Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 1: Roots

April 30th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxietyCounselling for anxiety involves the client growing to understand the roots of anxiousness, and depth psychotherapy gives us insight into unconscious factors that lie behind our being consciously anxious.

Yearning for Return

Depth psychotherapy reminds us of that part of our psyche which yearns for a return to somewhere warm, safe and non-threatening — the womb.  Yet, here in our real lives, we’re alone, isolated, and trying to cope with challenges we all face.  With these many challenges in our individual lives, we enter anxious states.  A depth psychotherapy perspective on counselling for anxiety /  therapy for anxiety affirms that.  The question is, how can we best respond to these states?

Counselling for Anxiety and the Self

Jungian analyst James Hollis sees counselling for anxiety as engaging with

“… a free-floating disease which may be activated by nearly anything, which may light for a while on something specific, but which usually originates from the general insecurity one feels in one’s life.  The level of that insecurity… is partly a function of one’s particular history.  The more troubled one’s environment, family of origin and cultural setting, the more free-floating anxiety will be generated.”

Being anxious is also connected to situations.  Sudden shifts in realities that we have taken as certainties, for instance, can greatly increase our anxiousness.  In the film Jerry McGuire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) has the rug pulled from under his professional life, and responds with a classic film portrayal of a hyper anxious state:

Energy and Avoidance

Using Jung’s characteristic metaphor of emotion or affect as energy, we could see anxiety as energy that doesn’t know where to go, or how to flow.  It can often lead to us avoiding the situations where we’re anxious, or else, we can find ourselves “getting anxious about becoming anxious”.  But can counselling for anxiety use it as a guide for finding what is stable and lasting in the self?

Potential Benefit in Anxiety?

“How could depth psychotherapy possibly find any good in this?” a severely anxious person might wonder.  Yet, often, getting to the root of anxious states takes us to places in ourselves where we are wounded, or in conflict, where our spontaneity and energy is bound into knots, called complexes, that need to go free.  A depth psychotherapy approach to counselling for anxiety is fundamentally about getting an ally to help in understanding, accepting and having compassion for ourselves at the deepest levels, and in moving into basic trust.


PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Sodanie Chea ; VIDEO: © TriStar Pictures
© 2012 Brian Collinson




Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 6: Mystery

April 23rd, 2012 · Jungian therapy, mystery, second half of life, therapy

jungian therapy

In the second half of life, mystery is more and more our companion, and Jungian therapy urges us to open ourselves to it, rather than run from it.

 The Surrounding Mystery

What does Jungian therapy mean by mystery?  Well, clearly not this:

The kind of mysteries that we’re dealing with in this context are not some hidden facts waiting to be puzzled out by intense investigation.  Rather, we’re talking about those aspects of human life that are impenetrable to the human intellect.  Or better yet: those things in human existence that we can understand and understand more and more about, and yet there will always be profound things about them that the human mind cannot exhaust or fully penetrate.  These things might not always fit neatly into our lives, but they are the things that give human life its real depth.

The Mystery of the Self

Jungian therapy has as its starting point one of these profound mysteries, namely that the ego or conscious mind is not the complete personality in a human being.  Another greater reality is involved: the Self, which Andrew Samuels defines as “the unity of the personality as a whole.”  The Self in us is continually striving to bring together the opposites in our nature.  Sometimes, we’re aware in the second half of life that something in us doesn’t just go along with the direction that our ego may choose for us — it has its own clear direction and sense of where we should be going in our personal journey, and its own greater wisdom.

The Mystery of Life

The course of our life has a definite direction and shape.  The psychological concerns and tasks native to the second half of life are different from the life tasks in the first half.  As we move through life, we are unavoidably confronted with the question, “What is of lasting value?”  The answer to that question is linked to our personal mythology, and it will likely take us into the territory of the mystery in life.


What is it, in this second half of life, that takes on fascination and depth for you?  That really grips you?  As you explore this, you enter into mystery, and also into intimations of deep significance and meaning.  Jungian therapy is concerned to uncover the value and meaning in life through the exploration of its mysteries, and ultimately, the mystery of our own unique and individual being.


PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by gnews pics ; VIDEO: ©
© 2012 Brian Collinson







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Individual Therapy & Overcoming Internet Addiction: Soul

April 16th, 2012 · individual therapy, internet addiction, overcoming internet addiction, therapy

individual therapy

It may seem strange to say that soul might be required in individual therapy for overcoming internet addiction.  Soul is a word that we don’t hear very often in the modern world.  It tends to conjure up visions of organized religion and stained glass windows, or maybe we even think of the late, great James Brown!…

But when depth psychotherapy refers to “soul” in  individual therapy, it refers to images that emerge from the depth of the personality, and the way in which psyche converts events into experiences of meaning and substance.

Inner Treasure

We each come into the world with the capacity for our own unique inner experience.  There are things that come from the depths of ourselves, from places that we don’t fully understand — images, fantasies, feelings.  Our capacity to experience these things is unique to us.  Only you have your particular, unique inner life, and only I have mine.  As that inner life flourishes, so does the uniqueness of the individual.

Food for Soul

The inner person needs a lot of rich inner images, fantasies and imagined experiences to flourish — these things bring our soul, our uniqueness, alive.  In an interview with Mary Nurriestearns, James Hillman noted that “You need a lot of food for the imagination. [A]dvertisers recognize our need to stir our imaginations.  Cars and shoes are two very practical items which, when advertised are sold through imaginative fantasies….  [T]hey are serving other purposes than nurturing the acorn [of the self], but advertisers recognize that human beings respond to imaginative images and fantasies.  That’s the first food.”

Imagination needs to grow, and find its unique form.  Often, advertising stifles this, by cramming the individual’s imagination into narrow, straightjacketing forms.  But that’s nothing compared to what the Internet can do to our imaginal selves.

 The Blizzard of the World

If we allow it, the sheer enormity of the Internet can have a huge impact on our imaginal life.  There’s always more of it; we’re never done.  We don’t need our imagination or inner life to animate the images of the Internet; they just keep coming: more porn to be seen; more people to be tweeted or FBed, more dating prospects to look at.  As the poet Leonard Cohen sang prophetically in his song The Future :

overcoming Internet addiction

Beyond Endless Hunger: Overcoming Internet Addiction

Overcoming Internet addiction involves return to our own real life.  First and foremost, that entails return to our own imagination, and our own soul.  Individual therapy in depth plays an important role in this.


PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by michael_reuter ; © Helder Almeida |
© 2012 Brian Collinson



Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 5: Freedom

April 9th, 2012 · freedom, Jungian, Jungian therapy, life, second half of life

jungian therapy

The word freedom often appears in discussions about the second half of life, but often the particular depth of understanding that Jungian therapy would attach to the word is lacking.

Not long ago, people talked about “Freedom 55”, the idea that one would be able to retire and leave work behind at age 55.  However, particularly since the economic contraction of 2008, this may seem much less possible.  Yet, this type of fantasy retains its power: we often hear phrases like “imagine the freedom” associated with, say, winning the lottery.

However, another concept much more closely associated with what used to be called spirituality may have more relevance in the second half of life.  Jungian analyst James Hillman once observed,

[W]e haven’t thought about… freedom enough. It needs to be internalized as an inner freedom from “demand” itself… that comes when you’re free from those compulsions to have and to own and to be someone…. [We need a concept] that broadens our current limited idea of freedom: that I can do any goddamn thing I want on my property; that I am my own boss and don’t want government interference; that I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and can’t do…

Externals and Freedom

We easily identify “externals” that keep us from being free, such as my boss, my job or my financial limitations.  It’s true: my external circumstances always limit my freedom – just as they also create my possibilities.  But in our time and culture, is being free from externals the freedom that we really most need?

Freedom from Inner Compulsion

Like Jungian therapy in general, Hillman suggests the greatest restrictions we face may actually be inner.  Yearning for more self esteem,  we may thirst for: respect and approval of others; ownership of house or car that says we’ve “made it”; or, status or qualifications that show that we “are somebody”.  Or we feed addictions, thus avoiding dealing with shame or anxiety.  Could release from inner compulsions make us free?

Free… For What?

We assume we need to be free “from” externals.  But Hillman and Jungian therapy bid us consider what our freedom is actually for.  What do we need to be free to find in the second half of life ?

Authenticity and Meaning

Jungian therapy emphasizes the self in the second half of life: what does freedom mean from this perspective?  Surely letting the self live freely, and finding one’s life purpose in doing so.  Perhaps the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis summed it up best in his epitaph:

“I expect nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free.”




PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Guilliame Paumier  VIDEO: © 20th Century Fox
© 2012 Brian Collinson


Depth Psychotherapy, Shadow Work & Dealing with Shame

April 2nd, 2012 · dealing with shame, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, Shadow, shadow work, shame

dealing with shame

Dealing with shame is essential psychological work, and it is closely tied to shadow work, from a depth psychotherapy point of view.

Shame is a fundamental aspect and problem of human existence.  We need to find ways to cope with it.  But it’s a thing that we can often find hard to talk to anyone about, even though we may feel a great need.

No One Gets Through Life Without Shame

All of us experience shame acutely in our lives.  Most of us can feel right into times and places where it was acute.  Times when who and what we are was exposed to the core and felt to be lacking.  Depth psychotherapy knows such experiences mark us with wounds that we often feel that we can’t show to anyone.

Dealing with Shame When It’s Toxic

The times when we feel genuinely ashamed of ourselves can be truly toxic.  Depth psychotherapy reveals that we are often most ashamed when we are unable to know and accept who we are.  As Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby states:

At a certain intensity, shame has the power to make us feel

completely worthless, degraded from head to foot,

sometimes without our having done anything bad at all.

When it cuts across the partially conscious image we have within ourselves of how we want to be seen, valued and respected, it does particular violence.  How can we then find value in ourselves?

Dealing with Shame: Escape?

Given the experiences of shame we all carry in our lives, how can we recover our self esteem, and value what we most fundamentally are?  Only in fundamental self acceptance can we hope to move past our bondage.

Shadow Work: What Shadow Knows

A famous radio program in the 1940s and 50s had the tag line, ” Only the shadow knows…”  There’s some truth in that.  The shadow, in the sense of the unacknowledged and unconscious parts of the personality, knows many important things about shame.

Shadow work shows that there is no perfection in this life.  That we all struggle with our inability to match the idealized self image that we carry within.  Only when we begin to encounter that part of ourselves that knows and accepts all that we are, can we put off our pretensions, and with them, our shame, and realize the ways in which our broken-ness and weakness make us one with the rest of the human race.   As depth psychotherapy knows, this enables us to move into our own unique destiny.


PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by pinksugarface
© 2012 Brian Collinson