Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 1: Roots

April 30th, 2012 · 6 Comments · 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

 

 

6 Comments so far ↓

  • jamenta

    An excellent post Brian.

    I am reading right now “Reflections on the Art of Living, A Joseph Campbell Companion” by Diane K. Osbon. In her introduction she discusses one of Joseph Campbell’s more well-known aphorisms (perhaps his most famous) his quote, “Follow your bliss!”.

    For some reason your post made me think of two paragraphs I read recently from her introduction in the book. Although anxiety is not discussed directly – the passage does discuss the archetypal hero’s journey and the anxiety of not knowing if one will be “supported”. Here is Diane’s quote:

    “And following your bliss, understood as Joseph meant it, is not self-indulgent, but vital: your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. There is a track just waiting there for each of us, and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else. Everything does start clicking along and, yes, even Mother Nature herself supports the journey.

    “I have found that you do have only to take that one step toward the gods and they will then take ten steps toward you. That step, the heroic first step of the journey, is out of, or over the edge of, your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will be supported. The hero’s journey has been compared to a birth: it starts with being warm and snug in a safe place; then comes a signal, growing more insistent, that it is time to leave. To stay beyond your time is to putrefy. Without the blood and tearing and pain, there is no new life.”

  • Sarah Densmore

    Hi Brian,
    Thank you for another worthwhile post. During the past year, I have suffered from anxiety attacks — rapid heart beat, shallow breathing, fear. These attacks were warning shots, or flares, sent up by my psyche in response to the fact that I was not taking the action necessary to leave emotionally abusive situations at home and at work. When I finally left both of these situations, the anxiety attacks stopped because I began channeling my energy in directions that were more loving to my Self. It scared the living daylights out of me, and in a couple months I may not know where the rent’s coming from, but I did it.

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your comment, John.

    I think that you’re absolutely right, and that there is a connection between this sense of “being supported” by life, and the need that underlies anxiety.

    I was very struck by these lines that you quoted

    “There is a track just waiting there for each of us, and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else. Everything does start clicking along and, yes, even Mother Nature herself supports the journey. That step, the heroic first step of the journey, is out of, or over the edge of, your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will be supported.”

    They put me in mind of a song by Cat Stevens, “Father and Son”, which, on the face of it, applies to the relationship between a father and maturing son, but, which, at an even deeper level, I believe, relates to overcoming the inertia in our lives — and the negative pole of the archetypal father, which would tell us, “Don’t leave the safety of the collective way, because there is no individual way, and nothing that will support you”. As Stevens says in the lyrics, “There’s a way, and I know / That I have to go away”

  • jamenta

    Thx Brian. Interesting you mention the “Father & Son” dynamic and the needed separation for individual growth. Yet another passage from a book I just read within the last week relates to what you write. The passage comes from Edward Edinger’s “Ego and Archetype”, chapter one: The Inflated Ego and I quote it below: (Note previous to the passage, Edinger discusses the Adam & Eve myth, and the crime that led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.)

    “On the personal level the act of daring to acquire a new consciousness is experienced as a crime or rebellion against the authorities that exist in one’s personal environment, against one’s parents, and later against other outer authorities. Any step in individuation is experienced as a crime against the collective, because it challenges the individual’s identification with some representative of the collective, whether it be family, party, church, or nation. At the same time each step, since it is truly an inflated act, is not only accompanied by guilt but also runs the very real risk that one will get caught in an inflation that carries the consequences of a fall.

    “We encounter many people in psychotherapy whose developmen has been arrested just at the point where the necessary crime needs to be enacted. Some say, “I can’t disappoint my parents or my family.” The man living with his mother says, “I would like to marry, but that would kill poor old mother.” And it might do just that because the symbiotic relationship that may exist can be a literal kind of psychic feeding; if the food is withdrawn the partner may well die! In such a case obligations to the mother are seen as too strong to envisage any other set of standards for living. The sense of responsibility towards one’s own individual development has simply not yet been born.”

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your comment, Sarah. I was struck by: “These attacks were warning shots, or flares, sent up by my psyche in response to the fact that I was not taking the action necessary to leave emotionally abusive situations at home and at work.” I think that this is an experience of anxiety that is far from infrequent. When we find ourselves stymied, and when life cannot flow — this is one of the times that anxiety becomes acute. Often, by taking the steps necessary to move into life, we can undam something that needs to flow. It can take considerable courage to do this, but it can sometimes make a very big difference.

  • http://tinyurl.com/tomfevans32937

    “Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 1: Roots | Brian Collinson” was in fact in
    fact engaging and useful! In modern universe that’s hard to execute.

    Thx, Eric

Leave a Comment