Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How Do I Forgive Myself? For Many, A Crucial Life Question

October 15th, 2018 · how do I forgive myself

How do I forgive myself?  For a great many people, the importance of this question cannot be overestimated.

how do I forgive myself

For an awful lot of us, there may be events in the past (or present) that come with a crushing load of guilt.  Almost all of us at one point or another have suffered from an abiding sense of guilt about something that we’ve done, often that has affected others in a very painful way, that has involved the betrayal of some fundamental trust, or that has let others down in some fundamental manner.  Certainly that’s my experience, and I strongly suspect that it is the experience of many readers.
An individual can suffer from a general, pervasive sense of guilt, or they may have a small number of particular things that leave them with that feeling — or she or he may be struggling with both.  This feeling of guilt is often associated with feelings of shame.

 “I Just Can’t Let Myself Off the Hook”

Depth psychotherapists are very aware of just how big an issue self-forgiveness can be.  The issue appears with a stunning amount of regularity in our consulting rooms.  And with good reason.  Many experts would describe self-forgiveness as the most difficult psychological challenge that we as individuals will encounter in life.

The situations where individuals are most clearly seeking self-forgiveness often have to do with the feeling that the person has inflicted undeserved pain on another, or others.  So there is actually a complex relationship between guilt, empathy for others, and being tormented by the question, “How do I forgive myself?”  It may well be the most empathetic of people who actually feel the most need to find a way to forgive themselves.

In any case, there can be a great deal of pain associated with an inability to forgive oneself.

When A Person Runs From, or Ignores Guilt

If an individual finds that he or she can’t forgive him- or herself, it can result in serious problems.  This can be particularly true in individuals who deny or avoid the question of “How do I forgive myself?” when it is actually a pressing matter.

Individuals who carry a suppressed burden of guilt may find it “leaking out” in various ways.  It may turn into anger turned inward on the self.  When that happens, it may turn into self-defeating or self-destructive behaviour that can play out in all kinds of circumstances from work to relationships.  It may also result in physical illness or psychological coping problems, such as anxiety or depression.  Or, it may turn into a profound sense of over-obligation, with a overwhelming tendency to take on utterly inhuman levels of responsibility, commitment and sacrifice.

Unacknowledged unforgiven guilt may also turn into anger projected out at others.  This can have very negative consequences for the individual, or for other people.

Accepting Myself — In Detail

In many respects, the answer to the question “How do I forgive myself?” is inextricably bound up with the acceptance of what it means to be human.  To be a human being means coming to accept the human state as limited and imperfect.

We all acknowledge this to be true on the abstract big-picture level.  It can be quite a different thing for us when we have to accept it as being true about ourselves on a very concrete, down-to-earth level.  Acknowledging that I am human, that I am capable of doing things that are callous, cruel or brutally negligent — this takes us into the territory of what Jungian psychotherapists call the shadow.  The shadow can be described briefly as those parts of ourselves that we do not wish to acknowledge.  As Jung famously said, “The most difficult thing is to accept oneself completely.”

We can begin this work of self-acceptance which is tied to self-forgiveness, on our own.  However, it’s often of tremendous support to work with a compassionate, supportive psychotherapist.  A good therapist can help us find the way to make real peace with our vulnerable, fallible but preciously unique selves on the journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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What Do I Want To Do With My Life?

October 1st, 2018 · what do I want to do with my life

“What do I want to do with my life?”  Does this sound like a question relevant only to late adolescence?  Don’t be too sure of that!

what do I want to do with my life

Certainly, the question is very important to people in the post-high school period. At that time, individuals are confronted with big decisions about what studies they will undertake, and the potential career path they will follow, along with many other vital choices. Yet, this question has a great relevance long after that time in life.
For example, consider how important this question is for many people going through midlife transition.  At this stage in life, individuals are often well aware that time is passing and life is passing, and so the question of “What do I want to do with my life?” takes on a whole new level of meaning — and urgency.  It can become an absolutely crucial matter!
If anything, this may be even more true for an individual still further along his or her life journey, say, during the years immediate prior to, or immediately after, retirement.  The days and years have become even more valuable at this stage in life!  And the question of what to do with those precious days — what is good for me, now — is unavoidable.
This question is much broader than simply “What job do I want to do?”, although it often certainly includes that.  This is a question about what is meaningful and valuable in all aspects of my life.

How Do I Get to MY Answer to This Vital Question?

“What do I want to do with my life?” is an intensely personal question.  To come up with anything like a satisfactory and meaningful answer, it’s necessary to examine oneself very carefully.

When we initially ask ourselves this question, we may draw a complete blank!  We may be so used to “going with the flow” in terms of the expectations of others close to us, or of society as a whole, that we find it hard to even get in touch with what we really feel is important to do with life.  Sometimes, when people have been driven by necessity long enough, it can seem impossible to get in touch with our deepest real desires.  I recall a time in early mid-life when I felt just this way myself.  Yet, as I know from my own experience, seeking a satisfactory answer to this question is well worth the effort, in terms of feeling that one has had “the life well lived”.

Maybe surprisingly, as Jung pointed out, sometimes we find clues about what’s really important to ourselves by looking at what what we really loved to do as a child…

The Perils of Not Honouring My Individuality

Given our highly pressurized modern world, it can be easy to “keep on keeping on”, just doing what we’ve always done, without making the attempt to get in touch with what we really want for our lives.  Yet, if we’re really not doing what we want with our lives, the question can come back to us in some very powerful ways.  We may experience intense burnout; we may experience substantial anxiety and/or depression.  We may even get to the place where we feel that we have substantially missed our lives.

What I DO Want to Do with My Life

It doesn’t have to turn out like that.  We can find ways to cope with the question “What do I want to do with my life?” — and with the answers that emerge from it.  As Jungian Robert A. Johnson points out, we need to find a way to live out the life in us that remains unlived, either literally or symbolically, if we’re to feel at all fulfilled.  This just keeps getting truer and truer the further we go on our life journey.

Focusing on the question of “What do I want to do with my life?” helps us to bring into focus our deepest desires, and to get a sense of where we want to take our lives.  Depth psychotherapy can often help even more us to see ourselves clearly, however.  It often enables us to become more conscious of the unacknowledged parts of ourselves, and gives us a non-judgemental space in which we can explore how we might want to live out our truest calling — to be who we really are.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Should I Leave My Marriage? — Some Further Reflections

September 24th, 2018 · should I leave my marriage

Should I leave my marriage?  As we saw in the last post, this is an agonizing question for many people.  In this post we’ll be looking at some other related key questions.

should i leave my marriage


Having been divorced, I’ve experienced how complex the question “Should I leave my marriage?” can be.  Often, it seems there are a lot of more specific questions about our lives that we may have to answer before we can give a firm “yes” or “no” to the question of leaving or staying.
Once again in this post, the focus will be on the questions that an individual must face, rather than those questions that might be more appropriately worked on by a couple in couples’ therapy.  There most certainly is a very important dimension of individual decision-making involved, and that’s what we’ll be looking at here.
So what kind of questions might precede a decision to stay or go in a marriage?  There are very many, but here are a few important ones that the individual may have to contend with.
Can I really find what I need in this marriage?  This broad question requires being generally honest about all aspects of the marriage, and how it really fits with what we need.
Is marriage really for me?  Perhaps I have to be honest in confronting whether I’m really well-suited to being tied down in any marriage?
Do I really love somebody else?  Have I gotten involved with someone else?  And, if I have, the real test of honesty may be in asking — is my “outside” relationship a love relationship, or is something else going on?
What about my unlived life?  Are there fundamental aspects of who I am that I really need to live out, in some form — and, if so, are they compatible with this marriage?
What, really, is keeping me in this marriage?  Love?  Kids?  Fear?  Money? Sense of duty or guilt?

Facing Key Questions May Mean Facing the Shadow

Answering the questions above may well mean that I have to confront what Jungians call the shadow, which C.G. Jung once defined as “that in ourselves which the ego refuses to acknowledge.”  In other words, it is those aspects of our whole personality that everyday consciousness is not comfortable with, and would sooner pretend don’t exist — all our thoughts, feelings, desires and intuitions that are not acceptable.

Is the shadow evil?  No, not necessarily.  It may contain parts of ourselves that, for some reason or other we find it very hard to acknowledge, but which may actually be very precious.  Does the shadow contain evil?  Yes it might well contain some things that don’t fit with our espoused values or morals at all.  It may be extremely hard to accept or admit that these thoughts or feelings are there.  Yet acknowledging their existence may be absolutely essential to our well-being, our wholeness as a person — and to having any kind of healthy perspective on our marriage.

You Can Run, But You Probably Can’t Hide

The shadow is hard to face.  It leads us to ask questions like those above, and the answers may not always be very easy to tolerate.  Yet,  depth psychotherapists know that a prolonged refusal to look honestly at our feelings, thoughts and reactions in marriage in a self-compassionate way can lead to lasting trouble.  If we fail to look at our real thoughts, feelings, yearnings and resentments, it can certainly pave the way to anxiety and/or depression, possibly quite severe in character.  It might also lead to a host of other issues, such as self-medication with various forms of addiction  — from gambling to alcohol to porn to drugs to work — or physical illness.

Leaving or Staying — But First, Facing the Questions

The best way to come to terms with the “should I leave my marriage” question is to identify, face, and do our best to answer some of those tough, more specific questions about your marriage as described above.  Trying to be as honest with yourself as you can be is a key element.  It’s often a great deal of benefit to consult with a depth psychotherapist when considering the question of leaving or staying in a marriage, or dealing with any other major life transition.  It can be of tremendous value to gain knowledge of yourself and to gain support for yourself in the midst of such a demanding time.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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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

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© 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!


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

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© 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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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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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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