Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Psychology Looks at Leslie Nielsen

December 2nd, 2010 · analytical psychology, Current Affairs, Jungian, persona, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, Shadow, unconscious

“Surely you can’t be serious!”

“I am serious.  And don’t call  me Shirley.”

On Sunday last, comic actor Leslie Nielsen died at age 84.  Like many Canadians I felt a special tie to Nielsen, because he was “one of us”.  I especially enjoyed him in his comedy roles in Airplane and Naked Gun.  From the point of view of Jungian psychotherapy, Nielsen’s characters played in some hilarious ways with what Jungians call persona and shadow.

Serious… but Absurd

It’s as the character of police Lt. Frank Drebin that most people will remember Nielsen.  Drebin always presented with absolute deadpan seriousness, completely the stereotypical image of a serious policeman while surrounded by situation after situation of the most gobstopping absurdity.  His good looks and serious, professional demeanour enabled him to pull this off, at least until we are caught right up in the situation — and then the clown comes out.

Roger Ebert called Nielsen “the Olivier of spoofs” and said of his deadpan antics, “You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing.”  That was always my experience of Nielsen, too.  I found myself laughing almost in spite of myself during his movies, but also, as in all great comedy, finding something in him that was familiar, something that made me feel “at home”.

The Inner Frank Drebin

I know Frank Drebin.  Part of me feels that I know him very well.  I know that there’s a Frank Drebin in me.  It’s that part of me that stays invested in my outer social role, even when the whole situation is falling apart.  That part of me that continues to desperately try to believe in fictions when everything shows me that my fiction is not the case. That part of each of us that wants to look oh-so-competent when there’s actually a 3 ring circus going on around us — and it turns out that we are in the spotlight at center ring!  We all have that part in ourselves that so desperately wants to “believe our own propaganda” about being totally good and competent and in control– and somehow deep down, knows it’s not true, and is damned if it will admit it.

Surprised by the Shadow

There are all kinds of parts of us that go into making up our shadow, as Jungians call it.  That’s the entire dimension of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge exists.  Part of that is the morally unacceptable parts of ourselves and part of it is those weaker, inferior or just less socially desirable aspects of ourselves that cause us to feel vulnerable or ashamed or just plain clown-like.  But they are all aspects of us, and we need to accept and acknowledge them.

That’s where the Leslie Nielsens — and the Charlie Chaplins, Laurel and Hardys, Roberto Benignis, Robin Williams, John Candys and Jack Blacks — all come in.  They help us to accept and even be kind to those parts of ourselves that we have trouble acknowledging.

Poor Old Persona

Sometimes our poor old persona goes on bravely, day after day, waving its flag that tells everyone that we are doing fine, and that everything’s under control — even when that’s sometimes the very last thing we feel, if we are honest with ourselves.  Rest in peace, Leslie Neilsen, and thank you for helping us to laugh at our pretensions and our obliviousness, and to be kinder to our struggling selves.  Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Nielsen — and we love you for being anything but.

Caught in Our Own Schtick?

Have you ever one of those “Frank Drebin” moments?  When all your seriousness and self-importance just comes apart?  I remember once having to give a talk at a hospital.  I bent down to pick up my projector, and –with a big audible rip! — the entire seam in the middle of the back of my pants split, from top to bottom!  Shadow time!  If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d welcome hearing from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © David Fowler | Dreamstime.com

TRAILER CREDIT:  © 1988 Paramount Pictures .  The Naked Gun series is the property of Paramount Pictures  and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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The Psychological Meaning of the Chilean Miners

October 15th, 2010 · Current Affairs, Hope, inner life, mine rescue, Psychology, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, resilience, symbolism, therapy

I had just begun my series on “Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth” when our attention was again drawn to the fate of  the miners trapped at the bottom of the mine at Copiapo, Chile.  This is a story that embodies resilience, if there ever was one.  The world’s media have been following the fortunes of the miners with tremendous verve and intensity.  Why is it that this story grips us so?

Frankly, from a symbolic perspective, there is so much that could be said about a group of miners trapped in the bowels of the earth, and finally coming to the light of day again that you could write a very hefty book about it.

Clearly this story is an incredible embodiment of human resilience.  To wait in a precarious chamber of rock for 66 days for a tunnel to be dug down: could it really get much worse?  It would be a test of any human being’s sanity to have to wait in this manner is such confining and threatening surroundings.

And the world waited with the Chilean miners.  In an emotional, and even in a quasi-physical way, we experience to some degree what it is that they experience.  With them, we share in their longing for a return to the surface, to the world of light.  Their experience reminds us of all those aspects of human life where things seem to be beyond our control, where the only way to “get through” is to endure, to be patient, to be resilient.  We share in their hope for freedom, and for the restoration of their own lives, because, in their hope we find our own hope, our own need to “get through” in life, that we will some day get beyond the difficult things with which we have no choice but to deal.

Sometimes human life takes us into the darkness.  We are lost; we are disoriented; we are trapped.  What we need then is to find that hope in which we can endure, and find a way back into the world of the living.  This can be as true in the world of psychological growth and psychotherapy as it is in the mines of Copiapo.

Do you have reflections or thoughts on the meaning of the events around the Chilean mine rescue?  I would certainly love to hear about them if you do.  Does their story resonate in any way with your own?

Good wishes to all of you as you make your own personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

VIDEO CREDIT: © Russia Today These images are the property of  Russia Today and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

July 11th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Meaning, persona, popular culture, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, symbolism, unconscious, wholeness

 

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III, Heart Trouble

…I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. 

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course.  What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

We think here,” he said, indicating his heart. [Italics mine]

Conversation between Ochway Biano, Chief of the Pueblo Indians and Carl Jung, recorded in  CG Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections  (1961)

Everything has been “figured out”, except how to live.

Jean-Paul Sartre

 In Part I  and Part II of this series “Anxiety Behind the Mask”, I’ve been exploring the symbollic meaning of the pop cultural figure of Iron Man.  He is certainly a symbol for the relationship in our culture between the social mask and the inner human, and for the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable.   However, there is great psychological danger in complete identification with such an impervious persona: it can become a trap, become robotic, with no way left for the inner person to “get beyond the mask”.

One of the elements from the story of the origin of Iron Man is that Tony Stark, who becomes Iron Man, has heart trouble.  As the first Iron Man movie shows, he is injured in the process of his capture, and has to be fitted with a special magnetic device to keep shrapnel from ripping apart his heart.

There is of course a tremendous importance to the symbolism of the heart.  It is the seat of the feelings and of passion.  It is also the particular organ associated with eros, which includes but is more than the power of sexual love.  Eros is also the human capacity to connect and relate.  The place where our yearnings are located.  The place where hope and despair alike find their home.

Tony Stark is portrayed as a technical genius, someone who can create the most incredible machines.  As a hero figure, he symbolizes the incredible technical prowee of our culture.  This kind of technical knowledge exemplifies the tremendous power of rational thinking — what Jung identified as the principle of logos.  It is characterized by the ability to organize, quantify, discriminate, classify, and strategize.  But logos is always pulling things apart, using conceptual power to break things down into their component parts, and make them less than they are.  Our ability to do this as a species is a great strength, and has contributed mightily to the survival and success of our species.  It is a cornerstone of western civilization, and we all glory in our scientific and technical acheivements.

However, this scientific and technical prowess can leave us completely isolated and alienated from our world, nature, and other people.  And above all, it can leave us cut off from our inner selves, from our true ability to feel things, and to relate to others and to our world.

Like Tony Stark, the Iron Man, who is a symbol produced by our culture’s collective consciousness, it is all too easy for those of us who live in our culture to have “heart trouble”, to have lost touch with our ability to feel, to empathize, to relate.  But, as Leonard Cohen seeks to remind us, the truth of the heart is never really lost.  It is always there waiting for us, even when we seem to be in exile from ourselves, even when the world seems to say, “this heart, it is not yours”.

Four Questions about the Heart

Here are some questions that may help the conversation with your own heart.

Are there any feelings that you would find hard to share with the people closest to you? 
What are the three most painful experiences in your life?
 
 
 
What are the three most joyous experiences in your life?
 
 
 
 
What is it that you really yearn for?
 
 

What about your own heart?  It’s only by staying close to it that one can begin to be close to the spontaneity and aliveness that is one’s own real life.  Often, the course of analysis, therapy or counselling is following the road back to the deepest parts of the heart.

I’d welcome your reflections on the “heart trouble” of Iron Man and the ways in which it reflects our own struggles with our hearts, as individuals and as a culture.

My very best wishes to each of you as you make your individual journeys of wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Marvel Entertainment, LLC  These images are the property of Marvel comics and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

VIDEO CREDIT: “By the Rivers Dark” by Leonard Cohen, from the album Ten New Songs ©  2001 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.  This music is the property of Sony Music Entertainment and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 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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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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Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

January 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, persona, puer aeternis, unlived life, wholeness, work

Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham

 

“Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

Up In the Air Official Website

Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

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

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

 

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Jung on North America's Anxiety and Individuation Dilemma

March 16th, 2009 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Lifestyle, Meaning, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul, The Self, wholeness

In 1931, over 75 years ago, C. G. Jung gave an interview to an American journalist in Vienna.  In it, he laid out a description of what he saw as some of the central dilemmas facing Americans.

In this moment, we are in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage and financial crises, and hopefully at the beginning of some kind of recovery from those fearful events, and the anxiety associated with them.  I believe that Jung’s remarks still speak very directly to Americans – and equally to Canadians – as we are unavoidably forced to re-evaluate what is fundamentally important in our values, our psyche and our lives. 

"The tempo of America is being taken as a norm to which life should be directed….  What America needs in the face of the tremendous urge towards NO for Vibrant Jung Thing Bloguniformity, desire of things, the desire for complications in life, for being like one's neighbours, for making records, et cetera, is one great healthy ability to say 'No.'  To rest a minute and realize that many of the things being sought are unnecessary to a happy life, and that trying to live exactly like one's successful neighbour is not following the essentially different dictates, possibly, of a widely different underlying personality, which a person may possess and yet consciously try to rid himself of, the conflict always resulting in some form, sooner or later of a neurosis….

We are awakening a little to the feeling that something is wrong in the world, that our modern prejudice of overestimating the importance of the intellect and the conscious mind might be false.  We want simplicity.  We are suffering, in our cities, from a need of simple things….

These things are being expressed in thousands of dreams.  Women’s dreams, men’s dreams, the dreams of human beings, all having much the same collective primal unconscious mind – the same in the central African… and the New York stockbroker – and it is in our dreams that the body makes itself aware to our mind….  The dream calls our mind’s attention to the body’s instinctive feeling.”

"Americans Must Say 'No' in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds.,

C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)

 

At this difficult anxious time, the world situation confronts us with fundamental choices about how we will see our own lives, how we will define ourselves, and what we will value and choose as we move forward in our lives.  Jung seeks to brings us back to recognizing and living out of the reality of the psyche, and to seeking to be conscious of the whole of what we are as human beings, which is the core of a meaningful life.

 

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca ; Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Alexandre Dvihally| Dreamstime.com

© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Middle Aged Person Traumatized by Financial Losses…

January 14th, 2009 · Current Affairs, depression, depth psychology, dreams, life passages, midlife, panic, Trauma, Wellness

Maybe you know this person, or maybe it's you.  When it comes right down to it …  who DIDN't lose a lot of money in the Fall of 2008?

Financial Trauma for Vibrant Jung Blog

However, the person we're describing thought that everything was going great financially, and that they were in investments that were "safe as houses" — until last Fall.  Then things suddenly and unexpectedly went south in the stock market, or in the housing market, and all of sudden there were losses — big time.  Right out of the blue things began to feel really insecure and unpredictable.  Hopes, dreams and plans that people had for themselves, or for their families suddenly began to seem threatened.

And the feeling overall was a feeling of being overwhelmed, and just plain helpless as things spiraled out of control.  Perhaps things started to seem very fearful, and completely out of control.  And the effect was so dramatic that our person was shaken shaken right to the core.  And it may well be that he or she (or you or I) realize that things just haven't felt the same since.

I'm seeing people in my practice who have been through just this kind of experience, and who are strongly feeling the need to find their footing again.  And I'm convinced that there are a lot more people out there who have had just this kind of experience who really need to be talking to someone and getting this kind of help.Financial Trauma 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

As you might be aware, usually, when professionals refer to people who have been through trauma, they think in terms of specifically life-threatening events.  Things like life-threatening incidents in wars, or terrorist attacks, or very serious car accidents, or violent crimes, where the individual specifically feels that they are in actual, physical danger of losing their lives, or are subject to watching others lose their lives, or get maimed, or something of that sort.  But this is too narrow: experiences of serious financial loss that are experienced as threatening the well-being or economic survival of an individual or of those close to that individual have a traumatic character.

If you have experienced any of the following, you should be seeking out help from a skilled, compassionate professional:

  • Feelings of Being Overwhelmed – THis may be something you even experience physically, i.e., "limbs turn to jelly";
  • Flashbacks or Intrusive Recollections - A flashback is a memory that is so intrusive that it feels like the event is happening all over again; an intrusive recollection is less intense, but is a memory that can set off a whole chain of traumatic recollections;
  • Sleep Disturbances – Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, or sleep restlessly and cry out in your sleep?
  • Nightmares – Do you have dreams that involve re-living the circumstances of your financial loss, or that have horrific content?
  • Bad Temper and Lack of Concentration – Do you find yourself becoming negative, argumentative, or easily irritated in ways that you were not before the experience of financial loss? 
  • Intrusive Thoughts – Do you find that your thoughts about the financial loss will simply not leave you alone?
  • Exaggerated Startle Response and/or Panic Attacks – Do you startle more easily now than you did before the loss?  Does the reaction stay with you for a log time?  Do you have panic attacks now, with sudden shortness of breath, severe chest pains or feelings of dizziness or faintness?
  • Avoidance Behaviour, Emotional Numbness or Difficulty with Intimacy – Are you avoiding people, feeling "shut down" emotionally or finding intimacy difficult, emotionally or sexually?
  • Increased Use of Alcohol, Drug Use or Comfort Eating – Are you using any of these things to block out painful reactions to what happened?
  • Depression or Traumatic Grief – If you find yourself sleeping or wanting to just do nothing, or confronting feelings of unbearable sadness since the financial losses, you may be dealing with depression or grief.
  • Guilt or Self-Blame – Do you blame yourself for the financial losses, or find yourself thinking "If only I had done things differently"?
  • Decreased Self-Esteem and Loss of Confidence – If you are confronting feelings of lack of confidence in your abilities, or of hopelessness, then it may be that the financial losses have impacted your self-esteem.

If you are experiencing these reactions now, and you have recently sustained serious financial losses, it would be a very good idea to speak to a qualified professional, as your losses may have triggered a traumatic response.  Please remember: the sooner you address the signs of trauma, the easier it is to deal with them.  You do not have to live with these responses: there are concrete things that can be done.

All the best,

Brian Collinson, www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS:

© Wingedsmile| Dreamstime.com

© Suzanne Tucker| Dreamstime.com

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Anxiety and the Downturn

November 30th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, panic, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

Stone Age Temple for Vibrant Jung Blog

The present economic conditions are deeply challenging to the ways that we all think about ourselves and our lives.  It takes a toll on all of us to be constantly bombarded with negative economic news that often seems only to get worse with each passing day.

It's evident to me from my practice how much anxiety is being created in each of us, and what a heavy burden a lot of people are having to carry in the present situation.  At the tail end of last week, there were numerous people who came through my office who were profoundly anxious and deeply scared at the things that they were seeing in their personal and working lives as we undergo the current economic crisis.

© William Attard Mccarthy | Dreamstime.com

How can we avoid being crippled by the anxiety and the fear?  There are a number of things to keep in focus.

First, the economic conditions that we are confronting are governed by the psychology of the crowd.  Modern communication technology only enhances and deepens this effect.  Crowd psychology is prone to irrational excitements and manias when things are good, and is equally prone to mass panics when they are bad.  In the short run, it can likely be expected that panic will actually worsen economic conditions, and we have to be prepared to weather that.

Second, we must fully expect that this mass panic is going to "hook" and activate all of our deepest fears.  Money is a very emotional matter for the vast majority of human beings.  It symbolizes our life-energy, which we have put into our work, through our sweat and sacrifice.  We can expect that, when we receive the kind of ominous news that has been about, we are going to initially respond with fear and anxiety — maybe even with terror.

Third, it is important to "hang onto ourselves" by not giving way to this fear and panic.  On balance, weighing decisions carefully at this time, and realizing that we are being infected, so to speak, by the panic of the crowd, and taking action in a way that really is in line with our own true feelings and emotions will lead us to courses of action that will serve us better.  Also, we need to hang on to the recognition that this crisis will not last forever.

Fourth, find your basic trust in life again, and act from that.  This is the time to draw on your deepest philosophical and religious convictions.  What do you really believe is important in life?  Do you believe that life is a meaningful journey, which is unfolding in a way that makes your life and the lives of the people close to you valuable?  If so, now is the time to put that belief in front of you, and to remind yourself of it constantly.

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In Suburbia At Age Forty-Five

November 2nd, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, wholeness

 One of the larger age groups that come to me for therapy are people who are at or right around the age of 45.

Age 45 man for vibrant jung thing blog © Aleksandar Nikolov Dreamstime.com

This is not entirely surprising to me.  For many people at this age, there is a tremendous amount going on in their lives.  As life unfolds for many people, this is an point in life where the individual is confronted with fundamental changes in his or her life.  These may not be obvious to outsiders, especially given the suburban lifestyle with its unique pressures.  Nonetheless, sometimes what is going on for people on the psychological level is enormous.

Does this mean that these people are mentally ill, or somehow suffering from "psychological disorders"?  Of course not.  But it does mean that these people are confronting some of the most fundamental psychological or existential issues in human life. 

For many of these people, the question of meaning is becoming a matter of increasing urgency.  In a lot of cases, the people who come to me are people who are very accomplished, and who have achieved a lot in their lives.  They have done what society has asked of them, in that they have moved out from the family of origin, gotten the necessary education, gotten into good careers, and often gotten married and raised families.  They are exemplary "good members of the community".  However, for many of them, there is a need for something more, now.  They are seeking for a life that is fulfilling for them.  They are seeking for a life that has value for themselves, individually.

Many such people are struggling with relationship issues.  There can be a strong feeling that the relationship that they are in is simply not currently meeting their needs.  Or else, they may have a strong feeling that their partner, who is often dealing with some pretty fundamental issues in his or her own life is no longer as fulfilled by the relationship as they once were.

Often these people are in the midst of deep changes in their lives.  Often they are unsure "which way is up", and they are asking questions about where lasting value is in their lives, and what they can hold onto that will give them a sense of orientation.  They are asking these questions in a deeply personal way: no "ready made, off the shelf" answer is going to work for them.  They are asking about who they really are, and they are asking what in their lives has lasting, incorruptible value.

These are the questions at the heart of what Carl Jung called the individuation process.  For many people in the age bracket anywhere from later 30s through the 50s. these questions can take on a tremendous urgency.

Who, most fundamentally, are you? 

What is most meaningful to you, personally, in your life? 

How will you live in the light of what is most important to you? 

These are not questions that stem from some sort of psychological disorder.  Rather they are questions that sane, healthy people naturally confront as they move through the journey of their lives.  Nonetheless, finding the answers that we need may be tied very strongly to incorporating new insights that emerge from the deepest parts of ourselves, and from the collective unconscious.  Often people need help to orient themselves in this unfamiliar territory, and to wrestle with their own depths.  I firmly believe that this is something that working with a compassionate therapist with deep experience with this type of issue and with the unconscious can provide.

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