Thursday, August 5, 2010

Masculinity and the Cultural Complex of Patripsych

The cultural complex is an idea introduced by Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles in the book they edited: The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society (Published by Brunner-Routledge, 2004). The CG Jung Page posted the introduction when the book came out. Here is the article (introduction), then I have some lengthy thoughts on this topic - specifically as it relates to men.

The Cultural Complex

Edited by Thomas Singer M.D, and Samuel L. Kimbles, Ph.D.
Published by Brunner-Routledge, 2004.

Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles

Since the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the binary world view of conflicting superpowers that it symbolized, an endless parade of ethnic, racial, religious, gender, national and regional factions have emerged on the world stage with their long simmering feuds bubbling over. Everywhere, disadvantaged and! or disenfranchised groups - whether representing a minority or a majority - have been crying out for justice, healing or vengeance - or all three simultaneously. It seems as if peoples from every continent have been caught in an endless round of conflicts that run the gamut from familial and tribal skirmishes to international hatreds. As these group conflicts flood relationships with highly charged emotions at every level of human exchange - from local to global - we seek explanations, understanding and remedies. More often than not, such seeking leaves us feeling powerless in the face of the intractable nature of these feuds. Political theories, economic theories, sociological theories, religious theories and psychological theories - all provide a partial glimpse of the truth as to what underlies and fuels these conflicts. This book offers a new perspective on the psychological nature of conflicts between groups and cultures. This new perspective is based on an old theory - Jung's theory of complexes which he developed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Our modern version and new application of Jung's old idea make no special claim to having the answer to what causes - or might heal - group and cultural conflict, but they offer a point of view that may be useful to some as they ponder the forces that invariably seem to thwart most human attempts to bring a peaceful, collaborative spirit to the unending strife between groups of people. In our ripe time or kairos, when understanding both the uniqueness and commonality of cultures from around the world has become essential for the well-being of the global community itself, shedding more light on what tears us apart is an essential first step. Much of what tears us apart can be understood as the manifestation of autonomous processes in the collective and individual psyche that organize themselves as cultural complexes.

This book sets out to explore a single notion - what we have called "the cultural complex." The very name of the notion is a synthesis of two very potent words - "cultural" and "complex" - each carrying a long and important history of research, speculation, and multileveled meaning. The notion of a "cultural complex" is a synthetic idea, i.e., it springs from a particular tradition - analytical psychology - and draws on different strands of that tradition to build a new idea for the purpose of understanding the psychology of group conflict. Over and over again in this book, we will underline the premise that the psychology of cultural complexes operates both in the collective psychology of the group and in the individual members of the group. Each chapter in the book should be read as part of a collaborative effort to give flesh and bones to the theory of the "cultural complex." By exploring the notion of a cultural complex in a variety of contexts and crosscultural settings, the reader will be exposed to the concept as it applies to both groups and individuals. In a very real sense, the separate contributions in this book can be thought of as a group effort to define the notion of the cultural complex.

Jungian theory at its best is open and evolving, with a long and meaningful history of modification and adaptation. Jung himself was never static in the development of his ideas and as a result, there are several different "theories" in his life's work that exist side by side: complex theory, the theory of psychological types, the theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious and ultimately, Jung's theory of the Self. These theories taken together form a whole, but were never intended to be a tight, carefully constructed architectural gem. One can think of the loose collection of separate theories that have grown up to become known as "analytical psychology" as being a bit ramshackle like an old New England farmhouse. Many additions to the original structure have been made over time as different needs emerged. Our theory of cultural complexes is just such a new addition and we like to think of it as being built in the style of a farmhouse addition - we hope as a "great room," although some may see it as a "mud room." Whatever scale and value is given to it, it is clear that we need a new room.

Jung's complex theory was his first original contribution to the young science of psychoanalysis. It is still a vital part of how Jungians understand and formulate the inner and outer experience of individuals. Although Jung included the cultural level in his schema of the psyche, his theory of complexes has never been systematically applied to the life of groups and to what Jung and his followers have been fond of calling the "collective." Applying Jung's theory of complexes to the cultural level of the psyche and the life of the group (and how the life of the group exists in the psyche of the individual) is the new addition that we propose to build and it is hoped that this book will be part of the design and construction of the new room. Those knowledgeable about Jungian psychology will already be protesting that Jung and Jungians have always had a keen interest in the collective and have actively explored diverse cultures, making enormous contributions to understanding the role of the collective in the psyche. Of course, this is true. But when it came to understanding the psychopathology and emotional entanglements of groups, tribes, and nations, Jung did not take advantage of his original theory of complexes and this has left a major gap in analytical psychology.

E-mail: Tom Singer

Let's start off with a little more information. Here is a brief overview of the idea of complexes - one of the enduring contributions of Freud and especially of Jung, who refined the term and made it more usable (from Wikipedia):

In psychology a complex is a group of mental factors that are unconsciously associated by the individual with a particular subject or connected by a recognizable theme[1] and influence the individual's attitude and behavior. Their existence is widely agreed upon in the area of depth psychology at least, being instrumental in the systems of both Freud and Jung. They are generally a way of mapping the psyche, and are crucial theoretical items of common reference to be found in therapy.

The term "complex," or "feeling-toned complex of ideas," was adopted by Carl Jung when he was still a close associate of Sigmund Freud. (Theodor Ziehen is credited with coining the term in 1898.) Jung described a "complex" as a 'node' in the unconscious; it may be imagined as a knot of unconscious feelings and beliefs, detectable indirectly, through behavior that is puzzling or hard to account for.

Jung found evidence for complexes very early in his career, in the word association tests conducted at the Burgh√∂lzli, the psychiatric clinic of Zurich University, where Jung worked from 1900–1908. In the word association tests, a researcher read a list of words to each subject, who was asked to say, as quickly as possible, the first thing that came to mind in response to each word. Researchers timed subjects' responses, and noted any unusual reactions—hesitations, slips of the tongue, signs of emotion. Jung was interested in patterns he detected in subjects' responses, hinting at unconscious feelings and beliefs.

In Jung's theory, complexes may be conscious, partly conscious, or unconscious.[2] They may be related to traumatic experiences, or not. There are many kinds of complex, but at the core of any complex is a universal pattern of experience, or archetype. Some of the key complexes Jung wrote about were the anima (a node of unconscious beliefs and feelings in a man's psyche relating to the opposite gender) and animus (the corresponding complex in a woman's psyche); and the shadow (Jung's term embracing any aspect of psyche which has been excluded from conscious awareness). Many Jungian complexes appear in complementary pairs: for example, the puer, or eternal youth, often appears in relationship to the senex, or archetypal old man. A puer complex might manifest as an individual's unconscious dread of growing up, of losing one's romantic ideals or freedom; a senex complex, by contrast, might be seen in a person who, without seeming to understand why, is driven to act out an "old man" role, in creative or destructive ways. Only when a complex results in destructive behavior would it be seen as pathological; otherwise, a Jungian view of psyche accepts the presence of diverse complexes in ordinary health.

We can look at Jung's idea of the complex (as expanded by his translator, Jolande Jacobi) as a kind of unconscious subpersonality (for more on this idea, see my post at Integral Options Cafe) - a way of being in the world that we are generally unable to hold as an object of awareness until we disidentify from it. Doing so, we begin to get a sense of the power a complex can have in our lives.
[E]very complex consists primarily of a "nuclear element," a vehicle of meaning, which is beyond the realm of the conscious will, unconscious and uncontrollable; and secondarily, of a number of associations connected with the nuclear element, stemming in part from innate personal disposition and in part from individual experiences conditioned by the environment.
Once constellated and actualized, the complex can openly resist the intentions of the ego consciousness, shatter its unity, split off from it, and act as an "animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness."(1)

~ Jolande Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung
This is essentially the definition of a subpersonality, though we will have to replace the archetype as the "nuclear element" with some form of trauma, dissociation, or some other event that can create the need for self-protection in the psyche.(2) And just as complexes gather associations around the initial kernel, so too do subpersonalities.

The approach taken by Singer & Kimbles argues that the same thing can happen at the cultural level - an idea that has been a part of the psychodynamic tradition for decades (or more).

One source of subpersonalities/complexes is the cultural unconscious. This is where the patripsych (the internal constellation of patriarchal patterns) comes from, a term made popular by the feminist movement. John Rowan works with this idea quite a bit, but it is not the only form of culturally determined complexes. Others might include the dutiful student, the patriot, the soldier, the mensch, and so on. Every culture will have different values that are internalized as roles or behaviors or ways of thinking.

But for this post, our focus is the patripsych:
The patripsych is a shorthand term for what we have called the internal constellation of patriarchal patterns. By this we mean all the attitudes, ideas and feelings, usually compulsive and unconscious, that develop in relation to authority and control. This development is closely related to learning about sex roles - learning about whether you are a little bot or a little girl. (3)
John Rowan explains it in a little more detail in his book, Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us (1990):
It is the patripsych we have to contend with when we are touching on compulsive feelings of dependence on authority figures, so that I assume they know best. I want to get near them. I want to be like them, and so forth. It is also the patripsych I have to contend with when I have a compulsive need to fight authority figures, opposing them regardless of what they do, dedicating my life to their destruction and seeing them as symbols of evil. And it is the patripsych I have to contend with when I am withdrawing into myself, refusing to compete, being uncommunicative, not engaging in any way and in this way avoiding all the issues of control. (p. 139-140)
Does any of this sound familiar? To be honest, when I first came across this idea maybe 10-12 years ago, I dismissed as irrelevant to my life. In my own mind, then, I had evolved beyond such limitations. Damn, was I naive. The more work I have done on masculinity issues, the more I realize how pervasive and subtle it is.

In many ways, the patripsych is a cultural complex/subpersonality that combines the agentic aspect of the masculine psyche in its pathological form (the pusher, always pushing us to do more, be more) with the inner critic in its most pathological form (always telling us we are not good enough, not worthy of being loved or respected for ourselves).

In Rowan's opinion, this is one of the most difficult parts/complexes to work with in therapy, although group work seems to be better suited to uprooting it. In individual work, no matter how much it seems we have gotten to it, the minute the client goes back out into the world, the culture is striving to re-embed the complex in his psyche through television commercials, movies, songs, peers, family, and nearly anything else you can imagine.

More to the point, men who reject this cultural complex suffer backlash from other men, and even from women (who are also impacted by the patripsych), who tend to reject men not seen as masculine by other men (this is a huge generalization, but true in the abstract).

Until recently, there had not been much research on this experience, but a very recent article by Moss-Racusin, Phelan & Rudman (2010) sheds new light on it:
Despite the high costs of adhering to masculine stereotypes, stereotype violation is associated with its own set of risks (Rudman & Phelan, 2008). For men, backlash effects have been underinvestigated, but some evidence suggests that, relative to comparable women, they are penalized for passiveness (Costrich, Feinstein, Kidder, Maracek, & Pascale, 1975), emotional self-disclosure (Derlega & Chaiken, 1976), and achieving success in feminine domains (Cherry & Deaux, 1978; Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). Given that modesty is associated with women (Heatherington et al., 1998), it should incur penalties for men because acting “macho” is a key component of men's professional power (Collinson & Hearn, 1996). Indeed, men who act modestly may be viewed as weak, and in turn experience ostracism in the workplace for not behaving like “one of the boys” (Berdahl, 2007). It therefore seems likely that men tend to behave immodestly because to do otherwise risks social and economic penalties. (4)
As men, we need to make it permissible, if not desirable, to shed these unconscious controls on our sense of self - and on our roles and expressions of our innate masculine hearts. The only way men will evolve out of the traditional, stereotypical roles is to create a safe space for our buddies and brothers - and ourselves - to do so.

For more on this particular topic, see John Rowan's Healing the Male Psyche: Therapy as Initiation (1997).

References and notes:
1. Jung: "A Review of the Complex Theory," The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8) .
2. Not all subpersonalities arise from trauma, obviously -- we can actually create our own subpersonalities, especially as teenagers, by "trying on" different roles. Other subs develop as our roles develop, for example as a parent, or as an employee, and so on. But the subs I am interested in here are the ones that can "hi-jack" the psyche and make us wonder why do what we do.
3. Southgate, J. & Randall, R. (1978). The Barefoot Psychoanalyst. London: Association of Karen Horney Psychoanalytic Counselors.
4. Moss-Racusin, C.A., Phelan, J.E. & Rudman, L.A. (2010). When men break the gender rules: Status incongruity and backlash against modest men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity; Apr, Vol 11(2); pp. 140-151.

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