Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

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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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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Keeping Your Soul in Times of Economic Anxiety

October 2nd, 2008 · collective consciousness, compulsion, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Oakville, panic, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self

These are anxious days in suburbia, and in fact throughout North America and the rest of the developed world.

Wall Street for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

As I write, the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States has mushroomed into a full-blown crisis.  Many of my American readers live in areas like Los Angeles County, where fully one third of house sales are now foreclosures, and there is fear that number is only going to escalate.  Having absorbed the news that, incredibly, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused to pass the $700 billion Bush-Bernanke-Paulson bailout legislation for financial institutions, the world waits, holding its breath, to see if the bill can somehow be amended into a form that the House will accept.  There is a perception on the part of many that, without some legislation of this kind of magnitude to shore up the financial sector, a disaster could ensue that would result in a credit freeze, strangling business and the economy.

Image: © Badboo | Dreamstime.com

Things which a little while ago appeared so solid have seemingly come apart very quickly.  A survey of Anxious Investor for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog the media reveals that there is an atmosphere of panic or desperation that is just underneath the surface of daily affairs at the present time.  Fear is rampant.

I have no credentials as a commentator on the economy or the financial sector, and I could add nothing to the discussion of these issues from that point of view.  However, there are observations that I would like to make about the psychology of a time like this.

© Wolfgang Amri|Dreamstime.com

 

The first of these concerns the power of mass psychology and the psychology of crowds.  Jung was very concerned lest people abdicate their individuality and be swept along by mass attitudes in times when strong emotions flow through societies — times like the present.  He warns of the dangers of this in “On the Nature of the Psyche”, CW 8 para 425:

 

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Rages: When Shadow Puts the Pedal to the Metal

July 11th, 2008 · anger, compulsion, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Milton, Psychotherapy, rages, road rage

There is no manifestation in our modern lives of what Jungians call “the shadow” that is more dramatic or potentially more deadly than road rages.  In its Wednesday July 9/08 edition, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on a particularly tragic and deadly incident which occurred in the town of Milton, here in Halton Region.

Dashboard1_for_blog Apparently, two vehicles raced each other on the James Snow Parkway in order to be first onto the access to the eastbound 401, a major highway in our area.  After a struggle, one of the vehicles suceeded in getting ahead of the other, and it appears that the enraged driver then put on his brakes extremely hard.  The other vehicle swerved to avoid rear-ending his car, and ended up crashing into the highway median and rolling three times, with a tragically fatal outcome.  So a few moments of uncontrolled rage has led to the death of one man, and to terrible legal and personal consequences for the other.

I cannot be sure, but I would bet that, if we knew all the details, we would find that the two main players in this incident were decent, ordinary citizens.  How did they end up here, with this incredibly sad outcome?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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