Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Unconditional Self Acceptance? Approaches to Renewal, Part 4

April 16th, 2018 · unconditional self acceptance

Unconditional self acceptance, the ability to just be compassionate to everything in ourselves, can be a powerful approach to renewal.  As Jung noted, though, it can also be very difficult!

unconditional self acceptance

As with everything we’ve examined in this Approaches to Renewal Series, unconditional self-acceptance would take us to a different perspective on our lives than we often usually have.  In our normal way of mental functioning, we’re very ready to cut off or block out or censor parts of ourselves that might not “make the cut” in terms of who we feel that we “ought” to be. 
We often want to see ourselves as unfailingly strong, as moral, and as possessing no significant wounds or flaws.  Yet the reality of who we are can often make us confront truths about our lives that we find hard look at.

Everything Within Ourselves Belongs!

A remarkable quotation from respected Jungian analyst Robert Johnson powerfully highlights this whole issue of self-acceptance:

There is nothing in the psyche that doesn’t belong, though it may be expressed in a clumsy way or at an appropriate time.  The key is getting things on the correct level.  The more our potentials can be honoured in some way, the more whole and satisfying our lives become.  To redeem unlived life we need to change the question from ‘What should I do to get rid of this wrong thing in me?’ to ‘Why is the right thing in the wrong place‘ [Italics mine].

Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl, Living Your Unlived Life

So, this is quite a different message than we often hear from various voices in our culture.  So often, we are caught in the belief that there are wrong ideas, or wrong parts of ourselves that we must amputate, to deal with issues such as depression.  There are many things that are wrong with such an approach, and one of the most important is that — it doesn’t work.

What We Resist, Persists

One of Jung’s most famous sayings is that, “What we resist, persists.”  He stresses that, if we have troublesome thoughts or feelings, or predispositions to do certain things that we really don’t like, and we struggle mightily to rid ourselves of them– we’re bound for disappointment!  The more we seek to push these thoughts out of mind, and to label them as unacceptable, “wrong”, “bad” or “unhelpful”, and try to shut them out, the more they will find a way to seep back in through the cracks!

We cannot deal with unacceptable parts of ourselves by rejecting them and pushing them away.  So, what are we to do?

The parts of ourselves that we wall off are often the parts that carry healing and life

Accepting the “Unacceptable” Parts

There is an approach that may seem naive, yet it carries within it a great potential for healing.  We can accept those parts of ourselves, seek to understand them, and find a way to dialogue with them.  To have compassion for the rejected “unacceptable” parts of ourselves is one of the most healing gifts that we can give to ourselves.

Most of us have aspects of ourselves that we find hard to put up with, and that we wish would just go away!  Perfectionism, compulsive behaviours, self-medication, unwanted aggressive behaviours, persistent fears — and many more persistent behaviours or thought patterns are all things that many people wish that they could get rid of, but find they can’t.  To accept the unacceptable impulse or part of ourselves, and find an appropriate place or expression of it in our lives can bring a tremendous amount of positive value into our lives.

The journey towards wholeness in depth psychotherapy involves developing a compassionate acceptance of our previously unacceptable parts, and moving beyond shame, to listen to our own unknown or repressed voices.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Who am I Really? Approaches to Renewal, Part 3

April 2nd, 2018 · who am I really

“Who am I really?” If you “Google” this phrase, you get over 3 billion hits.  It’s a central question, reaching right to the core of our lives.

who am I really

As we continue from Part 1 and Part 2 in this Approaches to Renewal series, we might ask, “Why does this question of real, genuine identity matter?”
In part, the answer rests on the human need for belonging or inclusion.  It is certainly true that, as the late U. Michigan  Prof. Christopher Peterson succinctly put it, other people matter.  Bonds with other people, and a sense of belonging represent fundamental human needs.  This sense of belonging helps to create a sense of value and meaning in life, and can help with the pain in life.  Belonging does give us a certain kind of identity, which is very important.
Yet there are other pressing questions for the individual around identity, represented by questions like, “Who am I really?”  While a sense of belonging brings many benefits, at some point, for many people, the question becomes “So, this is who the group is… but who am I?”  There can be a sense of needing to understand that “I” — and to live out of it.

The Centrality of “I”

We need a fixed point from which to understand the world as it happens around us.  That is our subjective self, which depth psychotherapists call the ego, and which we usually call the “I”.  As Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson tells us, “Like a dancer or a child on a merry-go-round, we must fix our eyes on something solid so as not to become dizzy or lose our balance.”

We need this subjective to make our way in the world.  In the West, at least, this sense of self or “I” is a centrally important thing to the sense of value or meaning in life.  Yet, as many philosophers and others have pointed out, it’s hard sometimes to pin down what it is to which this sense of “I” refers.

who am I really

The Paradox of Identity

Johnson describes for us what he calls the “paradox of identity”.  He observes that we go through life trying to answer this question of “Who am I really?”, and,

As we create ourselves, it is inevitable that life will move into particular structures and forms….  Our choices become increasingly restricted as we rely on what is familiar and as we strive to be consistent with who we already are, and how others expect us to be….  We seek structure, form and meaning, and then we become limited by our structures, forms and meanings….  [T]he ego with which we identify is an accumulation of old habits conditioned by past experience…

Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl, Ph. D. Living Your Unlived Life

So, this is the paradox: we seek to find an identity by doing, thinking and being things that seem to us to be consistent with our understanding of “who we really are”.  Yet, by doing this, we end up getting stuck and confined to the parts of ourselves that we have already seen — and we end up alienated from the parts of ourselves that we have yet to get to know.

Wholeness vs. Provisional Identity

Jungians often emphasize the wholeness of the personality, stressing that there are always parts of ourselves that remain to be explored.  They stress that our idea of who we are is never as large or comprehensive as who we really are.  And, as with all depth psychotherapy, they stress that there is healing and wholeness to be found in those parts of ourselves that we have not yet explored, or lived out.  For the journey towards wholeness into those unknown parts of the Self brings the promise of freedom, self-compassion and meaning.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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The Symbolism of Spring: Approaches to Renewal, Part 2

March 26th, 2018 · symbolism of spring

The coming of spring affects us deeply!  We see the symbolism of spring in music, literature and art, with its emphasis on our personal renewal.  

symbolism of spring

Joy of Spring!

As we saw in Part 1 of this series, the yearning for renewal is often a key motivator for people entering psychotherapy.  The symbolism of spring powerfully represents the radical renewal of the whole of the natural world. 
A wide variety of the world’s religious traditions involve myths of resurrection and renewal, the rites of which are very often associated with the Spring.  This is certainly true of the Jewish tradition of Passover, the Christian Easter tradition, and of the ancient Greek myth of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the bounty of nature as expressed in agriculture. 
As archetypal psychologist Dr. James Hillman tells us, Persephone, Demeter’s only child is fated to spend half the year as a prisoner in the realm of Hades, the Lord of death, and her time there corresponds to Winter.  But then she is free to return to the surface of the world, and with her, she brings the blessing of the life and vitality of Spring.  Hillman views this myth as weighted with great significance for our own personal life journeys.
symbolism of spring

Marble panel representing the abduction of Persephone by Hades, ca. 190 AD

Spring, Vitality …and Renewal

The symbolism of Spring is associated with, not only a radical renewal of perspective, but also with an actual restoration of life to the world.  In Spring, the whole world seems to rejoice in an overwhelming new vitality.  The symbolism of Spring reaches us so deeply, because it touches the deep desire in all of us for renewal, and for the opportunity to find the fullness of experience of life that some part of us senses as a powerful potential within us.

Spring has returned.  The earth is like a child that knows poems.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

The Yearning for Spring in Our Lives

The symbolism of Spring beckons to us with the possibility of renewal.  It is often at times in our life journey when we feel a profound stuckness and inertness that we yearn most powerfully for such renewal.  At such times, the symbolism of Spring speaks to us most powerfully — in art, in imagination, the life of dreams.  It is precisely when our outlook is filled with the sterility of Winter that we find that the symbolism of Spring beckons to us most powerfully.

Humans are very powerful in many ways, but we cannot create Spring.  We have to wait for it to emerge, and it comes forth from the operation of forces in nature so titanic that they dwarf the efforts of even the greatest human powers.

The Symbolism of Spring: Waiting for the Emergence

So it is in the journey of the psyche, which is often expressed in the work that individuals do in depth psychotherapy.  There are things that we can do to look after ourselves, techniques that we can utilize to help with depression or anxiety, or with, say, creating appropriate boundaries for ourselves.  These are things over which we have a significant amount of conscious control.  Yet, beyond this, there is also a power for healing from deep within the human psyche that no amount of our conscious control and willpower can coerce.  That particular healing element will emerge in its own time, and all we can do is to remove obstacles to its appearance, and wait upon its emergence.  But, if we can do that, it does emerge.  This is what Jung referred to as “the self-healing properties of the psyche”.

In depth psychotherapy work, the emergence of this Spring of renewal in the human psyche is firmly connected with the unexplored aspects of the personality, in what Jung often called “the undiscovered Self”.  The journey of the individual in therapy leads us into vital and hitherto unexplored potential for renewal.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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How Can I Change My Life? Approaches to Renewal, Part 1

March 19th, 2018 · how can I change my life

The question “How can I change my life?” often has a prominent role in people’s decision to commence depth psychotherapy.

how can I change my life

Readiness to flower?…

Whether people ask this question explicitly as they explore the possibility of psychotherapy, it usually tends to be there, hovering in the background in peoples’ minds.  People who come to therapy are looking for something different in their lives, for some kind of renewal.  They want to feel that there might be new possibilities for their lives, rather than the same old patterns and routines that they may have experienced to this point.


However, a key question for us may be, “How much do you really want to experience change?”  It can be that people feel very positively about the idea of change in the abstract, or about the fantasy of a changed life.  However, the experience of change, or the process necessary to create change, might have aspects that don’t feel as easy or appealing, or that involve some difficulty or hardship.

Can we really be receptive to changing our personal reality?


One of the things that human beings really value is a sense of control, the sense that our situation is understandable and predictable.  The human brain, and particularly the part of it known as the frontal lobe, contains our executive function, which is to say the part of us that wants to plan and execute and make things understandable and controllable.  This is associated with what Jungians and others call the ego, the part of the human mind that is the centre of consciousness.  The ego is certainly not the whole of our personality — but it sure likes to feel like it knows what’s going on, what the score is, and that it is in control.

The Thing about Change, Though, is…

…that it often requires us to more into unfamiliar ways of looking at things, and unfamiliar patterns of behaviour.  The answer to the question, “How can I change my life?” may well take us into territory where, at least initially, the ego is certainly not in control, and where it has to abandon familiar ways of looking at things, and conventional answers to key questions we may have relied on our whole lives.

how can i change my life

Identity, Lost and Found

Consider someone who is about to retire.  This person may have defined his or her identity for decades in terms of work — which she or he is now required to relinquish.  The ego may cling tightly to such an identification!  It may well wish to cling to it, even after the person’s work role is long gone.  Yet an identification with an extinct job description may be crippling, and may result in a huge loss of happiness, meaning and self esteem, even anxiety and depression.  Life may be calling the individual to a new identity and meaning.  Yet it is only in doing what the ego finds so hard and letting go of certainty, familiarity and predictability, and embarking on a journey of discovery of unfamiliar possibilities and “unexplored territory”, that a new identity, and a new sense of purpose and meaning, can be found.

Depth psychotherapy, particularly in its Jungian form, has as its goal the exploration of possibilities and identities in the unexplored aspects of the personality, with the goal of finding meaning, vitality and unanticipated possibility in what Jung called “the undiscovered Self.  This is the essence of the “journey toward wholeness“.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Help Me Sleep! Exploring and Getting Past Insomnia

March 12th, 2018 · help me sleep

“Help me sleep!” and “How can I get past poor sleep?” — these questions reflect the epidemic of insomnia in our contemporary world.

help me sleep

Like most modern western societies, Canada has a sleep problem.  Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function properly.  Yet more than a quarter of Canadians get less than that minimal 7 hour a night figure.  Sixty per cent of Canadians report feeling tired most of the time, according to a report by the World Association of Sleep Medicine.
The economic costs of sleep deprivation are also very well documented.  Even more disturbing are the health consequences.  Chronic sleep deprivation contributes to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke along with other health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and a weakened immune system. Both amount and quality of sleep have been shown to affect appetite and weight control.
Yet, there’s an even more profound aspect to this issue.  Depth psychotherapists are aware that it is symptomatic of our overall attitude to the world, and to the way in which we relate to, and look after ourselves, in the broadest sense of the word.

Why are We Dealing with This Issue?

Why are we, as a society. collectively crying “Help me sleep!”?  On one level, this question could be answered very pragmatically — and it is very important that Jungians and others offer concrete assistance to people with the pragmatics of this issue.

From a pragmatic, “what I should do” perspective, it’s worthwhile considering the following sleep-enhancing measures.

  • You should develop a relaxing evening ritual.  You should begin to gear down and eliminate stress the closer you get to lights out.
  • Find a routine that includes a predictable daily sleep schedule.  This should include consistent waking and rising times.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep.  Avoid stimulating activities, such as eating or using screen devices.
  • Keep electronics out of your bedroom.
  • Keep your sleeping room dark and quiet — and relatively cool.
  • Get regular exercise.

This is not a comprehensive list, but these are some measures worth considering.  Yet, from a broader perspective, it’s important that we also consider the meaning of insomnia for the whole person, and for the whole of the psyche.

The Broader Meaning of Insomnia

When we think of what the type of insomnia that we confront in our time really means, neuroscience helps us to see the root of the problem very clearly.  Research has shown that shift workers are especially prone to sleep disorders, because the arbitrary and artificial sleep regime required by shift work disorders the body clock or circadian rhythm.  Neuroscience also shows that the most restorative type of sleep, “rapid eye movement” or REM sleep gets disrupted by insomnia.  As Jungian neuropsychoanalyst Margaret Wilkinson tells us, this kind of sleep is associated with deep dreaming.  Such dreaming in REM is essential to maintaining the centers of the brain that are associated with learning and with processing our experience.  REM sleep also enables the mind to process emotional states, especially fear, anger, elation — and particularly anxiety.

help me sleep

Brain activity in non-REM and REM sleep

Actually, insomnia fundamentally concerns our relationship to our bodies, and to the deep parts of the brain that are associated with the unconscious mind.  In order to gain a sense of fulfillment and meaning in our lives, depth psychotherapists know that it’s essential to find connection with our bodily rhythms, such as our circadian sleep rhythms, and also with the unconscious mind, the part of our mind beyond our conscious control encountered in the dream experiences of REM sleep.  Both getting what I need to “help me sleep” and the process of depth psychotherapy have as their goal re-connection with the body’s rhythms and with our own deepest nature — all part of the “journey toward wholeness“.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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How Do I Cope with Loneliness? — A Very Individual Question

March 5th, 2018 · cope loneliness

In our era, people in record numbers are struggling with the question of how to cope with loneliness. At this time, we can genuinely say that loneliness is an epidemic, often associated with anxiety and depression.

cope loneliness

PHOTO: Clàudia Matges

But what is loneliness?  We can find some general truths, yet it means very different things to different people.  It may involve an actual experience of actually being isolated from people.  Yet, as many individuals in 2018 know, it is very possible to feel absolutely isolated from others in a crowded city, on the subway, or in the mall.  In fact, you may be far less likely to be lonely in a small, remote Newfoundland outport than you are in the midst of a huge city!

Loneliness as Archetypal Pain

Neuroscience researchers such as UCLA’s Naomi Eisenberger have shown that the brain reacts to loneliness in much the same way as it relates to actual physical pain.  Researchers characterize the pain of loneliness and the accompanying stress state as something that has evolved in us to renew and maintain the connections that we need to survive and prosper.

Depth psychotherapy of the Jungian variety characterizes loneliness as a fundamental, archetypal pain.  They would also connect the state of loneliness with the drive within us for eros, for relationship and connection, to understand and to be understood.  (I wrote about eros in a recent blog post).

Loneliness, Self-Sufficiency and Solitude

There is a place for solitude, and all of us experience times when we want to be alone.  This is what we mean when we refer to solitude.  People’s needs for social connection and affirmation vary greatly.  But when we experience actual loneliness, it hurts — sometimes a great deal.

Sometimes, people feel very alone, because they have a hard time tolerating their own company.  They may experience intense anxiety or even anguish when they’re alone.  This may result from faulty or disrupted connections with mothers or other caregivers when they were young.  Or, it may result from disturbing thoughts that emerge when they are alone, that may clash with the way they usually perceive life or themselves.

Sometimes people feel alone because of major life transitions that make them feel outside of the mainstream of life.  Situations of major physical illness or grief can often be examples of this.  Sometimes people feel profoundly different from those who surround them, which creates its own kind of especially deep loneliness.  Or individuals may feel that, despite being connected to many people, they aren’t actually seen for who they are, or they are unable to trust that these others actually “have their back”.

The forms of loneliness are more numerous than I can list here.  Yet one common denominator that they all share, is the capacity to produce immense pain in the life of the individual.

A Creative Response to Loneliness

Much depends on whether the individual can find viable ways to connect with others over the divide that loneliness creates.  The journey to acheive this is a very individual one.  It often involves much self-discovery, deep level compassion for oneself and discovery of creative resources in oneself, together with finding the courage and affirmation to move beyond old patterns.

cope loneliness

The Capacity to Cope with Loneliness — and to Connect with Others

Loneliness is a fundamental aspect of human experience, encountered in many different ways. It might involve actual physical social isolation.  Yet there is also the “lonely crowd”phenomenon, where one is surrounded by others, even interacting with them extensively, but still not experiencing “being seen” or being “taken in” by them.  It also includes existential loneliness, the awareness of being fundamentally alone with ourselves.

Depth psychotherapy at its best addresses the fundamental loneliness that an individual experiences in his or her life, and can often offer help.  One of the most important aspects of depth psychotherapy in its Jungian form is a safe environment for the individual to be seen and acknowledged in their human uniqueness.  It can also offer very concrete assistance in helping the individual to reach out in relationship and connection across the human divides we experience in our lives.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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


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Effects of Internet Addiction in Later Adulthood

February 26th, 2018 · effects of internet addiction

The media are greatly interested in the effects of internet addiction on the young.  Yet, what about its impact on your life in later adulthood?

effects of internet addiction

Not how we usually think of social media!  (PHOTO: Mike Licht)

We can find any number of commentators to tell us that social media and other internet activities such as interactive games and porn are having enormous negative and addictive impacts on young and incompletely developed minds in our society.  What is often not so clearly discerned is the way that the internet has changed all of us, and threatens to change us even more.  This most definitely includes the effects of internet addiction, in its various forms, on those in full adulthood.  To understand this fully, we need to view our internet usage from the perspective of our journey towards wholeness — our individuation journey.

The Nature of the Effects of Internet Addiction

The Globe and Mail recently published a dialogue between Jim Balsillie, of Blackberry fame, and prominent psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author Dr. Norman Doidge entitled “Can We Ever Kick Our Smartphone Addiction?”  Dr. Doidge asserts,

[U]nlike other addictions that are opposed by mainstream institutions, screen time is being pushed by educators, governments and businesses….  

[T]he chemistry and the wiring of the brain can be manipulated. There are all sorts of behavioural addictions … that take hold because they trigger the same areas of the brain as drugs. People are unsuspecting of digital addiction. That’s because each addiction… has a slightly different form and effect, so it takes a while to recognize any new addiction as such….

Digital tech is especially good at changing our brains without our awareness. The brain is neuroplastic, meaning it has a property that allows it to change its structure and function in response to mental experience….

[W]e should believe [a former Google strategist, who stated] … “The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine human will.” [italics mine] ….  The study of behaviour and the brain has increasingly turned its attention to technology’s power to transform the way we think….  Data gathered from our keystrokes can be used to further addict us, in a tailor-made way, and sold to advertisers and even to politicians… to get us to buy what they are selling.

Important for the Young, Just as Important for Those Older

The level of manipulation and programming of humans that Doidge describes is shocking.  It’s a powerful indictment of internet and social media technologies, and their power to undermine human freedom.  The article focuses on impacts on young people, but adults also need to consider the effects of internet addiction on their lives.  I would stress that this is particularly true for those in mid-life and later, who seek to find their own true core values, and to live out the fullness of who they are in later life.

Life is the Same as It Ever Was

As individuals move through the major life transitions of adulthood into the second half of life, the individuation journey is as important as it ever was.  Life asks us to seek understanding of who we most fundamentally are, to discover as much as we can of the undiscovered self,  and to live in accord with our deepest and most unique values.  We need to do this things, if we’re to feel that our unique lives have any real significance or meaning.

Given the life journey that we’re on, it’s essential for us to give deep and careful consideration to the impact of social media and the internet on our lives.  Canadians spend more and more time online, and the age group where usage is increasing most rapidly is seniors.  We each need to ask ourselves: Am I moving in my own authentic direction, or am I being subtly molded to meet someone else’s expectations and goals for my life through online manipulation?  This can be an area of genuine and deep importance for us, and it may be strongly related to issues of anxiety and depression.

effects of internet addiction

Beyond the Siren Call of Online Life

The fundamental task of depth psychotherapy is to assist the individual in the process of individuation, of finding grounding in her or his own unique identity.  We live in an age where the individual is subjected to relentless but subtle distraction, compulsion and pressure to comply to the demands of others.  This is often especially true in our online life.  Good depth psychotherapy can assist the individual in getting beyond the effects of internet addiction — to which we are all to some degree subject — and to finding the true voice of the unique Self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Eros and the Meaning of Valentine’s Day: Connection

February 13th, 2018 · meaning of valentine's day

If you ask people about the “meaning of Valentine’s Day”,  you might get some pretty cynical responses!

meaning of valentine's day

Some might tell you that it’s a holiday made up to sell more greeting cards, which is, of course, largely true.  An individual therapist might well hear from a client that it’s a sentimental celebration of romantic love, that is sickly-sweet to an even greater degree than many of the confections sold this time of year.  Yet, could it possible be that, under all the froth, there is something of real substance?

Valentine’s Day is a Manufactured Holiday–But…

…the reality to which it refers is a key part of the human experience.

Very often on Valentine’s cards, or boxes of chocolates, you can see a picture of a chubby little childlike sprite with wings — we know him as Cupid.  He is actually the sentimentalized version of the Greek deity Eros.

meaning of valentines day

Who Is Eros?

Eros is the Greek god of sexual love and passion, but really he is a representation of much more than that.  As Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp tells us, Eros is,

[i]n Greek mythology, the personification of love, a cosmogonic force of nature; psychologically, the function of relationship.

So, in Greek mythology, Eros, “love” has a key role in bringing the universe into being. What is more, he is a personification of the entirety of the human desire to be related to others — in any way whatsoever.  As Andrew Samuels puts is, he is symbolically

“The Principle of Psychic Relatedness”

Eros is really the principal of connection.  He represents all the ways in which we connect to, and are aware of, and bond with others, in any way, shape or form.  However that happens in our lives, it’s fundamentally important to our identity.

meaning of valentine's day

Jung stressed the fact that we need to individuate, to become the unique individual that contain the potential to be.  Some people have interpreted that as a call to individualism, a sort of John Wayne-Clint Eastwood-Marlboro Man stance of “me versus the world”.  However, Jung didn’t mean that .  He stressed that there is no way for us to become the unique people that we’re meant to be, or to move towards that goal, unless we are in some way shape or form involved in a serious and important relationship contact with others.

That doesn’t mean that we have to be “in a relationship”, as our culture puts it — meaning “in a romantic relationship”.  But it does mean that we have to be involved in significant ways with others: open to them, connected to them, with empathy towards them, listening to them.  This is especially important at midlife and beyond.

The Need for Connection

Psychotherapists, and especially depth psychotherapists, know that it’s essential for us to be connected to others, for health, well-being and growth.  We now know from attachment theory, developmental psychology and neuroscience that we can’t even become human without human connection.  We certainly can’t individuate, in Jung’s use of the term.

It’s essential for all of us to be connected to others.  In my opinion, that’s the true meaning of Valentine’s Day — or Eros Day, as I would rename it if I could!

Relationship and Psychotherapy

Humans fundamentally need relationship, and often,  an important part of, yes, individual psychotherapy can be enabling the person to find closer connection with others.  The fundamental work of individuation in psychotherapy comes in part because Jungian psychotherapy is a healing relationship.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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


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Dancing with Your Unlived Life: Living Life Without Regret

February 4th, 2018 · living life without regret

Living life without regret is the desire of many who are consumed by past choices, and haunted by thoughts that “it could have been different”.

living life without regret

“If I could turn back time…”      (PHOTO: MattysFlicks)  

Strong regret can impact us at any stage of our life journey.  The human condition is such that, at any point in our life journeys, we may become haunted by “what could have been”.  Or we can feel keenly that we made the wrong choice. Or that we didn’t act, and if only we had, things would have been so much different.
Are there particular stages of life where regret can fasten onto us?  Actually we can feel regret at any  stage of life.  It can hit in a particularly painful, bitter way after the loss of someone we love, however that loss might occur.  It is also often potently strong in the second half of life, when individuals very often start to intensively review the whole of their life story, and to try to understand their lives as part of a meaningful pattern.

The Burden of Unlived Life and Regret

C.G. Jung was among the first to speak of the psychological implications of the “unlived life”, though many have since followed him.  Here is one of his more famous quotes:

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

Here Jung makes the point that the unlived life of an individual is one of the strongest influences on the environment in which an individual finds him or herself.   Jung makes a point of stressing that this unlived life impacts particularly  on the lives of the individual’s children.  We can assume that the influence Jung is describing is certainly not always for the better.

What Is the “Unlived Life”?

What is this “unlived life”?  At its most fundamental level, it relates to who each one of us is.  It relates to those possibilities that exist deep within us that we sense we could have lived out, but have not. As Jungian psychologist Robert A. Johnson reminds us, it relates to those feelings we have that there is something we could have done, something we could have experienced — for which some part of us is deeply yearning.  This unlived life is often there in those three in the morning waking moments, when we realize a profound sense of longing for something that could have been.

All human beings, no matter how talented or successful, have possibilities contained within them which have not been realized.  At least a few of these options, or perhaps quite a significant number, are associated with regret, either explicitly and consciously recognized and acknowledged, or else carried unconsciously, in unacknowledged ways.  Sometimes we exert incredible amounts of effort to keep from acknowledging them.

Unlived Possibility: It Wants Something from Us

The weight of these unlived-out possibilities can grow and grow as we move through our lives.  This can become so intense that, quite frequently around the middle of life, or sometime after, the issue comes to the fore in an individual’s life in a way that demands a resolution.

Even if the issue doesn’t present in quite so dramatic a manner, the unlived life, and the yearning and regret associated with it, may easily become one of the most important issues in our lives.

Getting Creative with Regret

Needless to say, these feelings are not something that we want to carry in an unbalanced way through the rest of our lives.  To imagine living out life in this way might seem intolerable.  Is there anything we can do to reduce the sense of loss, grief and regret?

Is there any way that we can engage with this unlived life, and either somehow live it out, or else make our peace with it?

living life without regret

Living out a childhood passion... leaving corporate life to look after abandoned dogs

Living Life Without Regret

Individuals often enter depth psychotherapy seeking in some manner to work with, and come to terms with, the various aspects of the unlived life.  They seek to find ways to move beyond regret and grief, and into a creative and life-giving living out of possibilities in the now.  Much of this involves coming to terms with and creatively engaging their own life story, and their own personal journey towards wholeness, .

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  MattysFlicks (Creative Commons Licence) ; AmazonCARES (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Counselling for Depression or Anxiety: Will it Work for Me? ~Pt 2

January 29th, 2018 · counselling for depression or anxiety

Continuing from the last post, we’re looking at more of the factors that help to make counselling for depression or anxiety effective for you.

counselling for depression or anxiety

Could it be effective for you?…                            PHOTO: Robert Bejil

As I mentioned at the outset of that last post, therapy or counselling for depression or anxiety can offer unique benefits in helping the individual to peacefully accept him or herself, and in terms of accessing creative and life-giving ways to approach her or his life.  In the previous post, we looked at some ways in which this occurs in effective therapy.  Here, we look at some more…

Am I Really Willing to Forge a Close Connection with My Counsellor / Therapist?

In counselling for depression or anxiety, as in all forms of therapy, the therapeutic relationship is crucial.  Psychotherapy experts such as Prof. John Norcross and others note that the quality of the relationship with the psychotherapist largely determines the success of the counselling or therapy.

If you can:

  • openly discuss how you experience your interactions with your therapist directly with him or her;
  • discuss your positive or negative reactions to your therapist, and,
  • discuss what you imagine your therapist might be feeling or thinking,

you will actually develop a great deal of insight into what is happening inside of you.  (Warning: this isn’t going to happen in the first 3 sessions!}

Being Honest with Myself — In a Way That’s Kind to Me

Therapy or counselling works when we have the courage to be as honest with ourselves as possible.  However, it’s also essential to avoid beating yourself up once you’re been honest!

As many have stated, to make counselling or therapy work you need a combination of non-defensive honesty with genuinely compassionate self-acceptance.  It’s easy to fall into a defensive, self-protective stance when we face an uncomfortable insight into how we’re living and handling situations in our lives.  When we react this way — and we might well, if counselling or therapy are asking the right questions — it’s essential to try as hard as we can to be both honest, and full of love and compassion towards ourselves.

What’s My Basic Personal Story? Am I Willing to Let Go and Change It?

The human mind constructs a fundamental story about our lives in the world.  We use story to help ourselves make sense of the events and complexity of life.  The kind of story we tell ourselves will greatly impact how we feel about ourselves, and on what we expect from our lives, and our relationships.

Depth psychotherapists know that the story we tell ourselves is often largely unconscious.  Yet it’s still extremely powerful.  If we’re in the grips of a story that has us as the hero who must save everyone, or as the perpetual victim, or as the perennial misfit, it can basically run our lives.  Virtually every situation in which we find ourselves can seem to confirm the story.

Are we willing to try to observe patterns in our lives that might give us clues as to the nature of the overarching story in our lives?  It can be very important to take in the big picture in our lives, and then ask — is this story good for me?  Does it really reflect who I am? Am I willing to try and change it — change my beliefs — if it’s a limiting or crippling story that just isn’t fair to me?

Am I Willing to Actually Change Things in My Life?

counselling for depression or anxiety

Experiment!   (PHOTO: NASA)

Are we prepared to act in support of new beliefs or changing attitudes, by doing something concrete in the outer world?  If therapeutic work is to make a difference, the work must extend beyond the therapist’s office, and into our lives.  Am I willing to make appropriate outer changes in my life? To try new and different patterns of activity?  Am I willing to do inner work, like journalling, creative work, or exploring dreams?  Undertaking such concrete, conscious steps may be essential to making my therapy work real and effective in my life.

Counselling for Depression or Anxiety as A Journey to Wholeness

Jungian depth psychotherapy occurs both within the hour of therapy or counselling, but also inside the individual client and in his or her outer life outside of the therapy session.  The integration of these elements structures the journey towards wholeness, .

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  Robert Bejil (Creative Commons Licence) ; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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