Psychological Complexes: Exploring the Neurobiology of Internal Conflicts

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Psychological Complexes: Exploring the Neurobiology of Internal Conflicts

A presentation by Dr. Leon Petchkovsky

Thursday, October 1, 2009 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Parish House, Cn Merviale and Peel St
Admission: Members & Concession: $10 • Non-members: $15

"A feeling-toned complex … is the image of a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally and is, moreover, incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness. This image has a powerful inner coherence, it has its own wholeness and, in addition, a relatively high degree of autonomy, so that it is subject to the control of the conscious mind to only a limited extent, and therefore behaves like an animated foreign body in the sphere of consciousness."
  — Jung, CW8 para 201

Freud’s free association investigations and Jung’s foundational Word Association experiments both envisaged “complexes” as conflicts between the “ego” and an “unconscious”. These conflicts of internal “self” and “other” were thought to feature in illnesses like psychosis, as well as the psychopathology of everyday life.

Are complexes just a metapsychology construct, or might they have a biological substrate? The answer is relevant to our deeper understanding of subjective process, psychodiagnostics, and outcome measures.

Leon will describe an experiment using fMRI studies of subjects while undergoing a word association test.

The abstract of this study is reproduced on page 11 of the October newsletter. It presents the neurosciences process and findings. In his talk to the Jung Society, Leon will focus more on the “Jungian” and subjective aspects of this work.

Dr. Leon Petchkovsky is a psychiatrist, who also trained in London in Jungian Analytic Psychology. He is the immediate past president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts (ANZSJA). He spent 5 years in Central Australia working in indigenous mental health, and has published on themes of indigenous self-perception, as well as Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation’. He has an Associate Professorial title with the Department of Psychiatry for the University of Queensland. He spends his time between private psychotherapy practice at the Pinniger Clinic on the Gold Coast, mental health visits to remote communities in Central Australia, and research.