what is

complex psychology?

Complex psychology explores the unconscious mind, the realm of psyche where our multiplicity of ‘selves’ — called complexes — resides. In complex psychology, one works to develop relationships with these complexes as a means of improving quality of life.

Complex psychology offers a model of mind that values the depths of human experience and reflects the way many people experience their inner worlds.

a complex psychology

Historically speaking, complex psychology was the title Carl Jung preferred to describe his psychological approach. Though anecdotal accounts often suggest that the term had to do with the centrality of the personal complex in Jung’s theories, Shamdasani writes that Jung’s intention for the phrase embraced the complexity of the psyche [2] rather than emphasizing the prominence of complexes within it.

Over time, analytical psychology has become the more common umbrella term for Jungian practice and theory, though depth psychology is sometimes used fairly interchangeably. Despite Jung’s preferences, complex psychology, as a term for his psychology, is little used.

A more contemporary application of the term complex psychology, and the one we best suited to discussions here at Imaginalia, is offered from a practical standpoint: the term complex psychology reflects a psychological approach which posits that the complex is the fundamental unit of the psyche, and is key to understanding most of the processes of the human inner life. Acknowledging that there are a number of lenses one can use to view complexes, my work focuses on the personal complex as an autonomous subpersonality in the psyche. For more about the subpersonality view of complexes, please visit this website’s research section, Subpersonalities.

practical applications

Under the heading of complex psychology, one might find these subject areas and inquiries:

  • The imaginal tools used for exploring the inner world of complexes, including dreamwork and active imagination
  • The terrain in which complexes exist; the imaginal territories in which we experience our inner, mental life
  • The development of complexes: how they came to be, how they grow, whether they age, and if they can die
  • The place of subpersonalities in a theory of normative multiplicity, in which the psyche is naturally and non-pathologically plural
  • Theoretical questions pertaining to whether complexes have independent consciousness, the degree to which they are autonomous, the centrality of the archetype in the complex, and so on
  • Interdisciplinary questions, such as how complex psychology fits in with the work of science, philosophy, economics, and more

⌅   references for this article