Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Hope for Uncertain Times: the Deep Self & Major Life Transitions

January 18th, 2016 · hope uncertain times

Yes, hope, and specifically “hope for uncertain times” is again a very relevant topic, given the financial uncertainty and overall social churn 2016 has so far exhibited.

hope uncertain times
Economic fluctuation, chaos and dysfunction seem to flood the news media, and sometimes seem to crowd out hope-giving and empowering messages.  Often, these larger scale events seem to combine with personal issues and personal life transitions, such as divorce, changes in employment status, health issues, issues with children, loss of loved ones, and a myriad of others, which can be matters of very major importance to those undergoing them.
Depth psychotherapy has a different concept of personal identity, which is based on the wholeness of the individual, both conscious and unconscious, as the slide show below explains:

 

Is there any way that this broader concept of the self can help us in facing the challenges of current day existence, and finding hope for uncertain times like these?

hope uncertain times

Psychological Resilience in Major Life Transitions

One of the best sources of psychological resilience is a sense of security in a rooted sense of identity.  But there is the problem, because undergoing a major life transition may lead us to a crisis of identity.  A social role, or a certain understanding of ourselves, as family member, parent, employee, member of a certain community may be brought into question by a life transition.

Example: Jan, a native of Halifax, has had to move 4 times in the last 12 years, in order to keep the job she has with a trans-national corporation.  These jobs have taken her to 4 countries on 3 continents.  “Every time I put down roots, and start to get comfortable, it’s time to pull up stakes and move again!  I just start to know some of the parents at my kids’ schools — and then it’s time to go.”  In the midst of these job changes, Jan retains a certain continuity as an employee, but she never gets to feel a real sense of attachment to a community, or have a circle of permanent friends.

One question that Jan’s situation poses is, what is my real identity?  Also, where do I really belong?  Jan is fully aware that her identity does not consist in the connection to the particular community that she’s living in.

The unconscious mind is continually seeking to put before us symbols and indicators of our real identity and the things that we most richly value, through our dreams, our reactions to other people, our unconscious responses to situations, and in still other ways.  An important part of the work of depth psychotherapy is to make the individual aware of these indicators, and to help him or her to become grounded in them.

Hope in Our Uncertainty

The conscious mind is subject to continual shifts in the chances and changes of our uncertain situation.  Very often, it’s overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the demands and the complexities of life in our uncertain time.  The instinctual and intuitive side of our being brings us into contact with a whole other dimension of ourselves, grounding us in parts of our inner reality that often go beyond our language and the reasoning parts of the psyche.

Sticking with What Matters

A key part of our journey is finding out what really matters to us as individuals, and living it out.  Another important element is responding to life situations in a way that accords with our deepest selves.  Both of these things are connected with having hope for uncertain times, and are rooted in the essential aims of depth psychotherapy.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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4 Non-Obvious Thoughts about Hope and the New Year

January 11th, 2016 · hope and the new year

It’s common to associate hope and the New Year.  Yet, as 2016 dawns, we know we live in an era of huge life transitions and challenges, individually, nationally and globally.

hope and the new year

                                Art by Andrew Junge – “Pandora’s Box”

Hope is a vitally important feeling state. Studies link hope to: good health; finding life meaningful ; and, all kinds of academic and athletic performance.  Prof. C.R. Snyder  and other researchers have shown that hopeful people value themselves more, take better care of their bodies, and have higher pain tolerance and resiliency.

Here’s four thoughts on hope and the New Year.

Hope Isn’t Just “Optimism”

At least, not in any short-term sense. Optimism tends to be about a certain result occurring, often in the short run.  But hope is not dependent on short term outcomes.  Hope tends to be less rational, less cut and dried.  Even when it’s not immediately apparent how, hope is convinced that life will bring good things to the self.

Hope Is Not Just “Making Plans”

Certain types of psychology emphasize defining or perceiving hope in relationship to the number and type of plans for the future.  Again, this would seem to be more of a measure of optimism, and to be very centred on the plans and projects of the ego.  And sometimes frenetic plan-making can be indicative of the opposite of hope: despair.

Hope is about my expectation that the self will survive intact, and continue to grow and thrive, and that value and meaning will survive and thrive, also.

hope and the new year

Hope and Trust Go Together

Depth psychotherapy lives in the awareness that hope and trust go together.  Psychological theorists have long maintained that the essential conflict in the earliest stages of life is trust vs. mistrust.  This revolves at first around feeding and nutrition, and the infant getting its needs met.  As the world proves predictable and responsive to the child’s needs, so the child will grow into a stance of trust.  Out of this position of trust, it becomes possible for the young human to hope.

As the life journey continues the question of trust will continue, in ever more elaborate ways.  As the child is loved and cared for, and is positively mirrored by the world, the sense of trust will grow, and deeper and more profound types of trust in the world, and hope for the possibilities in life will become rooted.

Love, the sense of positive valuation by others, and the sense of being seen for who he or she really is give the child the possibility of feeling real, as the psychoanalysts might say.  This awareness goes hand in hand with what we can call basic trust in life, and an overall attitude of hope towards the possibilities in life.

Jung took this further.  He emphasized the need to become as conscious as possible of everything that we are, of our own wholeness.  By doing this, we become as aware as we can of  our own reality, and, through connection to both instinct and spirit, to ultimately feel connected to the world, and like we belong in it.  From a Jungian perspective, this is what ultimately grounds hope.

There’s Good and Bad Hope

Hope has an archetypal, and mythic, aspect.  In the Greek myth of Pandora, she opens her box or jar, she releases all the plagues and woes that beset humankind.  Only one thing remains in the bottom of the box: Elpis, the Greek daimon of hope.

Why does hope remain?  Why is it in there in first place?  Is hope a curse?  The answer is, it can be, if it’s delusory, compulsive hope that, say, keeps one “looking for love in all the wrong places”, rather than a hope rooted in a basic trust of oneself and of the goodness of life.  Helping a person get to the latter is the core business of the depth psychotherapist.

Wishing you Happy New Year, and the fullness of  good hope for 2016!

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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The Healing of Yule: Winter Solstice Symbolism & Wholeness

December 21st, 2015 · winter solstice symbols

My last post focussed on Holiday Depression and Stress , but there’s also a genuine representation of healing embodied in the winter solstice symbolism of the Yule.

winter solstice symbols

                  Yule Log – Symbol of the Return of the Sun

Yule, the ancient festival associated with the time of the winter solstice, contains symbols of wholeness that are native to the traditions of ancient Northern Europe, but which are also found throughout varied cultures of the world.  From a depth psychotherapy perspective, much of this symbolism appears to be rooted in themes deep within the human psyche (which Jungians would call archetypal.)

The Yule; The Wheel

The term “Yule” originally meant “wheel” and the Yule season was associated with the ending and beginning of a rotation of the wheel of the year, the year being viewed as both starting and beginning at the time of the winter solstice, and rotating through the various seasons and the signs of the zodiac.  Below is a picture of the pre-Christian North European year as viewed as a “yule” or wheel, and beginning and ending with the Yule season:

winter solstice symbolism

Wheel symbolism is very ancient, and especially the imaging of the heavens as a wheel.  As shown by the famous Medicine Wheels of the Plains First Nations of North America, it long predates the actual physical wheel, as archeologist John Freeman relates of the famous Majorville, AB medicine wheel, in his book Canada’s Stonehenge.

winter solstice symbols

                  Medicine Wheel, Bighorn, Wyoming

From a depth psychotherapy perspective, the wheel shares in the symbolism of the circle, which is itself the most basic form of mandala, or symbol of wholeness.  The wheel symbolizes eternity; the revolving heavens, and at the center, beyond the rotating perimeter, something that does not move.

The Yule as the Wheel of the Year is a symbol of all that moves and changes in the nature of the Self, and also of the fact that there is something constant and unchanging, right at the heart of our being.

The Tree

The Christmas tree, as an evergreen, symbolizes enduring and renewed life, and can also be a symbol of fertility and immortality.  Furthermore, what we know as a “Christmas tree” is actually a a tree associated with the Nordic Yule, and it symbolizes the Yggdrasil from Norse mythology.

winter solstice symbolism

                                     World Tree

The Yggdrasil is the world tree.  It consists of the whole of the universe as the Nordics conceived of it, including the realm of the giants, the realm of the gods, and the realm that we call home.  This idea of an enormous tree that holds the entire universe is not unique to the Norse.  It is found in many cultural contexts around the world.

For Jung and later depth psychotherapists, the tree is also a symbol of the Self.  In myth, humans often transform into trees, and there are many ways in which trees and humans resemble each other.  Trees have upright trunks; we have upright backbones.  The image of the tree that grows from a small seed or acorn into an enormity is often an image of the human journey of growth and individuation.

So, each “yuletide”, we bring this symbol of growth and individuation in our homes.  As we travel the wheel of the year, and return to this place, we are reminded of our own resilience, the places in our lives where decay is followed by renewal, and the growth toward what it is that we really, fundamentally, are.

Journey toward our true identity is at the core of depth psychotherapy.

With best Holiday wishes,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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4 Empowering Perspectives on Holiday Depression and Stress

December 14th, 2015 · holiday depression and stress

Every psychotherapist knows that holiday depression and stress are a prominent feature of the lives of many at this time of year.

 holiday depression and stress
Usually that’s seen as something that people just must endure.
But is there a possibility of something that would actually give life in the midst of holiday depression and stress?

Compassion and Insight into Myself at the Holidays

At this time of giving and preoccupation with the wants and needs of others, we all need a very healthy sense of compassion for ourselves.  It’s very important to recognize that the holidays can be quite hard on people.

Many have had difficult experiences associated with the holidays.  Family conflict, negative experiences with addictions, marital breakup or grief over the loss of a loved one are only a few examples.

If I find myself having negative or dark feelings over the holidays, I need to acknowledge that in a kind way, without feeling pathological or wrong. Therapists also know that the compulsive joyousness of the holidays can feel like salt in the wounds of those who might be hurting.

What if I Quit Resisting My Holiday Depression?

It may be important for many people to acknowledge how difficult the holidays are for them, and just to feel it, rather than fighting it. What would it be like, if, instead of resisting the feelings of depression or overstress, I just acknowledge and accept them, without any sense of self blame or self attack? For some, it might bring a feeling of something like relief or liberation.  As Jungian analyst June Singer has it, “psychotherapy can help the person to gain an understanding of the depressive attitude, to work with it, and eventually to transcend it.”

What Do I Need to Release, in my Holiday Stress and Depression?

Depth psychotherapists are aware that often, at the heart of depression, the client needs to release, or let go. It may be an acknowledgement that something that the individual clings to is lost forever, or an obsolete identity or self understanding.  Sometimes, we have to find a way to make peace with the ghosts of the past, and release them.

holiday depression and stress

It’s not by accident that the process of renewal in the life of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge begins with the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge has to acknowledge painful things in the past that need to be released. And it’s only by that release that the energy or life that has been caught up and frozen in the loss of those precious things is freed to move into a new form, and a new identity.

Example: a woman grieved her childhood experience of Christmas, which was about material excess, emotional emptiness and loneliness. She came to find a joy and vitality in celebrating a Christmas with minimal material trappings, connections with genuinely meaningful people, and non-traditional meals and activities.

Is Something Vital Hidden in my Holiday Stress and Depression?

From a depth psychotherapy perspective, at the heart of most depression is something that the individual is working on at the unconscious level.  The holidays are a time to watch dreams, and look for creative stirrings.  Within holiday sorrow may be the stirring of new life that wants to be born.

Depth psychotherapy is concerned with finding the life often locked in the frozen heart of depression.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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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

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike © Burt Kaufmann    
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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