Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 3: Through Phoenix Gate

August 11th, 2010 · complexes, depression, depth psychology, guilt, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, regret, Shadow, soul, therapy, unconscious, unlived life, wholeness

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on regret, I have tried to portray something of the nature and power of regret as it manifests in our lives.  Hopefully I have succeeded in making one very central thing clear: regret is not some peripheral thing in our lives that is going to be cleared away by simply improving our thinking.  It strikes deeper.  It is much more fundamental.  How then are we to deal with the presence of regret in our lives?

One of the first steps is to frankly acknowledge the danger to us that regret represents.  Regret, truly strong regret, has the power to deprive us of a meaningful life in the present, even though it concerns events in our past.

Neither will regret be skirted.  It often stands in the center of the road of our journey.  The way that it holds our energy can seem hopelessly entangling.

Acknowledging the sheer pain of regret can be very hard to do.  As is often the case with strong negative feelings, we try to deny their existence.  Yet it is only acknowledging the pain that really makes us aware of the life that has been lost, of which the regret reminds us.  And it is only in acknowledging the pain and sometimes the despair that is associated with regret that the energy that is tied up in it can begin to be freed up to move toward something else in our lives.  And that something may have real life and real meaning for us.

Despair is usually the last place we want to go.  The last thing we want to face in our lives.  Yet, it is in our despair that our energy gets caught.

What is it about what we regret that really keeps us from wanting to release it?  Can we face the hurt inherent in failed hopes?  Does regret really move us more deeply into the question of what our life is about, and whether we find it meaningful or not?  As the character Ivan says in the recent film Greenberg , can we really come to accept and cherish a life other than the one we planned?

Carl Jung frequently used a phrase that he took from the ancient world” amor fati .  Literally translated, it means “the love of one’s fate.”  This is not a phrase to be chucked around glibly, and Jung certainly did not do that.  However, the idea of loving one’s fate is the mirror opposite of living a life that is consumed by regret.

When one looks at the painful, and sometimes even horrific events that can be endured by human beings, one can only conclude that it would be a grim mockery to counsel someone to somehow love these actual events.  That would be the bitterest possible perversion of some idea of positive thinking.  I don’t think that is what Jung means when he uses the phrase amor fati. I think what he does mean is that the person who loves his or her fate somehow lives in hope, and sees a meaning emerging in the midst of the fabric of his or her life.  Such a life and such a hope offers the possibility of living passionately into life — beyond the chains of regret.

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the whole subject of dealing with regret.

Wishing you every good thing on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Guy Allard | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 1

July 26th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, depth psychology, guilt, life passages, midlife, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, regret, soul, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

Regret is a power that can bring you to your knees.  A great many of us have experienced its power.  Sinatra may sing “Regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention.”  This sounds admirable and enviable, but over the course of a lifetime, most of us have to deal with some very powerful rendez-vous with the way it might have been.

Regret can be experienced at any point in life, but often at mid-life, regret can start to take on a particular intensity.  As we go through the journey of life, the awareness that we have only a finite amount of life left, a finite number of possibilities open to us, can lead us to an exquisite hyper-sensitivity to the regret we have for all the choices we could have made differently, roads we could have walked, ways that it might have turned out that it did not.  In other words, the life unlived.

How can we live with this awareness?  We may attempt to shrug it off, pretend it isn’t there.  But very often for us it is there, often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when all the spirits tend to come out.  Not a few of our addictive and compulsive behaviours — including workoholism — can stem from attempts to run away from regret.  But how can you or I run away from something so close to ourselves?

In my next few postings, I will be examining the phenomenon of regret, and the way it impacts us.  It can have a huge grip on us.  It can even imprison us, and embitter us beyond words.  But, let me ask a question that might seem strange:  Is there health in regret?  It’s clear how regret can be a poison, but, oftentimes, the cure for the poison is made from the poison itself.

Does regret play a part in your life?  Do you ever find the experience of regret both inescapable and painful?  I’d welcome any of your comments on this post.

My Next Post: Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 2: Understanding the Power of Regret

I wish you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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G20 Toronto: What the Heck Just Happened?

July 6th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, complexes, Current Affairs, depth psychology, G20, Ontario, panic, popular culture, Psychology and Suburban Life, Toronto, Trauma, trust

On June 26 and 27, the leaders of the G20 nations and numerous other nations met in downtown Toronto.  For many living in this area, what happened in the course of those two days has something of the character of a nightmare in the collective psyche of the City of Toronto, and indeed, the whole of the Greater Toronto Area [“GTA”] and much of Canada.

For those of you who don’t know Toronto, let me explain that it is one of the more decent and livable large cities on the North American continent.  This is a city that is genuinely, vibrantly diverse, and one that is characterized by a great deal of openness and tolerance.  As I started to write this post on Sunday, July 4th, the City’s 30th Gay Pride parade –North America’s largest — was taking place.

But you wouldn’t have recognized Toronto during the two days of the G20 summit.  As many of you will be aware, we had burning police cars,  police arrests for which there was apparently no actual legal authority, shop windows of not only large corporations but also small merchants vandalized, and a small minority of so-called “Black Bloc” rioters who effectively kept the voice of thousands who were legitimately exercising their right of free speech from being heard.

In a democracy, people often have widely divergent views.  The exchange of those views can sometimes become very heated, especially when those of more left-leaning and more right-leaning perspectives encounter one another.  And especially when the issues being considered involve concerns as fundamental as debt, poverty, economic health, globalization and the environment.

However, what occurred in Toronto over these two days was not any encounter of this kind.  It was a fundamentally different kind of experience.  People on all sides seem to have been caught up in fear and confusion.  Over the last week, there has been a sense that the GTA is gradually emerging from some kind of fog, and coming back to itself.

I don’t think that it is an over-statement to say that the G20 events and their aftermath have affected many people in a manner that has the character of trauma.   Just what it was in the course of the G20 that any particular individual found traumatic varied.  It might have been the images of burning police cars, or the windows of shops broken in, or stories of individuals arrested and held without proper authority, or video images of overwhelming police presence.  Regardless of which particular images or stories it was, the response of individuals to the G20 events seems to have been “This isn’t the Toronto I grew up in and trusted!  What has happened to my city?”

In my opinion, that’s the right question.  What happened to our city?  More specifically, what happened to the psyche of our city?  And it’s at this point, I believe, that CG Jung has some things to say that are specifically relevant.  For instance, he states at one point in his Collected Letters:

Any organization in which the voice of the individual is not heard is in danger of degenerating into a subhuman monster.

I believe that this is the essence of what was wrong with the whole G20 summit experience in Toronto.  The individual, and his or her meaning and significance, became completely lost. The whole event was completely disconnected from the life of the City of Toronto, and the experience of its citizens.  Everything about the G20, and especially its titanic size, just serves to dwarf the significance of the individual.  The forces grinding and clashing at such an event are so huge that the voice of the individual simply cannot be heard in any meaningful way.

A democracy cannot afford to do politics in this manner.  At least, it cannot do so, and expect to remain a democracy.  In my opinion, there is a deep need at this point in our history to bring political decision-making down to a more human scale.  I don’t know whether that is a point that favours the right or the left, but it is a simple reflection of human psychological reality.  If we lose the individual, we will find ourselves submerged in crowds and mobs which we cannot influence, governed by unconscious psychological forces that we cannot begin to control or even understand.  That kind of mass psychology leads to disaster.

It’s up to each of us to take a personal stand to keep our political and social life fundamentally human, and to deliver a message to politicians, officials and others: individual persons–and only individual persons–count.

My next blog post will return to my “Iron Man” series, with “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

I’d welcome your reflections on the G20 in Toronto.   Do you agree with me that it took us to some pretty unsatisfactory places, or do you have another perspective on these events?  Do you agree or disagree with me that now is a particularly important time to focus on the value and dignity of individual persons in our collective and political life?  As always, I greatly value your comments and reflections — and you certainly don’t have to agree with me!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Turkbug| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Depth Psychotherapy Heals

June 14th, 2010 · complexes, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Science, unconscious, Wellness, wholeness

  The research paper that I have linked to below is both striking and very important.  It provides strong empirical evidence of the effectiveness of “psychodynamic psychotherapy”.  That’s a technical term for those forms of psychotherapy, like the Jungian approach, which:

 

In this study, Shedler’s “Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”, evidence shows psychodynamic therapies to have a treatment effect as large as those reported for other therapies whose proponents stridently proclaim them to be “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that people who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends.  The study also tends to indicate that non-psychodynamic therapies may be effective in part because the practitioners who are the most skilled at using those methods bring techniques into their practice that essentially originated in the theory and practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The researcher makes it clear that any perception that psychodynamic approaches lack empirical support “does not accord with available scientific evidence.”

 

These results, while not entirely new, are very striking.  They are worthy of very careful consideration by the therapeutic profession as a whole.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on any of your experiences with Jungian or other forms of depth psychology.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cristi111|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Crisis

May 8th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, complexes, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, psychological crisis, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, stress

 

Sometimes we can be overtaken by things that happen in the psyche.  Such events can leave a person in a very vulnerable place struggling with intense anxiety, depression or stress.  Often these psychic events are triggered by events in our outer lives.  Nonetheless, it is their psychological impact, the things that they cause to happen in our minds, that has the most fundamental impact upon us.  It is the manner in which we perceive these events, and the meaning that we attach to them, that can led us into real difficulties.

There are many potential types of crisis.  I have chosen just a few types to mention here, which are among the most prominent and difficult.

Betrayal is often one of the very worst types of crises. A negative experience at the hands of one who is loved and trusted can be one of the most profoundly shattering experiences in life.  I will be writing a whole posting, or a whole series on this in the near future.  Nonetheless, what is important here is that such an experience can shake a person to the core, particularly if the relationship in which the betrayal occurs is one that is fundamental to a person’s sense of identity (see below).

Fundamental crisis of identity. A fundamental crisis of this kind is an experience in which an individual’s sense of themselves is pulled out from underneath them, as it were, rather than the kind of gradual change in understanding of identity that occurs in aging and maturation.  For example, consider the person who has 37 years in with the same firm, and who is unexpectedly laid off 2 1/2 years before retirement.  Or the 47 year old woman who learns for the first time that she is adopted in her mother’s last will and testament.  job loss.  loss of a business.

Grief and or profound disillusionment.  These two types of experience can be quite distinct, or else they can come together.  Often the loss of a loved one can lead to some of the deepest soul-searching and questions in life.  Sometimes grief, though, can also be associated with the loss of a way of life, or something that has provided a certain kind of meaning, such as a pattern of life that may be associated with living with a certain city or location, or in a certain community of people, when one has to leave it.

The sense of being fundamentally overwhelmed by external events.In my opinion, this is one of the most frequent kinds of psychic crisis for people in suburban environments like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga.  In fact, at certain times in recent years in our culture, I think that this kind of psychic affliction has been almost epidemic.

The effect of huge life events of these types is that they can cause some pretty fundamental upheavals deep in the individual’s psyche.  These can lead to things in the unconscious getting very shaken up and emerging in consciousness, such as anxiety and depression.

However, it is important to recognize that contents from the unconscious might well be surfacing in an attempt to bring healing to the individual, also.

What do I do if I find myself in the grip of a crisis? Sometimes people keep on with business as usual, acting as if nothing has changed in their lives.  They work just as hard, maybe harder.  They are just as demanding of themselves as they ever were, maybe even more so.

1. Acknowledge that you are in a crisis. This can be hard to admit.  All of us would rather not go through this type of experience, even though they are a fundamental aspect of human life. Sometimes the need to look good–to ourselves, or to others–can keep a person from acknowledging in a self-compassionate way that she or he has something big with which they have to struggle.

2. Take care of yourself.  Carefully consider your sleeping, eating, working and stressful interactions.  Are you putting more burden on yourself than you can manage in a healthy way?  As in 1. , are you truly acknowledging what it is that you are going through?  If you respond to the distress of a crisis by, say, trying to drown the pain through working harder, you need to recognize that the outcome may not be at all good for you or for the people to whom you are close.

3. Get help.  Seek out a good therapist.  You are going to need to process what is happening to you, to come to terms with the feelings, and with everything, such as depression, anxiety and perhaps even panic, that may be coming up from the unconscious.  A skilled therapist who is aware of the deeper meanings of these types of events can help you to put them in a context where the psyche can start to make some kind of meaning out of them.

4.  Ask whether this situation reminds you of anything similar in your earlier life. Is this particular crisis bringing up things out of the past for you?  Does it connect with difficult things that you have had to deal with earlier in your life?  Does it reflect patterns that you have experienced at earlier times in your life?……..

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on psychological crisis.  Have you, like very many people, had experience of crisis in your life?  Are you dealing with forms of crisis now?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Icefields|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Stuck

April 4th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, wholeness

One of the common experiences that brings people into therapy is the feeling of being “stuck”.  This is an expression that people commonly use to describe the experience of being brought up again and again against some psychological issue that seems incredibly difficult or even impossible to resolve.

Sometimes this sense of “stuckness” can concern some aspect or issue of a person’s life that seems very hard to get a fix upon, or to face squarely.  It may be associated with feelings of boredom, or ennui, or sometimes with feelings that are strong enough that they could properly be called despairing.

It is often the case that the sense of stuckness concerns dilemmas that can’t be solved.  There may be tensions, for instance, between a person’s desire to take steps to pursue his or her deepest and most profound aspiration or dream, and obligations and commitments to people whom the person deeply loves.  Very often they involve values and deep yearnings of the heart, and sometimes there are feelings that it is almost impossible to put into words.  It is most often the case, judging from my experience, that these dilemmas are not something that the individual is going to be able to just “sit down and calmly think their way through”.  They are often just too fundamental to the person’s being to be resolved in such a straightforward, rational way.

That is why people often bring this kind of dilemma into therapy.  And by the way, such dilemmas are not usually brought forward by dull, limited, emotionally truncated people.  Rather, it is precisely the sensitive, aware and intelligent who find themselves “stuck” in this kind of manner.

Often such dilemmas revolve around something that has been a long term issue, possibly even throughout the individual’s life…

Often, it is only by really taking hold of both sides of the dilemma that some kind of a solution can be found.  The only way out may be recognizing that the problem is intellectually insoluble, even though I’m a very intelligent, resourceful person.  And it can take real courage to accept that this situation in my life brings me literally to my wits’ end.

Here are some hard but important questions to ask about being stuck in this way.

Is there something in this dilemma that I just have to face because, whether or not I want to accept it, it is just the way that life is?

Is there something in this dilemma that hinges on whether I am able to accept myself?  Is there some aspect of myself in this situation with which I simply have to come to terms if I’m ever going to find peace around this issue?  Is there something about that self-acceptance that I find particularly hard or offensive?

Is there something in this dilemma that I find hard to come to terms with because it entails a secret suffering, maybe something so painful that I can’t even admit it to myself?

Is there something involved in this situation that part of me knows, but that is “split off”, dissociated and unacknowledged?

The only way through this kind of stuckness involves patience and a great deal of compassion for myself.  Also, paradoxically, often it is only by acknowledging the depth of my suffering that the suffering can lessen.

Often the container of psychotherapy in depth is the most effective, and often the only place to come to terms with, and to begin to find some kind of resolution of the most fundamental dilemmas that we have, the ones that really touch us in the depths of our lives.

I’d gratefully welcome any of your comments on the phenomenon of stuckness or “unmovable dilemmas”.  Have you ever dealt with this kind of an issue in your inner life?  Have you ever found yourself “split right in two” about an important or fundamental life decision?  I would welcome any of your comments, directed either to the blog or personally to me.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Indykb | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Between Childrens’ and Parents’ Needs: the Generational Anxiety Sandwich

February 15th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, parent-child interactions, parental complex, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

 

Sandwich for Vibrant Jung Thing In this post, I would like to write about something that may have a sense of “taboo” about it.

For many of us in the present day world, a powerful struggle goes on in our middle years.  There are greater and greater demands on our personal reserves of compassion, empathy, time, energy and money.  These resources are streaming out in two directions, both towards our children, and also towards our parents, and possibly other aging relatives, who are living to a greater age than ever they have in the past.

As many people in their middle years try to meet the needs of the younger and older generations, they find themselves nearly impossibly stretched.

In such a climate, it can feel almost impossible to meet the needs of others.  In addition, many people end up feeling like callous ingrates if they give any consideration to their own needs as people.  “How can I consider myself?” one often hears people in this position say, “My parents gave me so much.  I owe them so much–everything!”

The really difficult thing is when the inner complex gives such guilting messages to an adult child, when the parents have actually not been kind or supportive to their children.  I experience this as a very frequent occurrence in my practice.  Many times, people who have been seriously emotionally or physically neglected by their parents — or worse — are the very people who respond in the most dutiful and self sacrificing manner.

And then again, it is often those same people, dutiful to their parents, who turn around and are completely self-sacrificing to their children.  And sometimes those children can be every bit as demanding unreasonable and narcissistic toward their parents as their grandparents are toward them.  And often that same mass of guilt and obligation that whips these people into unreasonably self-denying behaviour toward their parents will do the same when it comes to their children.

The particular psychological forces that bring this about are as individual as the people involved in the situation.  Very often, in dealing with these situations, healthy ordinary people need therapy to get to the root of the problem, and to free themselves from the crushing guilt.  Guilt can be an extremely powerful emotion and motivator, and it is often necessary to confront it in the safe environment of therapy to be able to remove its power.

The other hugely difficult component of these intergenerational binds is that they often lead to enormous amounts of anxiety.  This can prove as difficult, if not more so, than the guilt.  However, what I am going to say next about that guilt may prove surprising, even shocking!

Which is, that it may actually be quite a good thing that the individual is experiencing the guilt!  “Wow, Brian” you might be thinking, “what a horrible thing to say!  …Speaking of callous!…  How can you possibly wish anxiety on already-burdened people?”

Now, I don’t wish anyone unnecessary pain, and, all other things being equal, I would wish that no one would have to deal with excessive anxiety.  But in a situation like this, I believe that it is often the case that the anxiety has a psychological purpose.  Simply put, the intense anxiety makes us aware that there is a conflict, and that the status quo is simply untenable for the individual

It may be that the guilt is intense for such a person, but the anxiety shows us that there is tension, that the needs of the self are not willing to just continue being put on the shelf and denied.  The complex of guilt and obligation within us may spur us on to utterly altruistic self-destruction…but that complex is not all that there is to us.  There is the part of us that recognizes that the purpose of human life is to become the person who is latent within us, that that is why we are here in this life.  That part will allow us to make some compromises, but it will not allow us to completely sell ourselves out — not without our paying a very dire, wrenching psychological price.  

It’s easy for many people to feel a strong impetus to self-sacrifice, but, psychologically speaking, it’s important to realize that there may be very real limits to the degree to which we can put our own needs on one side to care for and meet the needs of others.

This awareness might lead us to face an even more fundamental questions like, “How do I begin to live my own real life?” and “What is meaningful to me?”  These questions takes us to the very heart of Jungian analysis, and true depth psychotherapy.

I’d gratefully welcome comments from readers on these issues, which affect very many of us.  How have you experienced the “generational sandwich”?.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © Lukyslukys|Dreamstime.com 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Mother, Father, Family

September 13th, 2009 · archetypal experience, complexes, father archetype, feminine, masculinity, mother archetype

Here’s a quote from Jung on the key importance of the mother, father and family archetypes:

Other Father Family for Vibrant Jung Thing BlogHow is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all, whose ceaseless activity is everywhere apparent even in a rationalistic age like ours…. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery of father, mother, child, husband and wife… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles of religious and political life, in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.

Clearly, Jung thought that coming to terms with the mother, the father, and the family was very important psychologically. How does our experience of father and mother impact us? What is its particular significance?

As with most things in the realm of the psyche, the answer to that question varies immensely from individual to individual. However, we can be sure that a person’s individual experience of parents and siblings–their family–is going to have an immense impact on how the individual feels about her- or himself, the world, and his or her place in it. That experience is going to have a profound effect on everything from very mundane, ordinary, every day events right up to and including a person’s deepest and most expansive religious and philosophical convictions. Because, among other things, it is going to have an immense bearing on what the psychologist Erikson referred to as basic trust.

It can require a very major effort in a person’s psychotherapy to understand the impact of that person’s father and mother on their psychic development, in all its complexity and dimensions, positive and negative. We can’t open all that up in one blog post. But here are a few questions to be thinking about:

The Mother and Father Archetypes in the Psyche

  • The bond with the mother is the earliest bond, and the one with the greatest impact on a child. It has a great deal to do with the feeling of belonging in the world, and feeling good about oneself, about one’s own being. How has your experience of your mother left you feeling about your life, your value, and how welcome you felt in your family — and in the world?
  • The bond with the father is deep, but has a rather different character than the bond with the mother.  At its most fundamental, it has to do with how we feel about ourselves, also, but it has an aspect to it of how we feel about our ability to be effective and capable people who can get what we want and need from our lives.  How has your experience of your father left you feeling about yourself as an agent in the world?  How has it left you feeling about your own power and ability?
  • If I am a woman, how did my relationship with my mother make me feel about myself as a woman? If I’m a man, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about women?
  • If I am a man, how did my relationship with my father make me feel about myself as a man? If I’m a woman, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about men?
  • Was I able to be myself in my family?  Or did I learn I had to be someone else, someone more acceptable, perhaps?  Someone tougher, or more capable?  Or “less emotional”?  Someone invisible, or someone “who doesn’t have needs”?  Or more “masculine”?  Or more “feminine”?  Or did I get the message that I could just relax and be myself?

 

These are very emotional questions for people. Not without reason did Jung call these “the mightiest archetypes of all”. Exploring the painful territory around this part of one’s life has led to many a journey to healing in therapy. I know that to be true of many of my clients, and I know it to be true in my own life.

I’d be interested in your comments about the impact of the parental archetypes in your life. How did you internalize your parents and your family?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville & Mississauga Practice:  www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS: © Gary Woodard| Dreamstime.com

© 2009 Brian Collinson

 

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Complexes

June 30th, 2009 · complexes, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Psychotherapy

It may come as a shock to realize it, but a human being is not just one solid big lump of personality, with unified intent and will.  This is what most people choose to believe, but the psychological truth is quite different.

In each of us there are many parts, many elements that go into the composition of our personality, of what it is that makes me “me”.  Jung called these elements in the psyche “complexes”, for some technical reasons that we don’t need to go into here.

I think that nearly all of us will have had the experience of finding ourselves in the grip of a mood or a way of thinking that seems odd or strange, or where we feel thatComplexes 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing “something had a grip on me then”, or where we feel “not ourselves”.  We can feel this associated with strong emotion or with a sense of compulsivity.  Sometimes, it can have what I call a feeling of “time warp” about it, where we even feel ourselves back at some point in our past, feeling a long familiar emotion.  I know for a long time, when confronting bosses or employers, used to find myself feeling like I was 10 years old, sitting across the dinner table from my father!  Such a feeling reaction is a sure sign of the presence of a complex.

 The trouble with complexes is that they can end up taking us Complexes 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing places, in our emotions and thinking, that we just really don’t want to go.  We can find ourselves over-reacting, or locked into rigid ways of thinking, or compulsively doing things that we just really don’t want to do and that “just aren’t me” in the truest sense of the word.


So what’s to be done?

Well, the surprising paradox is that there are good things to be found in our complexes, as we come to understand them, and the pervasive effect that they have on our psyche. Freud said that the royal road to the unconscious is through dreams.  Jung disagreed with him at this point: for Jung, the royal road to the unconscious is through the complexes. And it is in the unconscious that our real life is waiting for us.

Real psychotherapy engages us with our complexes, whether they concern our father, our mother, money, cleanliness, social phobias, addictive behaviour, authority figures religious complexes — whatever.  It’s only by having the courage and fortitude to bring our complexes into the light of day, usually in therapy, that we can begin to diminish their power, and to feel the energy behind them begin to re-animate our lives.

Do you know where your complexes are?  Are you willing to take them on, to really look at them, and see the places in your life where they really run the show?  It can be humbling to do this, but it can also make us feel vastly more alive.  

To paraphrase, better the complex you know than the complex you don’t!

Thank you to those of you who suggest possible topics for my posts , and how expressed an interest in a post on the topic of complexes.  As always I welcome your comments, and I look forward to dialoguing with each of you. 

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,.  

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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 © 2009 Brian Collinson    

 

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