Journeying Toward Wholeness

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False Self vs. True Self: 5 Second Half of LIfe Realities, B

December 7th, 2015 · false self vs. true self

In Part A, we examined the core issue of false self vs. true self, our deep inner drive to express the true self, and the central importance of that drive at midlife.

false self vs. true self

In this post we’ll examine the central importance of wholeness, and acknowledging who we fully are, as a means of distinguishing false self vs. true self, and, look at attitudes that open the door to the gradual emergence of the true self.

It’s easy to assume that we know all there is to know about our true selves.  Yet generally this amounts to the ego only knowing the ego. It’s when we start to be aware of the aspects of ourselves that are disturbing, surprising and sometimes downright not what we want, that the real journey of self-knowledge begins to open up in front of us.

Often that journey involves the emergence from the unconscious mind, by dreams and other means, of symbols of wholeness.

Wholeness and Images of the Self

The unconscious puts many images in front of us to symbolize the fullness and completeness that is calling us toward greater knowledge of the true self.  Depth psychotherapists know they’re limitless in number, but here are some of the key symbols:

These images draw us.  We may find ourselves drawing them, literally.  If we look, we may even find that these images appear within our dreams.

Self Acceptance and the Later Life Journey

In dealing with the question of false self vs. true self, and authenticity, much depends on our attitude, and whether we can accept the self that emerges, as we discover more about ourselves.

But do we even want to know about some aspects of ourselves?  Elements of the self may well not be very acceptable to our egoss.  Yet  finding a way somehow to tolerate them, to be compassionate to ourselves and to allow them to emerge may be essential for our development.

For example: a person may have sexual fantasies that aren’t acceptable to the ego.  Yet, those sexual fantasies may actually contain something really precious, connected to the soul’s deepest yearnings.  The same may be true of feelings of resentment, envy, sadness or many other types of feelings.  Doing this type of what we call shadow work is an essential part of self discovery in depth psychotherapy.  As Andrew Samuels tells us, “To admit the shadow is to break its compulsive hold.’

false self vs. true self

Here I Am

Some therapists have trouble with the idea of psychological wholeness.  Yet, in psychological work, there is very often a “felt sense” of when we are gaining a greater and more complete kind of awareness of who we are.  There are often feelings of relief that accompy a greater sense of acceptance of who we really are, and of the need to no longer defend ourselves against it.

When we show up as authentically ourselves, there is often a feeling of rightness about this.  Depth psychotherapy starts from the place that, however difficult it is to know some aspects of ourselves, it is infinitely better to know than not to know, always, but especially in the second half of life.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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False Self vs. True Self: 5 Second Half of Life Realities A

November 30th, 2015 · false self vs. true self

As people move through the middle of life, the false self vs. true self distinction becomes more and more meaningful.

false self vs. true self

The false self vs. true self distinction is always important — and certainly always important in depth psychotherapy.  Yet, as one moves through life, the question of “how can I be my authentic self?” starts to grow more and more urgent.

Now, why is that?  Probably for many reasons, but one fundamentally compelling one is that there seems to be something deep within us that is convinced that a key part of the reason that we exist is to express who and what we most fundamentally are.

To help us understand this, the archetypal psychologist James Hillman quotes the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus:

“ETHOS ANTHROPOI DAIMON”

Well, what does that mean?

False Self vs. True Self: the Real Goods

The true self begins to appear very early in our lives, as we experience our bodily life and begin to express ourselves in our early life world.  We simply are, and we express ourselves in a way that flows spontaneously from the core of our being.

false self vs. true self

However, the child can easily absorb the message from the world that their spontaneous self is not very welcome.  We can get the message that the family or other environments are requiring us to “edit” and “censor” ourselves and our genuine reactions.  As Winnicott pointed out, when that happens, the infant’s spontaneity is in danger of being encroached on by the need for compliance with other’s wishes and expectations.

These expectations can become so powerful that they supercede our original genuine and spontaneous sense of self, and flood the self with anxiety.

The individual can be left with a sense of inner emptiness within an outer social shell that appears independent and self motivated.  This is the false self to which Winnicott and others refer.  Jungians often refer to this as the individual being identified with his or her persona.

We Often Don’t Know The True Self

It can often be that, by the time and individual reaches the middle of life’s journey, they have been reflexively meeting the social expectations of others for so long, and so completely that they can no longer distinguish what is truly part of the self, from the false self or persona they have constructed to meet the demands of the world. This would be a situation of strong identification with the persona.

Often, when this situation occurs, it is reflected in the appearance of shadow figures in the dream life of the individual. Dark or aggressive individuals may appear. They may be pounding on the door, they may slip in as burglars, or they may arrive in a myriad of other ways. We know that when they do, there are repressed or dissociated parts of the self, often having to do with strong feelings, that are trying to make themselves part of conscious awareness.

Example:  A female clergyperson, long conditioned to meet the expectations of parishioners to be “nice” and “unselfish”, has a long series of dreams where she is locked in a church, and outside, bikers and thugs are breaking in the doors, and smashing the stained glass, trying to get in.  Ongoing depth psychotherapy work allowed her to explore and stand up for her own desires and needs.

In the second part of this post, we’ll be exploring ways that depth psychotherapy opens up the consciousness of false self vs. true self, and facilitates the journey into the undiscovered self, especially through symbols and images of the Self.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Terrorism, Psychology of Identity & Major Life Transitions

November 23rd, 2015 · psychology of identity

The psychology of major life transitions may seem to have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism — until we look at both from the perspective of the psychology of identity.

psychology of identity

“OK, I give up — how ARE they connected?”

Examining terrorist psychology from a depth psychotherapy perspective can teach us a very great deal about identity, alienation and belonging.  When we look closely, we can see that prospective terrorists exhibit characteristics that shed light on what many people going through intense changes may also feel, only they exhibit them in a very extreme and unregulated form.

Characteristics of Terrorist Psychology

There are certain typical characteristics in the outlook of those who commit terrorist acts.  Experts on the psychology of terrorism like Prof. John Horgan of GSU have shown us that perpetrators of terror again and again exhibit these same characteristics:

 

Psychology of Identity: Identity and Belonging are Fundamental Human Needs

The twin issues of identity and belonging are fundamental to the human psyche.  As social beings, we have an incredibly strong need to feel that we belong to a supportive human group, and that we have a recognized status and identity within that group.  At an even more fundamental level, there is a need for each of us to feel that we are in touch with our own fundamental identity as person — that we “know ourselves“, as the Oracle at Delphi put it, and that we accept and fundamentally value ourselves.

A Tragic Figure

Evidence suggests that often, people who are at risk for becoming terrorists are in profound crisis about their sense of identity and belonging.  For example, there is the tragic story of Hasna Aït Boulahcen.  Boulahen was killed when Abdelhamid Abaaoud,  ringleader of the recent Paris bombings,  blew himself up next to her in the seige of a terrorist cell in St. Denis, Paris, France.   Apparently, Boulahcen had an extremely troubled childhood with very disrupted attachment to family, or anyone, and a succession of foster homes, and became an “unstable lost soul” who “lived in her own world” as an adult, drinking and partying heavily.  Apparently, only 6 months ago, she adopted radical Islamist views and joined the cell run by Abaaoud.

A young woman with no sense of belonging or individual identity, who only found identity by joining a murderous terrorist group.  Tragic on many levels.

Psychology of Identity and Major Life Transitions

transition-town

What this reinforces for us is the importance of the psychology of identity for humans in general, and particularly for those undergoing major life transitions,  It is essential that we accept and value the essence of our own unique personhood.  That is the only road to grounding in our own true identity.

A person undergoing a major life transition, such as career change, divorce, major illness of a spouse or child, or moving from one area or life situation to another, may well find that questions around personal identity become front and center.  As circumstances change in life, we’re brought back to the question of our fundamental identity — what is it that really makes us who we are?

The work of depth psychotherapy is fundamentally concerned with taking individuals into their authentic identity, especially through grounding in the as-yet undiscovered parts of the self.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Just My Type: Jungian Personality Theory & Why It Matters

November 16th, 2015 · Jungian personality theory

Many people know Jungian personality theory; it’s the basis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and other major tests of personality type.

 jungian personality theory

Also, Jung invented terms like “introvert” and “extrovert”, which are still commonly used and discussed today.
What’s less well known is how Jung used these terms, and why he thought that they were important for people’s depth psychotherapy work.  I think that he had some great insights, which are well worth considering.
The following SlideShare is a thumbnail sketch of Jungian personality theory:

The Inferior Orientation and Function

Each personality type has areas of strength, and areas where its capabilities are very weak and limited.  When it comes to orientation, the introvert may quite inept in certain types of social situations.  Similarly, the extrovert may find him- or herself lost when it comes to understanding or even accepting thoughts and feelings that well up from deep inside.

Likewise, a person strong in any one function will face dire difficulty coming to terms with at least one other function.  The true thinking type will have difficulty accessing her feeling; the feeling type his thinking; the sensation type will be all at sea and scared of his intuition; and the intuitive may be blissfully disconnected from his sensation.

Yet, it’s very important for psychological completeness, and for just being comfortable in our lives, that we start to come to terms with these undeveloped and unexplored parts of our personalities.  This is an on-going aspect of depth psychotherapy.

jungian personality theory

The Problem with Many Approaches to Personality Type

Many otherwise good writers on the subject of personality type have a static view of the personality.  They seem to just feel that once you’re learned that you’re an introverted person with a strong thinking and a fairly strong intuition, you’ve learned all that you need to learn for career, relationships and basically the rest of your life.

However, this is far from true.  Our personality type moves and shifts as we progress through the life journey.  For instance, a person who is strongly extroverted in their 20s may find that they are considerably more introverted by the time they arrive in their 50s.  This is an important thing to know, and it makes a huge difference in our lives — career and vocation, love life, recreation, and family life.  In Jungian work, we need to be aware of our typology, and we need to be aware of how it’s changing.

What’s Trying to Emerge — In You?

So, it’s important to know your personality type.  Otherwise, many aspects of your personality will remain inexplicable to you.  Yet, it’s also very important to start to discern where new things are beginning, in the form of new attractions, new stirrings in the unconscious, and new types of reactions to people in your life.

One of the most important parts of depth psychotherapy work, can be experiencing your personality type, and also developing awareness of changes in personality type as part of the journey to wholeness and the undiscovered self.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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The Angst of October: Anxiety and the Future

November 9th, 2015 · anxiety and the future

Anxiety and the future have always been bound together, but, in our time, they often weave together in particularly formidable ways.

anxiety about the future

How can we deal with our anxiety, when the future comes calling, and asks us hard, painful questions?

anxiety about the future

Canada’s October Election: One Great Big Ball of Anxiety

Canada has just been through a very demanding and stress-laden election.  It was a remarkable election, especially for the way in which anxiety and the future injected itself into every aspect of the election.

Anxiety drove events, through deep concerns about the economy, youth, terrorism, the environment, human rights — and so much more.  The two main contending parties showed this in their campaigning.  Stephen Harper’s Conservatives used the slogan “Protect Our Economy”, stressing the threats to Canada’s economic health.  Justin Trudeau’s Liberals asserted that survival of the middle class was at issue.  It’s not unreasonable to think that anxiety governed the decision of many at the polls.

Now, Canada is far from alone in these concerns.  Depth psychotherapists know that they are rampant across the globe.

Anxiety and the Future Come Together in Our Lives

As James Hollis tells us, entire generations may be plunged into anxiety “if the mythological carpet is pulled from under their feet.” In our society, it’s certainly true that, for most, cultural values have become less clear and traditional cultural and religious institutions have much less capacity to comfort.  Also, across our society, there’s much less of a shared understanding of the world.

What’s more, change –technological, economic, social — occur at breakneck speed.  We simply don’t know what to expect of our world, or how to control it.  To the depth psychotherapist, this is a clear recipe for anxiety!

Normal vs. Toxic Anxiety

We can focus our anxiety on the actions of politicians.  Yet, what’s really behind the anxiety is our lack of control over an uncertain future.  We get upset at politicians, perhaps with justification.  However, this masks the greater fear that anything  can and might happen in the future.  We must face, while yet moving forward into our lives.

As Hollis tells us, to be alive is to have anxiety — but, there is an essential difference between normal anxiety and anxiety that is neurotically crippling.  Our anxiety becomes a problem in psyche only when it restricts us from living our lives as fully as possible.

Security in Our Own Being

To deal with anxiety with resilience, we need to be grounded in secure acceptance and knowledge of ourselves, rather than repressing key parts of our feeling and emotional life, and being at war with ourselves.  Many of us learn in childhood and youth, though, that we have to split off the unacceptable parts of ourselves.  As commentators like famous psychoanalyst Dr.  Alice Miller have noted, splitting from ourselves only makes anxiety about the future worse.

anxiety and the future

To move beyond this splitting, and to allow the liberated feeling underlying the anxiety to express the true passions of our soul — this is the most solid and lasting way to have resiliency in the face of anxiety.  Such work is the flesh and blood of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Finding the Meaning of the Second Half of Life: 4 Creative Ways

November 3rd, 2015 · finding meaning of second half life

Finding the meaning of the second half of life matters a great deal, if the later part of life is going to give us the gift of discovering who it is that we truly are.

finding meaning of second half life

I don’t mean “the” meaning in the second half of life, as if to suggest that there’s a single one-size-fits all meaning.  Rather, experience from depth psychotherapy and Jungian work suggests that this sense of meaning is something very uniquely personal.
The exploration of what we personally find meaningful is essential for fulfillment in the second half of life, in particular.  What’s full of life for you?  It may well be a major part of a life’s work to find it, and live it out.
In the SlideShare presentation that follows, I look at some creative ways in which we can begin the essential soul work of finding the meaning of the second half of life.

 

Opening Doors to the Undiscovered Self

One very creative thing that we can do, is to open ourselves to new experiences, that may well be experiences that don’t fit with previous images or concepts of ourselves.  We can learn some surprised things about ourselves by doing this.

One man I know developed an interest in Pre-Raphaelite painters. after spending most of a working life as an accountant, and joined a group of afficionados.  Another, who had seen himself as rather introverted, joined an improv comedy group.  A female acquaintance bought a motorbike, and rode to the most remote parts of North America.

Creatively Retelling Your Own Story (Personal Myth)

An important way of connecting with the things of greatest meaning in our lives can be through re-visiting and retelling the fundamentals of our life story.  It may well be that, if we look at our lives from a somewhat different angle, we may find a sense of meaning and importance in our lives that we may not have seen previously.  A classical example of this would be someone who perhaps had a very difficult early life, who, looking at that life, realizes that certain themes and patterns have been apparent from an early age, and have made their life what it is and given it meaning.  It is no accident that Charles Dickens, himself virtually an orphan, wrote many of the 19th century’s most moving novels –precisely about orphans, drawing on the orphan archetype in a way to which all can relate.

finding meaning of second half life

This is one area where depth psychotherapy can be of vital importance as it helps us to open up our life experience, and to understand the psychological meaning of all that has happened to us as the quotation of Prof. James Hillman above suggests.

Setting the Arts Free

Not surprisingly, working with the arts can be of profound importance in accessing our creativity, and, connected to it, the meaning of our lives.  It is surprising how much of the unconscious mind is reflected in art work that we do.  This enables us to see aspects of ourselves that are not as well known to our conscious selves — perhaps not known at all.  Contained within that revelation of ourselves often are the germs of finding the meaning of the second half of life.

Dealing Creatively with Your Dreams

A final creative way to find meaning is often available through understanding and dealing creatively with the dreams that appear in your life.  This is very hard to do on your own, and is another area where being in depth psychotherapy can be of tremendous help, in enabling dreams to be a springboard for creative insight, and creative living that carry us into our life’s meaning.  This is a topic I hope to discuss much more in the near future.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Feeling Stuck in a Relationship? How to Move Forward — & Why, 2

October 28th, 2015 · feeling stuck in a relationship

As we saw in Part 1, feeling stuck in a relationship can be a major turning point in an individual’s life journey — so much so that it often has the character of a major life transition.

feeling stuck in a relationship

To confront and begin to move through the awareness of stuckness in a relationship is often a profoundly transitional event.  It may result in the end of a relationship, but it will almost certainly result in a significant psychological shift in ourselves, quite possibly also in the other who is in the relationship with us, and in the transformation of the relationship itself.

Is It Them or Is It Me?

When I feel stuck in a relationship, how much of it stems from me, and how much from my partner?  If, for instance, I become aware that my relationship always stays in “the shallows” or that it lacks passion, the question arises, what is my role in creating this stuck state?  And how much stems from the way my partner is in the relationship?

Relationship and the Call to be Oneself

Psychology professor and Jungian Verena Kast has written about  the inner archetypal image of the relationship of the creative and receptive (or “masculine” and “feminine”) elements that we all carry within our unconscious psyche.  This is both an image of our inner psychic wholeness, and a reflection of what we’re looking for from a partner in relationship.  Often the partner to which we’re attracted has particular strengths and qualities in areas where I experience a lack within myself, and, similarly, I have strengths in areas where they may experience a lack.

So far, so good.  However, the problem comes in our need to separate or inner image of relationship, and our actual relationship with our partners, from the emotional impact of the experience of our parents and their relationship.  This is what Kast and many others refer to as our parental complexes.  We can think of a complex as a powerful emotional “knot” or “program” that can interfere with an emotional situation in which we’re involved, and can hijack our perception of the situation and our emotional response to it.  Complexes can completely distort our view of a situation, and our response to it.  Few complexes are more powerful than our parental complexes.  And depth psychotherapy knows that few situations involve the parental complexes more than our relationships.

Am I seeing my partner for who they actually are, or are my perceptions shaped by complexes based in experience of my mother and/or father?  Opening up the complexes creating stuckness may require us to look at parts of ourselves that are not entirely easy to look at.

divine-marriage

The Myth of the Sacred Marriage

Stuckness may take me to the archetypal core of why was I initially attracted to my partner.

Kast points out that, on the unconscious level we are all subject to relationship fantasies stemming from the mythological image of the sacred marriage.  This archetype involves images of the marriage of the eternal masculine and feminine, often portrayed as a marriage of the gods. There is danger in identifying my relationship with the perfection of the sacred marriage, and in expecting my partner to live out these incredibly high ideals — as if he or she was a god.

Such a union of opposites is something that has to take place within my own being, and, viewed in that way, is one of the images of  the journey to wholeness we call individuation.

To journey to wholeness we have to accept all of ourselves, strengths and flaws alike, and we have to accept our relationships for what they are, including where we feel stuck in a relationship.  In this kind of therapeutic personal work, we confront our own real lives, and tke responsibility for them.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Feeling Stuck in a Relationship? How to Move Forward — and Why

October 19th, 2015 · feeling stuck in a relationship

Many people enter depth psychotherapy because they’re feeling stuck in a relationship.  Relationships are vital to us, but they cause genuine suffering when they aren’t working well.

reeling stuck in a relationship

How do you begin to move beyond relationship stuckness?  And why is it so important to do this?  These questions apply to all intimate romantic relationships, regardless of sexual orientation.

What Does Feeling Stuck in a Relationship Look Like?

Very often, but not always, people know when they are stuck in a relationship. There are some standard situations that therapists and in fact almost everyone would describe as being stuck.

The relationship that is completely loveless would be the most obvious example of this. So would relationships that are physically or emotionally abusive. Then there is the relationship that is actually dangerous in terms of physical, emotional or financial safety (addiction issues particularly come to mind here.)

However, in addition to these very obvious, glaring examples, there are relationships the just feel claustrophobic for lack of a better word. A person may certainly feel that their relationship is stuck if they have a strong sense that they can’t really be themselves in their relationship. Another, related criterion would be if a person does not feel seen or valued by their partner.

feeling stuck in a relationship

So, What’s the Big Deal?

So, why does feeling stuck in a relationship really matter so much?  Well, University of Zurich Professor of Psychology and Jungian analyst Verena Kast has done some very important research with people in mourning for the loss of a long term partner.  This research demonstrates some very striking things.

Her work shows that, very often, there are very powerful unconscious fantasies that underlie relationships with romantic partners. When we understand these powerful fantasies that bind us to the partner, something within us gets liberated, and we are able to meet our lives much more creatively.

Understanding these fantasies enables us to see what it is that gives a relationship vitality, and also allows it to impart meaning in terms of our development as individuals.  What is more, these fantasies also explain the feelings of rage, stuckness and sterility when the partner does not match up to, or in fact actively sabotages, the unconscious fantasies.  These are all important dimensions of individual psychotherapy concerning relationships.

Feeling Stuck in a Relationship: The Individuation Story

If your relationship with a significant other feels like a roadblock on your individuation path, that likely means that the relationship need some very close attention, probably leading to a deepened understanding of both yourself and your partner.

feeling stuck in a relationship

            Relationship Claustrophobia

A question that people often have is, should I be exploring this kind of issue in individual therapy work, or in couples’ work?  I would strongly recommend starting with individual work, as it will clarify a person’s understanding of themselves, which enables the person to see the true nature of the relationship much more clearly.  If doing couples’ work makes sense afterwards, the individual will bring a great deal more insight to it, after having done some individual work

In the second part of this post, we’ll look more closely at the issue of figuring out “what’s really coming from me, and what’s coming from my partner?”, and we’ll examine more on the whole question of relationship, stuckness and the call to be oneself.

As C.G. Jung said, being in close relationship with someone is essential to seeing and understanding our deepest selves and our own individuation process.  Stuckness in relationship, while undeniably painful, may be offering us an important pathway to our true selves.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Thanks: Depth Psychotherapy, Positive Psychology & Gratitude

October 12th, 2015 · positive psychology gratitude

Canadian Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude for the good things in our lives, and a good opportunity to examine the subject of positive psychology and gratitude.

gratitude positive psychology

Positive psychology is a movement in psychology in recent years that, among other things, emphasizes the importance of gratitude and giving thanks to create psychological strength and a sense of well-being.  From a depth psychotherapy perspective, what are we to make of this?

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology focuses on personal growth rather than on pathology, which, unfortunately, some approaches tend to emphasize. Depth psychotherapy, especially Jungian approaches, would whole-heartedly concur with this emphasis.

Positive psychology also emphasizes that humans are more often drawn by the future than driven by the past.  Jung would agree.  He was always curious about what was trying to develop in a person’s life.

So, much in common.  But depth psychotherapy and positive psychology differ somewhat in their attitudes toward happiness and fulfillment, and in the attitude of positive psychology toward gratitude.

Gratitude and “Mental Strength”

Some emphasize that cultivating the habit of gratitude yields positive psychological benefits.  It’s not uncommon to find supporters of positive psychology saying things like “Grateful people measure as happier, as having more social connectness, and as experiencing less depression. Adopting an attitude of gratitude leads to genuine benefits.”  The suggestion is that one should be grateful because of all the benefits that being grateful will bestow.

Some who embrace positive psychology also suggest that it’s important not “feel sorry for yourself”.  Avoiding this will apparently bring positive gain.

I’ll admit that this “not feeling sorry for yourself” thing pushes a personal button of mine.  I grew up in a home where the phrase “Don’t feel sorry for yourself!” was employed very liberally.  It took me decades to figure out that the phrase was actually code for…

positive psychology gratitude

                           DON’T. FEEL. ANYTHING.

Genuinely feeling gratitude is important. However, to use gratitude to block other equally valid feelings, such as sadness, frustration, anger or grief would thwart psychological wholeness.  Feelings exist for a reason, and they need to be acknowledged. As Jung put it, “Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.”

Also, using gratitude as a way to generally feel better in life doesn’t really acknowledge the true psychological role of gratitude.  Gratitude is a perfectly valid and important emotion, but only if it spontaneously arises from the particular situation in which I find myself.  The same is true of all emotional states.  I shouldn’t try to use gratitude to feel good all the time, anymore than I should be using sexual arousal to feel good all the time.  Each emotion has its place; “to everything there is a season”.

What is Genuine Gratitude?

We only experience gratitude in contrast with things for which I can’t possibly be grateful.  Humans have many difficult, painful experiences.  To suggest that others should be grateful for these experiences would almost be to mock them.

gratitude positive psychology

Genuine gratitude comes from the authentic self.  When others, Life, God or the Universe give us something to which we respond in joy and thanks, something in us opens; we know we haven’t “whipped up” this feeling.  Like numinous awe, experiences of gratitude come from a sphere outside of the realm of the ego and its projects.  The psychology of the unconscious identifies gratitude as coming from the larger personality beyond the conscious control of the ego.

positive psychology gratitude

Where am I Grateful?

Thanksgiving has parallels in almost all cultures and religious traditions, and entails examining our lives for those things for which  we feel genuine gratitude.   From a depth psychotherapy perspective, it’s essential to acknowledge those places where life comes to us as a simple and genuine gift.  I wish you and those you love a very Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Eros: Towards a Depth Psychology of Relationship, 2

October 5th, 2015 · psychology of relationship

For all the reasons we looked at in the last blog post, a depth psychology of relationship needs to be resourceful, creative and intentional about connection with others.  So where do we begin?

psychology of relationships

At the end of the last post, we looked at Eros, and what that means in terms of connectedness and relationship.

Where Does Eros Lead Me (Depth Psychology of Relationship)?

psychology of relationship

True eros involves our individuality as human beings.

If we agree with Adolf Guggebbuhl-Craig that eros is the attribute that makes us loving, creative and involved, then we have to acknowledge that we face many pressures that are anti-eros.

Much in our time blocks loving creative involvement with other people.  Even in relationships that should be intimate and loving, we can treat others as utilities or tools, rather than full persons in their own right.  Consider an average couple, facing the strident demands of two careers, children’s academic and programming needs, relentless technology and media bombardment and continual messages of economic anxiety and uncertainty.  It can be easy for even the most loving couple to end up treating each other in mechanized ways that don’t acknowledge the other’s full humanity.

For depth psychotherapy, eros is about cherishing the uniqueness of the other, valuing the individual’s story and building up their most vulnerable and delicate parts.  Eros uncovers what is uniquely meaningful in the other’s life.

Beyond Mere Sexuality

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Our era often completely sexualizes eros, as Freud did. Freud saw sexuality as one of the two great drives that motivated human beings — and consequently, saw eros as narrowly sexual.  Incidently, because he saw eros as narrowly about sexual gratification, he saw humans as eternally locked into a fundamental conflict between our sexuality and the demands placed on us to be civilized human beings.

Freud’s era was repressive, but our culture sexualizes everything, and, what’s more, makes sexual connection, “hooking up”, a very impersonal way to gratify our own needs.  This is not genuine eros.

Jung and later depth psychotherapists see it differently.  For them, eros belongs, on one side, to sexuality and our animal nature, and on the other to the highest forms of the spirit: “[Humanity] thrives when spirit and instinct are in right harmony”.

Eros, Instinct and Spirit

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Roots and Wings

Much great music, art and literature concerns erotic love.  For humans, eros is not just a matter of biological functioning, but is also a matter of the deeper levels of meaning in human life.  However, just as sexuality on its own is not enough, so “spirituality” on its own is not enough.  We need both an instinctual and a spiritual dimensions for the meaningful fulfilment of eros, whether this is in a sexual relationship — or the experience of mystical encounter with the Divine, however we might conceive that.

Eros and Will to Power

In our time, eros tends to degenerate into either impersonal “hooking up”, or else, what Jung, after Nietzsche and Adler, called “will to power”: the drive to control someone who should be an object of love.  Given the pressures that people like our couple referred to above face, it’s easy to drift into using power tactics to control the other, and get them to do what we want.  Yet, as Jung has it,

“Where love reigns there is no will to power, and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.”

Approaching the other in genuine eros means seeking to understand and support the other in his or her individuality, rather than using coercion or power tactics.  When we coerce the other, we’re probably not actively loving the other — or ourselves.

Our journey toward wholeness is not a “lone wolf” experience.   It takes us inward, but also takes into relatedness to others: these are two parts of the same reality.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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