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Should I Leave My Marriage? — For Many, A Difficult Question

September 17th, 2018 · should I leave my marriage

Should I leave my marriage?  For many people, this is an agonizing question.  In many cases, people may have struggled with it for years — or even decades.

should I leave my marriage

Having been divorced, I know that facing the question of whether to end a marriage and, if so, when and how, can be extraordinarily difficult and painful.
In this post, I’ll be looking at this issue from the perspective of an individual seeking to make the decision of whether or not to stay in a marriage.  Certainly, this is an issue that might get worked on in couples’ work, but it there is also a very important dimension of individual decision-making that is involved, and that is what we’ll be looking at here.

The Dilemma

Someone who is struggling with staying in their marriage, or leaving it, may be doing so for any number of complex reasons.  And actually, it’s a very natural and normal thing for married people to wonder at some point in their life journey whether they want to remain married.  Actually, as Dr. Harville Hendrix stressed, it’s hard to be truly committed to another person and to mutual growth as a couple, if a person is not consciously aware that there’s an alternative to being married.

Yet, it can often happen that the question of “Should I leave my marriage?” becomes crucial and unavoidable.  The sense of happiness or meaning in life, and even a person’s mental and physical health, can hang upon this question.

Often the answer to the question, “Should I leave my marriage?” will not immediately appear to be clear cut.

Not to Decide is to Decide

As mentioned above, individuals can sometimes be stuck in indecision about this question for a very long time.  They may not even acknowledge that “Should I leave my marriage?” is a genuine question for them, effectively staying in a state of denial.  However, as Paul Tillich once said, not to decide is to decide.  If individuals don’t confront the question of whether to stay or go directly, when they are really feeling that their marriage is not fulfilling or affirming in its present form, it can often be a recipe for formidable levels of anxiety and depression.

If marriage is not bringing you the things you feel that you need from a relationship, it’s very important to bring this awareness into consciousness.  Being honest with oneself is crucial!  Pretending that “everything is OK” can be a recipe for spinning away the years and ending up with nothing to show for it but regret.

On the other hand, an impulsive or reactive approach to the relationship, whether staying in it, or leaving it, can also generate heartache.  To make a knee jerk decision to either stay or leave without understanding both why one is reacting the way one is, and also what it is that you really want, can be a recipe for disaster.

Should I Leave My Marriage? — Answering the Question Consciously

A decision to stay or leave a marriage will affect many lives, and not least of all your own.  It’s best to go into a major life transition like divorce — or like seriously re-committing to be in a marriage — with your eyes wide open, and knowing as much as you can possibly know about yourself and your deep motivations.

Depth psychotherapy , where the individual explores all the aspects of his or her marriage, conscious and unconscious, and explores thoroughly the question of “what is it that I really want?”  — can be of invaluable assistance to individuals as they wrestle with this weighty life question.  Knowing and accepting oneself can be an invaluable gift to give oneself, at a time when it may feel like many things in life are up in the air.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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After Labour Day: Meaningful Work, Workaholism and Perfectionism

September 10th, 2018 · workaholism

The intense period after Labour Day is a good time to look at meaningful work, workaholism and perfectionism.  These are big issues in our work-obsessed world!

workaholism

Work has at least two distinct faces in our place and time. We truly need to stay aware of both of them.
The one face of work is that it’s essential for our health and well-being.  This is true both in a physical sense, in that we need work to get the means to obtain the food, shelter, transportation and other things necessary to maintain life.
This is just as true psychologically: if an individual is to be healthy, growing, and, as Jungians would say individuating — becoming and expressing who is is that they truly are — then a human has to be engaged in meaningful work.
What that meaningful work is, varies greatly from person to person.  As they say, one person’s meat is truly another person’s poison!  In my case, I would probably rather do prison time than work as an accountant — for many people, it’s their dream job!

But the Trouble with Work Is…

The other face of work is, that while we need meaningful work, but we also run the risk of getting over-involved in work in unhealthy ways.  As I learned in my days in the legal world, two inter-related ways in which this can happen are workaholism and perfectionism.

Simply put, a workaholic is someone who is addicted to work.  Often workaholics enjoy their work, but sometimes they simply feel a compulsion to work overly hard.  A workaholic tends to neglect family and other social relationships and often loses track of time at work.  Psychotherapists know that workaholics are often perfectionistic people, for whom what they have done is never good enough.  The intense preoccupation with work often hides anxiety, low self-esteem, and intimacy problems.

Where the Workaholism Treadmill Can Lead

Workaholism isn’t benign in its effects.  Often, people are in denial about being workaholics, but if they just continue on the workaholic treadmill, with the compulsion to work becoming ever stronger, it can create devastating situations in the life of the individual.

The longer an individual continues on the treadmill of workaholism, putting in longer and longer hours, the more his or her productivity usually declines until they may not be able to produce in an 80 hour week what they could formerly have produced in 50 hours.

It is not at all uncommon for workaholics to experience deteriorating relationships as they go farther and farther down the path of workaholism, the whole time being in denial about the impact of their addiction to endless work hours.  This is one way in which workaholism resembles other types of addiction.

Workaholics may also come to the place where they experience profoundly debilitating burnout, where they have little alternative but to at least temporarily cease working.  Or, as the Japanese recognize, individuals may even suffer premature death as the result of overwork, referred to as karoshi.  This happened to the 31 year old Japanese reporter, who after doing 159 hours overtime in a single month, passed away with her cell phone clutched in her hand.

And we haven’t even begun to describe the agonies that a person struggling with workaholism can experience in connection with the major life transition to retirement.

Meaningful Life, Meaningful Work

Depth psychotherapy recognizes that the journey away from workholism has a lot to do with finding self-esteem, connection and relatedness to others, and meaningful in life, an important part of which is meaningful work.  An important part of this journey is finding our identity, distinct from our work identity or work persona.

The journey to uncovering our true identity hinges on accepting and valuing who we most fundamentally are.  The discovery that “I am bigger than my work”, and the process of moving towards a compassionate acceptance and valuing of the whole of who I am, can be a transformative adventure of which meaningful depth psychotherapy can be a vital and highly supportive part.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: rene.schlaefer (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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What is My Legacy? A Key Question in the Second Half of Life

August 27th, 2018 · what is my legacy

What is my legacy?  In other words, what will be the impact of my life on others, and on the world?

what is my legacy

It’s certainly a question that grows in importance for me, the longer that I’m alive.  I think that it becomes more important for most reflective people in the second half of life, as they travel further on life’s journey.
Some think of legacy as the things that they pass to other people after they die. — their material legacy.  Yet legacy is much broader.  It concerns the impact that our lives have on the lives of others — and continue to have on others long after we’re physically gone.  In this broader sense, it’s very much tied up with the overall question of the meaning of our lives, with questions like What difference has my life made? and How will I be remembered?
On Saturday, U.S. Senator John McCain died.  Without getting political, allow me to say that this is a man with whom I have little in common politically.  Yet, like many people who didn’t share his views, I have immense respect for him.  In his political life, and his personal life, Sen. McCain embodied a strong will to go in his own unique direction.  Yet, he combined this with a deep level of respect, courtesy and openness towards others.  He demonstrated this in his presidential contest with Barack Obama, but these attitudes marked his whole approach to political and personal life.  He will influence others for a long time to come.

Living out Legacy

We should live to express who we most fundamentally are.  To find what’s distinctive to ourselves, and to live it out is a matter of central importance for our well-being, and our sense of connection with our true identity.  As Cal State Prof. Loretta Breuning puts it,

You are hard-wired to care about what you leave behind when you’re gone. Animals focus on making babies… [Yet,] your unique individual essence can live on in myriad ways. The neurochemistry that drives animals to promote their genes is what drives you to care about your legacy. 

To express ourselves.  To be in the world and to be ourselves.  Something hardwired in us — or, as Jung would say, archetypal — drives us to do this.

Showing Up — Or Not

If we have no idea of who we are and what we want, the legacy we give to others, including to those near and beloved by us, will be nothing other than muddy and unclear.  If I’m governed by other people’s opinions for my whole life, afraid to express and live out who I most fundamentally am, then I can expect that my legacy will be pretty mediocre, without a lot of the real “me” in it.  If I don’t ever take the risk of being vulnerable and expressing myself — “putting myself out there” — as they say, then I can expect that people may not react very much to my presence in the world.

Or, they may be strongly influenced by the way I haven’t been in the world.  As Jung states in at famous quote,

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

What we have not lived out in our own life, our unlived life may become our legacy, sometimes with quite a negative effect.

What is MY Legacy?

Even if we’re not famous figures, the potential exists to influence the people in our sphere, and to make a contribution to greater consciousness and connection.  This is a fundamental aspect of human reality as Jung notes,

If you are a gifted person, it doesn’t mean that you gained something. It means you have something to give back.

Jung is not just referring to Einstein and Mozart when he writes about giftedness.  In an important sense, Jung sees each of us as gifted with our own unique self, our potential for our own unique awareness, and our own unique capacity to express that awareness in some way or other.

Beginning to explore our unique legacy, and how to express it is a key part of our human journey.  Depth psychotherapy can be of immense help in connecting us with the unexplored and unexpressed aspects of ourselves, bringing fulfillment, meaning and joy in our life journey.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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A Great Human Struggle: How to Deal with Emotional Pain?

August 20th, 2018 · how to deal with emotional pain

One of the greatest struggles of human existence, if not the greatest, concerns the question of how to deal with emotional pain.

how to deal with emotional pain

Psychological suffering is truly one of the most difficult parts of human existence.  The human race has been conscious of it as a grave difficulty for pretty much as long as there have been humans.
The Globe and Mail recently ran an article by physician Gabor Maté, an Order of Canada recipient with a particular interest in childhood development and trauma, and addictions.  He argues strongly that our society needs to understand that addiction is rooted in deep pain and despair.  As he states,
[A]ddiction is neither a choice nor primarily a disease….  It originates in a person’s attempt to solve genuine human problems: those of emotional loss, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection. It is a forlorn and ultimately futile attempt to solve the dilemma of human suffering. 
Maté invites us to see serious addiction as an unsuccessful attempt to cope with overwhelming emotional pain.  We can relate compassionately to that, because very many of us have had to cope with the reality of emotional pain.  I know I have, and I suspect that you, too, have also had that experience.

Emotional Pain in Human Life

Acknowledged or unacknowledged, emotional pain is in the life of every individual human being.  How to deal with emotional pain is a question that all human beings face.  At certain key times in our lives, the intensity of  pain may make the question urgent.  This may be particularly true at times when emotional pain is associated with major life transitions, such as illness, job loss, illness or disability of a child or adult family member, the loss of a loved one, marital breakup, and many more sorts of issues.

Such pain can be debilitating.  It can stop us in our tracks, bringing our lives to a standstill.  It can be even worse if we deny the pain’s existence, and try to act as if it isn’t there.  This can easily lead us into the grip of serious anxiety and/or depression.

Denial of Emotional Pain

Denial of emotional pain takes many forms.  One of the most significant ways in which people can end up denying their emotional pain is through addictions.  Though we tend to think of alcohol and drugs, there are actually many kinds of addictions related to seeking relief from pain.  Addictions to food, the internet or social media, pornography and overwork are only some of the possibilities.

Sometimes, when emotional pain is related to overwhelming experiences of trauma, individuals can deny their emotional pain, or can be completely dissociated or cut off from it.  To live in denial of traumatic pain often only makes it worse.

How to Deal with Emotional Pain

Essential to determining how to deal with emotional pain is acknowledging to ourselves in full honesty that the pain actually exists.  This is often not so simple or easy as it sounds.

One great initial challenge may be to extend compassion to the part of ourselves that is enduring ongoing emotional pain.  It can seem easier to be stoic about pain, pretending that it doesn’t matter.  However, healing only begins when we acknowledge how bad the hurt is.  This is a particular challenge for men in our culture, but many women also find this extremely hard.

Equally challenging can be finding someone to talk to about what we’ve been through.  This is an essential part of finding our own personal answer to how to deal with emotional pain.  It can be very important to find someone who is not immediately involved in our family situation or our lives, who has the capacity to hear of our pain with objectivity, certainly, but also with care and compassion.

Depth psychotherapy can be of tremendous value in this process.  In many cases, it’s the best way to discover how to deal with emotional pain.  A depth psychotherapist can be an excellent witness to our emotional pain, and can help immensely with the process of self-compassion.  Depth psychotherapy also gives essential help in finding meaning and purpose in our life journey given what we’ve endured.  This can be essential to the process of learning how to deal with emotional pain.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist

& Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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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

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© 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)

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