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Bridges to Consciousness

Complexes and complexity

By Nancy M. Krieger

Routledge – 2014 – 202 pages

Series: Research in Analytical Psychology and Jungian Studies

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    November 17th 2013


This book investigates consciousness as an emergent state arising from the global functioning of the brain and the body. In this research Krieger applies these concepts to analytical psychology, particularly to the constellation of the complex and of the archetype. Global brain functioning is considered as a complex system whose macroscopic, emergent patterns such as thoughts and behaviours are determined by physical parameters including emotion, memory, and perception.

The concept of the feeling-toned complex was among the first of the theories to be developed by Jung, and the theories of complexity and dynamical systems which subsequently developed in the physical sciences did not exist at the time. This book takes a new look at the feeling-toned complex as a basin of attraction which competes for consciousness against other complexes to determine behaviour. By drawing parallels between current ideas in neuroscience and Jung’s more traditional theories, Krieger discusses the relevance for both psychotherapy and everyday life.

Bridges to Consciousness considers the importance of the link between emotion and the complex in both the establishment of consciousness and the determination of self-esteem, making the work relevant to therapists and analysts. This book will also awaken interest in complexes in both the Jungian and wider neuroscientific research communities and will therefore interest researchers and academics in the field of psychology who want an insight into how the ideas of Jung can be applied beyond the traditional analytic field.


Norifumi Kishimoto, Japan Association of Jungian Psychology Journal

In "Bridges to Consciousness", Dr. Nancy Krieger throws new lights on the Jungian concept of the complex and the archetype from the viewpoint of neuroscience. In several respects, it has a peerless originality and rich suggestions both theoretically and clinically.

In the field of psychoanalysis, a new discipline, Neuropsychoanalysis, which aims at integrating psychoanalysis with brain science, had been already launched in 1999 and the fifteenth International Neuropsychoanalysis congress was held at New York in 2014. It is quite fascinating to witness hot discussions between psychoanalysts and neuroscientists to renew the theories and concepts that Freud brought about from his psychoanalytic practices. By contrast, in Jungian psychology, only a few analysts such as Margaret Wilkinson, Jean Knox and George Hogenson seem to be interested in integrating Jungian psychology with neuroscience. Under this situation, it is worthy of note that a work that tackles with a challenging task to revise the Jungian Psychology from the perspective of modern neuroscience has been published by Jungian psychoanalyst.

The next noteworthy point is that the author regards consciousness as an emergent phenomenon of the brain and body and elaborates the Jungian concepts of the complex and archetype in terms of Complexity theory. It was made possible only by the author who had worked in IT for over 40 years with a background in the physical sciences and information technology and then became a Jungian analyst.

Neuropsychoanalysis developed by applying the clinico-anatomical method to the psychoanalytic approach to patients with brain injury. The clinico-anatomical method derived from the discovery of the speech center in the brain by dissecting a patient who suffered from aphasia. An internal lesion could be inferred from the external signs and symptoms. The advances of modern devices such as CT, MRI, fMRI, PET enabled to identify the responsible lesions before the death of the patient. It was wise of Mark Solms to apply the psychoanalysis to the treatment and research of patients with brain damage and to try to make a bridge between psychoanalytic concepts and brain lesions by using the clinico-anatomical method, which led to the birth of Neuropsychoanalysis. In contrast, "Bridges to consciousness", is based on Complexity theory with key terms such as emergence, attractor, self-organization, Global Workspace, Dynamical Systems Theory. It is therefore very thought-provoking not only for Jungian psychology, but also for Neuropsychoanalysis which pioneers the integration of depth psychology with brain science mainly through the clinic-anatomical method.

Dr. Krieger focuses on the complex as an interface between Jungian psychology and neuroscience. It is quite reasonable and convenient because the concept of complex, originally discovered through the experiments with galvanic skin response involves the bodily sensation from the first time. She understands the complex as an attractor, a set of numerical properties toward which a dynamical system tends to evolve and identified six control parameter (perception, level of awareness/attention, emotion, energy generated and somatic metrics, memory and symbolic image) and one order parameter (interpretation/meaning) which determine the reaction of the psychological and physical systems as self-organizing into an attractor state".

Instead of putting these parameters side by side, she propose a dynamic model which consists of three levels by paying attention to the reaction time. A stimulus that might trigger the onset of the complex is perceived in milliseconds and the emotional and instinctual reaction occurs nconsciously. This interaction settles the psyche into a first level attractor state (State 1). Here the perception is a bodily response through the sensory modalities and the emotion and the instinct is a key factor that links the memories and associations of the complex together. Right from the beginning, Jung stressed the role of the feeling in the formation of a complex, as is shown in his term, "feeling-toned complex". (It must ben noted that what Jung means by "feeling" in "feeling-toned complex" is correspond to what the modern neuroscientists call ‘emotion’ and ‘affects’ and Krieger use the terms ‘feelings’, ‘emotions’ and ‘affects’ as defined by modern neuroscientists.) When a stimulus that could trigger the constellation of the complex is perceived and the almost instinctive reaction to it and the related emotion arises from it, various parts in the brain and the body respond to it in its proper way. This attractor State 1 then engenders changes in the body, which is reflected in the energy level and which in turn affects the level of awareness. Memories of similar situations, perhaps unconscious, are stimulated. These changes take on the order of hundreds of milliseconds (State 2). State 2 is not independent of state 1 and will feed back and influence perception and affect the nature and intensity of the emotion. As a result of the interaction between attractor state1 and state 2, a symbolic image forms which is very closely related to the meaning/interpretation (State 3). State 3 enslaves the lower level dynamical systems (State 1 and 2). Thus a system that is not expected from the individual function of local areas in the brain emerges from the self-organization of complex interactions between local multiple functional units in a non-linear or circular way. This is a series of processes that happens when a complex constellates. The neural correlates to each process are also discussed in detail, which cannot be described here for lack of space.

The next topic is the archetype. Firstly, Krieger shows a selection of quotations from the Collected Works which Jung used at one time or another to define what he meant by archetypes. These careful examinations make her insistence persuasive. On the basis of these examinations, she puts primary importance to the psychoid and depicts the psychoid archetype-as-such connecting the two poles of image and instinct. She modified Jung’s one dimensional electromagnetic spectrum model of the psychoid archetype into two dimensions. Using this model, she made a survey of the theories of archetype by the modern Jungian authors, Anthony Stevens, Hogenson, Maxon McDowell and Knox. Dr. Krieger puts a value on the fact that archetypes emerge from developmental interaction between genes, infant brain and the environment and argues that the fulfillment or not of the basic needs is an element in the development of the archetypal image, the experience of strong emotions, and leads eventually to the formation of a complex.

Among the control parameter of the complex, emotions (or instincts in Jung’s term) play a central role not only in the formation of a complex but also in an archetypal image. Here the complex and the archetype come close each other. According to Krieger, one of the major differences between complexes and archetypes is their relation to consciousness. On one hand, complexes are split off from consciousness, giving the impression that they were once, at least in some form, conscious. On the other hand, archetypes come from the collective unconscious and cannot be completely integrated into the personality. In other respects, the behavior of complexes and archetype may be similar. In conclusion, the difference between the constellation of an autonomous complex and that of an archetype lies in the depth of the unconscious from which the phenomenon arises. The post-Jungian assertion that every complex has an archetypal core grasps the essence of Jung’s idea and this archetypal core is the principle of self-organization which determines the form the complex will take. Then the discussion goes into the experience of the constellation of an archetype and its neural correlates.

The development of the ego complex is investigated from various angles, in view of several neuroscientific findings and physical and mathematical model. Jung considered the ego as a kind of complex. Krieger advanced his idea and differentiated, from the viewpoint of the Dynamic systems theory, the autonomous complex, a single pronounced attractor state, from the ego-complex, a set of less well-defined attractors which are activated routinely and which are usually formed during childhood. The differences lie mainly in the intensity of the emotion, the way of response (stereotype or gradation), and exaggeration. The development of the infant’s brain from three months before birth to 24 months postnatal is investigated in detail, especially for its implications for the development of ego-complex. Applying the state space model by Marc Lewis and Lori Douglas, Krieger depicts the psychic landscape. It assumes a plane with two axes, self and environment, on which individual complexes, autonomous complex and ego complex are plotted. This tool enables to grasp the dynamics of mind not linearly but two dimensionally and visualizes the relationship between complexes neatly. In the final chapter, three bridges that the author put the most importance on the emergence of consciousness are described, that is, the emergence of the symbol and its link to meaning, the concept of self, and the formation of global workspace.

I have overviewed the book at a run. In a word, it challenges the hard task to reveal the mechanism through which the consciousness emerges from the constellation of the complexes and the archetypes, with their neural correlates. For a future development, I will add two comments. Firstly, the complex as an attractor invites comparison with the Bromberg’s concept of self-state. The Japanese translation of his "The shadow of the Tsunami" (Bromberg, 2011) has just published by us. In the book, he describes self-states as “highly individualized modules of being?each configured by its own organization of cognitions, beliefs, dominant affect and mood, access to memory, skills, behaviors, values, actions, regulatory physiology”. Self-states change moment by moment and discontinuously. In my opinion, a complex could be considered as a specific form of self-state that has a property of the attractor. Bromberg’s work gives the possibility to situate the concept of the complex in a more general concept of the self-state. At the same time the concept of the self-state could be differentiated into several categories in the light of Jungian psychology. The concept of the complex and of the self-state will be a window through which both disciplines can interact with each other.

Secondly, as regards with emotion to which Krieger attaches greater importance, Jaak Panksepp, the neuroscientific mainstay in Neuropsychoanalysis, published a book, entitled "the Archeology of mind" (Panksepp, 2012), in which he reviewed the scientific researches on emotion, from nineteenth century medical science to the modern neuroscience. Most of modern scientists of emotion (including LeDoux who is frequently quoted in "Bridges to Consciouness") do their research on the basis of read-out theory that maintains that affects are created when the neocortex "reads out" the physiological controls of emotion that are situated within the brain. Panksepp believes that evidence speaks otherwise and argued that primary-process core affects are anoetic (without external knowledge) but intensely conscious (experienced) in an affective form (which reflects intrinsic, unreflective brain "knowledge"). He proposes a model that consists of three levels of emotions and describes seven basic emotions in detail. I think it would be more fruitful to adapt Panksepp’s model to investigate the concept of the complex and the archetype.

Although post-Jungian analysts seems to be less interested in neuroscience, Jung himself did not lose his interest in the modern science throughout his life. I believe the work Dr. Krieger had done in the book will be the one that Jung would set to study if he lived in our times.


A Jungian Neuroscience of Consciousness Part 1 Investigation of Consciousness. A Theory of Complexes. Dynamic Systems Theory. Constellation of a Complex Part 2 Neural Correlates of the Constellated Complex. A Theory of Archetypes. Constellation of an Archetype. Development of the Ego-Complex. The Psychic Landscape. The Three Bridges and Consciousness.

Author Bio

Nancy M. Krieger has a PhD from the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, Essex University, UK. She graduated from the International School of Analytical Psychology in Zurich, Switzerland, where she is now a training analyst and teaches regularly. She has a private practice in France near Basel.

Name: Bridges to Consciousness: Complexes and complexity (Hardback)Routledge 
Description: By Nancy M. Krieger. This book investigates consciousness as an emergent state arising from the global functioning of the brain and the body. In this research Krieger applies these concepts to analytical psychology, particularly to the constellation of the complex and of the...
Categories: Jung & Analytical Psychology, Psychoanalysis, Behavioral Neuroscience