Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog


June 30th, 2009 · complexes, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Psychotherapy

It may come as a shock to realize it, but a human being is not just one solid big lump of personality, with unified intent and will.  This is what most people choose to believe, but the psychological truth is quite different.

In each of us there are many parts, many elements that go into the composition of our personality, of what it is that makes me “me”.  Jung called these elements in the psyche “complexes”, for some technical reasons that we don’t need to go into here.

I think that nearly all of us will have had the experience of finding ourselves in the grip of a mood or a way of thinking that seems odd or strange, or where we feel thatComplexes 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing “something had a grip on me then”, or where we feel “not ourselves”.  We can feel this associated with strong emotion or with a sense of compulsivity.  Sometimes, it can have what I call a feeling of “time warp” about it, where we even feel ourselves back at some point in our past, feeling a long familiar emotion.  I know for a long time, when confronting bosses or employers, used to find myself feeling like I was 10 years old, sitting across the dinner table from my father!  Such a feeling reaction is a sure sign of the presence of a complex.

 The trouble with complexes is that they can end up taking us Complexes 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing places, in our emotions and thinking, that we just really don’t want to go.  We can find ourselves over-reacting, or locked into rigid ways of thinking, or compulsively doing things that we just really don’t want to do and that “just aren’t me” in the truest sense of the word.

So what’s to be done?

Well, the surprising paradox is that there are good things to be found in our complexes, as we come to understand them, and the pervasive effect that they have on our psyche. Freud said that the royal road to the unconscious is through dreams.  Jung disagreed with him at this point: for Jung, the royal road to the unconscious is through the complexes. And it is in the unconscious that our real life is waiting for us.

Real psychotherapy engages us with our complexes, whether they concern our father, our mother, money, cleanliness, social phobias, addictive behaviour, authority figures religious complexes — whatever.  It’s only by having the courage and fortitude to bring our complexes into the light of day, usually in therapy, that we can begin to diminish their power, and to feel the energy behind them begin to re-animate our lives.

Do you know where your complexes are?  Are you willing to take them on, to really look at them, and see the places in your life where they really run the show?  It can be humbling to do this, but it can also make us feel vastly more alive.  

To paraphrase, better the complex you know than the complex you don’t!

Thank you to those of you who suggest possible topics for my posts , and how expressed an interest in a post on the topic of complexes.  As always I welcome your comments, and I look forward to dialoguing with each of you. 

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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PHOTO CREDITS:  ©Photon75 |; ©  Dononeg |   

 © 2009 Brian Collinson    


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Meaningful Life

June 17th, 2009 · depth psychology, life passages, Meaning, meaningful life, midlife


 meaningful life The Toronto Globe and Mail in an article this morning cited research by Dr. Patricia A. Boyle and her colleagues at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and published in Psychosomatic Medicine, tending to empirically confirm something that psychotherapists and counsellors have known from their practices for a very long time:   A more meaningful life is associated with a reduced risk of mortality among older persons.

Almost needless to say, the insight that meaning and purpose in life are tied to greater vitality in life is not something that is confined to the old.  In some important ways, depression can often be related to a particular crisis of meaning in a person’s life.  Jung has written on the theme of meaning with great frequency in his writings.  He particularly emphasizes its importance at mid-life and all points thereafter in life, but it is a theme that he would readily acknowledge throughout the life journey, as does psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl in his classic work Man’s Search for Meaning.

That’s all good, but where does one get this meaning?  Most fundamentally, something is meaningful to a person when the meaning emerges from deep in the self, and is connected with the very core values and life experience of the individual.  The depth of the Self is not nearly the same thing as the reality of the ego and its particular projects: it has to do with the whole dimension of us that is seeking to find unity and wholeness.  The work of psychotherapy at its deepest and most valid is to assist the individual in getting to know these undiscovered aspects of the whole psyche.

How does the issue of what is meaningful touch your life?  WHere have you found meaning that is vital and important to you?  What parts of you continue to look for meaning?


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My Inner Life: When the Unconscious Becomes Conscious

June 9th, 2009 · inner life, my inner life


Unconscious for Vibrant Jung Thing Here is a very evocative quote from Jung on the effect of integrating unconscious material into our conscious selves.  He stresses that what happens to us is fundamentally beyond description, and yet fundamentally real.


“What happens within oneself when one integrates previously unconscious contents with the consciousness is something which can scarcely be described by words.  It can only be experienced.  It is a subjective affair quite beyond discussion; we have a particular feeling about ourselves, about the way we are, and that is a fact that it is neither possible nor meaningful to doubt.  Similarly, we convey a particular feeling to others, and that too is a fact that cannot be doubted….  Whether a change has taken place as the result of integration, and what the nature of that change is, remains a matter of subjective conviction.  To be sure it is not a fact which can be scientifically verified….  Yet it nevertheless remains a fact which is in practice uncommonly important and fraught with consequences.”


“Travels” in Jung, C.G., Jaffe, Aniela, ed. and Winston, Richard & Clara., transs.,

Memories, Dreams and Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. 287


I think that what Jung is saying is that what happens in inner work, such as therapy, when we confront what is in the unconscious, is fundamentally beyond description — but nonetheless very real and important in its effect upon us.  Beyond achieving specific conscious goals, there is something that happens to us in therapy as we take in the reality of the previously undiscovered self.  There is a growth and a healing in this that can root us in our lives, and make us feel substantial and real as people and as individuals.


Where does the reality of the unconscious seek to manifest itself in your life?  Sometimes it is in the least likely spot, the place where we seem least sure and weakest.  The journey of therapy is the uncovering of this reality.

Thank you to those of you who comment on my posts and on the process of therapy, whether via comments on this blog, through emails, or even in face-to-face conversation.  As always I welcome your comments, and I would like to feel that this blog is a co-operative endeavour and a dialogue with you.  



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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I'm NOT Merely "One of 7,000,000,000"!

June 1st, 2009 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, Identity, Individuation, Jungian psychology, soul, The Self

Rice Grain for Vibrant Jung Thing Sometimes you read something in the newspaper or online that strikes you as just plain wrong.

That was my reaction when I read a recent article in the Globe and Mail, 7,000,000,000 grains 7,000,000,000 stories.  It seems that James Yarker, of the theatre collective Stan's Cafe had a great deal of trouble visualizing the enormity of the number 7,000,000,000, which is approximately the number of human beings on the earth.  I can sympathize with that.  Who wouldn't have trouble with that kind of number?  However, Mr. Yarker's response was to create a huge display of piles of grains of rice, representing the number 7,000,000,000 in its entirety.  He used 112 tonnes of rice to do this, then later had to add more because the earth's population had increased.  

So each of us is represented by one of Mr. Yarker's nondescript little rice grains, buried somewhere in one of his huge piles of rice.  While I have no wish to attack Mr. Yarker personally, this expression is an image of the human condition that I consider extremely inaccurate and unfortunate — even destructive.  Not to mince words, it is anti-human and anti-art.  From what I know of Carl Jung from his writings, I'm sure that he would have pretty much the same reaction. 

Throughout his life, Jung was an advocate of the individual, and an opponent of any approach which obliterated the individual by reducing him or her to the merely average or statistical.  His point was that no human being is average: each human being is a unique phenomenon.

It can take courage to accept one's own uniqueness.  It can also take courage affirm the value of that each of us as individuals lives or experiences in the face of the overwhelming and seemingly faceless crowd.  Nonetheless, it's essential to remember that no one else can live the life that you or I have been given.  It also means that we have to find our own meaning, and our own solutions to the particular things that confront us in our life.  We can enlist the help of others, and in fact, we certainly should do so.  But when it comes to "crunch time", we must make the decisions, and live the life that is ours.

I challenge each of my readers to reflect carefully and deeply on his or her individuality and uniqueness.  Sometimes it's tempting and easy to "bathe oneself in the crowd", as Baudelaire7 Billion for VIbrant Jung Thing  describes it, and so not to take my individual life seriously.  But there is nothing so fundamental to us as our own subjective being — nothing of such infinite value.

Can I really look in the mirror?  And take in the mystery and the glory that is my own being?  One thing is for certain: the one who stares back at me from the mirror is no mere clone or rice grain.  Can I make my peace with that one?

Thank you to all those of you who have commented on my posts recently, and especially for your comments and questions about individuality and the individuation process.  As always I welcome the comments of those who read, and any suggestions or possible topics that you might have.  

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


Get "Vibrant Jung Thing" posts delivered to your email using the "FeedBurner" box in the left column!

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© 2009 Brian Collinson    

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