psychology, but whichever way you slice it, they can “behave like independent beings.”
Let’s turn to my dream and see one of these “independent beings” in action
Super-quick context: The lead-in to this part of the dream was a tour of various rooms in a house, each with different scenarios and vibes. While journaling the next morning, I got major goosebumps when I realized, Holy shit, the dream is showing me interrelated complexes. Wow–thanks, dream!
The last room was more like a nightclub, lots of candlelit tables and a crowd of people, with all eyes on one figure–let’s call her Diva–who was giving a dramatic retelling of a story from her life. At one point I tried changing the candle arrangement on the table and was immediately told this was a no-no.
Complexes are rigid structures that repeat the same story over and over and over again
As long as they remain unconscious, we are powerless to stop the replay. The complex gets activated and–boom–cue the habitual reaction, which could be just about anything, depending on how and when the complex was formed. No candle rearranging allowed!
Take your pick of reactions: shopping, scrolling, having a drink, spacing out, feeling worthless, feeling invincible, trying to emotionally merge with someone, picking a fight…
Complexes, in and of themselves, aren’t negative
In fact, they’re the source of our emotions, and life would be pretty dreary without those (not to mention it would be impossible to make decisions without an emotional compass). They also allow energy to move within the psyche, and movement holds the potential for growth. More on this in a sec.
Diva kept pausing in her retelling, backtracking to redo segments because “they weren’t quite right.” As this continued, my dream self began to pay attention to the crowd and noticed something odd…
Initially, the throng of people seemed like patrons of the club, but upon closer inspection I noticed they were all dressed similarly and with heavily rouged cheeks–they were cast members! Everyone here was part of the Diva’s “show,” required to sit there, waiting until she felt she’d gotten it just right.
One man stifled a yawn, and my dream self realized: they’re all bored out of their minds!
I can’t think of a better illustration of how focus- and energy-gobbling a complex is
An entire room full of people who could be doing lots of other things, all stuck in a holding pattern, watching the “show” of the complex…which brings us back to the magic wand.
At any given moment, we only have so much psychic energy to go around, and this energy is necessary to power all the things our psyche must do: make decisions, experience emotions, observe our inner and outer worlds, have memories, maintain a sense of self, experience transcendence, make magic–the list goes on, ad infinitum.
One of the debilitating effects of an activated complex is that it monopolizes energy, sometimes LOTS of it, roping this energy into the complex’s rigid programming. This energy isn’t available for conscious use (aka, will = magic wand), so we’re left repeating past shit with less power to choose differently.
Remember what Jung says above: “[Complexes] produce disturbances of memory…” If a complex monopolizes sufficient energy, we might “space out” (think of that empty gas tank in the car of consciousness), not remembering–or misremembering–what happened in the interim.
Jung developed his theory of complexes after witnessing memory glitches during word-associations tests where a subject was asked to respond to test words with whatever word came to mind. An activated complex would cause delayed responses or predictable “errors” (repeating back the test word, difficulty coming up with any response, laughing, etc.), and this disturbance would linger, affecting words “downstream” before tapering off.
In the same way, an activated complex can hijack our thought process, yielding predictable “errors” with lingering after-effects
Healing isn’t a matter of getting rid of complexes (if that were even possible); it’s a process of becoming more aware of their effects, coaxing more and more of that energy into the light of consciousness, where we then have the ability to choose what we do with it.
In other words, we take our magic wand back.
I said earlier that complexes help energy move within the psyche, and going back to the complex-as-solar-system metaphor helps in visualizing this. At the center of the complex is an archetype, which, in this context, we might think of as a primal idea or theme that everything else orbits around. It might be the archetype of Mother or Money, for instance.
The gravity holding the system together is what Jung calls the “feeling tone” of the complex. We’ve all experienced this feeling tone in action, even if we weren’t aware of it at the time.
Can you think of something that predictably activates you? And when this happens, how do you feel?
I’ll give you one of mine: feeling like I don’t have enough money. Maybe I check my bank balance or I make a big purchase or I launch something and it sells less than I’d hoped. Any of these (and more–yippeeee!) can activate my money complex, which initiates a very specific feeling tone.
It begins with an ice-cold wash of fear that makes my scalp taut and my pulse race, accompanied by the anchor-drop of my stomach. Yuck. It bubbles into a gotta-fix-it-now panic, my mind racing in circles, stomach churning, paired with a flood of impatience and irritability. It’s a party, lemme tell ya.
That entire stew is the feeling tone of the complex.
Going back to the magic wand, so long as I’m under the spell of this complex, I’m going to make similar decisions over and over–my wand is malfunctioning. Those decisions might look very different to me, but an astute observer would likely pick up on the repetition that I, myself, cannot spot through the haze of the complex.
This is when I find myself saying things like, “But I’ve tried everything!” Reality: I’ve tried everything the complex allows. Other options are invisible to me in that headspace, or they feel impossible or otherwise not worth pursuing.
Another sign: arguing for our limitations
If you find yourself passionately defending why you could never do such-and-such or x, y, z would never ever work, chances are you’re under the spell of the complex. (Been there! So many times!)
Complexes argue for their own existence, constantly seeking and finding “proof” of their validity everywhere they look.
When we talk about “limiting beliefs,” this is it! Complexes keep those beliefs orbiting in the psychic solar system, where they can be activated by a look our partner shoots us over breakfast or that tone our boss adopts when handing back our report.
By working with this dream, I’ve been able to bring more consciousness to the Diva who’s holding an entire cast of my psychic parts hostage while she “perfects” her story. These parts (and the Diva) can be worked with, brought more into my conscious awareness.
As I work with these parts, instead of draining my magic wand of power, they can contribute energy to my magical and “mundane” goals.
One of my favorite practices is casting spells with my inner parts
…instead of trying to use magic to override their programming, which is like swimming upstream wearing a lead unitard. The dream alerted me to an entire nightclub full of parts I could potentially collaborate with! Parts/complexes are a rich source of psychic energy, and they can be tapped like a magical well.
Next week, we begin our Dreamwork lessons in The Portal. I’ll be showing you how to find your way into a dream, unearthing rich interpretations, and how to translate those insights into actionable change in your waking life.
(And in an upcoming month, I’ll show you how to cast spells with your inner parts!)
Dreams are an incredible source of personalized guidance. Far from being random gibberish or the brain sorting through the detritus of the day, when you learn how to decode dream messages, you will be astonished by how useful they are.
Have you heard the story of the shoemaker’s elves?
The poor shoemaker’s working triple shifts, yet still, he’s teetering on the edge of financial ruin. One night he leaves his materials on the workbench, too exhausted to sew another stitch. When he wakes the next morning he finds, not raggedy scraps of leather, but exquisitely crafted shoes. Heck yeah! They sell for top dollar, and this happens night after night: raw materials transformed into bomb-ass shoes and customers beating down the door for more. Buh-bye, bankruptcy.
Your dreams are magical elves! Many of us intake veritable mountains of self-help advice–books and courses and TikTok and podcasts and stuff a friend says and, OMG it never effing ends.
But how often do we ignore the guidance our psyche is preparing nightly just for us, based on precisely what we’re going through, and with the most intimate knowledge possible of who we truly are?
If I had to choose one thing that has created the most growth in my life it would be working with my dreams, no question.
Super-fun side effect: Dreamwork is like Miracle-Gro for your psychic abilities
When I started regularly working with my dreams, my tarot readings became exponentially more insightful and useful, I was able to spot connections in waking life that had flown right over my head before, and my magic got cranked up to 11.
And if you struggle to remember your dreams, I’ve created a mystical guided meditation where you’ll travel to the temple of Asclepius, petitioning Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, to aid you in dream recall, just like the ancients did at Epidaurus and other sacred sites.
The first Dreamwork lessons goes out September 4, and when you sign up you’ll get instant-access to all previous Portal lessons, including last month’s divination material (using tarot and pendulums to make wise decisions), step-by-step sigil magic, working safely with spirit guides, and so much more.
For the next three days, you can use code DREAMS to get your first month of The Portal on the house. Yay!