Jung’s complexes

I continue my reading of Jung and find it to be heady, intellectual material that can only be understood by erudite intellectuals such as myself. One of Jung’s main concepts was that we are born with certain presumptions already built into our brains (as opposed to the tabula rasa theory which stated that we learn all our behaviors and ideas from our culture.) Jung thought we had built-in archetypes which might be thought of as characters. For instance, we come out of the womb expecting a mother and father archetype. We also come with complexes which could be thought of as patterns of behavior.

To consider one complex: in males*, Jung described a process by which the individual separates from the mother (and family in general.) Part of why he thought this behavior was an innate complex, as opposed to being a cultural artifact, is because cultures all over the world have codified this separation into myths (e.g. there seems to be something universal about it.) Frankly, you can see it in Star Wars. Luke’s family is killed and he must leave his home planet to face his great enemy (who, ironically, turns out to be his own father.) Of course, you see this behavior in a lot of animals as well. Animals grow into early adulthood and leave their tribe or pack and go off to find a new one. Or, in the case of something like bears, they go off to live in solitude and deep contemplation.

* An obvious question: what about females? The sense I get from a book is that while Jung explored this question, he didn’t explore it as deeply as he did for males. Probably because men are much more interesting.

The point being that this behavior — leaving the comforts of home — seems to be built into not just humans, but many animals.

To my knowledge Jung never deeply explored the mechanisms that drive these kinds of behaviors and complexes, but they certainly tie in with biology and genetics. We understand that a lot of our behaviors are at least modulated by the release of hormones in chemicals in our bodies at different stages of development. (The release of sex hormones creating the randy teenager, for example.) And we understand that the programming for the timing of the release of these hormones is built into our genes. So, in a rather vague way, Jung was predicting concepts and ideas that future scientists would arrive at.

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