Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Renewal

December 31st, 2012 · holiday stress, individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress

Working with people in individual psychotherapy around holiday stress teaches you a lot.

 individual psychotherapy

Among other things, you realize that, on some level, many of us do actually expect some kind of renewal at this time of year.

Does this result from expectations nurtured by our particular culture?  Perhaps so.  But there is also the age old reality of the solstice, and the effect of shortening and then lengthening days on all of us.  SAD, or seasonal affective disorder shows that many of us are deeply affected by the power of the light.

The sun’s power diminishes as we near solstice, and then ever so slowly comes back.  The expectation of renewal is part of our being, as it was for our ancestors thousands of years ago.  Jungian individual psychotherapy regards that expectation of renewal as archetypal.

But What Kind of Renewal?

Those in the second half of life know it’s not possible to simply wipe the slate clean, and start life again.  This reality of holiday stress is bluntly affirmed by one of the most popular Christmas songs of the last 30 years, “Fairy Tale of New York” by Kristy McColl and the Pogues [WARNING: Offensive Language]:

It’s hard to imagine a more eloquent expression of lost hope and broken dreams than this song.  Why is it so popular — at the very season of renewal?  In my opinion, the answer rests on another aspect of the holiday season that I discussed in my last post: the deep yearning for reality that accompanies this season.  In individual psychotherapy, people often reveal that want to believe in the possibility of renewal in life — but, in our era, they refuse to accept a cheap sentimentalization that lacks any substance.  In truth, we simply cannot stand any more…

Humbug!

It’s striking that, given our wariness about sentimentality, we remain fascinated by another figure who embodies renewal at this season — Ebenezer Scrooge!  I recently attended Soulpepper Theatre‘s annual dramatization of Dickens’  A Christmas Carol, and was fascinated to watch the audience, and realize the power that this story has to draw us in.  Why does this story still resonate?

Part of the reason is its power to reach the Scrooge element within each of us.  We want to believe in new possibilities for the rigid, mistrustful wounded part of ourselves that could readily give up on the possibility of anything new or alive.  We want to believe in renewal.

The Archetype of Renewal

Renewal comes from acknowledging that wounded, shamed, weak, deeply disappointed part of ourselves as indeed ourselves, and showing it real compassion and acceptance.  It’s so easy to treat it with contempt, which can very readily turn into contempt for the weakness and brokenness of others.  If we can connect with and accept the Scrooge in ourselves, there is hope for connection with others, and, above all, with our own real lives.  This goal of recognizing  and accepting all that we are is the goal of individual psychotherapy in depth.

Attribution   Some rights reserved ItzaFineDay ; VIDEOS: “Fairy Tale of New York” © Warner Music UK Ltd 1988 ; “A Christmas Carol” © Soulpepper Theatre Company

 

 

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Reality

December 22nd, 2012 · holiday stress, individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress

One learning I’ve had from from practicing individual psychotherapy is that some holiday stress stems from people’s attempts to find reality at the heart of the holidays.

individual psychotherapy

That sounds like a surprising thing to say.  But the yearning for real, meaningful experiences around the holidays actually runs quite deep.

The Realm of Kitsch and Bling

In the holiday season, we are surely living in the realm of kitsch, that style of mass-produced artifact that uses well-worn cultural icons or images. It’s a term generally reserved for

holiday-stress-kitsch

things gaudy or lacking in substance, designed to appeal to a wide audience at a shallow level.  Unfortunately, much of holiday art, design and decoration is kitsch, which contributes to holiday stress.  The same is true of much of holiday storytelling, especially in the mass media.

We fill the holidays with kitschy symbols and images of Christmas in our culture, and we also fill up the holidays with extravagant gifts, which can easily pre-occupy us during this period.  Yet, for many, the “bling” that accompanies Christmas feels hollow and empty.

Reality vs. Sentimentality

Many people experience holiday stress because of the way in which the season is shrouded in sentimentality, which might be characterized as appealing to shallow, uncomplicated emotionality at the expense of depth and real, individual humanity.  It’s not hard to find expressions of sentimentality tied to the key elements of the holidays.

Tired Symbols in Need of Renewal

The traditional symbols of the holiday season have lost some or all of their energy or vitality.  Jung would be the first to tell us that, when symbols lose their power and effectiveness in peoples’ lives, they must either be renewed or be replaced.  Over 40 years ago, Ian Anderson sang of the need in our culture for a renewal of holiday symbols, and of the need to get beyond the cloying sentimentality with which it has become encrusted.

What IS Real?

Individual psychotherapy shows that holiday stress often reflects our yearning for reality and genuine experience.  Few among us are really complete cynics about the holidays.  Even individuals without religious conviction look to them as a time of increased cooperation and goodwill among people, and, also, perhaps a hope for genuine connection with family members and friends.

Focusing on a sense of personal reality during the holidays relates to bringing a sense of reality and personal meaning back into our lives in general.  It’s always important to ask ourselves what in our lives carries a sense of deep meaning and reality.  Some of this may have to do with personal philosophy or meaning, worldview, or spirituality.  Some of it may have to do with deep and genuine connections and relationships with others in our lives.  Again, as individual psychotherapy knows, connection with those things for which we have genuine, deep passion is also essential.

Our yearning for reality during the holidays reflects our need for reality and substance in our lives in general, a key focus of individual psychotherapy that focuses on depth, like Jungian therapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

1-905-337-3946

Click below to arrange a no obligation initial session:

   
Attribution   Some rights reserved wellohorld ; VIDEO: “Christmas Song” from album “This Was” © Chrysalis Records Ltd 1968

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Gifts

December 17th, 2012 · holiday stress, individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

This is the season of holiday gifts, and, as individual psychotherapy well knows, gift-giving is often a major source of holiday stress.

individual psychotherapy

Does gift-giving create holiday stress for you?  Well if so, you’re in good company.  Anthropology tells us that gift-giving is a near-universal practice through the history of human cultures.

Gifts are Intensely Personal

Gift-giving — and especially gift exchanges — are immensely significant.  In cultures like the ancient Polynesian or the Haida First Nation, with its potlatch ceremonies, gift giving is tied up with maintaining and strengthening social bonds, maintaining social status — and it even has huge spiritual implications.

So this year, when you’re trying to decide what to get Uncle Fred, don’t be surprised to feel emotional complications and perhaps holiday stress surrounding the giving of gifts.  The anthropologist Marcel Mauss defines a gift as

“an object that contains spiritual elements and engages the honour of both giver and receiver.”
Haida Gwaii – Potlatch for New Chief Nang Jingwas

As individual psychotherapy shows, gift-giving is both personal and archetypal.  Among the Polynesians, or Haida, or even when considering the origin of Christmas gifts, the objects being exchanged don’t just have a monetary or physical value, but embody
a spiritual reality.  As Mauss says of Maori gift giving,”one clearly and logically realizes that one must give back to another person what is really part and parcel of his nature and substance, because to accept a gift from somebody is to accept some part of his spiritual essence, of his soul“.

Gifts are Archetypal

Gifts may seem like pretty mundane things, but they actually carry a significance so deep that it can properly be called archetypal.  Often in human culture, there is a higher spiritual agenda in gift-giving, and a deep feeling that the gift must be appropriate to the essence of the receiver, to who they really are.  The gift is an honouring and acknowledgement of who the receiver of the gift is, in their individual reality.

Our Gift Compulsion

The experience of individual psychotherapy shows that our culture is confused and conflicted about the meaning of gifts, in no small part because we are conflicted about the meaning of individual human existence.  In a culture in spiritual crisis, the meaning of human life is the acquisition of ever more expensive and splendid “stuff”, and not surprisingly, the meaning of gift-giving degenerates into ever-increasing pressure towards continually “bigger and better” gifts.

Our Need for Gift

The gifts that we and others need are not the most expensive or most luxurious, but the gifts that honour our true nature and substance.  To give such gifts, the giver must see who we really are.  Such a gift would bring us back to our souls, to self acceptance, and would connect us in profound ways with the giver.

What is the gift that you need, at this holiday season?  And, just as importantly, what gift do you need to give?  In its own way, individual psychotherapy at its best is profoundly concerned with these questions.

Attribution   Some rights reserved Cali4beach ; VIDEO: Colin Richardson, Elan Michel, High Tech Totem

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Jungian Therapy & the Meaning of Dreams 7: Diamonds

December 10th, 2012 · dreams, Jungian, Jungian therapy, meaning of dreams, therapy

The meaning of dreams in which the motif  of “jewels” or “diamonds” appear can vary greatly — as Jungian therapy well knows — but these are often dreams of great

Jungian therapy

emotional power.  It is more than a play on words to say that the diamond is a multi-faceted symbol.

Jungian therapy often sees the diamond as a symbol of the self in its entirety.  But what the heck does that mean?

Precious from the Earth

Diamonds are created far within the depths of the earth.  In the normal course of events, a human being cannot make a diamond.  It requires the pressure and heat of the depths to do that.

Jungian therapy is aware that “the depths of the earth” often symbolize of the unconscious depths of the psyche.  A diamond symbolizes the reality of the self: it is forged without human intervention in the depths, just as the self is created in the depths, in the vastness of the unconscious, independent of the conscious mind and ego.

Indestructible and Forever

Diamonds are famous for incredible hardness and durability.  They symbolize the durability and resilience of the true self, and of the yearning that we all have for a connection to the lasting persistent nature of psyche, and of our own deepest identity  In the times of life when we often feel most fragile and vulnerable on the conscious level,  Jungian therapy knows a deep need of the individual is to come into contact with the reality and persistence of the self.  Often the meaning of dreams revolves around encounters with this reality.

The Many Facets of Diamonds

Diamonds have very complex shapes.  They often have many, many facets.  In this way, they bear a resemblance to the human personality, which has a multitude of dimensions and aspects.  Jungian therapy lives in the awareness that, like diamonds, we are multi-facetted — many facets not even being conscious.  To understand the meaning of dreams containing the symbol of the diamond, we must understand the multi-dimensional beauty and wonder of the diamond as an image reflecting the endlessly diverse and multi-facetted reality of the individual self.

Here is a video by Maple Leaf Diamonds .  If you can get past seeing the diamonds presented as mere “bling”, they portray the wonder and beauty of these strange stones, and the way in which they serve as an image of the wonder of the self.

Diamonds and the Life of the Self

What is the meaning of dreams where diamonds appear?  Jungian therapy emphasizes that the answer to this question must necessarily be very individual.  But it is highly likely that such dreams concern the fundamental reality of who we are.  Have you had a dream in which diamonds or precious stones appeared?  If so, we must wonder what such a dream might have been saying about your unique and infinitely varied self.  Often, it is only in the journey to wholeness embodied by depth psychotherapies such as Jungian therapy that we can begin to find out.

© Gualtiero Boffi | Dreamstime.com   ; VIDEO: BHP Billiton Maple Leaf Diamonds

 

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Relations

December 3rd, 2012 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Every year, I post something on individual psychotherapy and holiday stress.

individual psychotherapy

My intent in doing this is not to be a “downer”, but rather to plead with all of us to be real at this time of year.

Interacting with certain relatives in holiday situations can be a debilitating stressor.  Individual psychotherapy knows, that if there is any time of the year when we really need to “hang onto ourselves”, this is it.

Interacting with Some Relations is a Major Holiday Stress

Of the several issues that make the holidays difficult for my clients, the number one factor cited is encounters with relatives.

These can include encounters with just about any type of relative.  The biggest single factor that seems to contribute to anxiety, depression and overall discomfort is the prospect of spending extended time in the presence of a toxic relative — and feeling aversion, powerlessness or even complete defeat.

Why is Interacting with Toxic Relations So Difficult?

The reasons that certain relatives can be so problematic are very diverse, and depend on the individual’s situation.

The most extreme factors are situations of abuse.  Such abuse can be verbal, physical or sexual.  Here, the individual may risk re-traumatization by even seeing the person, or being in their presence.  Such trauma situations must be approached with extreme caution.

Some relatives endlessly inflict shame. This may be connected with overt verbal abuse, or it may not.  A related experience may be that a relative makes me feel negligible or inferior.

Often, any or all of the above may relate to the inability of a given relative to let me be who I am in my own right — even a little.  This can be painful in the extreme, and it may lead to feelings of deep misgiving and foreboding as Christmas approaches.

Is There Any Chance for Healing?

In individual psychotherapy people often find themselves asking if there is any chance for repair of such a relationship.  It is not uncommon to find oneself oscillating between optimism and pessimism on this point.

Sometimes such repair may be a possibility.  Or, it may be that healing in the relationship with this relative simply isn’t an option.  In such cases, it may well be that the healing that has to go on in this situation is something that must go on inside of me, where I find ways to maintain my own boundaries, and keep valuing myself and living my life — the archetype of individuation.

Living in My Own Story

Whether I go into situations involving a toxic relative, or I don’t, there are some truths that I need to keep in mind.

The first of these is that my life is my own.  I belong to myself.  The perception of even the closest relative does not define who I am.  I have a right to live my life in a manner that respects who I am, and respects my needs.

Living in my own story — even amidst holiday stress — is a key part of the journey of individual psychotherapy.

Attribution   Some rights reserved BluEyedA73

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The Jungian Psychotherapist & the Power of the Image

December 1st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

If you work with a Jungian psychotherapist, he or she is going to want to know about the images at work in your life.

Jungian psychotherapist

For a Jungian psychotherapist, inner images have far more lasting and influential power over the way that you or I live our lives than do the concepts tossed about on a daily basis by the conscious mind.

Images?  What images?

The Image as Fantasy

What does Jung mean by an image?  As he says, “the image has the psychological character of a fantasy-idea… it never takes the place of reality, and can always be distinguished from sensuous reality by the fact that it is an ‘inner’ image.” [CW 6, para. 743]  So, he’s not referring to hallucinations, but to the images stirred up within us by fantasy, particularly unconscious fantasy.

Unconscious fantasies?  Do we have such things?  Yes.  How we react to people and situations, what we “project” or put on them is constantly conditioned by images that reside in the unconscious.  If you have ever had a violent emotional response to a person, place or thing come upon you out of the blue, it’s likely rooted in an unconscious image or fantasy.  Sometimes, we may even be aware of these images, or “fantasy ideas” being present in the background, as we confront various situations in our lives.

Images: Where Conscious and Unconscious Meet

As Jung says, “the image is an expression of the unconscious as well as the conscious situation of the moment.”  For the Jungian psychotherapist, those inner images coming up from the unconscious are interpreted and understood in a definite way.  They represent the way that our unconscious mental situation is interacting with our consciousness, as it deals with the situations in our lives.  If we can surface these images, we can understand a lot about what is going on within us as we encounter the situations in our lives.

Jungian psychotherapist

The Power of the Image Goes Beyond Language

Often incredible emotional power is associated with inner images and fantasies, and they can often be associated with a major complex. Consider an individual who has the semi-conscious image of sitting down across the kitchen table from his abusive, alcoholic father, every time he sits down in his bosses office, .  Or, on the other hand, the individual who cannot help the images of his lost first love that arise every time he sees his children’s nanny.  Individuals confronted with such compelling inner fantasies may find that the emotions generated in the situation powerfully affect their responses to life situations.

What are the Images in Your Life?

Becoming conscious of inner images may be a major, very important piece of soul work.  It can be very important to be aware of how these inner images affect the way that we experience and respond to outer reality.  What are the emotionally charged images that underlie the characteristic situations in your life?  Working with a Jungian psychotherapist is, in part, a journey into the emotionally charged images that structure our lives.

Attribution   Some rights reserved garlandcannon

 

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