We have to thank the French psychopathologists, Pierre Janet in particular, for our knowledge today of the extreme dissociability of consciousness. Janet and Morton Prince both succeeded in producing four to five splittings of the personality, and it turned out that each fragment of personality had its own peculiar character and its own separate memory.
These fragments subsist relatively independently of one another and can take one another’s place at any time, which means that each
fragment possesses a high degree of autonomy.
My findings in regard to complexes corroborate this somewhat disquieting picture of the possibilities of psychic disintegration, for fundamentally there is no difference in principle between a fragmentary personality and a complex.
They have all the essential features in common, until we come to the delicate question of fragmented consciousness.
Personality fragments undoubtedly have their own consciousness, but whether such small psychic fragments as complexes are also capable of a consciousness of their own is a still unanswered question.
I must confess that this question has often occupied my thoughts, for complexes behave like Descartes’ devils and seem to delight in playing impish tricks.
They slip just the wrong word into one’s mouth, they make one forget the name of the person one is about to introduce, they cause a tickle in the throat just when the softest passage is being played on the piano at a concert, they make the tiptoeing latecomer trip over a chair with a resounding crash.
They bid us congratulate the mourners at a burial instead of condoling with them, they are the instigators of all those maddening
things which F. T. Vischer attributed to the “mischievousness of the object.”
They are the actors in our dreams, whom we confront so powerlessly; they are the elfin beings so aptly characterized in Danish folklore by the story of the clergyman who tried to teach the Lord’s prayer to two elves.
They took the greatest pains to repeat the words after him correctly, but at the very first sentence they could not avoid saying: “Our
Father, who art not in heaven.”
As one might expect on theoretical grounds, these impish complexes are unteachable. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 202