Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 2: Desire

February 27th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

We tend to think that desire declines in the second half of life, but Jungian therapy challenges us as to whether that is really true.

Jungian therapy

As life goes on, there are actually some things that we yearn for with greater and greater intensity, and they may well have a profound importance for our psychic wholeness.

second half of life

Is Blake a bit extreme here?  Perhaps… but if we are talking about our heart’s real yearning, especially in the second half of life  — is he really wrong?

What We Fundamentally Desire Embodies Who We Are

What we most fundamentally yearn for hugely effects the forward movement of our lives.  Jungian therapy knows that our desires often comes from the deepest parts of the self, including the unconscious, in ways that we may not readily understand.  Our desire powerfully embodies the way we actually are in the world.

Wholeness, Yearning and Desire

In his Red Book,  Jung tells us that desire is “image and expression of the soul.”  (By “soul” he means the essence of who we are, or personality, rather than anything metaphysical.)  If desire is the expression of soul, and expresses our feeling, then it has immense importance for us during the midlife transition and the second half of life.  To explore fundamental desires, and to live them out, is connected with being who we are, in an essential way.

The Unexpected Attractor

The unexpected desire may be the most important.  Sometimes, in the second half of life, the individual finds him or herself attracted to things that seem completely unexpected, even inconsistent with desires at earlier life stages.  Yet, sifting through these “strange attractors” and unfamiliar desires, and possibly living them out, may be essential for the journey towards wholeness.

Hidden Desire and Imagination

Much art concerns yearning, often hidden desire and the ways in which it is fundamentally enfolded in imagination.  An important dimension of growth in the second half of life can be the process of letting desire speak through imagination, and realizing that imagination possesses a fundamental reality.  As Jung says:

 


Our desire is a powerful thing, and it matters to our lives.  Jungian therapy can be a key part of exploring desire, and entering into the fulness of who we are, and are meant to be, in the second half of life.

How have your deepest desires changed through the course of your life?

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 1: Openness

February 21st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

I’ve always wanted to do a series on how Jungian therapy approaches the second half of life.  This is the time in our life from the onset of psychological midlife on.  For the first post, I’ve chosen the challenge of openness.

Jungian therapy

Growing older can tempt us to close ourselves off from new kinds of awareness and new possibilities for living.  How do we avoid this, and stay open, alive and aware?

Below are four insights about openness and the second half of life.

Coping with the Current of Life

Sometimes the current gets rough.  I can easily be overwhelmed with all that life brings over the bow in the second stage of adulthood.  Kids facing the challenges of the teen years, and of moving out into the adult world, and then the reality of empty nest.  Ever-changing and less stable work life.  For many, the end of marriages and partnerships, sometimes of long standing.  Achievement of some dreams, and the recognition that others will never come about.  The feeling of passing time, and anxiety about life slipping away.

The Temptation to Disengagement

As we get older and confront these challenges, there can be a slow, subtle, almost unconscious temptation to pull back from the world.  Without even being aware we’re doing it, we can end up holding ourselves aloof from what is going on around us, sometimes feeling betrayal, disillusion or disgust.  It wouldn’t be “cool” to admit it to others, yet this can often occur.  Which is tragic, because we can miss the real substance of our lives.

Seductions of Rigidity

We can find ourselves slowly taking a more and more rigid stance in life, slowly falling victim to unbending opinions, unwillingness to really listen to others who differ from ourselves, and resisting coping with change and anything new.  This kind of psychological rigidity can amount to a kind of living death.

Open-ness and the Undiscovered Self

To stay vitally alive, I need to respond openly to others, to the outside world, and, above all, to the undiscovered and unacknowledged aspects of my self — the shadow.  Dream images often reflect how unacknowledged aspects of the self are trying to come into consciousness.  There are possibilities in each of us that strive to be lived out, and to bring us into an going affirmation of life.

second half of life

How do you keep yourself open in the second half of life?  I’d welcome your comments.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Coping with Change: Archetypal & Individual Therapy

February 15th, 2012 · archetypal, change, coping, coping with change, individual therapy, Psychology and Suburban Life, therapy

Individual therapy

To practice individual therapy in 2012 is to see how coping with change plays an ever greater role in peoples’ lives.  Many of my clients are forced to cope with a faster and faster pace of change almost month to month.  Change at work can be the most strenuous, but sometimes coping with change in other areas of life can be as much of a challenge.

“Embrace change” is the continual message.  But when is it too much?  Change can leave us empty and completely disoriented.  Can we protect ourselves?  Here are 4 insights from individual therapy about coping with change.

1.  Endless Demand

We all accept change as a given, in our era.  We’re continually told that we should comply with its demands, no matter how voracious they might be, and that resistance to any change is living in the past.  We continuously face external demands for change, which can turn toxic when mixed with our own  inner perfectionism and compulsiveness.

2.  Anxiety

The continual anxiety experienced in our time often pertains to a feeling that there is nothing firm to hold onto.  But this feeling often stems from the fact that we’ve been led to believe there is nothing to hold onto; we expect everything to slip between our fingers.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially with our personal needs and wants.

3.  Instinct, Archetype

We are so cut off from our instinct that we think it irrelevant.  Our culture endorses the idea that people are born as blank slates, devoid of instinct.  Only very slowly is evolutionary psychology reversing this.   In Jung’s phrase, coined long before evolutionary psychology, only now are we re-discovering “the 2 million year old man.”

As an archetypal symbol, “home” is incredibly multifaceted in its symbolic meaning.  But we seem to have forgotten one instinctual thing that any cave dweller could tell us : we need a real home to survive.  Many today act as if they need a mere dormitory or place to put their stuff.  Many more are so glued to their electronics that they invest nothing in creating the social fabric of their homes.

4.  The Part of Ourselves that Knows

In dreams, health concerns, and modern addictions, the instinctual and archetypal self cries out for something beyond rootlessness, anxiety and the relentless churn of the Next New Thing.  As we explore the wisdom of the self in therapy, we gain a greater and greater sense of those individual parts of our life that give value and stability.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 2

February 6th, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy
My first post on “A Dangerous Method” looked into the depths of the film to see what it could teach us both about the nature of individual therapy and the psychological character of major life transitions.  This post looks at two other insights that the film offers about major life transitions and the nature of the individuation process.  Both are in the latter part of the film, where, for a time, Jung the healer becomes one who is himself in need of healing.

Here are two further important aspects of Jung’s psychological development portrayed in the film.

3.  Often Growth is Preceded by Depression

At the end of the film, in his last encounter with Sabina Spielrein, we become aware that Jung is suffering from acute depression.  What the film only explores in a cursory way, though, is the way in which this experience of depression and going into the depths of the “night sea journey” eventually leads Jung to a closer and different relationship to himself, the discovery of hitherto unknown parts of his psyche, and eventually to the development of what we know today as his unique psychological perspective.

Jung’s experience highlights an important truth.  Depression involves a submergence of the person into his or her unconscious depths.  But if we can have the courage to go into our depression as Jung did, we often find that it contains within it the very things that the soul needs for its renewal.

4. Everyone Needs an Individual Way Forward

The film ends at the very beginning of a vital stage in Jung’s personal journey.  He has broken with Freud, and ended the relationship with Spielrein.  Implied, but not stated, is that the next few years of Jung’s life will involve an inward journey of the most profound kind, that will ultimately be chronicled in his great Red Book, and, later in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

individual therapy

 

This aspect of Jung’s journey sheds much light on each of our individual journeys.  For when we are confronted with the profoundest types of crisis in our lives, only an individual answer will suffice, as Jung came to know well.  There is a definite type of crisis that is only resolved by a very individual encounter with the unconscious, and within it, the as yet undiscovered aspects of the self.

Wishing you every good thing on your own individual journey to wholeness,

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© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 1

February 2nd, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy

The relationship between Freud, Jung and Sabina Spielrein portrayed in the film “A Dangerous Method” provides great insights into effective individual therapy and the psychological impact of major life transitions.  But, both in the media and in the film, these insights are often eclipsed behind the drama of the relationship between Spielrein and Jung.

The film faces a big challenge to convey the nature of the break between Jung and his older mentor/colleague Freud, together with the relationship with Spielrein, a brilliant, forceful and complex personality in her own right.  The film also seeks to convey the immense struggles and conflicts undergone by Jung at this time.

In my next two blog posts, I want to look briefly at 4 major insights into individual therapy and major life transitions portrayed by “A Dangerous Method”.

1.  The Power of Acceptance and Listening

Spielrein came to the Burgholzli, where Jung was a psychiatrist, in grave crisis.   As the film portrays, she may not have been psychotic, but she wasn’t far off.  In using Freud’s novel “talking cure”, Jung took Spielrein seriously as an individual person and engaged with her in a very accepting and affirming way, even affirming her desire to be a medical doctor.  Whatever the weaknesses of Freud’s method, one key aspect of “the talking cure”, embodied in Jung’s deep acceptance of Spielrein — listening, engaging her and entering into her experience — had a profoundly positive effect on her life.  This is essential in good individual therapy to this day.

individual therapy

2.  Even Brilliant People Hit Impasses During Major Life Transitions

This movie is set prior to the beginning of the single greatest crisis in Jung’s life.  This took place in 1913 – 1918.  Looking forward, we know that he will emerge from this time transformed, and with his own developed psychology.  However, just at the time of this movie, Jung is really struggling.  It is characteristic of major life transitions, and especially those that come near midlife, that they can make incredible demands on people, and can often only be resolved by a fundamental change in outlook, and encounter with the hitherto undiscovered parts of the self.

This is not pathology. People with real difficulties at these points in life are not mentally ill.  These are the kinds of challenges that people — even brilliant, very successful people — often experience at times of major life transition.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at insights from the film pertaining to growth, depression and individuality.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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