Journeying Toward Wholeness

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 2

August 28th, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

In my first post on Fall: Help with Anxiety and Individuation, I explored the connection between anxiety and our individuation at back-to-school time.  In this post, I’d like to take it further.

help with anxiety

Children, and the symbol of the child, produce an incredibly strong emotional/instinctual response in us.  And I think that there is scarcely any time of the year when the potential for that archetypal response gets more activated than in the “back to school” season.

The Symbol of the Child: Lightning Rod for Angst

Parents are both socialized and hard wired to bond with their children, and to meet their needs and protect them.  What is more, on a symbolic level, as in dreams, children often represent both potentiality, and the future.

That’s why popular culture in recent times is full of movies involving vulnerable kids in peril, like Gone Baby Gone, The Road and I am Legend, among many others.  They express a profound uncertainty that many feel  in our time about their own, and their children’s, future.

The Endless, Anxious Challenge of Kids

In our uncertain times, parents give continuously to meet children’s needs, struggling to feel confident that what they provide will be enough to enable their kids to “make it”.  Yet, at some point, we have to trust in our kids and their potential.  If we find it hard to do that, might we be projecting our own feelings of lack of trust in ourselves, and our own lives, onto them?

How is My Unlived Life with Me Now?

The symbol of the child can activate all our feelings about all our aspirations and yearnings that we have never made real.  We might then easily foist the burden of living that out onto our children: e.g.,  I always wanted to be a heart surgeon, but couldn’t… but my child will fulfil my dreams, damn it!

To be Myself in this Time

But time is a one-way door.  As Joni Mitchell expresses so well in her song “The Circle Game”, I cannot find help for anxiety in clinging to past possibilities:

Can I be open to what life brings to me, to what wants to be alive in me — now?  Here in the present, can I decide to open myself up to experiences and to possibilities in myself, to live now?

Often the journey of individuation in depth psychotherapy requires help with anxiety connected to the past… to allow real life in the present.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

PHOTO:  © PeJo29 |  MUSIC:  Joni Mitchell “The Circle Game” © Siquomb Pub. Co.

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The Psychotherapist & Self Acceptance: A CG Jung Quote

August 23rd, 2012 · psychotherapist, Self, self acceptance

Self acceptance has become a buzz word, a part of the stock in trade of the psychotherapist, but, in this quotation, C.G. Jung invites us to take things deeper.


To really look at what a depth psychotherapist means, and needs to mean, when he or she utters those two little words — self acceptance

The Offence of the Shadow

The self that we need to accept includes that part of the Self that Jung called the Shadow.  This is the part of the Self that Jung tells us contains all that we would rather not acknowledge as ourselves, and would, in fact, rather not be.

It does not take long, if we’re honest in our introspection, to get to the starting point of shadow work.  If we can honestly look upon the most embarrassing and shame-filled moments in our life, or the time we have done the most morally reprehensible thing we have ever done — there it is.  It truly does offend.  How can we ever be reconciled with that?

Hungry Me

To confront that part of ourselves is to confront the hurt, wounded and impoverished parts of myself and  my soul.  The parts that feel so needy, which are filled with yearning and desire so deep we can only call it hunger.  Sometimes, it can be barely tolerable to acknowledge, and accept, how truly needy we are.

Aspects of Me — That Insult Me

People who can bear to be honest about it are often tormented by certain aspects of their personality that just seem unbearable to themselves, their egos, their images of who they are.  To somehow come to terms with “this person”, this me, this insulting beggar, this impudent offender — often is no small piece of psychological work.

Love and Forgiveness — and Me

The depth psychotherapist works with the client to help him or her see and accept who and what he or she is.  The essence of the work is to help the individual gradually to find the alms of their own kindness — real self acceptance — to give to themselves.  I know no more profound expression of such self-acceptance than the great Leonard Cohen‘s powerful song “Hallelujah”:

The work of the psychotherapist in helping the individual discover and accept all of themselves can often be a profoundly changing life experience, and a key part of journeying towards wholeness.


PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by außerirdische sind gesund  MUSIC CREDIT: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, from the album Essential Leonard Cohen ©  Sony Music Entertainment Inc.


In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 1

August 21st, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation, individuation process

The demands of the Fall season make many feel a need for help with anxiety: the surprising thing is how this anxiety connects with our need for individuation.

help with anxiety

Often parents of school age kids feel a need at this time for help with anxiety — for many very good reasons.  But others feel restless and anxious as well, whether they have children or not.

What does Fall evoke ?  We may need help with anxiety, sure enough, but what about our individuation?

Hopes and Fears of the Past

For many children, embarking on another school year evokes hope, but also anxiety.  Returning students anticipate that the school year might be a time of personal growth and adventure, when they might find something really new and exciting in life — some new possibility.  Yet, the school year’s start may bring anxious forebodings that the year — and life — may not be like this.  Adults often feel some echo of this.

“Children Must be Realistic”

My earliest school memory is of a friend in my class who was slapped with a ruler for making 4s that were closed at the top, rather than open, as the teacher had shown us.  I think that he had intended to proudly show the teacher that he already knew how to make 4s, but instead he ended up humiliated and chastised.

For many adults, the association with school may be all about having to accommodate — to shut down parts of themselves that proved “too much” for the school environment.  Some people take that shutting down message to heart, and never recover from it.

Just how “realistic”, i.e., not ourselves, have we learnt to be?  If we need help with anxiety, could it stem from alienation from ourselves that forms a barrier to our individuation?

Onrush of Demands and Obligations

For parents, the re-commencement of school along with the whole multitude of kids’ activities can be an overwhelming burden at this time.  In my experience, many do need help with anxiety.  How do we take care of ourselves in the midst of this?  Is it even OK to think about what I might need to develop as a person?

Where are My New Beginnings?

Living through this time of year, we’re aware that kids have new beginnings, and kids have optimism about the future.  What about me?  Does my life open on any growth, any depth, any new beginnings?

The journey to individuation may call to us most strongly in Fall.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by ErikCharlton


The Individual Psychotherapist & the Mystery of the Self

August 17th, 2012 · psychotherapist, Self, The Self

The right attitude of the individual psychotherapist to the mystery of the Self is expressed in the quote below from C. G. Jung:

individual psychotherapist

The individual person is a unique phenomenon.  And that unique person forms a unified whole, although with component parts that are more varied and complex than most people realize.  To really understand the individual requires getting beyond statistics, theories and labels to the very nature and story of that particular person.

This might seem like a truism, but it isn’t at all apparent in the way many approaches to psychotherapy actually work.

Beyond Scientific Generalization

While psychological science is essential to understanding the background of the issues that a given individual experiences, it’s never enough on its own.  A great deal of the effort of the individual psychotherapist has to go to understanding the specific person and his/her situation — the ways in which it is an exception to the general rule.  Jungian therapy has always emphasized the specific uniqueness of a person’s case, and, in my opinion, that is one of its greatest strengths.

Without Theory

The psychotherapist needs theory as a way to stay oriented in dealing with a client.  However, before we get to the point where we can use it, we have to really, truly see who it is who is sitting in front of us.  Individual psychotherapy has to really take in the unique person right where they are, without filtering out things that might not fit with preconceptions.

Without Prejudice

One of the toughest parts of being a psychotherapist: to get beyond what “everybody knows” and “what everybody sees”.  The mystery of the undiscovered Self does not fit these categories.  “Everybody knows” that “Jack” is a tough, hard-driving litigation lawyer, who loves what he does…  until the day he collapses on the floor sobbing, because he just can’t do it anymore.  “Everybody knows” that “Jeanne” is a great, dependable accountant whose brain is a ledger sheet– but they don’t know that she goes home and writes passionate poetry in a gilt edged leather book.

Openness to the New

On both the part of the individual psychotherapist, and the part of the client, there needs to be a readiness to see things that are surprising, things that have never been seen before.  These little, often subtle beginnings contain the germs of new life.  There are things within each of us that we are not expecting.  They are part of the Self in its wholeness.  Can we be open to them?

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 1-905-337-3946

Click below to arrange a no obligation initial session:


PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by saintbob



Jungian Therapy “Hope Springs” & the Second Half of Life

August 13th, 2012 · Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

Jungian therapy affirms that there is life in the second half of life; the film “Hope Springs“, portrays one couple’s exploration of that territory.

second half of life

This film seems to be marketed like a fairly mindless broad comedy: a big mistake, in my opinion.   While extremely funny, this is anything but a shallow film.

The story seems to resonate with many in the second half of life.  We empathize deeply with the struggles and sometimes scary awarenesses of Kay and Arnold, the empty nester couple at the center of the film (Meryl Streep;  Tommy Lee Jones).

Perils of the Second Half of Life

We learn very early in the film that life for Kay and Arnold contains very few surprises: they are, to say the least, in a very well-worn rut. The second half of life has brought them to a static, rigid place.  Joy, connection, deep experience and sexuality have very little place in their world — at the beginning of the film, this is so apparent, it’s painful to watch.

second half of life

Could Anything Different Now Ever be Possible?

Throughout the film, the couple struggles in one way or another with whether there can be anything more or new in life, or whether they should just exit their therapy, and return to life as it was.  This latter possibility, what Jungian therapy calls “regressive restoration of the persona” is always waiting in the wings, and both parties flirt with exiting back to past roles and masks.

The Unlived Life

Yet, simultaneously, something draws them on.  It’s what Jungian therapy would refer to as “the unlived life”.  Throughout our lives, we make choices, and live certain options out.  But our very choice of one option excludes the others that we could have lived out.  At some point in life, often, in the second half of life, the unlived life starts to “call to us”.  Those possibilities want to be expressed, to be lived out, to round out who we are as persons.

Into The Undiscovered Self

“Hope Springs” is about the journey of a couple, but fundamentally explores the hope that new possibilities might open up in the second half of life.  Jung continually emphasized the need to explore this “undiscovered self”, especially in and beyond midlife transition.

Depth psychotherapy, and especially Jungian therapy are concerned with the journey to the new territory of the undiscovered self, and allowing new essential possibilities in the second half of life.

PHOTO & VIDEO: © 2012 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All rights reserved.


Individual Therapy & Individuation: Are You Born Yet?

August 6th, 2012 · Individuation

The quote below shows what astute individual therapy knows: individuation often places an individual on a path that often involves more than one “dying” and one “birth”:

individual therapy Jazz great Charlie Parker describes a technical change in his musical technique.  But then he says something remarkable:

“… I could play what I heard inside me.  That’s when I was born.

The Secret of Initiation

In major life transitions, humans experience the reality of dying to an older self, and being “re-born” into a new identity.  Here, Parker dies to who he formerly was, and is effectively re-born as an artist, as a person who can express his inner reality in powerful ways out in the world.  It is as if he went through a one-way door in his life.  He is not who he used to be.  It’s as if he was re-born.

Archetypal Re-Birth

Today, people throw around the phrase “being born again”.  It’s often used to describe the sloughing off of some old identity, and the assumption of a different conventional, stereotyped identity, often religious in nature.  However, throughout the ages, humanity has meant something much more profound by the expression.  In indigenous societies, when someone was undergoing initiation into adulthood, or as a shaman, the transformation was seen as literally dying to who the person previously was, and being born to a whole new and unique personal identity.

It is this kind of profound re-birth in Parker’s case.  Often, it’s transformation of this magnitude that we need in individual therapy, to re-orient ourselves to our lives.

“I Could Play What I Heard Inside Me”

Parker uses this expression to describe what happens as a result of this transformation.  He finds a way to access and express who he really is.  Similarly, this is what we all need.  I need to come to what is really me.

Re-Birth & Creative Receptivity

The type of re-birth Parker describes comes with the force of a revelation.  It’s not something that he “whups up” by force of will.  It’s something that happens to him.  He can only receive it, as an infant receives life through the process of being born.  This idea is alien to 21st century North Americans: our motto is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Good individual therapy knows that often what we need is something that we can’t will to be, because we can’t yet even imagine it.  So, individual therapy can sometimes have the character of re-birth.

PHOTO:  Attribution    Some rights reserved by Yellow.Cat