Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Men’s Issues

April 28th, 2009 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, Identity, masculinity, mens issues, Mississauga, Oakville, persona, Psychology, psychotherapy for men

mens issues We live in a society and a time when this has become a burning question with which many men are struggling.  The old understandings of maleness and masculine identity don’t work any more, but what are we supposed to put in their place?

Recently, I attended a production by Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross.  Director David Storch and the Soulpepper company have succeeded in giving us a very provocative production of a rather well-known play.  I had read the play, and was familiar with the excellent film version with Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin, but I feel that what Soulpepper’s version particularly opened up for me was the dilemmas around masculine identity in which the men in the play find themselves.

This is a play in which macho male identity fairly runs wild.  The setting is a suburban Chicago real estate office in the early 1980s — at the time of the last big economic downturn.   Things are obviously desperately difficult for the salesmen in this office.  Few sales are being made.  To make things that much worse, the management of the office initiates a particularly brutal sales contest: first prize, a new Cadillac; second prize, a set of steak knives; and, the bottom two sellers end up fired.

The atmosphere that is created is a hideous stew of competitiveness, bravado, insecurity and intrigue.  The salesmen are brutally competitive, and obsessed with the question of who is up and who is down.  The salesmen’s competitiveness co-exists with their deep yearning for respect from the other men, and with strange, agonizing moments when the men stand revealed in their desperate vulnerability. 

If there is a tragic figure in the play, it is Shelley “the Machine” Levine, a salesman in his 50s.  Once celebrated as an unstoppable selling machine, Shelley has now lost the ability to sell.  He oscillates between pathetic begging, verbal abuse of others, obnoxious triumph and utterly craven despair.  He is trapped by the outer situation in which he finds himself, but also by his own relentless drive for success, which in his case can only mean that he is able to demonstrate his power and virility by outstripping and What Is a Real Man for Vibrant Jung Blog 2 humiliating other men in the office.

These salesmen understand themselves to be “men”, i.e., “real men” as opposed to the bureaucrats and paper pushers whom they feel are taking over the world.  The world of cutthroat competitiveness, deceit and inescapable isolation is what they understand to be their masculine birthright.  In watching these men, trapped by their circumstances, certainly, but above all, trapped by their individualism (not to be confused witn individuation!), insecurities, and by the hard but brittle masks they are compelled to present to each other and the world, it is hard to avoid the question, “Is that all there is?”  If so, things must seem to be pretty bleak for males.


Clearly Mamet portrays an extreme situation in excruciating and eloquent detail, but the questions that Glengarry Glen Ross raises are deep indeed.

How can men relate to each other without the demon of competitiveness destroying the possibility of friendship or even respect?

Is male self-esteem only to be achieved by winning competitions with other men?

Can a man show his vulnerability and humanity to another man without being humiliated for doing so?

How can I ever feel secure in my identity as a man?

These are questions I hope to explore in the next part of this series.

If you have any comments on this blog post, as always, I’d welcome them.  Also, if you have any topics or subjects that you’d like to see here, please let me know.  I value greatly the input of those who take the time to read this blog!


My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Jung Sends an Email to Suburbanites!

April 21st, 2009 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, soul, suburbia / exurbia

Well… okay, not exactly.  It's true that the following quotation doesn't have suburbia directly in mind.  But Jung does manage to touch on some of the biggest psychological issues for the outer- and other- Jung Sends Email to Suburbia for Vibrant Jung Thing oriented suburb dweller of the present day.

At least, I certainly think he does. 

Here's what he says:




"The externalization of culture may do away with a great many evils whose removal seems most desirable and beneficial, yet this step forward, as experience shows, is all too dearly paid for with a loss of spiritual culture.  It is undeniably much more comfortable to live in a well-planned and hygienically equipped house, but this still does not answer the question of who is the dweller in this house and whether his soul rejoices in the same order and cleanliness as the house which ministers to his outer life. 

"The man whose interests are all outside is never satisfied with what is necessary, but is perpetually hankering after something more and better which, true to his bias, he always seeks outside himself.  He forgets completely that, for all his outward successes, he himself remains the same inwardly, and he therefore laments his poverty if he possesses only one automobile when the majority have two.  Obviously the outward lives of men could do with a lot more bettering and beautifying, but these things lose their meaning when the inner man does not keep pace with them. 

"To be satiated with “necessities” is no doubt an inestimable source of happiness yet the inner man continues to raise his claim, and this can be satisfied by no outward possessions.  And the less this voice is heard in the chase after the brilliant things of this world, the more the inner man becomes the source of inexplicable misfortune and uncomprehended unhappiness in the midst of living conditions whose outcome was expected to be entirely different.  The externalization of life turns to incurable suffering, because no one can understand why he should suffer from himself.  No one wonders at his insatiability but regards it as his lawful right….  That is the sickness of Western man…." 

Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, East and West, Collected Works, volume 11, para. 962, Princeton: University Press

"No one can understand why he should suffer from himself."  Yet we do suffer from our neglect of our inner life and our uniqueness.  Sometimes we can be acutely aware of our own inner sense of being unfulfilled, the inner man or woman "staking his or her claim".  Yet that is the very point at which our own true individuality is calling to us, and beckoning to us to be explored.

If you have any comments on this blog post, I'd really like to hear them.  Also, if you have any topics or subjects that you would like me to discuss, I'm more than open.  I really value the input of those who take the time to read this blog!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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Anxiety, Depression and My Own Truth

April 15th, 2009 · Anxiety, archetypal experience, Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Psychotherapy, stress, wholeness

According to a recent New York Times article, people in North America are finding their lives more and more embroiled in anxiety.  This is a social trend that started prior to the start of the economic downturn, and which has been increasing since that time, if the mass media are to be believed.

The Times article  cites the exaAnxiety Depression and My Own Truthmple of one woman who found herself more and more in the grip of panic attacks, which impelled her "to read every single economic report" — not an uncommon response.  It seems quite possible that this obsession with economic information could create a vicious cycle: in response to her anxiety, the woman might read more economic reporting, which in turn could be expected to further elevate her anxiety.  And so on, potentially without end.

This brings us to a very fundamental question.  As individuals, are we prepared to accept the assessments of social scientists, journalists and economic and business experts, when it comes to the most basic attitudes that we will have to our lives?

Jung has something interesting to say about this.  It is couched in the gender usage conventions of the past (1957), for which I ask your understanding.  Nonetheless, his point is clear, and as relevant today as it was then:

"…[A] man is not complete when he lives in a world of statistical truth.  He must live in the world of his mythological truth [italics mine], and that is not merely statistics.  it is the expression of what he really is, and what he feels himself to be.  A man without mythology is merely a product of statistics, as it were, an average phenomenon.  Our natural science makes everything into an average … while the truth is that the carriers of life are individuals, not average numbers.  And, of course, all the individual qualities are wiped out, and that is most unbecoming….  It deprives people of their specific values, of the most important experiences of their life, where they experience their own value, the creative background of their own personality."

"The Houston Films" in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds., C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)

What is the dominant story that I choose to live under?  If I accept my life story as told by Anxiety Depression and My Own Truth 2 the mass media, I am a very small speck indeed, swept up in the great currents of economics, social trends and technological change.  My living and dying will be a matter of negligible significance.  I will be only a statistic.

But what if I make a determination to look for my story elsewhere, and to give that story my energy, my love and my trust?  What if my dreams impart to me some additional sense of the meaning of my life, of who I am, and what I really value?  To attempt to see my own myth, as not something so much consciously created, as a story made up, but as something that I am only partially capable of understanding, that emerges over time from the reality of my own life and my own psyche.

Real therapy, therapy that makes a fundamental difference, connects me to the deep story of my life.

I would welcome your input, comments or any sharing of your personal experience as you seek to encounter your own myth.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Dreaming About the Self as a House

April 9th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, dreams, Jungian psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, wholeness

Carl Jung had the following dream when he was about to embark on a new path in his psychological work. The dream is of a type that is familiar to Jungian therapists, as it is a kind of dream that many people have, sometimes at key turning points in their lives.

I'll be interested to hear from people reading, to find out if any of them have had this kind of dream, and when it occurred in their lives.  Possibly you've had such a dream recently.

"Before I discovered alchemy, I had a series of dreams which repeatedly dealt Dreaming About the Self as a Housewith the same theme.  Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing or annex, which was strange to me.  Each time I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently always been there.  

"Finally, there came a dream in which I reached the other wing.  I discovered there a wonderful library, dating largely from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Large, fat folio volumes, bound in pigskin, stood along the walls.  Among them were a number of books embellished with copper engravings of a strange character, and illustrations containing curious symbols such as I had never seen before.  At the time I did not know to what they referred; only much later did I recognize them as alchemical symbols.  In the dream I was conscious only of the fascination exerted by them and by the entire library.  It was a collection of medieval incunabula and sixteenth-century prints.

Dreaming About the Self as a House 2

"The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself; it represented something that belonged to me but of which I was not yet conscious…."

"The Work" in Jung, C.G., Jaffe, Aniela, ed. and Winston, Richard & Clara., transs.,

Memories, Dreams and Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. 202


In a time of uncertainty and doubt in a life, perhaps a time of economic anxiety, such dreams frequently come to people.  Jung's dream is a magnificent specimen and it illustrates how dreams can work to comment on, or as Jung says, to "compensate" the conscious position or attitude that we have in our lives at the time of the dream.
Jung's dream of a new wing on his house related to his discovery of alchemy, but the motif or theme of a new wing on our house, a door that suddenly appears and which leads into a new room — this is something that we find frequently in the dreams of people.
I would like to ask everyone reading:
What might be the "new wing in your house", the unexplored part of your personality?
Have you ever had a dream of a house, and a new wing or door suddenly appearing in your house?
When did such a dream happen?  What was going on in your life at that time?  Was it at a time of major change in your life?
I would welcome your input, comments and thoughts on these things.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Coraline: The Real, the Ideal and the Substance of our Lives

April 7th, 2009 · archetypal experience, depth psychology, Film, Jungian psychology, parent-child interactions, puer aeternis, symbolism

Coraline E for Vibrant Jung Thing

Coraline is a recent movie, ostensibly geared to children.  Nonetheless, it tells a story deeply rooted in the realities of soul.  In that sense, its story is of deep relevance to all of us.

The film itself is something of a visual wonder.  It is an exercise in 3-D stop motion photography, giving a film experience that certainly I have never had before.  It's a very rich and imaginative world that is created, based on a story of fantasy and science fiction writer Neil Gaiman.

Coraline is a girl of about ten years of age, whose family moves from Michigan to "the Pink Palace Apartments", a big pink house near the mountains.  She is undergoing a difficult time accepting some of the realities of her life.  Her parents seem totally absorbed in their work as writers, and both the house and the environment in which she lives seem uninteresting and lacking in vitality.  Even the food she has to eat seems singularly boring and unappetizing.

In the midst of the house into which her family has moved, Coraline discovers a portal into another world.  In that world she discovers her "other Mother" and "other Father", who are, in essence, perfect, and geared to meeting all of Coraline's needs.  All the inhabitants of this world are more vivid, more interesting, more what Coraline would want them to be, with the one odd exception that they all have doll-like eyes made from buttons. 

Everything in this tiny parallel world seems ideal, and Coraline is highly tempted to flee to it to live in the realm of her "other Mother" forever.  But then she learns that the price of admission for entry to this world: she must give up her own real eyes, and have a pair of doll-like button eyes sewed into her eyes in their place, and then she will be imprisoned in the witch's world permanently.  With the help of an unusual cat, she is able to escape the witch's realm, and free her real parents from her grip. 

Like Coraline, sometimes the outline of our own real lives is something that we would rather not see, and in which we would rather not live. Perhaps we don't find it meaningful.  There can be a seductiveness to seeing things in our lives as the way that we wish they were, rather than the way that they are.  We willingly make the trade, and give up our own real eyes for illusory eyes that willing get caught up in the spider's web of illusion.  It is not without significance that the witch mother, seemingly so ideal, turns out to be a monstrous spider who devours the souls of her victims.  The ancient eastern symbol for Maya, or illusion, is the spider's web.

It's the cat — the ancient symbol for authentic feminine instinct — that is Coraline's aid and guide out of the witch world.  Through the earthy reality of the cat, Coraline finds her way back to her reality, which, once the seduction of "the ideal" or "what could be" is removed, turns out to be much more vital and alive than at first appeared.

It often takes real courage to give up our illusions and to live in the real non-idealized world that we actually inhabit.  It can take real strength to engage that world, and really dwell in it, rather than allowing fantasies of idealized possibilities to keep us hovering above our real lives.  We all know people whose lives never get grounded, who are always flitting from one idealized goal or dream to another, but who are never able to actualize any of their dreams or realize any of their aspirations in the real world.  Perhaps we recognize those tendencies in ourselves. 

The spider-witch can keep us so caught up Maya web to such an extent that we never materialize our projects, never really go after the things we really need in our lives, and perhaps we are never satisfied with our lovers, children or friends, and we always are looking for the "next great thing".

An important part of therapy can be finding ways to get "down to earth", and to really grapple with the lives and the selves that we actually have.  Like Coraline, we have to free ourselves from the witch's enchantment, and really live — right here, right now.

I highly recommend this wonderful, charming movie!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ; Email:

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Directed by Henry Selick; written by Mr. Selick, based on the book by Neil Gaiman; director of photography, Pete Kozachik; edited by Christopher Murrie and Ronald Sanders; music by Bruno Coulais; production designer, Mr. Selick; produced by Mr. Selick, Bill Mechanic, Claire Jennings and Mary Sandell; released by Focus Features.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Dakota Fanning; Teri Hatcher Jennifer Saunders; Dawn French; Keith David; John Hodgman; Robert Bailey Jr.;  and Ian MacShane.


© 2009 Brian Collinson 



The Introvert, Subjective Life, and the Reality of the Psyche

April 3rd, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, inner life, Introversion, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul

Inward Shell for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Here's a quote from Jung that I've been looking for for a long time.  It is a classic comment of Jung's about the reality of the inner life and the psyche.

"And so, you see, the man [sic] who goes by the influence of the external world — say society or sense perceptions — thinks he is more valid because this is valid, this is real, and the man who goes by the subjective factor is not valid because the subjective factor is nothing.  No, that man is just as well based, because he bases himself on the world from within.

"…the world in general, particularly America, is extraverted as hell, the introvert has no place, because he doesn't know that he beholds the world from within [italics mine].  And that gives him dignity, that gives him certainty, because nowadays particularly, the world hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man….  Nowadays, we are not threatened by elemental catastrophes….  We are the great danger.  The psyche is the great danger.  What if something goes wrong with the psyche?  And so it is demonstrated in our day what the power of the psyche is, how important it is to know something about it. 

"Nobody would give credit to the idea that the psychic processes of the ordinary man have any importance whatever.  One thinks, "Oh, he is just what he has in his head.  He is all from his surroundings."  He is taught such and such a thing, believes such and such a thing, and particularly if he is well-housed and well-fed, then he has no ideas at all.  And that's the great mistake, because he is just what he is born as, and he is not born as a tabula rasa but as a reality." 

"The Houston Films" in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds.,

C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)


"[A person] is not born as a tabula rasa, but as a reality."  That is quite a statement that Jung is making there.  The challenge is to see the reality of ourselves, as in some sense a unified whole.  To see ourselves as something more than the lump sum aggregate of all the conditioning that we have experienced in our lives, and to see our inner experience as something real, something substantial.  And then, to go on the adventure of discovering that reality, of having the courage to know ourselves as what we most fundamentally are.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Websitefor Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ; Email:

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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Stress, Anxiety and Basic Trust PART TWO: Coming to Terms with the Fates and Furies

April 1st, 2009 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, soul, stress, The Self, wholeness

Stress for Vibrant Jung THing

In Part One on this subject, I looked at the connection between stress and our relationship to our own deepest being, the Self.  In this post, I examine the way that stress plays out in our daily lives, and some possible ways in which we can reduce the impact of stress.

In these economically stress-laden times, it's possible to feel ourselves getting more and more drawn into fear.  The economic news plays right into one area of sensitivity that nearly everyone has: the money complex.  Money, wealth, prosperity, "having enough" — these are all very emotionally laden concepts and symbols.  The continual diet of dark economic news that we are subjected to recently plays right into our deepest fears about our security, and for many people conjures up feelings and traumas that have their deep roots in the family of origin.

Touchstones In the Midst of Stress

1.  Are you keeping up your connections with friends, and people you love and cherish?  Do you need to renew your contacts with people who care about you?

Staying involved with friends and people who are close to you is a great way to feel connected and grounded, and to keep your focus.  Isolation can lead to increased obsession with worry and fear.  Are you staying in touch with the people who matter to you?  Are you enjoying their company?  Are you making the distinction between superficial contact with others and being deeply in touch with those who love you.

2. Are you staying connected to ultimate things?

What about your ultimate values?  For most of us there is something that is of fundamental importance in life, whether you call it God, Goddess, the Self, the Ground of Being or Truth.  Whatever symbols are meaningful to you, connecting with them can give a sense of value and stability to life.  For many people, the sense that there is a destiny for me, something which is seeking to emerge in my life — which will emerge in my life — is a source of hope and strength in the face of anxiety.

3. What about connecting to your physical self? 

Whether it is through exercise, yoga, or some form of body work, connecting with and experiencing your body can bring reduced overall tension and fatigue in your body.  This is certainly true, but even more importantly, experience of the body can help me feel real and substantial.  It can even help me feel like I have a home in the universe, that I belonghere.  In the face of the sense of financial threat, which some on the religious right are even prepared to characterize as the judgment of an angry and wrathful father God, connection with the body can bring awareness of our connection and rootedness in the Great Mother.  We can share a sense that our life is a participation in what Matthew Fox has called the "original blessing" of the universe, rather than a sense of condemnation and festering guilt and fear.

4. How are you relating to your creative and imaginal self?

In the midst of our current lives, the greater Self is seeking to come into realization.  The ways it does this usually have to do with different kinds of awareness, and differentSculpture for Vibrant Jung Thingapproaches to our inner life and to the outer world than we habitually use.  If we can work with those different ways of experiencing, it can help greatly with feeling grounded and feeling real.  Many people find that working with clay, painting, making music dancing or other creative and imaginative "ways" or methods can bring a sense of rootedness and reality to their lives.  Also, it can be of great value to engage in active imagination, but I do not recommend that you use this technique without the assistance of someone who has been thoroughly trained in Jungian analysis.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Websitefor Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ; Email:

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