Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Late Summer Depression and the Call of the Unlived Life

August 13th, 2018 · summer depression

Yes, late summer depression is a reality!  Summer is the season of care-free sun and beaches — yet many struggle with depression at this time.

summer depression

As depression expert Prof. Deborah Serani points out the possible sources of summer depression are many and varied.  It’s possible that the seasonal changes of summer may disrupt an individual’s circadian rhythm, forcing his or her body clock out of alignment.  Heat and humidity in summer may also trigger changes in mood and behavior, bringing feelings of helplessness and irritability.
It may also be that factors like poor body image, or constrained finances that prohibit individuals from enjoying vacations or the other opportunities of  summer create summer depression.
Additionally, the late summer period, when our society as a whole is thinking about re-engaging with the busy round of fall and winter activities, and many young adults and others are embarking on new educational or life opportunities, may be a difficult period for many.  It may be a time when individuals experience a real sense of “stuckness” or regret about their lives.

The Unlived Life and Summer Depression

Individuals at any point in their life journey, and especially individuals in the second half of life, can experience the steadily increasing tempo of late summer days.  Kids get ready to go back to school, and young adults head off to university and other opportunities can lead to reflection on the course of one’s own life.  This can easily lead to complex feelings about missed opportunities, and aspirations that may never have been realized.  As I well know myself, any of us can reflect with yearning about how life could have been — “if only”!  Sometimes, too, we yearn for something in our lives and we can’t even articulate what it is.

Ignoring the Unlived Life Brings Us Less and Less Fulfillment

These unlived possibilities in ourselves can sometimes actually show up in the form of depression.  We may become strongly aware of those feelings of summer depression at times when others are optimistically embarking on new journeys and adventures.

If we continue to ignore or deny the unlived life within us, we may find ourselves moving towards a place of steadily increasing sterility, where life seems to offer us less and less.  Is there any alternative to becoming more and more absorbed in pining for and regretting what might have been?

Discovering the Undiscovered Self

In dealing with the unlived life, there can be tremendous value in working on focusing on the present moment, and trying to get the most out of life that we can.  Being very conscious about doing this can be a very helpful way to stay in a place of feeling good about your life.

It may well be, though, that depth psychotherapy can provide essential assistance in dealing with depression related to the unlived life.  It can help greatly in the whole process of exploring what it is that we really do want from life.  It can also help greatly in understanding the barriers coming from trauma, pain, loss, guilt, fear and regret that might stand in the way of both living in the present, and also finding ways to live out of our true selves.  In these ways, depth psychotherapy can prove to be an essential part of our life journey.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: TheBusyBrain (Creative Commons Licence) ; (Creative Commons Licence) ;
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Empty Nest Anxiety: Where Can I Find Identity and Meaning?

July 30th, 2018 · empty nest anxiety

Funny thing about empty nest anxiety: we tend to associate it with mothers.  Yet, it’s actually something that can affect all committed and involved parents — as I well know!

Young Sparrow

Those of us who view parenting as a creative activity, and those of us who are deeply committed to the well-being of our children often find it very challenging as they head out more into their own lives.  This can be a reality that many experience strongly at this time of year, as young adults start preparing to move away from home for study or work for the first time.  Parents can feel it more and more acutely as each year passes, and adult children return to school with an ever increasing level of self-direction and autonomy.

The Roots of Empty Nest Anxiety

When children get to the age of starting to move out of the house, and into their own involvements, it’s a time of major life transition for all concerned.  What is often less visible than it should be is the huge impact on parents.

Particularly if you’re like me, and you’ve been close to your children, this is time of powerfully conflicting feelings.  We naturally have feelings of gratification and success that our kids are making this important transition, combined, naturally, with anxiety and hope.  We also recognize that it’s a huge change in the way that we as parents live.  There may be feelings of possibility and freedom, but also feelings of loneliness, and of the differences we’re starting to experience in our lifestyle and social networks. So, different parts of us may experience confidence and fear, happiness and sadness, optimism and dread — all at the same time.

It’s very natural and very common for people to experience this transition with anxiety, stress, and joy.  There will often be genuine period of grief as people adjust to this new reality.  This can lead to a sense of new possibilities opening up in peoples’ lives.

Why It’s Important Not to “Get Stuck”

As Prof. Barbara Mitchell, of Simon Fraser University, and her colleagues have observed in their research, there are a number of factors that can complicate the process of dealing with empty nest anxiety.  These include:

  • Having your identity wrapped up in being a parent.
  • Finding it difficult to accept loss of control over your children’s lives.
  • If you have few or only children.
  • If you’re lacking a social support network as you go through this transition.
  • If you feel that the child’s departure was too early or too late, or some situations where children don’t completely leave home — so-called “boomerang” children.
  • If you experience intense worry over how your child is doing in the world outside the home.

These factors can lead to a “stuckness” in empty nest anxiety, where the parent perhaps makes excessive bids for control over the child, or involvement in his or her life — or the parent may find that he or she is simply unable to move forward with his or her own life.

empty nest anxiety

Moving Beyond Empty Nest Anxiety

If you’re dealing with empty nest anxiety, it may be very helpful to use meditation or relaxation techniques.  There may also be real value in connecting socially with friends or others who are close to you.

However, it may be important to consider depth psychotherapy for empty nest anxiety, if you are facing any of the issues mentioned above that complicate the process, or if you have a sense that you are “stuck” or “sinking” as you face this time in your life.   Often, the time of children leaving home is a focal moment in the life of an individual, and the journey of depth psychotherapy can help us find its individual meaning for us, and help us to identify the way forward our our particular life path.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: MICOLO J Thanx (Creative Commons Licence) ; Richard Hurd (Creative Commons Licence) ;
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Depression About Work: What’s at the Root of It?

July 8th, 2018 · depression about work

Depression about work is a very common form of depression.  It’s essential for the individual suffering from such depression to get to its root.

depression about work

We know from much careful research that there’s an epidemic of depression about work in the workplace.  According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the world’s most disabling diseases, and one which exacts a huge toll on individuals in the workplace — an impact that is only projected to grow by 2020, and thereafter.
What is this thing we call depression at work?

What Depression at Work Looks Like

Psychological or social aspects of work that might lead to or contribute to depression are known as psychosocial stressors.  Many types of such stressors exist, but research by occupational stress expert Dr. Bo Netterstrøm et al. indicates that jobs combining high levels of demand with little opportunity to exert any control or influence are the work situations most likely to lead to depression.

If such a high responsibility / low level of control workplace also offers little or no real social support in handling these high demands — we have a near-perfect breeding ground for depression about work.

Depression About Work: Making the Connections 

However, depth psychotherapists know that there’s also often much under the surface in the lives of individuals suffering from depression about work.  A person’s depression may overtly manifest in terms of its connection with work, and yet may have strong linkages to a whole range of circumstances in the individual’s life.

We can see this powerfully, for example, around boundaries issues.  For example, an individual may face great difficulty in a work situation because she or he has trouble effectively enforcing their personal boundaries, and keeping work obligations from crossing the line and interfering in violating ways in his or her personal life.  Yet, as therapists dealing with anxiety and depression issues well know, a boundaries issue, and the need to say “No!” and protect oneself from excessive demands may well appear in several dimensions of a person’s life.  An individual experiencing boundary-crossing in the workplace, may also face it in other areas, such as relationships with spouse,  children, parents or peer group.

Depression About Work: Exploring the Depths

Perhaps even more importantly, depression about work may be connected to vital questions about who the individual really is, and what is really important in his or her life.  We may experience depression for any of a number of reasons.  One form of depression, as Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels tells us,  is caused by a

…damming up of energy which, when released, may take on a more positive direction…. 

He goes on to say, perhaps surprisingly that

A state of depression… should be entered into as fully as possible [italics mine]… so that the feelings involved may be clarified [and so represent] …a more precise idea or image to which the depressed person can relate.

depression about work

What Needs to Live and Breathe?

Samuels is helping us to understand that certain types of depression or “being shut down’ may be connected with deep feelings, or hopes, desires or yearnings for our lives that may be trying to come out of the unconscious, and come into focus — and that quite possibly need to be lived out in some form or another.  As American Jungian analyst Robert Johnson emphasizes,

…there are key aspects of your being that must be brought into your life, or you will never realize your fulfillment.  When we find ourselves in a midlife depression, suddenly hate our spouse, our job, our life — we can be sure that the unlived life is seeking our attention.

Work with individuals in depth psychotherapy often focuses on depression at work.  Depth psychotherapy seeks empowerment and healing through understanding how work-related depression connects to to the deep levels of the person, and by trying to explore what is emerging in his or her life.  The results of this journey of depth psychotherapy are often genuinely life-changing.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Mark Bonica (Creative Commons Licence) ; Rennett Stowe (Creative Commons Licence) ;
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Reasons to Stay Alive: Getting in Contact with Your True Self

July 2nd, 2018 · reasons to stay alive

Reasons to stay alive are not just a matter of concern to people in extreme situations: if we are honest, we need them every moment of our lives.

reasons to stay alive

This theme is related to the topic of my last blog post “How To Be True to Yourself in the Midst of Big Life Changes“. However, in this post, I want to take it a little further, and point out, in true Jungian fashion, how the genuine experience of reasons to live is deeply connected with the experience of our own genuine individuality and uniqueness.  Recently, I watched a documentary that brought this home in a powerful way.

15 Reasons to Live

The documentary “Fifteen Reasons to Live”  was originally included in the 2013 Hot Docs Film Festival.  The director, Alan Zweig, who also narrates the film has chosen 15 initially abstract-seeming abstract “reasons to live” that form the structure of the film:

reasons to stay alive

What is fundamentally important about this film, though, is not the abstract word or concept, but the way in which the film uses each “reason” to introduce a very individual story.  We learn of 15 people, who in one sense, are very “ordinary”. Yet they’ve brought unique, even surprising sources of value into their lives, giving them a sense that their lives are worth living.

Individual Paths to Validation and Meaning

We meet:

  • the busy mother of several kids who finds sanity and meaning in spending time each day just being silent and watching people at a mall near to her home;
  • the Montreal man whose response to a difficult mid-life transition was to walk around the world;
  • the woman who finds meaning and secure attachment by making her home in an east coast lighthouse;
  • the man who as a recovering alcoholic found community, connection and a place for self-expression through his blog about “a thousand songs”; and,
  • the man who has found essential relief for anxiety and depression, and a sense of meaningful contribution through immigrating to Canada, and transitioning to a career as a registered massage therapist.

There are many more highly individual stories of individuals finding value and meaning in unexpected, very unique places.  These people make it very clear that their paths bring genuine validation and meaning into their lives.

Finding Your Daimon

As psychologist and Jungian James Hillman would emphasize, these people seem to have found very unique things that carry value for them as individuals, providing singular opportunities to those individuals for self-expression and living authentically.  Hillman refers to the “unique daimon” of the individual, the inner soul-companion that enables us to live out what he calls “the necessity of the soul”.  He sees each of us as having a unique calling, and, as he tells us,

A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed.  It may also possess you completely.  Whatever; eventually it will out.  It makes its claim.

These individuals seem to have been “possessed completely” by the passion, meaning and value that they have found.  They find validity and vitality in their lives as a result.  Beyond just rather sterile-sounding “reasons to stay alive”,  they’re immersed in things that fundamentally alter their perspective on their lives — and provide a profound validation.

A key goal of depth psychotherapy is to bring each individual into connection with the things that bring such a profound sense of worthwhileness to an individual’s life.  The great psychologist Rollo May emphasized that

Therapy isn’t [fundamentally] curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. 

Depth psychotherapy is in fundamental agreement with this, and would add: —and helping a person to find the unique creative value and meaning that not only gives reasons to stay alive, but a bedrock affirmation of who and what we most fundamentally are.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: senza senso (Creative Commons Licence) ; 
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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How to be True to Yourself in the Middle of Big Life Changes

June 25th, 2018 · how to be true to yourself

Have you ever wondered how to be true to yourself when you’re smack dab in the middle of a huge change in your life?

“How can I stay true to myself?”  It’s something that many people do wonder about, when they’re right in the middle of life’s biggest changes — sometimes called major life transitions.  This type of event in our lives often leaves each of us confronting the question of who really am I and how to be true to yourself.
Huge changes or major life transitions can occur at any point in our adult life journey.  They can assume many forms: career change or job loss; change in marital status in all its forms; moving; serious illness; having a child; children leaving home; moving into the second half of life, and many, many other possibilities.

Disoriented about “Me”

These types of big changes can lead to a great sense of disorientation.  If I confront a new situation in my life, it may really challenge me about who I am.

For example.  Say that I have been living in the same community for a long time.  Then, for work-related reasons, I’m suddenly forced to move to another city in a different part of the country, or perhaps even overseas.  I have to leave behind both the work environment and the community I have known and belonged to for many years.  Naturally, I find this distressing and disorienting.  It may lead me to disturbing questions about not only the changes in my life, but also about myself.

My work role and my community may have touched almost every aspect of my life, led me to do things in a certain way, and determined how I would respond and think about all kinds of situations in my life.  Taken outside of the former context of my life, who am I?

Such a transition might be very upsetting.  Yet, it might also offer a huge opportunity: the chance to experience myself.

Touchstone Moments

In the midst of disorientation, it might be vitally important to connect with experiences in which you felt fully alive and fully yourself, and to use such moments as a kind of “compass”, showing the way to yourself.

C.G. Jung had a famous question that he used to ask his clients when they were in the midst of disorientation and transition:

What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.

Jung attempted to take his clients to times in their lives when they had the awareness of feeling truly themselves, when they were so much a part of what they were doing, that they were virtually in a trance-like state, totally absorbed by it.

Such moments are not confined to childhood. We may encounter them at many times in our lives.  It’s important to point out that such experiences have dimensions of feeling and intuition, and are not matters of reasoning or logic.  As Hara Estroff Marano and Anna Yusim MD highlight for us:

Transformational moments sit somewhere on the boundary between logic and emotion.  Insight alone, no matter how brilliant, rarely leads to profound change. 

There is something deeper that we seek, and it is central to the question of how to be true to yourself.

The Real Images That Govern Our Lives

Jungian and archetypal psychologist James Hillman seeks to bring us back to feeling a sense of destiny as connected to “who I really am”

…answerable to an innate image, which I am filling out in my biography.

Transformational moments bring us to a sense of who and what I am,  of getting in touch with Hillman’s inner image of ourselves, and of gaining a sense of how to be true to it.

The work of depth psychotherapy is fundamentally focused on getting in touch with and being true to our fundamental selves, in all the situations of our lives.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  Cassandra Rae (Creative Commons Licence) ; Rick Obst (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Be Kind to Yourself: Self-Compassion and the Duty to Self

June 18th, 2018 · be kind to yourself

We’ve heard the phrase a lot: “be kind to yourself”.  But what does psychological care of oneself really look like?  Is there a “duty to self”?

be kind to yourself

Did you ever dream?…  Workman dancing on the roof of the Imperial Palace, Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Of course, we’re mostly used to thinking of duties that are not duty to self, such as duties to one’s family, one’s country, one’s fellow human, perhaps duty to God.  It can initially sound strange to us to consider the possibility of a duty to ourselves.
Well, how should we relate to ourselves?  Can that relationship be a good one?  Can it be a bad one?  If so, what’s the difference?

Self Acceptance

Before we can have self compassion, we must first come to a place of self acceptanceC.G. Jung had a famous quote in connection with this:

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”

He also stated that:

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.”

For Jung, acceptance of ourselves with our faults, flaws, and broken-ness, is the foundation of any kind of psychological movement in ourselves  Everyone has parts of her- or himself that are very hard for the ego to accept, perhaps because they seem at odds with widely accepted norms and standards, or because they do not fit with the ego’s preconceived ideas of who we are.  To acknowledge these parts, to accept them and just let be, this is the first key to the work that we need to do.  To have a good relationship with ourselves, we need to start here.

Self Compassion

Depth psychotherapists see self-compassion growing out of this initial hard work of self-acceptance.  It’s only when we finally see all the parts of ourselves — attractive and unattractive, those which accord with the moral standards of the ego, and those that do not, those which seem strong, and those which seem shamefully weak — that we begin to be in the place where we can experience genuine self compassion.  we can be sure that every aspect of who we are has its own unique story, its own unique reason for being the way that it is.  We will only understand those stories when we listen to ourselves from a place of compassion.

The Truth About Duty to Self

From a place of self-compassion, we start to see the wounds and vulnerability in our lives.  As we understand them, we start to perhaps see something of our true self, which is seeking to emerge in the middle of all the contradictions and broken-ness.  Such moments can be moments of recognition and connectedness.  It might be that we start to gain a sense of the wholeness of self that has been trying to emerge at many different points in the course of our lives.  This may be associated with a sense of yearning or aspiration that we have been trying to realize for the whole of our life journey — something that we have always longed for, and wanted to make real in the midst of our lives.

be kind to yourself

The duty to self can be the duty to be ourselves — to be who we most fundamentally are.  It’s only in truly following the injunction to “be kind to yourself”, and thus being kind to the whole of ourselves, to all that we are, that we begin to gain some understanding of our duty to ourselves, to be and become all the things that make us who we truly are.

This duty to self may emerge as particularly important in the second half of life, or as the individual experiences major life transitions.  It also takes on particular importance for those whose life journeys have consistently led to meeting the needs of others prior to considering their own,

Exploring Duty to Self

The duty to self, which includes respecting, valuing and becoming even more who we most fundamentally are, is at the core of Jungian depth psychotherapy work.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Gauthier DELECROIX – 郭天 (Creative Commons Licence) ; Ian Sane (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


The Urgent Quest to Find Meaning in Life

June 11th, 2018 · find meaning in life

It’s absolutely essential to find meaning in life.  Specifically, it’s urgent and essential to find meaning in your own particular individual life.

Anthony Bourdain, RIP – A genuinely great contributor who will be sincerely missed by a vast number of people.

What is meant by that, and how could it possibly be so important?
Well, what it means, at heart, for Jungian therapists is that it is essential for each person to find things that are of genuine and deep personal value to them, in their own particular, perhaps idiosyncratic life.

“THE Meaning of Life” — Doesn’t Exist

Every so often, you will hear someone refer to “the Meaning of Life”.  At one point, the comedy troupe Monty Python even had a movie bearing that title.  The phrase “the Meaning of LIfe” tends to suggest that there is one great, big overarching meaning in life — the same thing for everyone.

We Live in a Time of Spiritual Change and Ferment

In earlier times, when societies were homogenous, and there was perhaps one religious or philosophical perspective that everyone shared, it might have been possible to believe in this kind of “meaning of life”.  However, those days have gone, and it’s likely that they’re not coming back.

It’s not so long ago that it seemed that certain understandings of “the meaning of life”, and even religious symbols, seemed permanent and fixed, embodying the meaning of life for everyone.  In my case, my upbringing was in a particular setting where every significant person assumed the truth of a Protestant version of Christianity, and, if they had felt differently about it, they would have kept those feelings to themselves.  But now, in the Western world, at least, that monolithic sense of shared meaning is gone; people’s religious or philosophical beliefs vary widely, or they place value in very different things altogether.  Any idea of “the meaning of life” carved into stone some place in the universe is long gone.

find meaning in life

Long gone.

The Need for Individual Meaning

Yet, our individual lives can have meaning.  As the famous psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl reminds us, it’s absolutely essential that we find value and meaning in our own individual lives.  In his own harrowing experience of the concentration camps of World War II, Frankl saw clearly that, for the inmates of these camps, having a particular meaning that was essentially important to them, as individuals, often meant the difference between life and death.

While Frankl’s observations concern an extreme situation, his observations about meaning are true for our lives, too.

Whoever You are, It’s Essential to Find Meaning in Life

This last week, we lost celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, age 61, apparently through suicide.  I have immense respect for Mr. Bourdain’s culinary knowledge, his ability to relate, and his capacity as a truly great storyteller.  He’ll be greatly missed, and I have no wish to cloud his memory with idle speculation.

Yet, Anthony Bourdain’s life was the envy of many.  Companion and confidant of the famous and powerful, his extensive travels to fascinating places were documented in Parts Unknown, and many other television adventures.  Yet even those seemingly the envy of others may find that a sense of personal meaning and deep value in life is missing.  Friends, family, a sense of connection — the source of meaning varies greatly, yet all of us need it urgently.

The journey to wholeness involves the individual finding his or her unique meaning in life.

The Path to Meaning

Depth psychotherapy takes the personal work needed to find meaning in life as essential to healing and growth.  It is particularly necessary in the second half of life, and is often a matter of great importance to individuals undergoing major life transitions.  It is integral to the process of self-discovery, and for renewal and re-connection with the self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  Peabody Awards (Creative Commons Licence) ;  (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Depression and Self-Esteem in the Second Half of Life

June 4th, 2018 · depression and self-esteem

Depression and self-esteem are closely linked, and this is often profoundly true in the second half of life. 

depression and self-esteem

In this post, we look at situational issues related to depression and self-esteem that arise in the second half of life.  We’ll also be looking at the very important connection between these issues and the whole fundamental question of self-acceptance and self-compassion.

How Depression and Self-Esteem are Linked

Situational depression is frequently linked to issues of self-esteem. According to Australian clinical psychologist and self-esteem specialist Dr. Lars Madsen, self-esteem is a key factor in the creation and maintenance of depression.

Having low self-esteem is clearly connected to experiencing depression, and, on the other hand, depression itself can contribute to low self-esteem.  However, with situational depression, low self-esteem is often a precursor to the depression.  It can often be that particular situations that emerge and cause difficulty in peoples’ lives result in diminished self-esteem, and a lowered sense of the value of self.  This is particularly true for many issues that emerge in the second half of life.

How Depression and Self-Esteem Come Up for Us in the Second Half of Life

The experiences that arise during the mid-life transition, and during later stages in life often bring to the fore the connection between depression and self esteem.  Often, the changes that occur in later life can have a sizable impact on how the individual views him- or herself.  These can include changes in:

  • Working life.  The individual may find that role changes at work leave him or her feeling that a role or persona on which she or he relied for self-esteem has changed or disappeared.
  • Family of origin.  The death, serious illness or possible martial breakup of parents can lead the individual to experience a loss of secure attachment, which can result in a loss of self-esteem.
  • Health.  The individual may undergo changes in health that dramatically change their activities and sense fo well-being.  This can result in a much reduced sense of efficacy and empowerment, and thus lost self-esteem.
  • Marriage.  Divorce, separation or serious illness or death of a spouse can also profoundly affect one’s sense of self-esteem and identity.

Such changes can make us look at our lives very differently — so much so that they can lead us to abandon previously deeply held images or concepts of ourselves.  It may well be that such events can lead to our losing a sense of identity, which can result in loss of self-esteem, and lead us into depression..

Toward Genuine Self-Compassion 

In Jungian terms, a shadow problem can result from any of these sources of lost self-esteem.  We can be suddenly confronted with a sense of lost identity, and may have to go through the process of accepting the change in our lives.

Coming to terms with such a change entails developing a strong sense of  self-acceptance and self-compassion.  It is only when we begin to accept ourselves for who we are in a genuinely kind way that we can begin to search for a new sense of meaning and purpose, which will very likely be associated with a renewed and expanded sense of self.

depression and self-esteem

The Emergent Self

In depth psychotherapy, when confronting issues of depression and self-esteem, a key concern is to discern what is seeking to emerge in the individual’s life.  In confronting life challenges and life transitions that fundamentally touch our identity, it will likely be that a key part of the journey is extending self-acceptance and self-compassion to the parts of ourselves that have been neglected, pushed aside or never acknowledged.

Jungians acknowledge a kind and type of depression in which the individual’s vitality disappears from conscious life and goes into the unconscious.  If it can be encouraged to re-surface in situations where clients suffer from low self-esteem, and to manifest in ways that embody the individual’s yearning for meaning and life, the process can lead to fundamental self-renewal.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  Paul O’Mahony (Creative Commons Licence) ; Patrick Lannigan (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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When Work Related Stress Turns Into Major Life Transition, 2

May 28th, 2018 · work related stress

As we saw in the first part of this post, a work related  major life transition can involve a very great amount of work related stress. 

work related stress

In this part, we’ll look at more at what’s involved in traversing such a transition.  As we will see, such transitions can have an enormous impact on the personal and interpersonal levels, and even on the dimensions of meaning and spirituality. As we saw in Part 1, such major life transitions related to work can emerge from: 
  • Merger or Takeover
  • Change of Leadership
  • Long Distance Moves and Transfers; or,
  • Termination of Work
The effects of such things are often deep and complex, and they are often much more profoundly personal in their impact than you might initially think.  Perhaps surprisingly, there may well be elements of these experiences that give significant opportunities for growth towards wholeness.


Work transitions can profoundly impact relationships, both inside and outside the work place.  There are a significant number of employees in workplaces for whom work-related relationships are very significant connections, and work-related stress can lead to profound anxiety and be profoundly disruptive of these relationships.

Work relationships often assume great emotional importance.  We’re familiar with the expression “work spouses” — referring to people in the work environment who often have formed a close, even dependent, relationships.  Any of the events we’re describing can result in disruption of these key relationships, deeply affecting the involved individuals.

When long-standing work relationships fray, or are pulled apart by a changing work environment, individuals may face profound questions about priorities far beyond the workplace, leading right into the heart of life.  Relationship is a fundamental part of what gives life meaning and colour.  When work-related major life transitions disrupt relationships, they raise deep questions about where and how we find meaningful relationship in our lives.

work related stress

Changing Priorities

A profound change in the work environment leads to deep questions around priorities.  It may take us to the question, “What truly is of lasting importance to me?”

For many today, work easily becomes the central priority in life.  Its demands can supercede the importance of key relationships, and the other strongest and greatest values of our lives.  When a work crisis takes on the form of a major life transition, it can call into question the whole set of priorities by which a person lives his or her life.

A work-related major life transition can confront us with deep issues around priorities of meaning and spirituality.  Here I mean not so much organized religion as the whole question of over-arching and transcendent values — what we fundamentally want our lives to stand for and honour.  Viewed in this light, our work as a spiritual endeavour.


Similarly, fundamental questions of identity can be stirred by work related stress that amounts to a major life transition.  Often at times of deep crisis we’re moved much closer to the central question of “Who am I really?”  This all relates to what Jungians refer to as individuation, defined by Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels as

A person’s becoming [him- or her-]self, whole indivisible and distinct from other people or collective psychology (though also in relation to these).

This may take us into shadow work, examining the parts of the self that the individual would rather not acknowledge.  As an individual goes through a major life transition related to work, she or he may come up against fundamental questions of identity, that take the form of unpacking and recognizing the difference between passive acceptance of who my work role tells me I am, and who I am really.  Jung puts it starkly:

The more [someone’s] life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is [his or her] individual immorality.

..where we may think of immorality as “not being true to, or living out, my own fundamental and unique identity.”

Individuation and Work Related Stress

In depth psychotherapy, when the individual is in the grip of work-related stress that is intense enough to be regarded as a major life transition, the goal of the work is to create a safe environment or “container” where the individual may examine the impact on his or herself of this momentous transition, and hopefully also begin to sort out and hear the voice of the true self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Rodrigo Galindez (Creative Commons Licence) ; barbara w (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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The Power of the Mother: Encountering the Mother Archetype

May 14th, 2018 · mother archetype

In our culture, we have a tendency to sentimentalize “Mom”; as a result, we often minimize the power of the mother archetype.

“I love you, Mom!”

Yet, depth psychologists stress that the mother archetype is one of the very most powerful archetypes.  What does that mean?  Well, it amounts to this: the experience of mother almost inevitably has a profound effect on an individual’s life.  In fact, the experience of the mother can be so powerful, that it can effectively determine the whole course of someone’s life.
We’ve just celebrated Mother’s Day, and I’d invite you to take a moment to reflect on the deep psychological power of Mother.

Mother: A Fundamental Experience

The relationship with the mother is usually the first relationship that a child has, and it has a fundamental impact on our relationship to self, other and world.  The child’s sense of security and trust in the world, and her or his ability to relate to others and to process emotion all stem from the quality of the connection with the mother.

We also know through neuroscience research that a nurturing mother leads to an increase in size in the parts of the brain dealing with memory, increases the overall rates of brain cell production and leads to better learning and stress responses.  As Dr. Joan Luby, a leading researcher at Washington University School of Medicine puts it, “It’s now clear that a caregiver’s nurturing is not only good for the development of the child… it actually changes the brain.”

The mother is central to our early experience, and to the whole way we are in the world.  One of the very first forms of human religious expression to ever emerge was the symbol of the Great Mother.  Whatever your particular religious convictions, this fact reveals the sheer enormity of the symbolic and psychological power of mother in human life.

mother archetype

Lakshmi – Hindu Mother Goddess

The Experience of Mother is Very Diverse

The experience of mother, and of particular mothers is very diverse.

Yet, it’s fair to speak about a distinction between people who have an overall positive experience of mother, and people who have an overall negative experience.  For this reason, Jungians often refer to positive and negative mother complexes.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of research in the area of what is called primary attachment — the connection between the primary caregiver, who is usually the mother, and the child.

Simply put, “attachment theory” holds that the capacity which an individual possesses to create emotional and physical “attachment” to another person leads to the psychological stability and security necessary for coping with risk-taking, innovating and trying new things, undergoing major life transitions and developing overall as a human personality.  This capacity is not just important to children.  The capacity of the adult to attach to partners and families has to do with a number of factors — but the most important is the attachment bond with the mother.

The Mother Archetype Stays Important Through Life

The mother archetype, and our relationship to it, is hugely important for our whole relationship with life. Almost everyone has a positive or negative mother complex, and that complex has particular importance for our whole relationship with and trust of others, and of life as a whole.

In depth psychotherapy, people often start to come to terms with mother complexes that may have profoundly affected the overall course of their lives.  Effective depth psychotherapy can change the nature of attachment, relationship, and a sense of security in his or her life, and allow the individual to more fully follow their journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Janice (Creative Commons Licence) ;  (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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