Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Does February Bring Any GIfts?

January 31st, 2010 · depth psychology, Hope, Identity, Individuation, inner life, soul, The Self, therapy

February Gifts 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing  “April is the cruelest month” wrote the poet T.S. Eliot.  When I first read that line as a teenager, my thought was, “Obviously, this poet wasn’t a Canadian!”

Anyone who has consistently lived through winters in places like Oakville, Mississauga or Burlington will probably tell you that “the cruelest month” is either January or February.  I suspect that many would vote for February.

For many people, February can seem very bleak.  The year-end holidays are far behind us.  There is no major holiday to lighten our hearts, although we do now have “Family Day”.  Snow or brutal cold –this year we have little of the former and plenty of the latter–can turn trips out into an ordeal.  The days are lengthening, it’s true, but, at least in our part of the world, long strings of overcast days lead many people to feel starved for sunlight.

Does February bring us any gifts?  How could it?…

One of the most difficult aspects of this time of the year can be that we tend to feel shut in, and shut up with ourselves.  This can mean that we are left with what I often term the fundamental question of ourselves.  That is, with how to be who we are and feel good about it.  How to actively accept and cherish our lives, rather than just seeing ourselves as “one in a million”.

Many of the things into which we pour our energy at other times of the year are just not available now.  Our response to that can be to curse the luck and hang on grimly until spring.  Or, we could use the time to really encounter ourselves.

Here are some things that might be helpful to think about at this time.  They’ve proved valuable to me, so I leave them with you for your consideration:

 

Have you ever told yourself the story of your own life?  To sit down and actually write your own life story can be a truly revelatory thing to do.

Have you ever thought about what the happiest time in your life was?  Have you ever thought about what was the saddest?

Who are the three most significant people that you have encountered in your life, other than parents or siblings.  Why are they important to you?  What does that tell you about yourself?

In what do you put your faith?  This might be a formal religious belief, or a personal spirituality or philosophy, or it might be something quite different.  What you fundamentally value can tell you a tremendous amount about who you fundamentally are.

It may be that, as you live with these questions, they take on a fundamental importance that leads you to want to explore new dimensions of yourself, with someone “on your side” to witness your journey.  Certainly that was my experience, and that is what initially led me into psychotherapy and Jungian analysis.

 

I’d welcome comments below from readers on how any of these thoughts relates to your lives at this time of year.

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: © Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

→ 1 Comment

Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

January 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, persona, puer aeternis, unlived life, wholeness, work

Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham

 

“Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

Up In the Air Official Website

Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

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

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

 

→ 1 Comment

Seeking for Depth

January 18th, 2010 · archetypes, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, Identity, inner life, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, therapy, wholeness

 

Seeking for Depth for Vibrant Jung Thing In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on what are called “brief psychotherapies” by the therapeutic profession.

The emphasis has been on providing very short courses of psychotherapy to individuals, with an eye to providing concrete definable “results” with respect to narrowly defined issues.  In large part, the movement to this type of therapy has been driven by pressure from insurance providers, who have sought to keep costs down by focusing on achieving measurable progress on specific, very focused issues.  By keeping therapy short, the inscos hoped to return people who are off work back to the workplace in the shortest feasible time that is compatible with the safety of the client.

It may well be that the brief therapies and “solution-focused” therapies are quite successful in acheiving their defined goals.  However, that is not the point that I want to pick up in this particular post.  Rather, I want to ask a bigger and more fundamental question, which is implicit in the following quotation from Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby:

 …any psychotherapy founded on depth psychology should focus above all on the question of who we really are above and beyond the distortions provoked by the way we were brought up or by the society we live in.  Becoming conscious ultimately involves an unbiased experience of the ‘true self’. The self in the Jungian sense is rooted in the unfathomable domain that has rightly been termed the unconscious. 

Mario Jacobi, Individuation and Narcissism,

(London; Routledge, 1990), p. 96

 The type of psychotherapy Jacobi is describing is rooted in fundamental questions of depth.  The question that forms its basis is, quite simply, “Who are you?”  It does not accept any glib or shallow answer.  It also recognizes that who we fundamentally are is something that we will never be able to just size up intellectually.  It’s much deeper than that — a matter that we can only experience, and never exhaust.

While brief therapies may provide concrete value, there is a whole other level upon which we need to encounter ourselves, and there be healed.  For many people, it is that deeper level where the need is urgent.

I’d welcome comments from any readers on experiences of their own depth, in therapy or outside of it. Are there moments when you feel that you have really experienced yourself?

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: © Gorbovskoy| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

→ No Comments

Exploring Liber Novis: Jung’s Red Book

January 15th, 2010 · archetypal experience, Books, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian psychology, The Self

Red Book for Vibrant Jung ThingIt has been some months now since the publication of Carl Jung’s famed Red Book, the book of images and text that he wrote during his formative crisis and encounter with the unconscious during the years 1913-1919.  I’ve had a copy of the Red Book for some time now, and have been exploring its richness in some depth.  This voyage of exploration will go on for a very long time, I expect.  To really plumb the depths of the Red Book is a feat not lightly or easily achieved.

In my opinion, the Red Book shows the true genius of C.G Jung.  There cannot have been many human beings who have had the courage to enter in so deeply into their inner lives as he, and to really confront the unconscious in all its dimensions.  Through years of inner crisis he sought to understand the depths of the Self.

Jung emerges from this inner journey with a clear message: there are forces in the unconscious that are seeking to bring us to wholeness; there is a wisdom in our depths that the ego can only just barely start to comprehend.  If we can have the courage to let go, and to open ourselves to our depths, there is a unique life in each of us, that is striving to become, and always has been.  This is not an easy journey, and it is not one about which glib and facile things should be said.  But for some, it is only by embarking on this inner journey that reality, life and meaning can be found.

 

Only what is really oneself has the power to heal.

-C.G. Jung

Red Book at Ruben Museum of Art

Chief Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art Martin Brauen, left, and Felix Walder, right, the great-grandson of Carl Jung, inspect Carl Jung’s famous “Red Book” after it’s arrival at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. “The Red Book,” was displayed to the public at the Ruben for the first time on October 7, coinciding with the first-ever publication of the book by W.W. Norton & Company. (AP Photo/Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ramson)

Jung’s Red Book has now been published by W.W. Norton & Company. It is a major source for Jungian psychology, and a book that contains many of the treasures of the soul of C.G. Jung.  Here is the URL for the Red Book’s page on Amazon.ca:

//bit.ly/5Lr5hu

I’d be interested in comments from any readers about your encounter with the Red Book, or with any of Jung’s other works. How have Jung’s writings impacted you?

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

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © AP Photo / Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ransom

© 2010 Brian Collinson

→ 5 Comments

Job, Identity, Anxiety

January 13th, 2010 · wholeness, work

 

Work and Identity for Vibrant Jung Blog I don’t know what might motivate an employer to choose to lay people off 3 weeks before Christmas.  However, judging from the calls I received from clients and potential clients prior to the New Year, there were quite a few employers who took such action this year.

Having been on the receiving end of such news myself in prior times, my thoughts and very best wishes are with anyone who had to confront that reality this holiday season.  Here’s to better times and a better job market for all. 

This is difficult for people all on its own — just dealing with the economics of job loss.  However, when it’s compounded by issues of identity and self-worth, it can become incredibly painful, to the point where it is almost unbearable.

It’s all too easy for all of us to allow our identity to become completely bound up with our social role and with others’ expectations of us, especially where work is concerned.  In his writings, Jung warned incessantly of the dangers of becoming over-identified with the social self, the “persona” as he called it. 

Today, for many people, the pace of work simply increases and increases as organizations make new demands on their employees.  More and more consideration, energy and time is demanded by the workplace, and, for many, there is intense and endless anxiety about work, about whether one’s job is stable and sustainable, about relentless change, and often about the endless political complexities of workplaces where resources are scarce and communication and leadership are inadequate for the task at hand.

You might think that these factors would lead individuals to be less and less identified with work, but in an odd way, the effect seems often to be just the reverse.  Even though work is fraught with anxiety, people become strangely identified with their work role.  Perhaps it’s precisely because so much effort has to be put into keeping working life on an even keel, and so much worry and anxiety keep pulling individuals back to confronting their work. 

However, it’s essential for each of us to hold on to the realization that I am not identical with my work role.  Don’t allow work to consume the substance of your life.

Easy to say, but doing it is often not as simple as that.  Often it is not just the identity at work that confines us.  It can be just as much about the way that we are perceived in various social settings, and in the community at large, through our work roles, as it were.  Very many of us are powerfully addicted to the drug of success.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we are highly invested in being seen as a success, perhaps to such an extent that all of our self-esteem and self-respect is riding upon it.

This gives rise to some fundamental questions:

  • What really is it for me to be a success?  How will I know when I get there?
  • Who gets to say whether I’m a success?  Me, or some outside authority to which I’ve given the power to say whether I’ve made it or not?
  • Is it what I own that makes me a success, or is it what I am?
  • And simply, am I over-identified with my work role?  How do I understand myself independent of it?

Don’t let your work keep you from your life.  Don’t let it persuade you that it is your life.  Don’t let it keep you from your vocation, what it is that you are really meant to be and do.

I’d be interested in your comments about how you experience work, and how you understand yourself and your identity independent of your job, and, as always, any other comments 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: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: ©Photovibes| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

→ No Comments