Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

What Helps Depression: Individual Therapy & Soul Work

May 28th, 2012 · depression, individual, individual therapy, soul, soul work, therapy, what helps depression

what helps depression

Individual therapy and careful, gradual soul work are often key elements in what helps depression.  “OK,” you’re saying, “other than a fancy buzzword or slogan, what is ‘soul work'”?

Saying anything about soul may seem strange in 2012.  “Isn’t it just an irrelevant step back into the Middle Ages?” you may ask.  Well, here’s why depth psychotherapists consider it important.

Doing Soul Work?

As I’ve stated in earlier posts, soul as used here has nothing to do with organized religion, astral projection or seances, but with connection with the deep images and experiences of inner life.  It concerns the deepest and most intimate levels of what is going on inside a person.

How Does It Occur in Individual Therapy?

In a recent “Facts and Arguments” piece  in the Globe and Mail newspaper, entitled “A psychiatrist’s double bind“, psychiatrist Gili Adler Nevo wrote of her experience of soul work in individual therapy:

 I entered the world of psychotherapy not knowing what to expect. How the hell could it help, just talking?

I’ve talked before…. Yet, gradually, in the privacy of this shrine for the individual soul that was the therapist’s office, in this sacred place free of malice, motives or moral judgment, I could set my soul loose.

It had been cooped up for so long, it didn’t even know it. And my soul, like anyone else’s, seemed complicated. Different layers protruded every time….

Letting it out into that attuned and understanding comfort enabled my soul to live in peace with all its parts.

 Nevo contrasts her own experience of therapy with a patient in a psychiatric setting, whom she efficiently diagnoses and prescribes Prozac.  She clearly finds this modern psychiatic care to be incomplete:

I could not afford to create that sacred place for the soul in which she could untangle her layers, understand the source of her depression and climb out of it. I did not have the time: It was no longer in the culture of my profession.

Does Soul Work Truly Help Depression?

I’m not suggesting that antidepressants are not necessary sometimes.  But they are often not sufficient.  Often people need to get in contact with their depths, and to experience acceptance and understanding.

Individual therapy

What Helps Depression

“Just talking” is sometimes disparaged.  Yet the journey of talking about the fundamental matters in personal life, and contacting the many aspects of the self is a key element of what helps depression.  It can free the life locked up in the individual.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by haprev214

 

 

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Jungian Analysis , A Psychotherapist & The Worried Well

May 25th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

psychotherapist

Should a psychotherapist be working with the “worried well”, even if he or she practices Jungian analysis?  Who exactly are the “worried well”?  If you click on the link immediately below, you will see a splendid picture of a “Worried Well” as drawn by the subtly wise cartoonist WG on his site Reaction Formation:

“The Worried Well”

 

Who Are the “Worried Well”?

Semi-official medical lore has it that the worried well are people who have nothing medically wrong with them, but who visit doctors to gain re-assurance.  In a psychiatric context, it refers to those who do not have a psychiatric diagnosis, but who nonetheless seek to gain some reassurance from a psychotherapist.  On a narrowly medical model, only those with a psychiatric diagnosis should seek out a psychotherapist.  But from the perspective of depth psychotherapy and Jungian therapy, does this seems like an adequate understanding of the needs of those seeking counselling / therapy?

Is Psychological “Wellness” Really the Issue?

Do people go to a depth psychotherapist to “get cured”?  In my experience, the vast majority of people who come to see a psychotherapist in a practice like mine would not seem to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder, and they are not exactly looking for “the cure”.  They are, however, looking for something else.  What is it?

The Psychotherapist and the “Other Well”

I know it’s a bit of a play on words, but let’s look at the other meaning of the word “well.”  For the psychotherapist, wells have great significance in dreams, myth and fairytale.  A well is something made by humans, but it penetrates into the dark reality of the earth, and miraculously fills with water, the liquid so essential for life.  And that’s a powerful image for what we as individuals are seeking in the dark earth of the unconscious psyche.

jungian analysis

Water from the Depths

A symbol of the water of life from the depths.  In my opinion, this symbolizes very well the inner journey that many take through a depth psychotherapy, such as Jungian analysis.  From an arid landscape where there is no moisture, devoid perhaps of life and possibility, where the individual roams endlessly and finds nothing but dryness and dust, to a relationship with their own inner depths that brings fluidity, restoration, life.  In this sense, the well with its life-giving water from the depths can be a very apt symbol for the work of a depth psychotherapist or for Jungian analysis.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by ruffin_ready

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Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 2: Thick Mask

May 22nd, 2012 · individual, individual therapy, Individuation, masks, therapy

Individual therapy

In individual therapy, a huge obstacle to the individuation process can be a “thick mask”.  To put this another way, the persona (Latin for “mask”), or social self that the individual shows to the world can become so artificial and entrenched that no one — including the person wearing the mask — knows who the individual really is.

Expectations

We’re easily seduced into carrying the expectations of others.  This process often begins in the family of origin at an early age, but often gets more ingrained as a result of carrying expectations later in life.  Peers, school, work, kids, spouse or significant other can all contribute.  This may go on so thoroughly that we find ourselves completely out of touch with who we really are.  A key part of individuation and of individual therapy is to separate the excessive people pleasing and expectation meeting behaviours that we’ve internalized, from who we really are.

The Pain of Vulnerability

Individual therapy shows we put on thick masks because of the pain in our lives, and our vulnerability.  Where we have encountered the deepest pain in our lives, and perhaps the deepest sense of weakness, we can consciously or unconsciously try to hide our vulnerability, to avoid more pain.  But in the process, we may lose our spontaneity, our real feeling, and the sense of who it is we most fundamentally are.

Delusions About the Self

A thick mask seduces us into very mistaken beliefs about ourselves.  A very successful business person may adopt a delusional sense of entitlement, or can even start to believe that they are somehow fundamentally different than the average person on the street — a specially gifted “winner”.  Or, a cleric may start to believe that the saintly persona of sacrifice is who he or she really is — until the day his or her own needs, and/or resentments, surface.  We each have such seductive “thick masks” that can be mistaken for real identities.

Acceptance

One of my favorite C.G. Jung quotations about individuation and self-acceptance is “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely”.  It is — but it is also the most liberating.  To finally put down the weighty mask is incredibly scary, but brings immense freedom and relief.  Bruce Cockburn captures this in his powerful song “Fascist Architecture”.

 

The growth of that freedom is right at the core of individuation, and of Jungian individual therapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by cliff1066    VIDEO: © Copyright Bruce Cockburn and True North Records

 

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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 2: Flow

May 15th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety

Counselling for anxiety shows us that anxiety pulls us out of the flow of life, and depth psychotherapy can show us how and why this occurs.  How can we avoid this hijack, and push through our anxiousness to live life in our natural rhythm?

Anxiety Rips Us Out of the Present

Our own experience of anxiety shows that we’re not really in the present when gripped by an anxious state.  Psychologically, that state pulls us into the past or the future — and possibly both.  Counselling for anxiety shows that our struggle with anxiousness will either maroon us in the past, in past failures struggles or conflicts, or in the future, paralyzed by fear around future outcomes.

It All Relates to the Self

Anxious states pose big questions for us about either our own security or capability — or both.  The questions most often associated with anxiety refer to oneself, such as,  “Am I going to be alright?” or “Am I going to be able to do or accomplish XYZ?”  In one way or another, our anxious unease poses questions to us about the well-being and preservation of the self, and/or about personal identity.

Anxious States are Rooted in Our Complexes

From a Jungian perspective, anxious states are rooted in persistent mental objects called complexes.  These are knots or clusters of emotional energy that gather around a certain stimulus.  When a complex is activated, we are drawn back into old emotions and feelings, which keep us disconnected from the present situation.  Often, because of the way that the brain works, when we are caught up in the intense emotion produced by a complex, we do not think clearly, and we do not have a good sense of ourselves, and of our boundaries.  We get tangled up, and are unable to move through the challenge of the situation with any sort of natural flow.

Acting From Ourselves in the Now

In the process of counselling for anxiety, the primary question faced is a question that is also found in depth psychotherapy.  Put basically, that question might be stated as “How can I truly be myself in this situation, with confidence in who I am?”  A creative answer to that question can only be found when we understand in ourselves the emotional obstacles that stop us from “flowing” in the present – the complexes.  Untangling these knots, and getting to their sources, is a key goal in depth psychotherapy work.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Yogendra174

 

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Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 1: Symbolism

May 7th, 2012 · individual therapy, Individuation, masks, therapy

individual therapy

How do the masks we wear connect to our individuation, and how do they fit into individual therapyFor we do, all of us, wear masks, though many of them are not literal face coverings, but ways that we hide our real selves behind what we present — a smile, a “tough person look”, or a “poker face”.

Jung saw that we all conceal our true nature to at least some extent , and identified it with a particular structure in the personality: the persona, which means “mask” in Latin.  Mask is an deep thing in all of us.

Fascinated with Masks

Mask is an archetype: it appears all over the world.  They are virtually universal, even though the forms of masks vary greatly.  Coming to terms with mask is an important part of individuation.

Wearing a mask, we hide behind something that can almost be taken as a real face.

We can become identified with, and maybe inflated with, what the mask represents.  In primal cultures, one who donned the mask of a god or spirit became that spirit.  And today?  Doesn’t one who dons the Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous become Anonymous?

Disturbed by Masks

Masks resemble living faces, but aren’t.  They are static, and that can make them seem eerily lifeless.

Masks can be fearsome. We fear that they might become so fastened to our face, that we will be unable to remove them. This was the theme of a famous 1964 Japanese horror movie, Onibaba, which centers around a demon-like mask that cannot be removed, and that causes the features of the wearer to become distorted.

The Truth Behind the Masks

We certainly all do wear masks.  We must, because we need them.  If we were just absolutely “raw and out there” with everything we think and feel, we’d get hurt and hurt others without end.  Yet, although we need masks, there’s good reason to have a healthy caution and respect for them, and sometimes even to be afraid of what they hide, what they reveal, and of being overly identified with them.

Relating to Our Masks

The ways in which we relate to tmasks we wear in individuation will be the subject of the rest of this series of posts, and we’ll explore it at some length.  We can say for sure that one essential way we need to relate to the masks we wear, is to be conscious that we are wearing them — and to be conscious of what exactly we are wearing — an essential part of the process of individual therapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by vreimunde ; VIDEO: © Contemporary Arts Media //www.artfilms.com.au
© 2012 Brian Collinson

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