Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Forget Being "Special" … Unique is Better!

January 25th, 2009 · Anxiety, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, soul, The Self, wholeness

It can be a very difficult thing to come to terms with being "ordinary".

Ordinary People for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Often, we even have very well-developed defenses that keep us from avoiding this realization.  In fact, the denial of our own ordinary being can be one of the things that propels us forward into our life during that phase that Jung refers to as "the first adulthood", when we are seeking to be independent of our family of origin, and to get on out into our own career, our own home and perhaps our own family life.  The belief that "we're special" or "destined for greatness" can be an essential motivator that helps us to overcome obstacles, and that draws us on into the challenges and the dance of life.

For most people, however, the realization will come sooner or later that we are not destined to become the world's richest person, the President of the United States, or the first astronaut to land on Mars.  Sometimes the realization can be heart-wrenching.  This is especially true when this realization is accompanied by the feeling that "my life is of no real significance".

But is it true that just because my life is not "special" or grandiose, that it cannot be a good life?  That is the message that we get from the media all the time.  It is a message that is constantly used today to sell products: you are not special, you are just nondescript, and the same as everyone, but if you buy our product, we can make you special.    

Unfortunately, it seems that the English texted version of this IBM ad is not longer available on YouTube.  The last frame, which in German carries the text "Was macht sie so besonders?" translates in English to "What makes you so special?"  The implication is, that if there isn't anything that makes you or I special, it's a tragedy.  But have no fear, you can buy your special-ness from us…

Although I may not be "special", I am unique.  There is no one else in all the universes or kalpas who will ever be me.  This is not provable: it is just something that we know, by virtue of our own being.  By virtue of understanding ourselves from the inside.

This is a vital truth.  How much anxiety and depression is caused in Oakville or Missisauga and suburban communities around the world by the crushing sense that I am just like everybody else? 

I have to decide: am I going to derive my value from the inside, or from the outside?  Has someone told my story for me, or do I discover my own myth, in the depths of myself?  My uniqueness is to be found there: in my dreams, my imaginings, my deepest secrets.

Have I ever really taken the time and the effort to understand who I am?  Or do I just have a fairly superficial picture of myself, e.g., "I'm a mother" or "I'm an accountant"?

Do I look at the story of my life as an evolving, growing thing, something with zest and colour and richness?  Or have I just despaired and accepted that I just don't get what I want in my life, and that there isn't anything really fulfilling about it?

Do I take my own inwardness seriously?  Can I ever be filled with wonder that I exist?

When are the moments in my life when I have felt my own uniqueness and reality?  In those moments when I feel the unique mystery and reality of my life and myself?  Who am I at that moment?

"What a piece of work is a man", Shakespeare said.  If he had been alive today, he would have used more inclusive language, but he isspeaking a profound truth: the secret of our own being is so intricate, so mysterious.  If you can do so at all today, I encourage you to take a few moments and just to be with yourself.

Good psychotherapy is about bringing the reality of myself into the forefront, where I can see it and grasp it.  Good psychotherapy allows my uniqueness to be held up to me in a mirror.  In this sense it is an exploration, an adventure, and a journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson,

 Mandala for ordinary vibrant jung thing blog


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Middle Aged Person Traumatized by Financial Losses…

January 14th, 2009 · Current Affairs, depression, depth psychology, dreams, life passages, midlife, panic, Trauma, Wellness

Maybe you know this person, or maybe it's you.  When it comes right down to it …  who DIDN't lose a lot of money in the Fall of 2008?

Financial Trauma for Vibrant Jung Blog

However, the person we're describing thought that everything was going great financially, and that they were in investments that were "safe as houses" — until last Fall.  Then things suddenly and unexpectedly went south in the stock market, or in the housing market, and all of sudden there were losses — big time.  Right out of the blue things began to feel really insecure and unpredictable.  Hopes, dreams and plans that people had for themselves, or for their families suddenly began to seem threatened.

And the feeling overall was a feeling of being overwhelmed, and just plain helpless as things spiraled out of control.  Perhaps things started to seem very fearful, and completely out of control.  And the effect was so dramatic that our person was shaken shaken right to the core.  And it may well be that he or she (or you or I) realize that things just haven't felt the same since.

I'm seeing people in my practice who have been through just this kind of experience, and who are strongly feeling the need to find their footing again.  And I'm convinced that there are a lot more people out there who have had just this kind of experience who really need to be talking to someone and getting this kind of help.Financial Trauma 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

As you might be aware, usually, when professionals refer to people who have been through trauma, they think in terms of specifically life-threatening events.  Things like life-threatening incidents in wars, or terrorist attacks, or very serious car accidents, or violent crimes, where the individual specifically feels that they are in actual, physical danger of losing their lives, or are subject to watching others lose their lives, or get maimed, or something of that sort.  But this is too narrow: experiences of serious financial loss that are experienced as threatening the well-being or economic survival of an individual or of those close to that individual have a traumatic character.

If you have experienced any of the following, you should be seeking out help from a skilled, compassionate professional:

  • Feelings of Being Overwhelmed – THis may be something you even experience physically, i.e., "limbs turn to jelly";
  • Flashbacks or Intrusive Recollections - A flashback is a memory that is so intrusive that it feels like the event is happening all over again; an intrusive recollection is less intense, but is a memory that can set off a whole chain of traumatic recollections;
  • Sleep Disturbances – Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, or sleep restlessly and cry out in your sleep?
  • Nightmares – Do you have dreams that involve re-living the circumstances of your financial loss, or that have horrific content?
  • Bad Temper and Lack of Concentration – Do you find yourself becoming negative, argumentative, or easily irritated in ways that you were not before the experience of financial loss? 
  • Intrusive Thoughts – Do you find that your thoughts about the financial loss will simply not leave you alone?
  • Exaggerated Startle Response and/or Panic Attacks – Do you startle more easily now than you did before the loss?  Does the reaction stay with you for a log time?  Do you have panic attacks now, with sudden shortness of breath, severe chest pains or feelings of dizziness or faintness?
  • Avoidance Behaviour, Emotional Numbness or Difficulty with Intimacy – Are you avoiding people, feeling "shut down" emotionally or finding intimacy difficult, emotionally or sexually?
  • Increased Use of Alcohol, Drug Use or Comfort Eating – Are you using any of these things to block out painful reactions to what happened?
  • Depression or Traumatic Grief – If you find yourself sleeping or wanting to just do nothing, or confronting feelings of unbearable sadness since the financial losses, you may be dealing with depression or grief.
  • Guilt or Self-Blame – Do you blame yourself for the financial losses, or find yourself thinking "If only I had done things differently"?
  • Decreased Self-Esteem and Loss of Confidence – If you are confronting feelings of lack of confidence in your abilities, or of hopelessness, then it may be that the financial losses have impacted your self-esteem.

If you are experiencing these reactions now, and you have recently sustained serious financial losses, it would be a very good idea to speak to a qualified professional, as your losses may have triggered a traumatic response.  Please remember: the sooner you address the signs of trauma, the easier it is to deal with them.  You do not have to live with these responses: there are concrete things that can be done.

All the best,

Brian Collinson,


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Please Tell Who I Am!

January 7th, 2009 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, soul, unlived life, wholeness

Those of us of a certain age will remember The Logical Song by Supertramp with its striking lyrics:


When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh, it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd…
Please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
Acceptable, respectable, presentable — a vegetable!

At night, when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd…
Please tell me who I am.

It seems to me that this song resonates with me more in my middle-aged life than it did when I was young.  We do indeed go to school, and we get socialized in such a way that we learn everything that we need to learn to grow up to become responsible, productive citizens, good spouses, good parents, good providers.  That was my experience at least.  But around about mid-life, or sometimes even before, we begin to get the sense that something is missing.

In the course of our lives, we make choices, and we go down one road at the fork, leaving the other road with all its possibilities unexplored.  But the thing is, those possibilities don’t go away, no matter how logical or responsible we try to be.  And at some point or other, as I know well from my own experience, all those other possibilities come calling.  It is not about returning to childhood, but it is about returning to the sense of life that children often have, of being vibrantly full of awareness in the midst of this miracle that is the world and the self.

In the course of the song, the singer pleads with his teachers, “Please tell me what we’ve learned… Please tell me who I am.”  This is not at all an absurd question, but it is the one thing that the teachers cannot give him.  They may teach all kinds of fine knowledge and skills, and they may teach how to be responsible, how to be a good citizen, even how to be ethical. 

But no teacher can tell you who you most fundamentally are.  They can test your aptitudes, make suggestions about career — any number of things.  However, the secret of your real identity is something that is locked inside you, and inside me.  We can “stand for” this or that, but that is not identity.  The whole complete, complex reality of who we are only comes from encountering all the many complex people we are, and the huge range of feelings thoughts and attitudes that we have, deep inside of us.  And as Carl Jung tells us, “Only that which is truly oneself heals”.  What we are is a reality beyond logic, and beyond conventional wisdom.  Only as I journey into my own interior, do I encounter the incredible reality of the person who is there waiting to meet me — my own Self.

My own journey has taught me that this isn’t an easy road to walk.  Sometimes I have flinched from it, and sometimes I have outright run from it.  However, I’ve come to believe that it is the single most important journey that anyone can go upon…beyond the conventional image of myself and into the mystery and indescribable fullness of who I really am.



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