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Religious Trauma Syndrome: from Abusive Faith to Trust in The Self

June 26th, 2017 · religious trauma syndrome

Religious trauma syndrome has drawn much attention in recent years: many among us have had traumatic experiences with various types of religion.

religious trauma syndrome

The 2007 documentary “Jesus Camp” is a famous chronicle of potentially traumatic religious experience

Depth psychotherapists know that our religious faith can be one of the greatest sources of support for our lives, if it is life affirming and self affirming.  Conversely, however, religious imagery that is authoritarian, pessimistic and filled with fear can be actually corrosive of the self, especially if we’re exposed to it at an early and vulnerable age.  In fact, in some situations, such religious formation can prove downright traumatic.

Religious Indoctrination Can Be Hugely Damaging

Organized religion can be particularly negative in its psychic impact, if the religion emphasizes authority, and if the sanctioned interpreters of the religion — preachers and teachers — use techniques of indoctrination or interpretations of texts to enforce their own perhaps narrowly defined ideas of morality, belief and proper way of life.  There are now many people in our society who are recovering from forms of fundamentalist, cultic and authoritarian religion, and who are moving beyond various forms of what might be regarded as religious trauma syndrome.

Religion with a Foundation of Fear

Religion that is fundamentally based on fear can be particularly crippling, and leaving such a religious group and its ideas behind can definitely result in an experience of trauma.  As Dr. Marlene Winell tells us, “It involves a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, the future, everything.”  The individual may require a very significant degree of support to recover, and to transition into a pattern of life that truly sustains the individual.

The Key Characteristics of  Religious Trauma Syndrome

Individuals leaving behind trauma-inducing experiences of religion may well face confusion, difficulty with decision-making, or clear analytical thinking, and may also have issues with gaining a clear sense of personal identity.  Often there will be affective issues related to anxiety, depression, anger and grief, along with sleep and eating disorders, somatization and possibly nightmares.  Among the most potent impacts are social: disruption of family and social networks, interpersonal difficulties and difficulties relating to the wider society.

People who are particularly vulnerable are those:

  • born and raised in the religion;
  • those leading segregated or sheltered lives;
  • those who took their involvement with great sincerity and commitment;
  • those from religious groups with particular characteristics of high control.

Beyond Religious Trauma Syndrome: Healing Confusion, Fear, Guilt, Anger, Grief

To move to a more secure and affirming place, individuals subject to religious trauma syndrome need to be encouraged and supported to develop a capacity to think and feel in their own independent way.  This entails compassion and love for the unique self and its thoughts, feelings and freedom, finding inner capacities and resources to live life in one’s own way, and living in the immediate present.  It also certainly requires moving beyond inner voices of judgment on self and others, and voices rooted in religious indoctrination, to finding the true inner voice of the self.  

religious trauma syndrome

…Beyond Blind Faith…

This does not mean that there need be a wholesale rejection of religion, but it does mean living out a way of being, religious or non-religious, that accords with the fundamental authentic and spontaneous core of who we are.  It may mean, essentially, creating our own, unique religious stance.  As the poet Walt Whitman exhorted many years ago,

Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.

Helping the individual to affirm the goodness and worthwhileness of his or her own individual life, and discovering his or her own central symbols is a key part of the work of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Jungian Depth Psychotherapy and The Definition of Self Control

June 5th, 2017 · definition of self control

The proper definition of self control is very important for people who need to deal with key issues in their lives.

definition of self control

Many feel that the issues that bring them into psychotherapy have a lot to do with self control, in a variety of different ways.
They feel that, if they could only control their reactions to various situations, or keep themselves from certain types of behaviour, that they could find a great deal of relief, meaning and forward direction in their lives.

Willpower

Depth psychotherapists know that individuals in distress often speak of cultivating their willpower.  The story they tell themselves will often go something like: “If I had more willpower then my life would work for me.  Then I wouldn’t get distracted / give in to this addiction / get caught up in depression … –or, fill in any particular issue or source of suffering or shame here.  You get the idea.

This idea has a long history.  Plato, 2500 years ago, felt that reason must rein in appetites and impulses.  The Roman Seneca the Younger held that “No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful that it may not be subdued by discipline.”  Nearer to our time, Dale Carnegie stated, “Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts.”  This has been a very powerful idea.

definition of self control

…Control Your Thoughts!

But here’s the thing: is this sort of self control or willpower even possible?  The poet William Blake tells us, rather shockingly, “Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”  Blake’s assessment actually seems to line up with many findings in contemporary neuroscience research.

York University’s Prof. Stuart Shanker reminds us that an fMRI of a brain experiencing strong emotional upset or intense fear or anxiety shows that the limbic system, or the “emotional brain” is very lit up, with neurons firing intensely and continuously.  Yet, the prefrontal cortex, where the rational, reflective self is located, is dim, reflecting that it’s pretty much offline.

Self-Regulation

Let’s suppose that this brain belongs to someone having road rage.  Suppose this person has been dealing with a great deal of stress and anxiety, related perhaps to work or family, and now, a truck has just done a lane change right in front of them without signaling, and our person is in a state of seething rage.  Plato, Seneca and Dale would all urge our driver to access the reasoning mind and so control any aggressive impulses.  But, as we’ve seen, an fMRI of the prefrontal cortex shows that the reasoning mind is pretty much shut down when our driver’s brain is in the state that it’s in.  So how can it reign in the emotional brain?

The answer is: it can’t.  No amount of “willpower” or “reason” will help, when the brain is stuck in this highly triggered “survival brain” state.  The same would be true of a multitude of other situations where triggers, (what a Jungian like Margaret Wilkinson calls traumatic complexes) have been activated, and are keeping brain functioning stuck in the limbic “survival brain”, rather than allowing the whole person to respond to the situation in a reasonable or emotionally regulated way.

So, the definition of self control must switch.  To be able to stay in a place where we can respond to situations in our lives appropriately, what we need is not willpower, but a developed capacity for self-regulation.

Integration of Unconscious Contents

Depth psychotherapy locates many of the sources of situations that might seem to result from so-called “lack of self control” in triggers that are rooted in the unconscious mind.  These move the individual into emotionally charged “survival brain” states, which Jungians and other depth psychotherapists have long referred to as situations where traumatic complexes get activated.

On this view of the human psyche, the definition of self control changes from the old idea of “building up will power” to an approach based on self regulation. Through the process of bringing to consciousness unconscious complexes, (often rooted in trauma), and allowing the individual to re-experience these life events in a supportive environment, the power of these events to throw the individual into out-of-control “survival brain” states is gradually reduced.

Taking the affective power out of traumatic complexes, and restoring that energy to the individual is a key part of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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The Ongoing Transition: Young Adults Living at Home — Again

May 29th, 2017 · young adults living home

This is the time of year when many parents experience young adults living at home — once again!  

adult children living home

At this season many young adults come back from college or university to live temporarily in the family home, which can be a very important experience of life transition for both parents and children.
Children living at home can be temporary, for the summer.  Or, these summer returns may be a foretaste of a growing phenomenon: children returning to the family home after finishing post-secondary studies.
Children returning for the summer can generate strong emotions for both young adults and parents, as depth psychotherapists know.  As part of a key life transition, it’s important to think about what occurs to us psychologically as a result of these returns.

What Has Changed?

In this situation, parents may first become aware of changes that have occurred from the time when the adult child lived at home.  Their child may appear more independent, more vocal, more morose, or any of a range of other possibilities.  College or university may have liberated or empowered, or it may have been an experience of genuine hardship and disorientation.

The parent may struggle to come to terms with the emotions generated in this situation.  There can be grief for the loss of the old relationship, joy for a sense of newfound strength and empowerment, or anxiety for the future of the adult child.

It’s rare for this type of re-encounter to have little or no emotional impact.

What Has Stayed the Same?

Yet, these returns to the family home may also make both parents and students aware what has stayed the same through the separation.  For better or worse, in many respects, people will be the same, showing up much as they always have.  Habits and characteristics of individuals will be the same.  One very difficult thing in such situations may be the ways in which people are unable to see even others they deeply love for who they really are.  The other may also miss who we really are, as well.

What is Stuck?

Young adults living at home again may remind us of stuckness in the relationship.  We may get absolute, merciless clarity on how the relationship between parent and child is stuck into patterns that neither party knows how to change.

adult children living home

Where is Soul?

For the young adult living at home again, but even more so for the parent who lives the experience of the adult child’s return, much may lead us to an encounter with our own soul, and our own hitherto undiscovered self.

The adult child seeks to discern and move in a forward direction, toward an autonomous, fulfilling and contributing way of life.  Yet, equally important are the transitions undergone by the parent of the adult child.

The meaning of parenthood often changes as the relationship with the young adult living at home shifts into new forms.  Given that, for many in our current world, parenting is such a demanding and involving engagement, this may entail deep shifts in personal identity.

For many a parent, encounters with changing adult children may be the heralds of a new soul journey.  Involvement in the world of the child may now start to be solely at the invitation of the child.

Even if, as the Pew Report and UC Santa Barbara’s Bella DePaulo suggest, adult children are increasingly returning to live at home after finishing post-secondary, many parents will experience of a slow but inevitable change in the relationship with the adult child.

Simultaneously, an inevitable and ever stronger call to listen to the leadings of one’s own soul, and the journeys of individual self discovery that now invite us, can free us into a new and unexplored aspect of our identity, and our lives.

The process of individuation, and finding the direction forward in the post-child rearing years are key parts of the ongoing soul work engaged in depth psychotherapy.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Archetypal Mother’s Day: Mothering & Attachment Issues In Adults

May 15th, 2017 · attachment issues in adults

Happy Archetypal Mother’s Day! Here I look at our genetically engrained need for good mothering, and how childhood experience profoundly impacts attachment issues in adults.

attachment issues in adults

Mothering has many key similarities across different cultures.

By “attachment” we mean our ability to connect meaningfully with those close to us. Our need to attach is one of our most profound human needs.  Our capacity for healthy attachment is going to impact our whole capacity for handling major life transitions.

Whether we can do this depends, first and foremost on our experience of mother at an early age.

At the Beginning of Life, Mother is Everything

Initially, as infants, our mother is everything to us.  The way that she relates to us, and how she treats us will literally impact our whole experience of our lives.  Whether we see life is dependable and supportive will depend in absolutely crucial ways on the mother-child relationship.

In addition, whether we are able to form a loving attachment bond with anyone else is profoundly impacted by whether our mother is able to teach us how to have a secure attachment bond with her.  If we experience the mother-child relationship as secure and supportive, feel seen and valued for who we are, and experience our mother as able to help us “emotionally regulate” (calm ourselves in intense distress) — it will make a huge difference as to whether we can give these things to others in relationship later in life, and receive them from someone who wants to give them to us.

attachment issues in adults

Throughout Life, We Have a Deep Need for Successful Attachment

Our relationship with our mother is going to change with time.  We also need to develop attachment bonds to other people in our lives: family, lovers, friends, children.  To get the best from life we have to be able to be open, trusting, giving.

Yet, attachment issues are widespread in adults.  For many, they impair ability to be close, to trust, and to give.  Situations with partners, children, or even close friends may evoke feelings, and possibly memories that go back to experiences when we were very young, when attachment was disrupted.

Major Life Transitions of Those Close to Us Profoundly Affect Us

Those deeply affected by disrupted attachment at crucial points in their life journey can find that major life transitions consciously or unconsciously evoke feelings and memories connected with the original experience.

Example 1. A woman who had powerful experiences of parental loss and abandonment, which came to a head in her very early 20s, underwent a very strong emotional reaction at a time when her daughter encountered medical and vocational challenges at a similar age, and, simultaneously, the oldest and best of her parents’ friends died.

Example 2.    A man who underwent a crisis in his relationship with his mother in his late teens underwent a period of intense feeling as his own children went through the same life stage, and, with his help, got launched on very positive post-secondary paths.  He found it genuinely healing to realize that, through his and his spouse’s efforts, their children were having very life-affirming experiences of this life stage.  In addition, he was able in this time to process a great deal of feeling associated with that difficult period in his life.

Healing of Attachment Issues in Adults

When people confront severely disrupted attachment or early life trauma, they can experience a sense of genuine, chaos, or meaninglessness, or sometimes a mass of indescribable, incoherent emotion.  Such experience may well lead to attachment issues in adults.  To address them, it can be essential to find someone supportive who can help to contain the emotion involved, to regulate it, and to turn traumatic events into meaningful, coherent story.

Depth psychotherapy with a high quality therapist can provide ways for individuals to confront and process their early experiences of disordered attachment or trauma.  As Jungian neuropsychoanalyst Margaret Wilkinson, states, “Exchanges that involve putting feelings into words… are an intrinsic part of the process of coming into mind.  [Therapy] that encompasses relational as well as interpretive [work] can bring about … change in the nature of attachment [and] permit the self to emerge more fully through the process of individuation.”

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Selfhood, Anxiety and Social Media

May 8th, 2017 · anxiety and social media

We hear more and more about anxiety and social media.  Why? Because social media is uncanny in its ability to foster self-doubt.

anxiety and social media

...Drowning in Social Media… by mkhmarketing

Among new technologies, social media have an unrivalled capacity to lead us into negative self-assessment and anxiety.  Why exactly is that?  In this post, I look at social media through the lens of depth psychotherapy and Jungian psychology.

What Do We Do to Ourselves with Social Media?

Social media has a real effect on personality and sense of self.  Research shows that predominant reasons for people going on to social media are to experience connection with others, and to feel a sense of belonging.  Unsurprisingly, in an era when many people feel less of a sense of community, we often tend to gain a sense of social support through our networks.

What Do Others Do to Us?

However, there’s a powerful connection between using social media and comparing ourselves with other people. A body of research shows that, as Facebook users,anxiety and social media we have a strong tendency to socially compare ourselves with others.  Apparently, whether this leaves us feeling better or worse emotionally depends on whether we engage in “upward” or “downward” social comparison.

As the research of  E.A. Vogel and colleagues at University of Toledo shows, if we engage in upward social comparison, there seems to be strong evidence that it leads to negative outcomes for many users such as lower self esteem, and depressive and/or anxiety symptoms.  On the contrary, if we compare downward, to others who don’t seem to have as much going for them as we do, apparently, we feel better.  However, Vogel et al.’s research indicates that people tend to believe that other social media users have better lives than they do, and also indicates that Facebook users are more likely to engage in upward social comparison than downward.

Whether “upward” or “downward”, all of this leads to a very important question: Why are we getting our self-esteem, or lack thereof,  from comparison with other people in the first place? And how could self-esteem based on such a source be anything but flimsy?

What About the Self?

Another factor that strengthens the link between anxiety and social media is the extent to which social media reinforce social conformity and group think.  UCLA Prof. Lauren Sherman and colleagues show that the same brain circuits activated by eating chocolate and winning at gambling are activated when teenagers see large numbers of “Likes” on their photos on social media, and that teens are far more likely on social media to like a photo that many others have liked than one with few likes.  Such tendencies might be particularly pronounced in teens, but it’s highly likely that similar dynamics are at work in older populations, and contribute to the self-reinforcing “echo chamber” effects that reinforce conformity in thinking around political and social issues on social media.

Starting with Jung himself, Jungian psychology and psychotherapy has stressed the unique value and dignity of each of us as human individuals.  Ever since the 1920s, Jung warned urgently of the dangers of individuals becoming submerged in the collective mass of humanity.  When social media were far in the future, Jung recognized very well the danger of individual identity disappearing in mass political and social movements.  He stressed that each of us need to take time with ourselves, away from social pressures, making the effort to understand and accept who we really are, and finding our own individual path.  In our own time, we urgently need more time away from modern communications and social media, to orient ourselves by our own inner compass, rather than the compass of the crowd

Depth psychotherapy actively engages with individuals in their uniqueness.  It works with the deepest elements of the individual’s personality to find meaning and self-esteem in the individual’s unique being and unique calling, rather than through comparisons with others.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Canadian Mental Health: Jungian Depth Psychotherapy Perspectives

May 1st, 2017 · Canadian mental health

The 66th CMHA Mental Health Week begins Monday, May 1, making this a prime time to reflect on Canadian mental health from a Jungian perspective.  

My Alma Mater: University of Calgary Alum at CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide event, 2016

There’s real value in looking at the central message of this week from the viewpoint of Jungian depth psychotherapy.  What does a depth psychotherapy perspective make of our current deep societal concern with issues of mental health?

What’s So Important about Canadian Mental Health?

On the CMHA Mental Health Week website, the Canadian Mental Health Association states:

This year during CMHA Mental Health Week, Canadians are speaking up: we’ve been in line for mental health care for way too long…. We are literally sick of waiting. But we’re not only waiting for mental health care. To be truly mentally well, Canadians also need psychotherapy, counselling and community-based mental health services and programs; we need acknowledgement and respect; and we need adequate housing.

Canada (like other nations) has enormous mental health and mental wellness needs, and there are huge gaps in the provision of vital services.  This is particularly true for the young and the elderly, but the need extends through all ages and social strata in our society.

Canadian Mental Health: It’s Close to Home

This is not some abstract issue.  If it doesn’t affect us personally, it affects people close to us in our lives.  Psychotherapists are well aware that almost everyone knows and cares about someone who is wrestling with a mental health issue.  It could be a spouse or partner, a relative, a friend, a co-worker, or one’s own children.  Looking at people in our lives, we see the huge cost that mental health issues exact on good, worthwhile human beings.

The Wounded Parts Within Ourselves

If we need more reasons for solidarity with those struggling with mental health needs, we could look within.  If we’re radically honest with ourselves, we realize that, within each of us, there are deeply psychically wounded and unadapted parts.  As C.G. Jung stated long ago,

If we feel our way into the human secrets of the person… we recognize in the mental illness merely an exceptional reaction to emotional problems which are not strange to us.
C.G. Jung, “Content of the Psychoses”

This is clear when we consider depression and anxiety, for instance, which almost everyone has experienced to some degree.

Mental Health and Jung’s Idea of Shadow

Jung often spoke of “shadow”  which he defined as “the thing which one has no wish to be”.  Jungian Andrew Samuels interprets this as “the negative side of the personality, the sum of all the unpleasant qualities one wants to hide”.  This certainly includes those parts of the personality that are not adapted to our lives, and/or that represent areas of weakness for us.

canadian mental health

From 1913 to 1917, Jung went through a profound inner exploration later communicated in his famous Red Book.  He encountered what he regarded as profoundly unbalanced and unstable elements in his own personality.  Jung became convinced that every human personality has such elements, and that the only way to deal with them is to get to know them as much as we can, and to meet them with an attitude of profound acceptance and deep compassion.  This can only have good consequences for our attitude to Canadian mental health.  As he puts it,

If people can be educated to see… their own natures…. [a] little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance towards oneself can only have good results for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to [others] the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures.

Mental Health: Our Own, and Others’

Only greater self-understanding and acceptance lead to genuine compassion toward the Other.  Beyond terrifying stereotypes and myths of mental illness are profound truths of human living and suffering that we all share.

It’s the task of depth psychotherapy to not only make us more aware of our unique individuality, but to heighten awareness of our profound connection with all other people in our shared human nature and experience.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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The Psychology of Hope in the Second Half of Life

April 24th, 2017 · the psychology of hope

I’ve written previously on the psychology of hope, but this post focuses on the meaning of hope, and the impact of hope on midlife and older individuals.

psychology of hope

What is this elusive thing called hope, and what is the impact of hope, and its opposite, despair, for those on the second half of their life journey?  Why is hope absolutely crucial to those who face difficulties or obstacles in the mid-life transition or later in life?

Hope is Not an Effervescent Feeling

Real hope is not the excited feeling that children feel on Christmas Eve.  It’s not that kind of fleeting emotional state.  Mature adult hope combines thinking and feeling.  As Dr. Shane Lopez put it, hope is “…where transcendence meets reason and caution meets passion.”

Hope and Basic Trust

Erik Eriksen saw hope as fundamentally related to the development of basic trust in life, which stems from experience as a child getting adequate, warm and appropriate care.

Hope rests on basic trust in our lives, and on deep awareness that something is moving in our lives, and seeking to actualize itself, to become in our lives.

How do we act in such a way as to create hope?

Hope and its Shadow

A famous study by social psychologist Prof. Leon Festinger et al. documents a UFO cult whose prophet predicted the end of the world, and that, just prior, aliens would take the faithful away to another, better place.  The group sold all their worldly possessions, and, on the appointed night, waited for the saucers.  Unfortunately, there was no apocalypse; the saucers did not spirit them away.  There they stood, realizing that the prophecies were unfulfilled.  The groups’ conclusion?  Not that their faith and hope was misplaced, but that their faith had saved the world!

This is delusory hope, hope that does not serve the lives of those who hope.  In fact, such hope hurt them, by avoiding the real facts of life and realities of human existence.  Especially in major life transitions, we need discernment to avoid delusion, which is the shadow of hope.

Hope and Resilience

If the saucer cult represents the shadow of hope, how do we get the real thing?  As a study by Cornell Prof. Anthony D. Ong and colleagues showed, individual differences in hope influence the well-being of older adults.  Hope is an important source of resilience in later adulthood, altering daily stressors in ways that reduce their intensity and number. High-hope individuals have diminished stress reactivity and more effective emotional recovery.  In short, hope matters.  The psychology of hope is about finding things in our lives that give us all the benefits of genuine hope.

How Can I Actualize My Hope?

Depth psychotherapy knows that, at midlife, or in the second half of life, I need positive, valid, real hope.  I need to actualize it in my life.  How can I do that?

Hope has a social dimension.  Spending time with other hopeful people undoubtedly increases our own hope.  Hope also relates to increasing one’s sense of basic trust in life.  It also entails seeing and dealing with our core selves in a fundamentally compassionate way, enabling trust in the meaning and direction of our own individual lives.  As we discover meaning and value  in our individual lives, and awareness of how life might be calling us, we experience a growing sense of hope.  In the words of Jungian analyst James Hollis,

“And they will say that I am hopeless, and I will say that I am filled with hope, remembering Eliot’s admonition to beware of what we hope for….  I am filled with hope, that, around the next corner, the new and unexpected will cause me to reinvent myself, revise my way of seeing, and take me back to the point of beginning, which is awe, which is wonder, which is curiosity… and which is [enduring] summons to stay in the fight.”

It is towards this vital, flexible, living hope, free from both cynicism and delusion, that working on oneself through depth psychotherapy, especially in the second half of life, aims.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Jungian Personality Type: Making Space in My Life for the Real Me

April 10th, 2017 · Jungian personality type

I’ve written on Jungian personality type previously, but in this post, I’d like to look at it from a different angle.

Photo by Nelson L.

 

This post explores how, in major life transitions, we’re often forced to be honest with ourselves, and to come to terms with our Jungian personality type.  We may not be consciously aware that that’s what we’re doing, but it happens nonetheless, and with powerful effect.

Building Blocks of Jungian Personality Type

If you’re not familiar with Jungian personality type, more has been written on the subject than we can review here.  Yet, Jung’s ideas of personality type lie behind the famous Myers Briggs Typology Inventory (MBTI) now so frequently used in business and human resources contexts.  In Myers-Briggs, there are 16 broad personality types.  However, there are 6 core factors which Jung identified that form the basis of each of our personality types.

People tend to be either introverts or extroverts.  An introvert is someone who is stimulated, excited or energized by the internal world.  An extrovert is just the opposite: someone who is stimulated, excited or energized by the external world.

Also, each person has one of four functions.  The primary function is the primary way the individual takes in the world.

  • the thinking function involves knowing what something is, naming it, and linking it to other things;
  • the feeling function is not affect or emotion, but rather the way that we take in the value of something, or understand its significance;
  • the sensation function brings to us all the awareness that comes through the various physical senses; and,
  • intuition, the function of awareness of all the possibilities in a situation or thing, on the basis of “hunches”, without conscious proof or knowledge.

These elements combine to make the personality type of the individual.  Jungian depth psychotherapists know this type will profoundly effect how an individual approaches his or her life, what he or she values,  the nature of key life goals, relationships with every other human being, and the individual’s religious or philosophical stance, or lack thereof.  An individual’s Jungian personality type is a fundamental fact about her or his nature.

Confronting the Truth of Our Personality Type

In key transitions in life, the individual may well confront their Jungian personality type, which is to say their fundamental nature in some very profound ways.  Here are two examples, which are fictionalized accounts, but each loosely based on the combined experiences of many former clients.

Example One.  “Camilla”, a young woman just accepted to law school, faces enormous pressure to be a lawyer.  Both her parents are extremely hard working immigrants, and are lawyers of some distinction.  Camilla is a very intelligent and capable woman herself, and believes that she probably could meet expectations, and successfully complete law school.  “I could do it,”  she realizes, “but at what cost?  I’d be continually unhappy, because it’s just not my idea of creative work.  I have all kinds of energy for people!  I want to connect, co-operate, feel good about working on a common project!”  After a considerable amount of personal therapy work, Camilla makes the hard decision to turn down law school, goes to film school, and ends up in a happy, successful career as the creative director of a multimedia team.

Case Two.  “Jake” works for a successful family-run printing business.  Originally the only salesperson, Jake is now in charge of a team.  The role continually draws on Jake’s extroversion and feeling function, both in relating to clients, and in inspiring and leading all the sales staff.  Jake, 45, has been doing this role for nearly 20 years, and realized in the course of therapy that he is exhausted.  “I can do this job, but it sucks the life out of me!  I find it so hard to be continuously socially engaged with people!”  Jake, an introverted thinking type, somehow found the time to take courses to become a real estate appraiser, left the family firm, and as part of a midlife transition found a new career, with more meaning and fulfillment, and less stress.

Living with Psychological Integrity

Jungian personality type

Aligning your life with your Jungian personality type can contribute tremendously to the feeling that life is rich and full of meaning.  This is more than just identifying your personality type.  It also entails finding out what that personality type is like for you as a unique individual, and finding creative ways to bring your life into alignment with it — what Jungian analyst John Beebe, MD refers to as personal integrity.

Identifying your personality type, and doing the needed personal work to make your life an expression of your personality is a key part of the journey to wholeness in depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © Nelson L. ; shira gal
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Psychology of Change: Is Transformation Possible?

April 3rd, 2017 · psychology of change

The psychology of change and personal transformation is a matter of vital concern to many people.  Yet many wonder: is it even possible?

psychology of change

Jungian therapists know that this is a vital matter to many troubled people.  Many people yearn for transformation in their lives, and yet may be unsure whether it can really happen.
I had an odd experience.  Searching for appropriate keywords for this post, I tried the phrase “possibility of personal change”, and the keyword tool recommended another phrase instead: “possibility of zombie apocalypse”!  Apparently more people search for this phrase than the one I was investigating.  Hopefully, we therapists aren’t giving the impression that zombie apocalypse is more likely than personal transformation!

Is Transformation A Real Possibility?

The theme of transformation runs through the depth psychotherapy of C.G. Jung.  Jung’s psychology of change most definitely does affirm that transformation is possible.  However, it most often does not commence as the result of an ego-driven self improvement project.

Rather, as Prof. Andrew Samuels puts it, , transformation involves

[A] temporary loss of ego-hood in order to bring to consciousness and fulfil a psychological need hitherto unrecognized.

Samuels, A., Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

In all of us, the ego, that part of ourselves most associated with conscious awareness, with being in control, and with taking initiatives is very often bound up with routines, or even stuck in a rut — often without knowing it, and often without sufficient power to make any changes.

Jungian analyst Dianne Brutsche reminds us that commencing Jungian analysis or a similar depth psychotherapy is often triggered by a crisis or by passing a major turning point in one’s life.  Often a major life transition like a divorce, the death of a close loved one or a life-altering health issue gives people the impetus to seek a deeper level of understanding, or a fundamentally renewed perspective on life.

People who become concerned with the issue of transformation often function well emotionally and intellectually, and are well-integrated into their place in life.  Yet they’re seeking something beyond just being normal and “appropriately adapted” to their lives and their environment.  They often feel a kind of inner stagnation, a sense of somehow “missing the boat” in terms of the real experience of life.  There’s an inner drive or impetus to find more — but often, they’re unsure where to look.

What Is Transformation?

psychology of change

…An Age-Old, Universal Symbol

Virtually every human culture has created symbols of human transformation.  A near-universal symbol is the transformation that occurs from caterpillar to butterfly.  Humans have watched this with intense fascination for probably as long as there have been humans.  Similarly, the process of the snake shedding its skin and the symbol of the inner marriage are powerful symbolic representations of this vital psychological reality.  Psyche has also portrayed this reality in a thousand other ways.

 

The Dance of the Ego and Unconscious

Depth psychotherapy rightly affirms that real transformation comes from an initiative or impulse originating deep in the unconscious mind, which the ego gradually discerns, comes to understand and, to which it ultimately yields.  Yet, over the course of the work, if the ego can relate to the unconscious from a place of acceptance and respect, the ego often has a role in the transformation of the Self.  Self and ego can then become partnered in mutual and ongoing transformation.

The Real Stuff

Depth psychotherapy can be an experience of genuine personal transformation.  In an environment of deep non-judgmental acceptance, close empathic attunement and careful sensitive watching for stirrings of the undiscovered aspects of the self, many find fundamental change through this type of inner work.  If you are at a major turning point in your life, or seeking a deeper meaning or more intense experience, you may find depth psychotherapy to be an appropriate path.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © Steve Jurvetson ; amslerPIX
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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