Brian Collinson

Journeying Toward Wholeness

Merry Stuff-mas: Depth Psychotherapy, Being & Having

December 2nd, 2013 · depth, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Depth psychotherapy is deeply concerned with our real identity; one key dimension of  that identity is the distinction between being and having.

depth psychotherapy

The fascinating photo above was included in a flyer sent to my home just before Black Friday by a major wireless and internet services provider.

It shows a family moment of warm togetherness in some outdoor setting.  Four people and 3 electronic devices – 2 smartphones and a tablet — visible in the picture.  The people appear very connected, with laughter, smiles and lots of touch.  Apparently, wireless content is being shared between them, and, somehow, it’s the source of all this warmth, mirth and belonging.  The picture implies that if we get more wireless services, we’ll get more family connection.


 Fantasy Spells and Stuff

Actually, many experience wireless technology as alienating and isolating people, and as reducing conversation and interaction.  To go to a shopping mall or restaurant in 2013 is to see masses of people hunched over,  making love to their devices rather than interacting with others.

It’s striking how the above picture ties into our yearning for connection, belonging and participation in family in the fullest sense of the word.  It’s a wonderful fantasy of warmth and love, apparently associated with this technology — even though our real world experiences of it is often the exact opposite.

Our era bombards us with messages that more  – more stuff, the right kind of stuff — will solve the problems in our lives.  Particularly the problems of relationship, meaning and feeling secure in who we are.

Consumer goods get associated with fantasies, which advertising spreads through our whole society.  The promise is that, if only we own the product being sold, our lives will be more.

Archetypal Hijack

Advertising for “stuff” often taps archetypal themes.  Certainly, the above picture holds some of the most significant archetypes — Mother; Father; Family and Belonging, or attachment.

Archetypal themes exist in the human psyche and point us toward the things in human life that matter, and that are meaningful.  But the above advertisement implies that archetypally based needs can be met cheaply, and without really opening up or exploring our lives in any meaningful sense — by simply owning stuff.  To own the product is somehow to possess or live the fantasy associated with the product.

Depth psychotherapy

Being and Having

Our society is fundamentally confused about the distinction between being, or in other words having a life, and having possessions.  Advertising seduces us into fantasies associated with certain types of possessions.

As humanistic psychologist Erich Fromm put it:

 The difference between being and having is the difference between a society centered around persons and one centered around things.  Modern humanity cannot understand the spirit of a society that is not centered in property…

The being/having tension arises profoundly during the holidays.  Ostensibly, this season celebrates the transcendent values of several of the world’s great spiritual traditions.  Yet, in North American society, it often turns into a glorification of stuff, and of fantasies associated with owning the right stuff.  So, a season that should celebrate what is of deepest meaning in human life can often turn into a very degraded spectacle of the opposite.  Case in point: this now fairly famous video taken at a sale display of  televisions in a Wal-Mart on Black Friday:

Is this really what we’ve come to?  Apparently, the fantasy of “joy through stuff” isn’t quite working out.

Depth Psychotherapy and the Treasure of the Self

Depth psychotherapy focuses us on authentic connection with the archetypes, and on living them out for ourselves in our own real lives.  There’s nothing wrong with owning things, but ownership won’t make a meaningful human life.  Depth psychotherapy invites us on the journey to wholeness, and to the possession of the one thing that makes all the difference — our own authentic selves.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Help for Midlife Issues: Loneliness & Solitude

November 24th, 2013 · help for midlife issues, midlife, midlife issues

In our time, when people seek out help for midlife issues, issues of loneliness and solitude are often among the most prominent issues that they face.

help with midlife issues

However, the experience of loneliness often only emerges gradually in the course of individual therapy.

Much research on loneliness, such as that of Prof. Ami Rokach of York University tends to suggest that loneliness is experienced in many very individual ways.  Nonetheless, the fact of loneliness is very prominent in individuals’ lives, and takes on a certain unique importance in midlife and later life.

The Loneliness Trend

We tend to quickly assume that loneliness and isolation are issues of importance for the elderly; yet other age groups experience them as well.  In the United States two studies have shown that 40% of respondents indicate that they are lonely, as do one quarter of Canadians living on their own.  It’s essential too not use such data to overly stereotype or pigeonhole individuals, but they do show the magnitude and impact of loneliness.

Connected but Isolated

Prof. Sherry Turkle of MIT and others have shown that technology, with all its possibilities for connection through texting, instant messaging and social media, actually often contributes to loneliness and isolation.  Many people at midlife are more and more engaged with social media.  Yet the fundamental need for human contact is not met by these technologies, and can be thwarted by them.

Loneliness and Solitude at Midlife

Studies, like those of Rokach and Neto have shown that loneliness is an issue of great importance at midlife, especially in countries with individualistic cultures like Canada and the United States.  These studies confirm the experience of many therapists who offer help with midlife issues.

Our experience at midlife and later adulthood is often very individual, and leads us right into consciousness of loneliness and solitude.

It’s actually necessary to experience loneliness at midlife transition, if we are to individuate.  As James Hollis tells us:

…it is precisely when we are thrown back on our own resources that we are obliged to find who we are, of what we are made, and generate from that soul-stuff the richest possible person we can manage in the transient moments we are allowed.  It is precisely our aloneness that allows our uniqueness to unfold. 

Hollis’ words are not glib or light.  The danger of social media and all the other distractions are that they will ultimately keep us from genuine encounter with ourselves.  We will never know our own uniqueness, and our true nature if we do not have aloneness in which to hear the very subtle voice of our own deepest yearnings, and to experience our own individual way of expressing what we are.  Much as we need other people, there is genuine help for midlife issues potentially inherent in solitude.

help for midlife issues

Connection — Inner and Outer

Experiences of loneliness and solitude brings us to the question of the value placed on the self.  Self-acceptance and tolerance for aloneness go hand in hand.

Help for midlife issues consists of fostering connection in both inward, and outward, directions.

Enabling individuals to find themselves in inner experiences of solitude, to experience, and then to express their uniqueness in outer life is a fundamental dimension of  individual psychotherapy and of help for midlife issues.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Rob Ford & Shadow: 4 Jungian Psychotherapy Insights

November 17th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Rob Ford, Toronto’s crack-smoking Mayor, dominates the media: but, from a Jungian psychotherapy perspective, one thing we don’t talk about is what Rob Ford shows us about our own collective shadow.

Jungian psychotherapy

It’s easy to moralize about Ford’s very public, very sensational melt-down: he’s an easy target.  What is not so easy or comfortable is the awareness that Toronto elected Rob Ford into his current role.  The City of Toronto voted for him, and in many ways, he reflects aspects of the collective shadow of the entire Greater Toronto Area.

I understand that this may seem like an outrageous claim!  Let me explain: Rob Ford’s attitudes may be repugnant to us, but they reflect aspects of our collective psyche that we would really rather ignore.

1.  Convenient Self-Delusion

T.S. Eliot famously wrote that “humankind cannot bear very much reality.”  Many would see the public pronouncements of Rob Ford and his closest supporters as a case in point.

First we’re told that one newspaper has a vendetta against Mr. Ford, which is gradually widened out to the whole press corps and then eventually to the Chief of Police.  Similarly, Mr. Ford admits to outrageous public incidents of out-of-control alcohol use, smoking crack cocaine, and driving under the influence, but is in such denial that he seems to genuinely believe that it’s O.K. because “everybody does it”.

It’s commonly held that Mr. Ford maintains these self-delusions to avoid the necessity of threatening change.  Yet, dare we look at our own delusions, which allow us to stay locked in behaviors that, on the deepest level, we really know we must change?  For instance, how many people in our culture are locked into ever-increasing levels of debt, that they tell themselves will somehow be magically reversed?

Jungian psychotherapy

2.  Them: It’s Their Fault

Related to the above is the tendency to blame or scapegoat others for ills in society or our own lives.  When things are going wrong, we can easily blame others or outsiders for the bad developments.  Rob Ford is famous for his blaming of “left-wing elites” or the press or “thugs” for social ills or his own personal difficulties.

Prof. Nathanael J. Fast of Stanford University has researched the incredibly contagious properties of blaming and scapegoating others, and the ways in which they can spread with incredible rapidity through an organization or a society.

Many accuse Rob Ford of this kind of scapegoating.  But can we see our own shadow, and the ways in which we, too, scapegoat?  We do it on a social and political level: we also do it in communities, places of employment — and families.

3.  Enable Me — Or You’re No Friend of Mine

Many feel that Rob Ford surrounds himself with people who all reinforce a distorted view of the world.  They find this to be particularly true of his family’s apparent denial of his rampant substance abuse issues.

But, we also often surround ourselves with voices that reinforce the way we already see the world, or confirm us in existing behaviour patterns — because it makes us comfortable, even if it’s not true.

4.  Without My Job I’m Nothing

Some allege this is the real sticking point in terms of Rob Ford actually leaving the Toronto mayor’s job: without the job, he has no concrete identity to which he can cling .  Rather than be nobody, he clings to the mayor role like a life preserver.

We might regret such an attitude in Mr. Ford, if he does indeed hold it.  But it might be good to have a very serious look in the mirror.  How much of our own identity is tied up with our work persona?  Who would I be without my job?  Would I feel like I was anybody?  These are very serious questions for early 21st century people.

Rob Ford can be seen as a mirror of our own shadow.  It’s only through self-compassionately and courageously acknowledging the shadow and the undiscovered self that we can grow towards our own wholeness and completeness, and become rooted in ourselves.  This is the heart of the work of individual psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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4 Aspects of Self Compassion In Midlife Transition

November 10th, 2013 · midlife, midlife transition

To have compassion for oneself during midlife transition can sometimes feel like a tall order.

midlife transition

Often, midlife transition can be a time when the inner critic shifts into high gear, and it can be all too easy to find oneself deeply caught up in self-reproach, regret and self-criticism.

What are the most important ways self compassion needs to prevail during midlife transition?



It can be hard for a person to admit to a strong sense of lostness during the midlife transition, yet, more often that people would care to admit, that can be the truth.

Is it possible to find compassion for the person whose maps no longer work?  Can we accept and be kind to that aspect of ourselves that doesn’t know where to go and what to do?

Often, the experience of lostness calls for compassion for the lost person within us, often a lost child.

It can be fundamentally important to simply acknowledge the state of being lost.  To recognize and admit this, to emerge from behind our omnicompetent mask: these  may be key parts of theprocess of finding a new direction.

midlife transition

With Specific Regrets

As life progresses, regret can become one of the most powerful of anti-life forces.

As anyone who has ever faced its full impact can attest, regret can feel overwhelming and devastating.

Full-blown regret can become a sink hole for our energy, sapping our will and seemingly eliminating our ability to get past it.

To truly move beyond regret involves the gradual development of forgiveness and compassion for the suffering self.  From this important psychological work gradually comes the capacity to find a way live beyond the regret.  Such work is neither fast nor simplistically easy.

Suffering and Humiliation

Similarly, it’s essential to move beyond contempt for the suffering and/or humiliated self.  Often people are subjected to states where they experience humiliation or a genuine sense of suffering and weakness largely through no fault of their own.  This can often be associated with suffering as children, although it can certainly happen at other key stages of life as well.

It’s often very hard to forgive ourselves for child-like weakness and neediness, and we often cannot forgive the self that has undergone humiliation.  We have contempt for our own weakness and vulnerability.  Attempting to get away from this humiliation can play a key role in obsessions with success and power, which often shield us from shame and self-contempt.  Yet no amount of success or power will ever shield us enough: only compassion for ourself can ever begin to heal.

Compassion for the Shadow

We also need to find acceptance and compassion for the shadow, the unacknowledged self.  As I have tried to suggest in a number of blog posts, the acceptance of those parts of the self that are not acknowledged by the ego is a very important matter.

Shadow work is acknowledging the person in us who is less kind, less knowledgeable or competent, less moral, more angry or vindictive, more self-centered — or even more full of life — than we would wish to be.  This is a major work of compassion and self-acceptance.

Discerning the Path That I Am

Jung seems to me to embody self compassion in the following quotation:



The journey to accept who and what we are, and to have compassion for all aspects of ourselves is the core of individual psychotherapy, and an essential dimension of moving through the midlife transition.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Jungian Therapy, Individuation & the Late Lou Reed

November 2nd, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy

Does it seem shocking that a rock musician like the late Lou Reed should be in a post on Jungian therapy and individuation?

Jungian therapy

Lou Reed passed this week, and he was a very controversial figure — even polarizing.  But there is one thing that even his enemies admit: he was an individual.

Out of Long Island

Reed was born into Long Island suburban respectability.  He struggled with 1950s reality, not least of all because the homoerotic dimensions of his character didn’t fit into conventional 50s life.    So, it wasn’t long before he found himself in New York City, where he created the avante-garde rock group Velvet Underground and became part of the circle around artist Andy Warhol.

Shadow and the Wild Side

Many of us became aware of Lou Reed in 1972, when he released “Take a Walk on the Wild Side“.   Popular culture in North America had never seen the like: a completely unapologetic celebration of gay and transvestite life in New York City.  Astoundingly, it became a huge hit. As a Jungian, the powerful attraction of this song for many people who would not even remotely identify with the LGTB communities is striking.  Perhaps it stems from the sense of basic acceptance and groundedness that Reed communicates, as if he were saying, “Here I am. This is me.  I neither hide, nor sugar coat, nor apologize for who I really am.”  His straightforward expression and self acceptance resonated deeply with many who were neither gay nor transvestite, especially younger people.

Artistic Individuation

Reed was a pioneer in opening up issues of gender identity as experienced in our culture.   He challenged, and even shocked, in ways that later artists like David Bowie would emulate–in considerably tamer forms.  He opened up profound questions about masculine and feminine, the ways in which they relate, and how each of us experiences those realities.  He actually touched upon many themes found in Jungian therapy: masculinity and femininity; creativity and receptivity ; sexual and contrasexual. Similarly, he expressed much around shadow: things of which we are barely conscious, or, unconscious; things on the periphery or edges of society, propriety or respectability.

Reed was simple and direct in his art.  While seeing himself fully as a serious artist, not an entertainer, or “rock star”, Reed knew that his art was rock, and he was fiercely passionate about attaining his artistic vision.  He famously once said “Rock songs should have one chord, maybe two…three and you’re getting into jazz” — but he was a passionate admirer and student of the art of jazz genius Miles Davis, bringing a Davis-like focus to his own work.

Lou Reed was strongly and unabashedly always himself.

Jungian therapy

Playing the Part of Oneself

To me, his song “Sweet Jane” seems to embody the soul of Lou Reed:

There’s some evil mothers
They’ll just tell you that life’s just made out of dirt
That pretty women, baby, they never really faint
And that villains always blink their eyes
And that children are the only ones who blush
And that life — Life!– that life is just to die…
But I want to tell you something:
Anyone who ever had a heart
Oh, they wouldn’t turn around and break it
And anyone who’s ever played a part
They wouldn’t turn around and hate it…

Lou Reed passionately and courageously played the part of himself, and he embodied the self acceptance and journey to the self that Jungian therapy sees as fundamental to individuation.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Key Factors in Lasting Help for Depression: #1 – Depth

October 27th, 2013 · depression, help for depression

“Where can I find lasting help for depression?”  This is a question on the minds of many.

help for depression

It is a matter of great importance for those who are active in their seeking to obtain help for depression.  Individuals don’t want to receive help that will make a difference just in the short term.  They are seeking help for depression that is going to make a fundamental change through the course of their lives.

Lasting Benefit

Studies of groups are certainly not the last word in the search for individual healing and wholeness.  Neither can any one study’s results be seen as definitive. Nonetheless, a recent study by Prof. Dorothea Huber of the Technische Universität München and her colleagues on the benefits of help for depression is quite striking.  That study showed that the benefits from psychodynamic psychotherapy persisted and were experienced 3 or more years out from the time of the therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy, also known as depth psychotherapy, refers to those forms of therapy that concern themselves with the unconscious mind of the individual and its processes–what’s going on deep in the mind of the individual.  And that’s part of the reason why, for many individuals, the benefits from psychodynamic therapy persist.

A Shift at a Fundamental Level

In forms of depth psychotherapy like Jungian therapy, there is an emphasis in focusing on what is going on in the individual at quite a deep level.  In this kind of approach, a great deal rests on what may be going on at the deepest levels of the individual, which are often in the unconscious mind.

In the Jungian approach in particular, the individual, and the unique characteristics of his or her life are given particular significance.  In the following video, I read a passage from Jungian analyst June Singer that expresses this with great clarity:



Depression and the Unconscious Self

For the depth psychotherapist, help for depression is inextricably bound up with a person’s unique individuality and the reality of the unconscious mind.  From this perspective, depression is fundamentally related to the ways in which an individual’s vitality and spontaneity become locked inside them, as a result of the various wounds that are experienced in life, and also as a result of dilemmas in the present that may appear as insoluble to  the  person from a conscious perspective.  As James Hollis states,

Depression can feel like a well with no bottom, but from a Jungian perspective

intrapsychic depression is a well with a bottom,

although we may have to dive very deeply to find it.

help for depression

Diving Deep

From a Jungian perspective, lasting help for depression is to be found in the inward journey, and in bringing into contact with consciousness those energies within us which, for whatever reason, have become walled off.  Individual psychotherapy from a depth perspective can often be a powerful factor in the recovery of the natural and instinctive self, and in opening up an understanding of the meaning of my depression.  This type of change can be a fundamental element in lasting help for depression.


Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Individual Psychotherapy & the Spiral Path

October 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Many people enter individual psychotherapy consciously or unconsciously expecting the process to be linear, rational and directly goal-oriented.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, people often find, as they start to tell their stories, that the real course of their lives is not nearly as straightforward, simple or consistent as they expected.  It often seems to have much more of a spiral or multi-spiral character.

People start to experience themselves as much more many-layered and subtle than they had initially supposed…

Stories and Apologies

In therapy sessions, as people talk about ordinary life, one of the commoner things that I hear them say is:  “I’m sorry that this is so convoluted”; or, “I’m sorry, I seem to have gotten way off track…”; or, even, “How did we end up talking about this?” individual psychotherapy

Then, very often, I try to connect what we are talking about to a theme from earlier in the session — the connection, for instance, between this week’s episode of Breaking Bad and their own father’s illness, that they hadn’t yet made consciously.  Such connections are often not just blatant, but they most often reflect the person’s inner reality. That unbelievably varied and multi-hued inner reality that we each are, which is not so easily encapsulated, explained or described.

Irreducible Me

We all have a story that we tell about ourselves.  But a key question is whether that story going to be the small story, or the big story. The small story is most often the one dictated by social convention. The big story might be seen as what Jung refers to as our personal myth; the deeper, more complete story, that takes in all the dimensions of who we are.

It matters which story we accept.  Are we going to let ourselves be reduced to what others say or know about us, or are we going to accept the full truth of all that we are?

Yet the Movement is Around a Centre

individual psychotherapy

Letting in that fuller experience of ourselves can seem disruptive and chaotic.  Over time, though, the apparently random and haphazard movement in inner life shows a very different character.  As Jung tells us:

The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere. The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals: the dream-motifs always return after certain intervals to definite forms, whose characteristic it is to define a centre. And as a matter of fact the whole process revolves about a central point or some arrangement round a centre…

~C.G. Jung

The Fundamental Reality of the Self

The central point to which Jung refers is the heart of our identity, the Self.  As Jung puts it elsewhere, the self is the sum total of our psychic wholeness, or, as Professor Samuels puts it, the “archetypal image of the unity of the personality as a whole.”

To enter into individual psychotherapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, is to enter into a deeper experience of the Self and its many dimensions.   As we experience this wider Self, we experience our own reality, solidity and uniqueness.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Help for Midlife Issues: Hitting the Escape Button, 1

October 12th, 2013 · help for midlife issues, midlife, midlife issues

Providing people with help for midlife issues makes you very aware  of the truth that, in midlife, we often yearn to hit the “escape button”…


Many people on the midlife journey can relate to that “escape button” feeling.  Help for midlife issues often consists of enabling individuals to find ways to deal with just that state of mind.


When the Real Lines Get Drawn

In midlife, situations which individuals have endured for much of their lives can easily become unendurable

This is illustrated powerfully in the insightful new movie , Concussion, (dir. Stacie Passon).

help for midlife issues

Having just been struck in the head by a baseball at her son’s game, Abby (Robin Weigert) screams, “I hate this. I don’t want this. I don’t want it!” — and we know she is talking about more than her concussion.  Abby experiences herself as trapped in a whole banal suburban existence in which she can find no reality or life, and which she experiences as completely claustrophobic.

Many who seek help for midlife issues encounter such claustrophobia.  It is not at all uncommon for people to be living with the feeling that “I just can’t do this any more”.  For better or worse, their finger is hovering over the escape button.

help for midlife issues

Escape from What?

For anyone seeking help for midlife issues of this type, a key question may be, “Just what exactly is it, from which you are trying to escape?”

“We are not much at home in the world we have created.” – Rilke

Rilke’s sentiment can resonate strongly with many in midlife transition.  Through the sheer momentum of life decisions made leading up to midlife, it can easily feel that the life that I have created is quite an alien construction having little to do with  who I most fundamentally am.

I may well feel that my persona, the social self that I put out into the world, has little or no connection with my genuine self, in its own nature.  The cumulative weight of my life choices may lead to a way of being in my world that is actually painful to me.  I may sense that who I actively present to the world doesn’t line up with my fundamental identity.

Similarly, perhaps the social milieu surrounding me has little to do with my true identity.  I may come to feel that the people in my vicinity simply don’t share very much with me.  This can be disconcerting when the people in question are neighbours; it can be literally shock inducing if we suddenly make this discovery about people we’ve regarded as intimates.

All such sentiments may induce a strong, seemingly undeniable feeling of “need to escape”.

But, Escape to What?

Is our escape to ourselves, to who we really are — or is it from ourselves?

help with midlife issues

Sometimes,our desire can be simply to escape from ourselves, from freedom and decision.  It’s easy to crave infantile states where we actually hover above life.

But sometimes the escape we need and yearn for can be to escape the pressures of the false self, and forces in life that do not allow us to be who we authentically are.

Individual psychotherapy that provides help for midlife issues involves the important task of discerning between those forms of escape that lead us to evade our own authentic being, and those forms that allow us to live in connection with our deepest personal identity.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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PERFECT Misery #2: Perfectionism and Procrastination

October 6th, 2013 · perfectionism, perfectionism and procrastination, procrastination

To continue the themes from my initial satirical post on finding perfect misery through perfectionism, here’s an option that the true misery connoisseur should not pass up:   the “perfectionism and procrastination” combo.

perfectionism and procrastination

This little number has it all: the perfect combination of eternally deferred gratification and endlessly shooting oneself in the foot.

The Subtle Dance of Perfectionism and Procrastination

As Dr. Tim Pychyl of Carleton University stresses, perfectionism and procrastination can be fundamentally related if the perfectionism that  the individual suffers from is very other-directed, and related to anxious concern to meet the expectations of others.  If we were to put this in Jungian terms, we would see this as the type of  perfectionism that is wedded to meeting highly collective expectations, to a persona, or outward presentation that is very sensitive to gaining the approval of others, and to a sense of self that is highly dependent on gaining others’ positive regard.

Dr, Pychyl also cites other research that would indicate that such “socially-prescribed perfectionism” is related to procrastination, depression, reduced self-esteem, anxiety, and dealing with shame.

In depth psychological terms, what is going on here?

Unrelated to Instinct, Body

perfectionism and procrastination

Jungian analyst Marion Woodman sheds considerable light:

The technological age is propelling us into a space quite unrelated to our instincts.  We have forgotten how to listen to our bodies: we pop pills for everything that goes wrong with us….  We can turn ourselves over to medicine without ever questioning what the body is trying to tell us.  To our peril, we assume that it has no wisdom of its own….  

As a culture, we are not in touch with our instinctual roots, and parents tend to treat their children as if they too were machines instead of human beings with feelings and fears.  If the child is treated that way, consciously or unconsciously, it in turn treats itself that way…

Woodman illustrates the effect of this on the individual with a quotation from a 20 year old client:

“When can I get out of this box?  I drag my body around as if it’s some gross foreign object.  I’m so scared of cancer and war and school and what other people think [italics mine]….  What am I doing?  I keep setting these standards for myself and I just can’t do it.  I can’t do anything.  NOTHING!  NOTHING! Ugly, filthy, fat slob!”

~Addiction to Perfection, © 1982 Marion Woodman

The viciousness of such lack of self-acceptance is staggering.  Yet here we see clearly how totally we can lose ourselves in slavish devotion to machine-like perfection.

Perfectionism, Procrastination, Inflation

Woodman makes the point that this perfectionism is grounded in a god-like inflation, which is fundamentally rejecting of our individual, vulnerable, fleshly humanity.  In the name of meeting the ruthless onslaught of the expectations of our society and of others, we seek to turn ourselves into god or goddess, standing aloof above the human condition.  She sees this portrayed mythologically in the contrast between the goddess of Athena, the paragon of perfection, and her archrival Medusa “whose snaky locks twist and writhe in constant agitation, reaching… wanting more and more…”:

The “terror of knowing what this world is about” is the crushing weight of the meeting the expectations of others and of the world as carried by the perfectionist.

To be freed from this burden, and released into the acceptance of our own mortal, instinctual lives — this is at the heart of the journey of individual psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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Three Truths about Mortality and Life Transitions

September 29th, 2013 · life, life transitions, Transitions

Our growing awareness of mortality in the second half of life can spur us to major life transitions.

life transitions

While some life transitions just occur to us, others require some element of decision.  Those are the ones that I want to reflect on in this post.


The Shortness & Infinite Preciousness of Life

The issue of mortality came home to me this week in a vivid personal way, when, sadly, I learned of the death of a woman I know in her mid-50s.  I cannot, of course communicate any identifying details about this wonderful person, other than to describe her as an engaging, young-looking woman with a quick mind and vivid sense of humour, who apparently passed with incredible quickness.

Certainly, anyone who knew this competent, vivacious, woman, who apparently had so much ahead of her, must have been deeply shocked by this turn of events.

This is a difficult truth, but an incredibly important one: none of us knows how much time we actually have to live, and to become aware.  That makes each day, each new awareness, each new choice, infinitely precious.

There are Life Transitions We Need to Make Happen

In keeping with the theme of those life transitions that we have a role in bringing about, we need to ask some searching questions.

1.  Are there experiences that I need to have?  I don’t mean this in the sense of fulfilling some entertaining “bucket list” of diversion.  Rather, are there experiences that are soul work, that my inmost being cries out for?

2. Have I found people with whom I can connect in a meaningful way?  Are there people with whom I am truly at home?  Where in this world can I find a welcome?  And…

3. Perhaps most profoundly and fundamentally. are there ways in which I need to explore and be aware of myself?  To embark on a path of increasing self awareness — this can often be the profoundest life transition of all.

Go for Soul

For many, as life moves along its course, it becomes essential to have experience of the true depth of life within ourselves.

Here is a Zen Buddhist parable on mortality:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger.  He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.  Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!…

life transitions

The following recounting of a dream by C.G. Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections seems to me to sound many of these same themes, as does the accompanying song by, of all people, Jimmy Buffet:

Jungian therapy concerns itself with the key importance of life transitions, particularly in the second half of life, and emphasizes the need to pour ourselves fully into the things that want to draw us into life.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario


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