Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Therapy & the Meaning of Dreams, 2: Meeting

September 29th, 2012 · dreams, Jungian therapy, meaning of dreams

For Jungian therapy, the meaning of dreams is much more of a living, vital reality than it is for various other psychological approaches to dreaming.

meaning of dreams

From the point of view of Jungian therapy, one way to construe a dream would be as a meeting between your everyday waking self, and parts of yourself normally outside consciousness.

A Meeting… OK…  –But With Who, Exactly?

Neuroscience is giving us a clearer and clearer picture of the vastness of the unconscious mind, something which Jungian therapy has always emphasized.

And, here’s the rub for modern people.  The unconscious isn’t controlled by the ego, and, very often, it has very different “perceptions” (for lack of a better word) about our experience and lives than does the waking mind.

In dreams there is an encounter between the waking ego, or, at least a subset of it that we can call the “dream ego”, and the unconscious mind.

David Eagleman, Author of Incognito

What Do They Want?

That’s often the biggest and most important question to ask of those figures that appear in dreams.

We can expect that they want somewhat different from the ego.  The dream is acting as a corrective on the perspective and attitude of the ego.  We need to incorporate something of that perspective into consciousness.

But the meaning of dreams is not “a message from heaven”, or the voice of God per se.   We must take dreams seriously, but combine them with the awareness of our ego.  We need to \ connect the ego’s perspective with the “perspective” of the unconscious mind presented in dreams.

Living in the Balance

Dreams lead us to meet the unknown or forgotten parts of ourselves.  The dream bids us take a certain crucial kind of responsibility, by finding an attitude that takes the ego seriously, but also the deeper self.  This is a fundamental part of the journey to wholeness

We’ll Meet Again

One of the very striking aspects of the meaning of dreams is the on-going dialogue between the conscious and unconscious minds.  If we start to understand and “dialogue” with our dreams, we often find that subsequent dreams reflect our understanding and actions.  Often the encounter with the “other me” in dreams is only one of a series of connected dreams — the dialogue goes on, as we take in more of the perspective of the unconscious mind.  An important part of Jungian therapy is getting more and more attuned to the meaning of that dialogue.


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Hope: Burnout Treatment During Midlife Transition

September 24th, 2012 · burnout, burnout treatment, Hope, midlife, midlife transition

Burnout treatment is a matter of real importance in our society as a whole, but for those undergoing midlife transition, it often takes on an even deeper significance.

burnout treatment

For many people, midlife transition is a time full of issues around career transition, social role, and at an even deeper level, questions of vocation.

Burnout is Incredibly Common During Midlife Transition

By the time of the midlife transition, most people have done a lot of living.  Many have quite a bit of experience with the work world, and often with a number of other social “worlds” in which they have been involved.  In fact, there may be a great deal of disillusionment and fatigue connected to living in work and other social roles and in meeting their expectations.

Sometimes, as a result of this experience, a profound weariness can descend upon individuals, and a deep inability to find motivation.  We call this burnout.

Burnout Treatment and the Death of Hope…

Often, in important ways, burnout treatment must address the death of a certain type of hope in the individual at midlife transition.  A way of looking at life, certain hopes and dreams, a certain way of being in the world, have all come to their end.  They have no more vitality, and, even though these attitudes may have served us well earlier in life, now they cannot avoid dying.

This may entail deep feelings of loss, genuine grief, a wide range of emotions, and a profound sense of disorientation.

…But Also, the Birth of Hope

This time may also herald the birth of a differing understanding of identity — and a different kind of hope.  A move away from hoping that the individual dreams of my youth will be fulfilled, to a hope that I can find meaning, hope and vitality in other places.  Another, different understanding of value and meaning in terms of my own truly deepest needs and yearnings, and what is really significant in my life.

Vocation as New and Deeper Identity

As I explore these elements of myself, even thought the process may be incredibly painful, I may be in the process of finding a new and deeper identity.  I may be moving beyond people pleasing and outer appearances, to satisfying the deepest yearnings within me, and the deepest movements of my soul.  Burnout treatment during midlife transition may mean the liberation of energy into a new kind of readiness and welcome for living.

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Depth Psychotherapy, Mass Man & Finding Meaning in Life

September 22nd, 2012 · depth psychotherapy, finding meaning in life, Meaning, Psychotherapy

Finding meaning in life is a key challenge for the individual in our era, and a key way that depth psychotherapy can help in this process is by enabling the individual to separate his or her thinking and feeling from that of the mass.

depth psychotherapy

In our highly wired, content saturated era, this entails helping the individual distinguish him- or herself from the messages conveyed by all the endless variety of contemporary media.

Menaced by Message

It is often no exaggeration, in our era, to say that the person on the path of individuation can easily find her- or himself drowning in a tsunami of message.  In Jung’s time, the power of media persuasion was already so pervasive that he could see in it an obstacle to the individuation process.  In our time the intrusiveness of media both isolates the person, and makes it that much harder to know what is really the inner voice on the personal journey to finding meaning in life.  An explosion of images can lead to a shrivelling of feeling and imagination.

Inner Crowding

In our era, many of us are subject to a kind of “inner crowding” stemming from the continual presence of social media.  Recently, a client told me about the experience of going to a bar that he has frequented for years, and finding that where the bar used to be full of conversation, now all the patrons were quietly sitting and typing into their smartphones.  The bar was “crowded” with the presence of a whole number of people who weren’t physically there.

I Tweet Therefore I Am

Depth Psychotherapy and the” Voice of the Self”

A connected world isn’t inherently bad!  On the contrary, there are many things about it that have the potential to serve and augment key human values and finding meaning in life.  However, it’s essential to distinguish my individual identity and authentic inner voice from the ever increasing din of background noise from relentlessly pressing and persuasive messages .

“Counsel for the Defence”

Depth psychotherapy has a vital role in fostering awareness of the authentic inner voice — the thoughts, feelings and images that emerge from my real identity.  In the quiet container of depth psychotherapy or Jungian analysis, the authentic essence of the individual is discerned, emerges and strengthens.  The therapist or analyst does play the role of “counsel for the defence”: often, the voice of the unique, individual self and its yearnings must be strengthened against the endless noise of social convention and the crowd.

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Dealing with Shame During Midlife Transition

September 17th, 2012 · dealing with shame, midlife, midlife transition, shame

Dealing with shame is one of the most demanding aspects of psychological work, and, in midlife transition, we can often face this struggle most acutely.

dealing with shame

Psychoanalyst Helen B. Lewis tells us, “The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation”.  In midlife transition, when people begin to seriously look back at their lives and review them, the experience of shame can become acute, even excruciating.

Taking Stock: A Conscious & Unconscious Process

Beginning with midlife transition, people often begin to take stock of their lives in new ways.  This is a tremendous opportunity to open up new possibilities, and find new paths, but it can also be very hard.  It’s not an uncommon thing to find that aspects of one’s life cause considerable shame.  Often, such a feeling can even seem unbearable.  Dealing with shame can become a real problem.

A Fundamental Problem with Who I Am

It’s one thing to feel that something I’ve done is unworthy, and feel full of guilt.  This can be an extremely painful, difficult experience.

However, another, even more devastating thing can be to confront the feeling that what I am is fundamentally unworthy, valueless, negligible — sometimes during midlife transition, it can seem like this.  This is not an experience that a person can just sit with, in a mellow way.  It demands some kind of resolution, a change in consciousness, if I am to continue the forward movement of my life journey.

Refusing to Apologize for My Self

We must come to accept and cherish our own unique being.  This is crucial psychological work, and a very demanding and important part of dealing with shame in psychotherapy.

As Marion Woodman once put it, in her uniquely powerful way, it’s essential for each of us to come to such self-acceptance, that we say,  “This is what I am.  You don’t like it?  Tough.  I refuse to perform for you anymore.”

Amour Fati

Jung spoke of amor fati, an ancient Latin phrase meaning “to love one’s fate”.  We need to find this place in our relationship with ourselves… a very deep form of compassion for who and what we are.  Jung also said, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”  In a profound sense he’s right.  We have to accept that we can never perform well enough to wipe out shame.  We can only accept and have compassion for ourselves.  That’s an important part of the journey of good psychotherapy.

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Jungian Therapy & The Meaning of Dreams, 1: Why Care?

September 14th, 2012 · dreams, Jungian, Jungian therapy, Meaning, meaning of dreams

Why does Jungian therapy care about opening up the meaning of dreams?  Some think that they’re nothing but the brain clearing up its hard drive.

meaning of dreams

Can a dream show us anything very important?

This is the first part of a series on why Jungian therapy emphasizes the importance of dreams — and why you might want to, as well.

The Meaning of Dreams… Rarely What You’d Expect

It’s important to realize that the meaning of dreams generally does not accord with the dominant conscious attitude, or what our ego expects.  In the vast majority of cases, the perspective that a dream is trying to present compensates our conscious attitude.  We can think of the meaning of dreams as representing a commentary on some aspect of the conscious mind’s attitude to a life situation, a relationship, or values held by consciousness.

Dreams are important because they are not what consciousness would expect.  We need a perspective that supplements that of consciousness.

A Window into Soul

For Jungian therapy, exploring the meaning of dreams opens up a new window into soul, the inner, unconscious reality of the human being.  By this, I am not making a philosophical, metaphysical or religious claim about the existence or non-existence of an immortal soul in humans.  As neuroscience is increasingly showing us, the unconscious aspect of the brain is by far the greater part of the brain, and of the psyche.  Soul, as used here, refers to connecting with the deepest levels of our psychic being.

The “Dreaming Genius”

Those who explore the meaning of dreams are often staggered by the detail and subtlety in dreams, and the ways in which they speak so powerfully and directly to the life situation of the dreamer.  One stands in awe, sometimes, of the blinding intelligence that lies behind these creations of the nighttime hours.  There are depths in each of us that contain an incredible wisdom, and, for our health and sanity we may well need what they bring to us.

Jungian Therapy and the Power of Symbols

The symbols which are interpreted by Jungian therapy in determining the meaning of dreams are not shorthand for something that can be readily expressed in English language.  They reflect powerful realities in the unconscious mind that cannot be easily turned into simple statements.  The process of Jungian therapy includes understanding the meaning of dreams as they present themselves, and using that insight to change the ways in which we relate to our lives.

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 4

September 10th, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

This last post in my series on issues of individuation and help with anxiety in the Fall start-up season focuses on the role of imagination.

help with anxiety

Imagination has a huge role in both our anxieties and also in our hopes and aspirations.  How does it affect us as we deal with the challenges of this time of year?

Imagination Has Formidable Power

In the Fall start up, whether we are aware or not, our imagination is powerfully activated.  We can imagine the greatest possible outcomes for ourselves or our children, and we can often imagine the most threatening and scary outcomes.

Often, imagination is the power behind anxiety.  Those with powerful imaginations often experience more anxiety, because they can vividly imagine negative possibilities.

But imagination is also strongly connected to individuation.  The things that come into consciousness, through dreams, daydreams, fantasies and even the images connected with internet addiction are powerfully related to what goes on in the unconscious.  Our deepest conflicts and fears, as well as new possibilities that try to break into our lives — all are vitally connected with imagination.

Imagination: Rooted in the Unconscious

We tend to think of imagination as under conscious control, but actually our control is rather limited.  Things we imagine burst into consciousness from the unconscious all the time, if we are honest with ourselves, and do not censor.  There are connections between these manifestations and the deep processes of the unconscious self.

Whether as adult or child, if we explore what we imagine, we learn a great deal about ourselves and our journey.

Taking What We Imagine Seriously

It’s striking how deeply that which emerges from imagination can affect us.  On the unconscious level, they come out of what we’ve experienced, combined with the deep level issues with which the unconscious concerns itself.

The power of the imaginal profoundly structures our relationship to our lives.

Fantasies of Fall

This Fall start-up season is laden with emotions.  They can produce joy, strong anxiety, or may even colour our expectations and experiences with dark foreboding.

Alternately, if we can explore and understand what our imagination is putting in front of us, and where it comes from, we may understand some profound things about what is trying to emerge and live itself out in each of our individual lives.

The fantasies and anxieties of Fall surround us.  They touch on our deepest hopes, fears and aspirations.  They invite us on the journey to ourselves.

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Jungian Analysis, the Psychotherapist & “Moving Stone”

September 6th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

A psychotherapist who is fully trained in Jungian analysis adopts a certain attitude to the work, as embodied in the quotation below:


The Psychotherapist and Stones

The image of stones in the path of a person’s development is powerful. If the obstacles on the path are removed, the individual will travel his or her own path to wholeness.  Jungian analysis discerns an inner wisdom deep in each human being, a kind of self-healing element to the human personality.  If we clear its path correctly, it responds.

What obstacles keep a person from herself?  Frequently, they are forms of psychological complex that result from imbalances in development, and deep psychological wounding.  Becoming conscious of these knots of psychological energy that distort our thinking and feeling, withstanding them, and taking the power out of them, is a key way to “remove the stones”.

Don’t Indoctrinate!

Often, without necessarily being aware of it, the psychotherapist subtly or unsubtly injects his or her version of reality and reasonableness into the client.  Many implied “shoulds” and “oughts” lurk in the ways that psychotherapists respond to clients.

The psychotherapist shouldn’t allow individual therapy to degenerate into putting things into the patient, as if it was de-bugging software.  Psychotherapy is about genuine encounter between two people, in which the client learns more about her or his inner life, and experiences a deep level of acceptance.  That’s the only way the client can find his or her own truth.

Internal Authority, Not External

As stated above, this is a key matter in terms of the individual finding his or her own direction and freedom.  If the therapist’s idea of “the way it ought to be”, or of “normalcy” is injected, the client will stay stuck in an infantile position, depending on the psychotherapist to think and feel for him or her.  But what’s important, as Jung indicates, is what a person learns and acquires for him- or herself, through a process of discovery aided by the psychotherapist.

In our supposedly free and democratic world, much pressure is still placed on many individuals to comply, and to please others.  That’s why the next point is so important.

Taking Hold of Real Life

The goal of all good psychotherapy, including Jungian analysis, is for clients to firmly take hold of their own real lives, through:

  • acknowledging my own real thoughts & feelings, and distinguishing them from how others might want me to think & feel;
  • recognizing my own freedom to choose, and acting upon it; and,
  • acknowledging the parts of myself that I have hitherto been unable to acknowledge.

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In Fall: Help with Anxiety & Individuation, 3

September 3rd, 2012 · Anxiety, help with anxiety, Individuation

As I’ve suggested earlier in this series, needing help with anxiety, and feeling the call of individuation may both be our experiences in the “September rush”.

help with anxiety

The busy-ness of this season can make it hard to find time to reflect on very much at all.  Yet, there may be some very profound things that we need to consider, as we try to open up the meaning of this time of year for ourselves.

Beginning September: Four Reflections

1. Life is Beckoning

We feel it all around us, as September begins.  The surge of renewed life as the Fall season commences.

We see it in our collective life, as kids go back to school, adults go back to university and college, and all manner of Fall activities start up again.  Everything urges us to jump into collective life.  But what about getting into our own, unique individual lives?

What is real life, for me?

2. The Gift Inside the Anxiety

Real anxiety is often associated with this time.  If I do need help with anxiety now, it may be important to ask — what does it mean?  What might I not want to face?  Is it tied to fear about the future, and possible mistrust of myself, or of life?  Or possibly to repressed feelings or yearnings?

Life’s energy often gets tied up in anxiety, rather than poured into those parts of our lives that need to be lived out.

What would it be like to give some unacknowledged part of yourself real, concrete life?

3. “Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?”…

…is the ironic title of Jeannette Winterson’s autobiography.  It’s an actual remark made by her adoptive mother, a woman of very narrowly conservative religious views, when Jeanette declared herself on certain key lifestyle issues.  It leads all of us ask where we have sacrificed happiness and meaning in our lives for the sake of being “normal”.

Might that need to change, for the sake of our psychological well-being?

4. The Divine Child

At this time, much gets stirred by the changes we experience.  We’re powerfully aware of the vulnerability of our children, their seeming fragility.  Yet we lose sight of youth’s resilience and adaptability, captured in the symbolism of the divine child.  Throughout the world we find the myth of a child born, seemingly fragile and “at risk”, who, despite the terrifying array of opposing forces, prevails.  So it is with the new life appearing in our children, and — dare we say it? — striving to appear in the lives of their parents.

Next post in Fall, Anxiety & Individuation Series

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