Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Counselling & Self Awareness on the Holidays

December 27th, 2011 · counselling, Jungian, Jungian counselling, Self, self awareness, The Holidays

Jungian counselling

Yule Log with Snow by Midge Frazel

My Jungian counselling experience has shown me that, once the lead-up to the Holidays is over, there is often a quieter period in which people often come to new kinds of self awareness.  This can often lead to new paths on a personal journey towards wholeness, if individuals are willing to walk them.

From a Jungian counselling perspective, there are at least four striking opportunities for self awareness that people might encounter during the Holidays

  • A Break From the Regular Pattern of Life

The Holidays often offer the opportunity to get outside of the patterns of life that we all find so consuming, just for a while.  As we take things at a more leisurely pace, perhaps we begin to examine aspects of our lives, and to ask some really basic questions.  The frenetic pace of work, kids’ activities, sports involvements, and so on gives way to a time when we can look at the pattern of our lives, and just be aware.

  • Connecting with My Earlier Selves

The Holidays can further self-awareness by putting us in mind of our selves at earlier points in our journey.  Childhood Christmases, full perhaps of great joy, or, in some cases, great pain and disappointment.  Adult Christmases with a new love.  “White knuckle Christmases” on your own, perhaps in a strange new city, or possibly after a divorce.  All are versions of myself: what do they show me about who I am, right here and right now?

  • Connecting with Where I am Now

And Jungian counselling is certainly concerned with where I am right at this present, and what the issues are that are coming up for me.  What is it right now about myself that is hard for me to look at about myself?  What does this have to do with my values, goals, morality, spirituality — yearnings?

  • The New Year is Coming

The New Year is many things, psychologically, but one of the key dimensions, from a Jungian counselling perspective, is as an opportunity for renewal.  Life extends on the other side of the gate to the New Year.  Whatever has gone by this year, we have the opportunity in the coming year to live in deeper self awareness, and in our own inner truth, on the singular road of our own journey towards wholeness.


With very best wishes for the holidays, and the coming New Year,

PHOTO: © Some rights reserved by midgefrazel
VIDEO: “The Road Less Travelled”, by 
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Jungian Therapy, the Self & the Christmas Tree

December 20th, 2011 · christmas tree, Jungian, Jungian therapy, The Self, therapy

Who would think that the familiar Christmas tree is an ancient symbol of the Self, in the way that Jungian therapy uses that term?  Yet the evidence shows that Jungian therapy is correct about this.

The symbol of the Christmas tree is quite unusual.  For one thing, it’s quite unclear how it fits with traditional Christian narrative about Christmas.

Jung on the Christmas Tree

Jung whets our appetite with some striking commentary:

…Everyone decorates Christmas trees or hides Easter eggs without ever knowing what these customs mean.  The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean….  What the Christmas-tree might be, our forefathers knew even less than ourselves, and it is only quite recently that we have bothered to find out at all.  The archetype…causes man to utter words and perform actions whose meaning is unconscious…

 C.G. Jung, Collected Works, v.v. 8 & 9.1,

Christmas Tree as World Trees,

The unusual tree in our living rooms at Christmas actually represents the “World Tree”, the tree containing the universe in many mythological traditions.  In particular, this tree is really the Yggdrasil from Nordic mythology of the pre-Christian era.  In Nordic myth, the universe is formed of nine independent worlds, each part of the great Yggdrasil — a vast “Forest Ash”  or yew tree, growing in Ginnungagap (“the great emptiness”).

Roots: the 3 Legged Christmas Tree Stand

Traditional Christmas tree stands had 3 legs.  This isn’t accidental: in Nordic myth, the Yggdrasil tree had 3 roots, associated with the three Norns, the Nordic goddesses of fate, and with past, present and future.  The threefold Christmas tree stand symbolizes the rootedness of the World Tree.

Jungian therapy

Who knew?

Tree Symbolizes the Self in Jungian Therapy

Jung thoroughly studied the tree as a symbol of the Self, which is to say, the whole of the personality.  With roots in matter, in the earth, and branches in the sky, gaily coloured ball decorations which symbolize stars and planets, shiny tinsel garlands that represent the rainbows that connect together all the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, it is a marvellous symbol of the wholeness of psyche.  As the poet Walt Whitman says, for all of us, “I am large, I contain worlds”  And so each of us does in Jungian therapy.

Very best wishes for the holidays,

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by Forest Eyes
VIDEO: “Worlds’ Largest Tree”, by cannibal17
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Jungian Counselling & Finding Your Life Purpose

December 13th, 2011 · Jungian, Jungian counselling, life purpose, purpose

Jungian counselling

Walking the Ninia Labyrinth

Finding your life purpose is key in individual therapy, and Jungian counselling stresses the need to make a personal search for meaningful direction in life.  For many, finding life purpose is an essential journey to make, and Jungian counselling affirms that it’s a journey that we each can make.

A while ago, I posted the short James Hillman video below on the Facebook page for my practice.  In it, Hillman raises some very important issues about creativity, work and our sense of life purpose.

Several insights emerge from Hillman’s video.  They raise questions about life purpose that are not the type that are easy or quick to answer.

Don’t Settle for “Secondary Reasons”

Hillman talks about all the secondary reasons that people can have for doing what they do: doing it all for their kids, working to get a pension, and so on.  His point is that these things are good to work for, but, in and of themselves, they’re not enough.  We plainly and simply need something more to sustain us.

What is Really, Fundamentally Meaningful for Me?

That leads us to the question of what it is that fundamentally has meaning.  What are the things that so fascinate me, that so grab me (Jung would say that are so “numinous”) that they hold me?  The things that make such a claim on me that I could devote all my effort to them, and never tire?  They could be religious, or artistic, in some form or other — or they might be something quite different, unique and individual in character.  The key thing is: what is it for you?

Can Serving Something be Perfect Freedom?

The church I grew up in used to use a prayer book that had this phrase in it, referring to God: “Whose service is perfect freedom”.  I don’t think you need to use this phrase in a specifically religious context to sense its value.  What could we devote ourselves to in our lives, that, no matter what the hardships were, the service of it would feel like perfect freedom, and we would still want to devote ourselves to it?

Something That I Have to Do

Hillman explicitly raises a question in the video.  What is it that I have to do — that would be my unique contribution?  The answer to the question of life purpose stems from who I most fundamentally am.

PHOTO: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works  Some rights reserved by wester
© 2011 Brian Collinson

 

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Depth Psychotherapy, Stress Reduction & the Holidays

December 8th, 2011 · depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress, stress reduction

Stress reduction during the Holidays: can a depth psychotherapy perspective help with keeping the season genuine and human?

depth psychotherapy

I hear from many people in many ways at this time of year how hard it can be to stay true to oneself.  People find it hard to stay with how they really feel; to keep to what they want for themselves, instead of being driven by others’ expectations; and, to stay with their own genuine spirituality.

 

Approaching the season in the spirit of depth psychotherapy, here are 4 potentially important elements.

Honest Connection, Not “Going Through the Motions”

Relationships with others in the holiday season can be routine, rather than genuinely connected.  Sometimes I would really rather not see a particular person at all; experiences of betrayal or violation by family members, for instance, can generate such feelings.  Or, it may be painful to pretend to be as others rigidly expect me to be.

These holidays, could my stress reduction involve making my connections with others reflect how I really feel in my depths?

Authenticity, Not Conventionality

Similarly, my holiday activities might be motivated by what I’m expected to do, rather than what I really want.  How free can I be this year to do what genuinely matters to me?

More Living, Not More Stuff

We all know the ever-growing marketing pressure to buy more at this season.  Underlying this compulsive push is a powerful fantasy: the idea that owning the right things will lead to an imaginary good life of fulfillment.  But maybe the key to our fulfillment has much more to do with what we experience.  How could I alter my holiday season to experience more, in order to feel more alive?

Depth of Feeling, Not Sentimentality

The holiday season is often full of hackneyed sentimentality, both sacred and secular.  I can feel a lot of pressure to feel what I’m “supposed” to feel, rather than what I actually do feel.  This doesn’t mean that I have to be cynical; in our era that can be a canned sentiment, too.  What do I genuinely feel and think as I reflect about myself, the season, those close to me, and my journey?

Father Christmas” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer expresses these psychological truths:

 

My very best wishes for the Holiday season,

PHOTO: © Wessel Du Plooy | Dreamstime.com
MUSIC: “I Belive in Father Christmas”, Greg Lake © 1975  Atlantic Records  All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

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Individuation, Our 40s & 50s, & Major Life Transitions

December 2nd, 2011 · Individuation, life transitions, major life transitions

major life transitions
At a time in our culture when people are focussed on the individuation process, in their 40s and 50s, major life transitions seem to now be occurring with ever greater frequency.  How can we cope?

At a stage in life that once would have been a time of consolidation and reflection — the essence of individuation — people are encountering circumstances that are impinging on their lives.  Workplaces are nowhere near as stable as they were even 30 years ago.  Neither are family units.  Major life transitions are often making people less willing to connect, and much more isolated and alone than in previous times.

Stress from Imposed Change and Demands

Greatly increased levels of stress are the result.  People are often feeling trapped in their situations.  For instance, they feel work related stress resulting from needing to continuously adapt to change.  They often feel, overall, that they are facing their lives with too few resources, and considerable economic uncertainty.

It’s Different than it was Even 20 Years Ago

The rapid pace of change in our lives means that many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have no effective role model or mentor for a phase in their lives that is often of great importance for individuation.  Individuals often feel that they are dealing with situations for which they have no effective roadmap.   They feel that they confront more and more that is uncontrollable and unpredictable, and this can easily result in individuals making their lives smaller and smaller .

It’s the Same as it was 100,000 Years Ago

Yet for all of us, there are certain common elements to the human journey.  As for our distant ancestors, there is a need deep in us for meaning, and for a stable sense of self.  There is an overwhelming need for a sense of being rooted in the cosmos, and for a sense that the journey each of us is on in our lives is one that truly matters to us personally.  In our time, the search for this kind of meaning, the process of individuation, involves encounter with the depths of the self.

Often the best way to further that process is through entering into depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis.  The resilience needed to survive creatively through the major life transitions of our time stems from the awareness of the solidity and rootedness of the self, grounded in the truth and hope of our own personal myth.

PHOTO: © Alon Othnay | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

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