Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Psychotherapy and Listening

February 23rd, 2011 · depth psychology, Jungian psychotherapy, listening, Psychotherapy, therapy

This is a brief post on a psychotherapy quotation on listening that I tweeted recently. It’s such a powerful statement, though, that I think it deserves its own blog post.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.

The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us,

Makes us unfold and expand.”

-Karl A. Menninger

Menninger was not a Jungian, but he was a very wise, astute therapist.  He knew the power of someone really genuinely listening, really genuinely getting what it is that we’re saying, taking it into the heart of who they are.  Listening is fundamental to all good therapy.  Really, it’s the key thing in meaningful human interaction of all kinds.

Listening represents the power of someone else taking our story seriously.  This can have particular power at the times when when we might find it extremely hard to give ourselves that gift of taking our own experience with the deepest seriousness.  This is profoundly true for people who have continually received the message in life that who they are in their individuality really is unimportant or negligible.

True, attentive listening amounts to someone’s acknowledgement of who we most fundamentally are.  It amounts to someone creating space in themselves for us to come in and occupy.  That can feel incredibly powerful, validating, healing.

How will we know genuine listening when we come across it?  How can we tell whether someone listening to us, or our own listening to someone else, has the characteristics of the real, powerful listening that makes a difference in peoples’ lives?

I think that an important element of the answer is found in the following quotation from C.G. Jung:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933

When we are genuinely in interaction with another human being, we know it.  There is an aliveness, and a spontaneity.  Something is going on in the two people involved that comes from their depths — and both of them are being changed.  As Jung notes, this is true in any human interaction, including psychotherapy.  The idea of a therapist who is an immobile block of wood, who goes through the interaction with his or her client without that interaction having any effect on them — this is inhuman.  A real interaction with a therapist at a depth level is something that feels vital and alive.

Are You in Dialogue? Are You Getting Heard?

How is it in your life?   Are there relationships where you feel that you are genuinely heard, or is this something that you deeply crave in your life?

Do you believe that genuinely being listened to, and being heard can make a deep difference in an individual’s life?  Is this something that you have experienced yourself?  Sometimes psychotherapy is the first place in the life of an individual where he or she feels genuinely taken in, listened to — real.  Sometimes it can come as a real surprise to the individual to encounter this.

May your personal journey to wholeness be one in which you are listened to, and genuinely taken in, in a deeply human way,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     © Pavel Losevsky |

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)


Psychotherapy and Instinct: Saving Our Inner Sled Dogs

February 15th, 2011 · animal nature, body, depth psychology, instinct, therapy, unconscious

There’s a story that relates to instinct and psychotherapy, and involving dogs, that has recently come out of Whistler B.C., a town that hosted part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  It’s a very sad story of the alleged mass killing in April of last year of nearly 100 sled dogs[WARNING: linked article contains descriptions of graphic, horrific violence] by a sled dog operator in the tourism industry.  The alleged callousness and brutality with which the dogs were purportedly liquidated  when no longer economically useful has sent waves of horrified disgust through British Columbia and Canada. It raises issues about being connected with our own human instinct that are important in psychotherapy.

The Bond with Dogs

I think that Canadians, Alaskans and other northern people often share a very strong bond to the traditional sled dog, and a very visceral revulsion at the thought that someone would treat them poorly, let alone kill them in such an allegedly wanton manner.

In Canada, a sled dog is a highly symbollic creature.  Such dogs and their role go far back in our psyche, millenia prior to the time of history in this country, when the European was not even a dream in the minds of the First Nations people of the North.  It is said that humans would have never made it across the Bering Strait land bridge to North America in the ice age, had it not been for the sled dog.

Something Ancient in the Heart

Human connection with dogs is unbelievably ancient: dogs are the first animals that humans ever domesticated.  The bond that humans feel with dogs is indissoluble.  I often find it both amusing and deeply moving to watch my neighbours walk their dogs up and down our street.  This relationship with, say, Sandy, my neighbour’s toy poodle, is only the most recent expression of something ancient in the hearts of both dogs and people, that stretches back into the depths of the Paleolithic era.

What is it that connects humans so powerfully to dogs?  What makes us feel such horror that dogs, sled dogs, in particular, could be treated in this manner?

Dog as Instinctual, Affiliative Life

From a Jungian symbolic perspective, animals, and dogs in particular, often symbolize the bodily and instinctual dimensions of human life.  While psychologists once discounted human instinct, viewing us as beings who come into this world as a “blank slate”, science now knows much better, thanks to developments in fields like attachment theory and evolutionary psychology.

And so, when they appear in our dreams, for instance, dogs can often symbolize our instinctual side.  This may relate to the sexual side of our bodily nature, but it more often relates to the basic need for affiliation and companionship that humans share with dogs, and that we see mirrored in them.

A relationship with a dog can teach a human — and particularly a human child — profound things about what it is to be accepted and loved.  The relationship between a figure like a trapper or a hunter, who used to work for long periods in isolation, with only dogs for company would be even more profound, especially when survival might depend on the instinct and strength of those dogs.

Here are some scenes from the wonderful film The Last Trapper, that evoke the symbollic power of the dog / human connection:

What would it mean for a human being to turn his or her back on this, to kill dogs for no reason other than that they have gotten in the way of reaping economic rewards?  What has to happen inside us to make us so turn our back on our own instinctual life?

These are questions I’ll look at in my next post, “Saving Our Inner Sled Dogs, Part 2”.

How Do You Relate to Your Inner Dogs — Your Instinctual Side?

How do you relate to your own instinctual side?   Where do you experience your own instincts?  Do you believe that there is a dimension of human beings that embodies a wisdom that is something other than rational?  How you experienced that dimension?  I would welcome any of your comments or reflections.

Sometimes the journey of psychotherapy entails an individual returning to the sanity of their instinctual life.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.



PHOTO CREDIT:     Creative Commons  Some rights reserved by ronnie44052

VIDEO CREDIT:     “The Last Trapper”, Nicolas Vanier, Director © Copyright Christal Films

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Saying No: Jungian Psychotherapy, the Self, and Compliance

February 9th, 2011 · ego, Jungian, Self, The Self

In Jungian psychotherapy, the Self is something greater than, and distinct from, the ego, and it is something that plays a very active role in the psychological life of the individual.  I often see it at work when I have the experience of working with individuals who have simply reached the point where they cannot accommodate the inappropriate needs of others any further.  It isn’t that they have “decided not to”.  It’s more elemental: something in them will not allow them to bend themselves any further to the will of other people at the cost of their own needs and identity.

People Who Please

Often these are people who, at earlier points in their life have been extremely accommodating of others and who have experienced great pressure, often early in life, to be compliant.  However, when these people come to see me,  often in an agitated state, they make it very clear that they simply can no longer oblige others by being who that Other expects them to be.  It’s over: they can’t do it.  Or, at least, they can’t do it without paying an extremely heavy price, such as possibly lapsing into some form of serious physical or mental illness.

The End of a Certain Road

Often this experience comes at the end of a very long period in an individual’s life of suppressing his or her own wants and needs in favour of others’ demands.  In many cases, the individual may be suddenly confronted with one or more new and extreme self-denying demands, often with the difference this time that the individual is simply incapable of assenting to the wishes of others.

Astounding Self Revelation

Such people are often astounded at their own reactions.  They possibly find themselves feeling great anger or resentment, or overcome with a malaise or apathy not at all characteristic of their usual “sunny disposition” social selves.  They might find themselves in states of intense fear, or even despair.  What it all comes down to though, is this:

I have jumped through the hoops of others’ expectations so many times in the past.  I realize now the incredible price that I have paid in myself for doing it.  I can’t do it any more.  I can’t go back to that…NO!!!”

The “No” That Contains a “Yes”

That NO the individual gives to the demands for compliance contains within it a huge YES to the individual’s selfhood, and to their own real life.  At this point a new adventure begins.

I’ve had experiences like this myself, at several key points in my life.  At one point, in a time of genuine crisis, I made a decisive choice to move my life in a different direction.  Not because I had a choice about it, but because I didn’t — not if I wanted to continue to be myself, rather than a burnt-out remnant.  In the words of Robert Frost, “and that has made all the difference”.

Have you ever had an experience of this type?  Would you recognize it if you yourself were to come to this place?

Is Your Own Deepest Self Saying “No”?

I have no doubt that, among those reading this, there are some of you who have had the type of experience that I describe.  I suspect that there may be others among my readers who are undergoing this type of experience right now.  If you are, please remember that the support of a skilled therapist can be invaluable at times like this.  I know that it was for me.

Have you ever faced a situation in your life, where something within you just said “No” in an absolute way?  What kind of situation was it?  Did it relate to your work life?  Your personal or domestic life?   I would welcome any of your comments or reflections.

Wishing you and your potent, living self every good thing as you find your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     Creative Commons  Some rights reserved by  TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)


Shadow Identity: Inside You Someone Waits to Emerge

February 4th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian analysis, Self, self-knowledge, Shadow

The shadow is the unacknowledged part of ourselves.  Inside you, that shadow someone has been waiting to emerge for a very long time, like a butterfly from a cocoon.  You may well encounter that someone, or aspects of her or him, in your dreams.  That person may be an elusive stranger, or someone who urgently cries out to you to open your doors to her…or him.  The shadow can be many things.

The shadow someone who waits to emerge may contain elements of you which have been forgotten or even repressed since childhood.  Or, that “someone” may appear with elements that have never before been in your conscious mind.  He or she may represent something new in you, a reality about you held in the depths of your unconscious, waiting until now to emerge and encounter you in your conscious identity.  You may well find that you are not always entirely comfortable with this one who wishes to emerge!

Depth Psychology and Emergence of the Shadow

The calling of the depth psychotherapist is to assist in the encounter of the one who wishes to emerge with the already established identity of the person who starts to hear the call of their inner self, in whatever form that call takes.  The depth psychotherapist recognizes that these are elements of one and the same person. and that,  for a person to love, accept and acknowledge him or herself, the known self and the undiscovered or emerging self must embrace each other. Then the person will live in the awareness of his or her true self, and her or his own real life.

Yearning for Transformation

Something inside of us yearns for this. Something in us may also be aware that such a transformation takes effort, and is only acheived if we devote ourselves to the goal, and move past that part of ourselves that would tell us that everything is OK the way it is, and there is no need for us to change or grow.  The part of us that is caught up with inertia, that would tell us that even though things don’t seem the best, and that life is less than satisfying— or even less real — than we had hoped, it is better to let sleeping dogs lie…or sleeping aspects of the self.


Depth psychotherapy, especially Jungian analysis, is all about the process of awakening sleeping shadow aspects of the self.  It is opening gates within you, and allowing exiled aspects of your being to walk through those gates.

What will that someone who emerges be like?  The answer to that question will be as unique as you are.  But the encounter with the undiscovered self will ultimately be a homecoming.

Who is Waiting to Appear?

As you read this, there are aspects of who you are of which you’re aware, and aspects that are in the unconscious.  Who is it who is waiting to appear in you?  What is there that is part of your nature that is yearning to reveal itself in you?  What kind of healing would those parts of you bring?

Have you ever had the experience of encountering an aspect of yourself of which you had previously been unaware?  Such experiences can sometimes be profoundly transformative.  If you were willing to share about such an experience either in a comment or vie email, I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you and your emerging self every good thing as you travel on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.



PHOTO CREDIT:     Creative Commons  Some rights reserved by Teosaurio

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Psychotherapy, Self and a Snow Day

February 2nd, 2011 · analytical psychology, Anxiety, depression, inner life, life journey, Lifestyle, Meaning, Oakville, Peel Region, personal story, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, reflection, Self, soul, The Self, therapy

Why am I writing about psychotherapy, snow days and the self today?  Because, if Environment Canada and the other weather folks are right, today will shape up to be the most significant “snow day” we’ve experienced in this part of Canada for a number of years.  And even if the weather folks are wrong, there’s a huge number of school and other closures, and people just staying home in anticipation of a huge dump of snow, whether it actually comes or not.  Psychotherapy would say that the snow day is a psychological and social reality, even if it turns out not to be a meteorological one.

So what do psychotherapy, psychology and the self, etc. have to do with a snow day?  I think it’s this.

Normal Expectations — Shut Down!

With a snow day, suddenly all of our normal expectations for the day just get shut down.  Normal routines and expectations of the day are put on hold.  There’s no taking the kids to school, and maybe no commute and time in the office.  Where we had expected an ordinary working day, filled with the usual frenetic busy-ness, we often get a much quieter day.  A day with unexpected elements of “down time” and maybe with significant blocks of empty space.

What do I Notice?

What do I notice in the middle of the unexpected emptiness of a snow day?  Potentially, many things.  One of them may be a lot of anxiety.  The sudden lack of agenda may lead us to feel an unexpected void.  Alternately, we might find ourselves feeling a bit “down”.  For some people, there may have been a feeling of anticipation of the snow day — “Oh, good, no work!” — which is gradually replaced by a feeling of listlessness that seems to creep in as they are confronted with inactivity.  And then, for some folks, there will be a genuine feeling of relief to just have some let up from the pressure of the daily routine in this unexpected way.


Whatever feelings you may confront, they bring an opportunity.  In this open space of time, you have the opportunity to learn something about yourself, about relationship, and about your feelings about your own real life.  This day, seeming empty, may prove to be a doorway, if you take the opportunity it provides to look within.

Three Psychological Questions to Ask Yourself Today

1.  What do I really feel today?  Please note: this is not the same question as “What do I think?” or “What do I think I ought to feel?” It’s a question that I ask myself when I’m trying to be as honest as I can about parts of myself to which I may not usually pay attention.

2. What do I really want today?  Again, this is not the same as, “What do I think I ought to want?”  Without censoring myself, can I be honest about what I’d really like in my life?

3. Is the Life I’m Leading Meeting the Needs of My Inmost Self?  If the answer to this question is “No”, or “I’m not sure”, this might be the moment to seek out the help of an experienced and qualified psychotherapist to do some in-depth self-exploration.

More than just “down time”, the open-ness of a snow day can be an opportunity to move into depth.

Wishing you a meaningful snow day — and a genuine encounter with your own dear self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.



PHOTO CREDIT:     © Vuk Vukmirovic |

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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