Brian Collinson

Journeying Toward Wholeness

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But, What GOOD is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist? -2

February 23rd, 2014 · psychotherapist

Beyond the benefits I outlined in “What GOOD Is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist?, 1” there are two others: 1) developing genuine compassion for oneself; and. 2) passionately living out what’s really me.

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Passion?

 Self Compassion

Sometimes the hardest thing can be having compassion for ourselves.  Sometimes we really need someone to show us the way.

Often, we’ve received the message that there isn’t much or any room in the world for who we most fundamentally are.

Family… school… work… peers… all may have directly or indirectly told us that the person we truly are is not acceptable, and the only thing that is valued are our performances.

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Am I My Performances?

One of the most important things about work with a depth psychotherapist is the way that it focuses us in on who we really are — in depth — and gives us the opportunity to value ourselves for what we are, and to be valued by a supportive other.  It can a revelation to be valued, not for what we do, but for the vulnerable and unique reality that we each represent.

The relationship with the therapist, characterized by what Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard” is a key part of this.  The therapist holds up a mirror to the client that allows the client to see him or herself from a place of compassion.  That compassion is based on a deep level of empathy for all that has brought the client to their present place in life.  The continual effort is to bring the client to see his or her self and life in a comprehensive and empathic way — the way that the therapist sees him or her.

Passion: Living Out What’s Really Me

Too often, people live in a state of alienation from their genuine selves.  We very often get the message from many sources that the things that we really care about and value in life don’t matter, and that we must buckle down and accept “the realities of life”.  Those realities are economic, social, family-related, gender-related, and age-related — along with other constraints.  We learn “the rules”, or “the way it works”.  We can get so far away from what it is that we’re passionate about in life that we haven’t got the first foggy clue what there is that we could actually be passionate about.

The process of “just living” can sometimes remove the joy and the thrill of spontaneity from our lives.  It reminds me of singer John Mellencamp’s,  “Ballad of Jack and Diane”, about two 16 year olds in a small town, that contains those famous gray lines of desperation:

So let it rock. Let it roll.
Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul.
Hold on to 16 as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men….
 
Oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.
They say,
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.

For very many people, it can feel as if the days of passion, of vitality in living are long gone.  Yet something within them remembers the passion and the dreams, what it was like to feel life coursing — and wants to feel it again.  Example: through psychotherapy, a man with a 30 year career in engineering discovers a passion for painting in nature.  As he puts it. “It’s like a door opened, and inside there was a whole new world!  I didn’t know I had this kind of a love for something still in me!”

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Often, work with a depth psychotherapist can begin to open up the connections to an individual’s passion and the real sources of joy in that person’s life. — sometimes in ways that are quite unexpected.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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But What GOOD is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist? -1

February 16th, 2014 · psychotherapist

I’ve being writing several posts about what to look for in a good depth psychotherapist, and what to expect if you go to see one — but what actual good does it do you, if you do?

psychotherapist

Clearly, depth psychotherapy won’t save the world.  Despite the number of big media therapists on daytime and prime time TV, therapists haven’t saved society as a whole.  But then, expecting psychotherapists to redeem the world from its social ills is a bit off base.

The question is really much, much more individual: what can a depth psychotherapist do for you?

An Ally, on the Most Fundamental Level

There is real psychological importance to having an unfailingly supportive ally as you open up your inner life and your own deep story.  We have many people in our lives, but the relationship with a psychotherapist is unique, in several ways.

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Journey’s better with an ally

One of the most important dimensions of the relationship with a depth psychotherapist is the emphasis on acceptance . There are very few relationships in life that truly strive for unconditional acceptance of the other. But that is the active goal of psychotherapy. For many people, to be listened to and accepted in this manner is something that they have never experienced before, that can create a genuine shift in their own relationship to themselves.

Similarly, many people will never have experienced a relationship where the focus is on the deepest and most fundamental things in their personal lives. As Nicholas Carr has pointed out in his book The Shallows, we live in an era where technology is pushing us towards a more and more superficial grasp of our lives. As one wit tweeted:

I used to have a deep and rich inner life ; now I have Twitter.

In this sense, psychotherapy moves in the exact opposite direction. The depth psychotherapist invites me to focus on, and be open to, the formidable richness of my inner life.

In addition, the way that the session with the psychotherapist is structured, with its strict boundaries of confidentiality, creates a safe place, a safe container for me to open up the important aspects of myself in safety, privacy, and support.

Better to Know, Than to Not Know

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Unknown shore of the self

Working with a depth psychotherapist most often brings greater knowledge of the self.  I can’t stress enough that, in the course of a human life, it’s infinitely better to have this knowledge, than not to have it. To wander through my life with no clear sense of my own identity, no knowledge of my own weaknesses and shadow, and no awareness of my deepest needs, yearnings and aspirations, is, to effectively miss living my own real life, to put it bluntly.  It is also to have no real awareness of my impact on anyone else.

C.G. Jung once said, “In each of us there is another, whom we do not know.” But he also said, “It is easier to go to Mars or the moon, than it is to penetrate one’s own being.” The encounter with a depth psychotherapist does not take all the difficulty out of that journey, but it does make it a great deal easier.

I hope that you’ll join me for Part 2 of “What GOOD is it to See a Psychotherapist?”… coming soon.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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Meeting with a Depth Psychotherapist: What to Expect

February 9th, 2014 · psychotherapist

So, if I find a good depth psychotherapist, and I meet with him or her, what can I expect?

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It’s a common question!  Many people wonder just what it would be like to embark on work with a depth psychotherapist.  They may be both attracted to such work, and a little apprehensive.  Just what does occur in such a meeting?

No Judgment

A central characteristic of depth psychotherapy in the Jungian tradition, is that the person who is coming for therapy / counselling (“analysis” as Jungians say) will not be judged or slotted in ways that distort or obscure his or her individual nature.

This means no moral judgment.  Intelligent individuals differ widely about morality.  It’s highly inappropriate for a depth psychotherapist to impose his or her morals , whether in open, explicit ways, or more hidden way. Avoiding the latter , particularly, is a key skill that a good psychotherapist must hone and develop.

But other key forms of judgement must also be avoided. It’s very important that the psychotherapist not impose his or her version of “common sense” on the client, either.  Again:  what is common sense to one intelligent individual is just the opposite to another.

Above all, the therapist must work to enable the client to be free of the collective judgement of “society” or “respectable people”. Often clients are already far too sensitive on this count, and, above all, need to experience an environment where they are free to express their deepest unique selves.

No “Cookie Cutter” Answers

So, almost needless to say, good depth psychotherapy must necessarily avoid “cookie cutter” or “ready made” answers to the dilemmas in an individual’s life.

The depth psychotherapist works with the individual to determine his or her own authentic response to the unique issues that she or he confronts.  This is often requires substantial support , for many of us are deeply wounded when it comes to the expression of our authentic selves.

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Some forms of therapy see the therapeutic goal as helping the individual to become “well adjusted” to society, the community, their work, etc.  A Jungian depth psychotherapist aims to help an individual to become fully who he or she fundamentally is.

Lots of Attention to my Individual Life and Story

A depth psychotherapist emphasizes the unique aspects of your story, and what it is that fundamentally makes you, you.

Often, it can vital for a person to relate their own story, the story of his or her life, and to have it met with genuine, close listening to by someone who is intensely interested in it.  This is not something that individuals get to do nearly often enough.

To look at my story intently, with discernment and compassion, with an ally who is firmly on my side — can lead to enormous growth of awareness of my fundamental identity.

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The “Undiscovered You” Will Get Taken Seriously…

So, you may well become aware of many aspects of yourself of which you were not aware.  This may happen as you examine your reactions to situations, your motivations, and your dreams. (Neuroscientists such as Profs. Solms and Turnbull are increasingly showing us that dreams are far from meaningless regurgitation of debris from the previous day.)

…and Welcomed

To experience these hitherto unknown aspects of myself, in a climate of accepting support from another, can be incredibly grounding and liberating.

I invite you to consider whether working with a depth psychotherapist might be an experience of healing for you, and an important part of your journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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“How Do I Find a Good Depth Psychotherapist?”

February 2nd, 2014 · psychotherapist

Many people might want to do some meaningful personal work, but might wonder how to find a good depth psychotherapist.

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The simple answer: look for someone with the right personal characteristics.  “But how do I do that?“, you might ask.  Well, here are four really good signposts to follow.

1.  Don’t Pick a Psychotherapist with “All the Answers”

The first step in picking a good depth psychotherapist is not to pick a bad one.  Sounds obvious, but here are some important things to think about.

It’s very wise to avoid therapists who rely on glib slogans, or who only look at, feel, or think about the life situations of their clients in superficial ways.  (Example: a therapist who thinks the work is all about the Law of Attraction, or one specific technique.)

Also, watch for the use of psychological bafflegab (e.g., “power words” like “poststructuralist”, “dialectical” or “Lacanian”).  Especially watch for psychotherapists who are always emphasizing the power, insight  and authority of the therapist relative to the subordinate status of the client.  Hiding behind power can indicate a really, really bad psychotherapist.

This seemingly daunting task may come down to trusting your gut.  In other words, how do I actually feel about this potential psychotherapist?

Is the Person Actually a DEPTH Psychotherapist?

If you’re looking for a depth psychotherapist, it’s presumably because you actually want to get into a really in-depth understanding of your inner reality — to really get down to what’s fundamental.  If that’s what you want, then be sure you’re seeing a psychotherapist who wants the same thing.  Some therapists have training that enables them to foster this kind of inner connection.  Some therapists are trained to work in different ways that deliberately avoid this type of connection with the self.  I’m not saying that ‘s wrong, but it is a very different kind of approach with very different goals — and a very different understanding of the human being.

Example.  If a therapist emphasizes strict common sense, logical understanding and rationality, and doesn’t want to engage with feelings, or with aspects of personality that aren’t rational —  you’re probably not dealing with someone who is a depth psychotherapist.

Does the Psychotherapist Listen, and Care About My Story?

This is just pretty darn fundamental.  As Columbia University Professor of Psychiatry Deborah Cabaniss tells us, many studies suggest that the “alliance” with the therapist or counsellor is the single most important indicator of good therapeutic outcomes.

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If I’m going to undertake a major journey with a psychotherapist, I really need to feel that he or she is really, truly listening to me — taking in the unique dimensions of me, and fully understanding how the things that I’m relating actually make me feel.  I have to feel that he or she is really “there with me” in those experiences, whether painful, joyful, meaningful or completely baffling.  And I need to know that this individual deeply cares about my story — really feels that my story matters.

Has This Psychotherapist Done His or Her Own Personal Work?

Closely connected with the point just above,  in choosing a psychotherapist, it’s very important for me to know that the person I’m going to sit with has done their own personal work.  By this  I mean, does the therapist have a good level of understanding of his or her own strongest feelings, motivations and inner life?  This is important because , as the old psychotherapeutic saying goes, you can’t take anyone anywhere that you haven’t been yourself.

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With the right depth psychotherapist, the exploration of Jungian therapy can often make a profound difference in an individual life.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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The 4 WORST Kinds of Help for Midlife Issues

January 26th, 2014 · help for midlife issues, midlife, midlife issues

People try to help those they love who are struggling with midlife issues; but some kinds of help for midlife issues are really, really, stomach-churningly BAD.

help with midlife issues

“YUCK! You actually said THAT???!!!”

Here are 4 of the WORST things to say to someone working their way through midlife transition.

1.  “It’s Just a Phase: You’ll Get Over It”

I call this one the “teenager going through a phase” comment.  It is truly an amazingly unhelpful thing to say!

The changes going on in an individual at midlife are pretty fundamental.  A person may find him- or herself profoundly confused or disoriented.  Certain things previously taken for granted, such as a profession or career, relationships with a significant other, or with friends or significant social groups, or a religious or political affiliation — may simply no longer have meaning.  The individual may be struggling at a very deep level to identify what is of lasting value in his or her life.

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This is not “a phase you’re going through”!  This is not going to pass, with a little rest, a change in diet or a week in Barbados.  Often, individuals go through profound, far-reaching changes at midlife transition.  The best thing that those who care about people in this stage of life can do is to show deep respect for the process.

2.  “Grow Up”

What can I say?  Wow.  This is an even less helpful version of the “teenager advice” thing.  Yet people say this — or think it — with great regularity.

Now, there certainly are people who fit into the “teenager who never grew up” category (von Franz’ Puer Aeternus).  Such people often demonstrate a selfish, entitled outlook coupled with a complete unwillingness to accept any real responsibility for their lives or any recognition of any obligation to others.  Some live out this pattern year after year after year.  There are few things sadder than a 63 year old teenager.  However, the person who seeks help for midlife issues often shows a very different pattern.

Example.  “Joe”, a Chartered Accountant, is the picture of responsibility and commitment.  People see Joe as a rock-steady individual, a competent “straight arrow”.  Yet, now, at 48, Joe is consumed with the idea of training as a glass artisan, moving to Vancouver Island, and opening a studio.  After many years of marriage, as the kids head off to university, he is now uncertain as to whether he and his wife have very much in common anymore, and long-time friends seem to be headed off in different directions.

help for midlife issues

3.  “You’re Only as Old as You Feel”

People say this with the best of intentions, but it negates the reality of the person in midlife transition.  Someone at 48, for instance, is in a different place in life than someone in their early 20s, in very many ways.  They have different priorities, different attitudes and insights, and a whole range of experience of living that they simply did not possess in their early 20s.

We live in a culture that privileges youth, and often devalues the richness of experience, wisdom and depth that people gain as they move through the life journey.  Consequently, we often see getting older as a process of diminishing, rather that as a process of growth in inner richness, and in possible new types of awareness.

4.  “Wait Until You Retire: It Will Get Better Then”

This is well-intentioned, but dangerous counsel.  As Jung famously said,

“It’s good to retire, but not into nothing.”

Sadly, many save and wait for “Freedom 55″ (or 60, or 65) as if some magic kingdom comes with the arrival of a matured pension plan.

help for midlife issues

Welcome as economic freedom is, retirement alone won’t remove fundamental questions around meaning or value in life, around encountering the unexplored or unknown parts of myself, or coming to terms with the unlived possibilities in life.  Only genuinely meaningful soulwork, encounter with my deepest self, and with others, is going to provide the fullness and richness of life that I need as I grow older.

Often, work with a depth psychotherapist can be a key element in finding genuine help for midlife issues.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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What Kind of People Go to a Depth Psychotherapist?

January 19th, 2014 · psychotherapist

Not surprisingly, a lot of people are curious about who it really is who actually goes to see a depth psychotherapist.

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Therapy that explores peoples’ inner depths and even looks at their dreams can seem exotic.  Who are these people who engage in this kind of personal work?

Not Abnormal

One of the most important first things to say about this is that the people who choose to work  with a depth psychotherapist, in the vast majority of cases, are not in any particular way abnormal.  For the largest part, they do not seem to suffer from any kind of major psychopathology.  In fact, they mostly seem to be people who are high functioning, with families, careers and professions, who are reasonably well-educated, and often quite involved in their communities.  Which might leave an observer still asking the question, “OK, that’s great… but why do these people feel the need to see a depth psychotherapist?”

Not Self-Obsessed

Our observer might wonder, “Well, then, is it because these people are a little self-obsessed, or maybe even narcissistic in their nature, so that they are continually needing to think and obsess about themselves?”

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But the evidence would be pretty slim for this theory as well.  Often, the practitioner of depth psychotherapy finds that it’s a great challenge to really get people to look inward, and to really take the time to reflect upon themselves.  This is particularly true in our culture where technology is continually pushing us to send our energy outwards others  through texting, Twitter, Facebook or other social media, and social-media induced angst is rampant, as Prof. Peggy Drexler of Cornell points out.

People Who Feel Something’s Missing

One characteristic that people seem to share who go to see a depth psychotherapist is the sense that something is missing.  That they want a greater sense of depth and reality in their lives, and often a sense that they want to “stop going through the motions” of having a life and find more good, genuinely engaging stuff in their lives.  Sometimes they talk about meaning in life.  Sometimes they talk about self-acceptance, or about just wanting to feel more real.

People Who Want to be More Alive / Aware

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Billie Holiday – singing!

The great jazz singer Billie Holiday said the following about her singing, but it is true about having an individual personal life:

You can’t copy anybody and end with anything.

If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling.

People who go to see a depth psychotherapist are people who yearn to accept themselves, and to live from a place of wholeness, authenticity and reality, in their own individuality.  Often, depth psychotherapy can bring a sense of healing and liberation.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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Counselling for Anxiety: the Deep Story, 1

January 12th, 2014 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety

Counselling for anxiety is a matter of vital importance for a people who live in anxious times, but anxiety mustn’t be approached superficially.

counselling for anxiety

Certainly, in our era, we live in the midst of a wide range of anxiety-provoking factors.  There are economic issues, environmental issues, educational issues, social and technological change, issues concerning health — a multitude.  Yet the profoundest forms of anxiety are connected with our sense of our selves.

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A Depth Approach to Counselling for Anxiety

We will never escape anxiety entirely.  It will always be a part of life.  But to the degree that we are connected to the depths of our personality, and aware and accepting of who we are in depth, to that degree the factors that cause anxiety in our outer lives become more bearable, and manageable.

As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us;

The willingness to open to depth is the chief way in which dignity and purpose return to life.

The Top Priority of the Ego is Security

The ego, that part of our personality that is aware and conscious, is involved in a continual search for certainty and security.  The ego has a story it tells itself about its own life, and about the world, a way that it puts things together.  The ego, which is to say, that part of you or I that is conscious, tends to be highly invested in believing this story. But what if, as is very often the case, the story that the ego tells itself, is either incomplete, or simply not accurate?  What if my “certainties” aren’t really as certain as the ego would like them to be?

Doubt as Threat and Liberator

An example.  Take the case of someone who in early life is given the message by those who are closest that other people — maybe all other people — are fundamentally unworthy of trust, even though there is no evidence of such general unreliability that the young individual can themselves see.  Nonetheless the parental figures to whom the child is attached continue to deliver this delusory message that is contrary to the child’s own experience.  What may well happen is that the child could absorb the message that, because Mom and Dad  believe that such a  thing is true, even though the child sees no evidence of it, it must be that the child cannot trust his or her own judgment or powers of observation.

This lack of trust in the self may abide in the adult self.  The individual may carry a fundamental attitude of mistrust both toward the world, and toward his or her own judgment — even though such mistrust is actually completely unwarranted.  Jungian psychotherapy recognizes that it is only when the individual can come to the place of “saying no” to such an attitude, imparted quite possibly in early childhood, that any kind of real change can occur.

Return to Instinct

counselling for anxiety

Initially, it might not be very easy to tolerate such “rebellious” thoughts — thoughts that are contrary to patterns developed over a lifetime.  Yet such “doubts” can often be an  essential gift.  They can be essentially related to restoring the individual’s connection to his or her deep, instinctual self, and to the primary things which that instinct knows about the world.

 Counselling for anxiety using the approach of depth psychotherapy is often about the process of connection in a new way to the deep, often instinctual, levels of the self.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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Finding Hope: A Depth Psychotherapy Perspective

January 5th, 2014 · Hope

Early in the New Year, hope can be a very important thing, as Jungians and other depth psychotherapists well know.

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Hope is a fundamental human psychological need.

So, What Really Is Hope?

Some authorities, such as psychology Prof. C.R. Snyder of the University of Kansas define hope as “the overall perception that one’s goals can be met.”   However, authorities such as  Prof. Richard Rorty of Stanford have sought to understand hope as about more than just goal setting.

For Rorty, hope is about finding a promise or reason for expecting a better future.  For him, as depth psychotherapists would agree, hope is not just centered around the success of the particular goals that we in our ego-bound way might set.  It’s much more fundamentally concerned with the feeling and belief that life can and will open up in a way that is hospitable to who and what we most fundamentally are.

The New Year’s Resolution as a Symbol of Hope

New Year’s resolutions serve as a particular symbol of hope.  The New Year is a time of renewal, but it is also a time of focus on the future.  We want to believe that the future will be good and trustworthy.  New Year’s resolutions are a concrete and yet symbolic expression of this hope.  It’s as if we’re putting ourselves on the line, and saying, “I believe in the future, and here’s my commitment to it” — at least if we’re sincere in our resolutions!

Hope

Hope as Anchor

The New Testament aptly describes hope as “the anchor of the soul”.  I particularly like this, if we use the word “soul” here, not in some abstract “ghost in the machine” sense, but as referring to our deepest being, our deepest identity.  So that, our hope would then be the anchor of our deepest identity.  My hope would be fundamentally connected with being at home in my most intimate self.

The philosopher Kirkegaard stated  that “The most common form of despair is not being who you are. ”  To not live out of who I most fundamentally am, is a basic failure of hope.

So perhaps rather than trying to bring about this or that moral reform or change of habit, our focus with New Year’s resolutions should be on understanding and being more grounded in our own fundamental real identity.

Hope as More than Goals and Willpower

Jung makes some very relevant comments about his experience with clients:

The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble.  They can never be solved, but only outgrown.  This “out-growing” on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness.  Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of his view the insoluble problem lost its urgency.  It was not solved on its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a newer and stronger life-tendency.  It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light, and so, did indeed become different.

The most important kinds of change result not from the exercise of our will-power, but through greater encounter with our own nature.

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Finding and Living Out of Genuine Hope

Often the journey of discovering our own individuality, accepting it, and living it out can be a source of genuine hope for the individual.  The process of depth psychotherapy is often the best way to foster self-acceptance, and, with it, the sense of hope, and of resilience.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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The Gift: Its Meaning in Life & Individual Therapy

December 23rd, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

In our culture, the Holidays are powerfully associated with receiving gifts: what does the experience of “gift” actually mean, in our lives — and in individual therapy?

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You may be sceptical whether there is any significant link between receiving gifts and individual therapy: bear with me, reader, bear with me!  First, let’s ask: what do gifts mean in human life?

The Spiritual and Material Power of the Gift

Anthropology, the study of human roots, emphasizes that gift-giving is a near universal human characteristic, appearing among the vast majority of human cultures world-wide.  What is it that makes gift-giving so important, so special?

Marcel Mauss, the French anthropologist/sociologist observed that gifts are never truly free.  In the vast majority of cultural situations, giving of gifts is reciprocal.  Mauss became preoccupied with the question: “What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?” He concluded that the gift is more than it seems; that it is endowed with “spiritual mechanisms”, engaging the honour of both giver and receiver.

Gift-giving in most cultures is both a powerful spiritual and material act, because the giver does not merely give an object but also part of her- or himself.  As Mauss puts it “the objects are never completely separated from the persons who exchange them”, and the bond between giver and gift creates an obligation to reciprocate on part of the recipient. To not reciprocate means to lose honour and status, certainly, but in many cultures, failure to reciprocate would means to lose mana, one’s very spiritual power or essence.

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In our own culture and time, we can see the enormous importance and power of reciprocal gift-giving — especially during the holiday season.

Great Gifts that Cannot be Reciprocated

But what do we do with those great gifts that are not given to us by another person, in any normal sense of that word?

The season that we know as Christmas has been associated since the stone age with the return of the sun after the winter solstice.  Today, we can explain the fact that the days start to get longer again as a result of the operation of the laws of physics.  That was not apparent to the primal human societies of the stone age.  It must have been an incredible experience of wonder to those people to see the days gradually grow longer, and to realize that the world was not going to be plunged into an ever greater abyss of endless darkness.  To see the sun return in winter — even though the weather itself would still grow colder for a season — must have been an incredible source of hope for our ancestors.

What does one do, in response to that kind of gift, to the things that life just gives, that cannot be reciprocated?

Individual Therapy, Life and the Gift

We know a whole lot more about physics and astronomy now, but the essential nature of human life has not changed.  Whether I’m explicitly religious or not, I still stand before the great mysteries of life, and the many things that are inexplicable.  Human life still has the same fundamental character of an enormous gift.  To have my life and to be consciously aware: these are realities that I did not create, and even today, it’s awe-inspiring to receive these incredible gifts.

individual therapy

How can I reciprocate?  How can I give back to Life, the Gods, the Universe, the Ground of Being — however I conceive it?  Only by truly receiving the gift, by living to the full, by becoming as conscious as I possibly can.  To both be, and to receive, the gift of myself, and my individual unique life: this is the journey of life, and the journey of individual therapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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The Holiday Season, Belonging & Family Stress

December 15th, 2013 · family, family stress, stress

The holiday season activates a great deal of family stress for many individuals, especially around the issue of belonging.

family stress

Humans are a social species, and we have a fundamental need to not be isolated, to be “part of” important social groups.  But holidays can emphasize peoples’ experience of isolation, family stress and of not belonging.

The Holiday Season Spotlight

The holidays emphasize and re-emphasize  the issue of belonging.  We anticipate that the holidays will be a time of special connection with family and friends. Yet for many, finding that sense of belonging, especially relative to family, can be a difficult, sensitive matter.

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The holidays flood us with images of family togetherness — families frolicking in the snow, gathered around a turkey dinner, opening gifts under the Christmas tree.  These images clearly resonate with something deep within us, as advertisers well know.

But, for very many people, these images bring up the question, “Where do I really belong?”

The Roots of Family

There are deep instinctual foundations that all these images of holiday togetherness touch upon.  It is deeply and widely enough shared that Jungians speak of the existence of certain family archetypes.

Jung makes some very clear pronouncements about the psychological importance of the archetypes associated with family:

How is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles… in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.

There is a part of us deep within the psyche that knows what it is that we want from family members, and how it is that we want to be valued and loved.  We also know, in a very deep way, when that love is not received in the way that we need it.

Family Stress and the Need to Belong

For many at the holidays, there is an awareness that family and others are not giving us the sense of belonging that we need, and this is a painful contributor to family stress.

family stressss

Perhaps the individual has had a life long awareness that he or she cannot receive what is needed from father or mother or family.  Perhaps this awareness has only grown as a part of adult experience.  It may also be that distance, or other factors such as physical or mental illness or family conflict have brought such awareness to the fore.

As the prominent evolutionary psychiatrists Anthony Stevens and John Price remind us, “loss of an attachment figure is associated with grief, despair, depression, and ultimately detachment.”

For many, an open acknowledgement and working through of the grief process around the loss of real or perceived family attachment and belonging can be essential to allow movement into the rest of an individual’s life.  A person may well need to free him- of herself from the ghost of family Christmases past and related family stress to a new sense of belonging with friends and other loved ones who accept and value them on a soul level.

family stress

Authenticity and Real Belonging

Individual psychotherapy may relieve family stress by assisting in the full realization of where one does belong, and with whom.  Above all, it rests on the understanding that the individual most fundamentally belongs to him- or herself, and has the fundamental right to live out his or her own destiny.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

905-337-3946

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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