Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Winter of Our Discontent: Winter & Burnout Treatment 2

January 29th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

In my first post on winter burnout treatment, I emphasized the possible connection between burnout and the experience of “winter blues”.

burnout treatment

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted?

In this post, I examine some of the energies within us that might move us beyond burnout, to a new stance in our lives.

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Winter, Burnout Treatment, and the Restoration of Yearning

It’s true that burnout certainly does kill our passions.  And they are central to the feeling of being in our lives.

Dr. Herbert Freudenberger, originator of the term “burnout”, actually defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive [italics mine], especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”  So, the extinction of motivation where one has previously been devoted is a key aspect of burnout.

An important part of the restoration in burnout treatment will often be to find and connect to the individual’s real passion.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

In mid-winter, many people look to that staple remedy for mid-winter “blahs”, the winter vacation, as a cure for depression and uptightness — the kind of outlook you might find in a Jimmy Buffett song:

“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”

Sometimes yearning for sun in February just amounts to escapism, which isn’t necessarily  bad, but it won’t help the individual get beyond burnout in any fundamental way.  But it could be that this kind of yearning represents something at a much deeper level.  Perhaps our yearning is not so much for a “vacation” or a “trip”, as it is for a journey, which is something entirely different than mere escapism.

Symbolism of Journey

The archetypal theme of journey runs deep in the human psyche.  It’s closely related to another symbol / archetype, that of the path or the road, wonderfully evoked in Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Winter Road:

burnout treatment

The image of the journey is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to be human, and to live a human life.  To be on the journey is to be engaged, to face and move forward into what life brings.  It is the opposite of the stagnation and apathy that characterize the lack of motivation in burnout.  Could a yearning for “vacation”, at its deepest level, be a yearning for journey?

Burnout Treatment and Genuine Inner Journey

The journey most fundamental to burnout treatment is the journey of soul work.  It is the journey of taking the self and its needs seriously, and listening to the voice of the inner person, as we move along the path of life.

Can the process of rediscovering our passion through burnout treatment be a genuine journey into our inner life, through compassion for ourselves, and through living as if our selves and our inmost needs and yearnings are things of great worth?  It’s in accepting our value in this sense that burnout treatment offers the opportunity for inner journey, when viewed from the perspective of depth psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved pennuja  VIDEO:  Bradley Olson “Changes in Attitudes” © UMG Recordings Inc.
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life, 2: Image

January 26th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

Put a Jungian psychotherapist in suburbia and he or she soon realizes that an important part of suburban life is the process of dealing with expectations around image.

Jungian psychotherapist

People’s presentation of themselves to each other is key in suburban life.  And how we relate to our presentation to the world, to what Jung called the persona, can determine the whole course of a life.

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The Inevitability of Persona

We have to face it: we’re going to have a social mask.  People can’t appear unfiltered and emotionally raw to the world — it would be intolerable.

So, we all develop ways of protecting ourselves — and others — in our various social environments.  The way we do that is through our persona, which is a combination of what we show to others, and what we conceal.  For the Jungian psychotherapist, this is an inevitable activity, with identifiable common characteristics in the suburban persona across North America:


 Suburban Social Compromise

Persona is the sum total of all the compromises we make between the outer social reality and inner psychological reality.  All the social compromises we make in suburban living can amount to a lifestyle — and to a specific persona, a suburban way of presenting ourselves to the outer world.

In today’s suburbia, it’s not uncommon to have limited contact with others, but that doesn’t mean that we are not strongly influenced by their opinions and expectations.

Often there is considerable pressure to avoid patterns of behaviour considered “eccentric”, and sometimes strong fear and suspicion of behaviour that departs from the suburban pattern.  For instance, there can be considerable pressure to look prosperous and successful / “healthy” — and to give the impression of being “one of us”, and fitting in.

jungian psychotherapist


Don’t Mistake the Mask for Your Face

Suburban patterns of persona sometimes work better for people in the first half of adult life than they do in the second.

In the second half of life, what is more individual becomes more important.  By this time people can be so confined by social role that they risk never getting to a position to express their true selves.  Social masks can prevent us from expressing our real identity, confining us to rigid patterns of thought and reaction that we can never get past.

Suburbia and the Dance of Persona

jungian psychotherapist

For the Jungian psychotherapist, the key thing about image in suburbia is that individuals need to not be possessed by the social self, but to have the freedom to live from their authentic reality.  There is a dance of individuation and masks that is involved in suburban life, and in the issue of our persona in suburban living.

How to live authentically in suburbia?  Only by stepping away from the mask of suburban persona enough to gain some freedom.  A key part of the work of the Jungian psychotherapist, in suburbia or elsewhere, is to help individuals to find the authentic life within that brings freedom from the mask.


PHOTO:  © Yod Miansa-ard | ; Attribution Some rights reserved GanMed6  VIDEO:  SElighter “Rockin the Suburbs” © Ben Folds
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Uneasy: Help for Anxiety Through Depth Psychotherapy

January 20th, 2013 · Anxiety, depth psychotherapy, help for anxiety, Psychotherapy

When it comes to help for anxiety, depth psychotherapy can change our understanding and enable healing in depth.

help for anxiety

 Telling Someone to “Just Relax” Doesn’t Work

People with hypertension or other stress-related medical conditions often get told by medical personnel to “just relax”.  That’s much harder to do than it sounds.  While such advice is intended as help for anxiety, very often inf severely anxious or driven people it creates increased anxiety — “getting anxious about being anxious”.  Or else, people rage, either: 1) at themselves, because “I can’t even do a simple thing like relaxing”, or, 2) at external circumstances.

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Everyone Wants to Eliminate Anxiety; No One Wants to Understand It

As Dr. Cara Barker, the author of the “World Weary Woman” study reminds us, in medical literature on driven and/or perfectionist personalities,

“…the emphasis is on symptoms as negative, something to be eradicated.  Anger and anxiety are viewed as toxic, rather than in terms of what they might be trying to communicate.”

Here’s where depth psychotherapy provides unique help for anxiety.  It stays with the key question, “What might anxiety be trying to communicate about my life?”

Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman on “Healing as Making Whole”

Anxious Dreams

Anxiety will often manifest itself in dreams.  In fact, it’s often the anxious dreams that we remember, because they are the ones that wake us up, as Dr. Donald Broadribb reminds us.

Depth psychotherapy can often use dreams as important help for anxiety, because dreams often point to the root situation in the life of the individual that is creating the anxiety.   For instance, if an individual is dealing with a recurring dream that he or she has had since childhood, this may often indicate that the particular anxiety that the person is experiencing now is connected in some substantial way with anxieties or issues that have been present in a person’s life for an extremely long time, and that need to be explored.

The importance of dreams as a help for anxiety can be that they take us into the deeper meaning of the anxiety, and past the place of simply viewing it as a symptom.  Nonetheless, there are many other possible approaches to the meaning of anxiety.

The Meaning of Anxiety Symptom

In our culture, people are socialized to deal with difficulties by applying more and more effort to them.  Often latent, unexpressed perfectionism keeps us pushing harder and harder to solve the problems in our lives, and that keeps increasing anxiety levels.  Often, this is rooted in a deep-seated feeling that we are simply not good enough.  We are often not inclined to look inside ourselves until we encounter anxiety and pain so intense that we can’t use our ordinary strategies to defend against it.  Then we’re forced to realize that effort of will is not going to solve our problems; we really need to get in touch with what’s going on in our heart.  At that point, depth psychotherapy provides the most effective form of help for anxiety.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by danisabella  Video: © Marion Woodman ; inspirationandspirit


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Winter of Our Discontent: Winter & Burnout Treatment 1

January 13th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

What we call “winter blahs” may be a seasonal reflection of burnout, and the need for burnout treatment.

burnout treatment

January and February are months when many are aware of experiences similar to burnout.  Often people can become fully aware of burnout-like symptoms that have been semi-conscious for a long time.

Burnout often relates to work, but can be much broader, often representing a whole disengaged and discouraged stance in life.

Emotional Exhaustion

Post holidays, it’s common enough for people to experience a sense of emotional exhaustion.  Leading burnout expert Dr. Christina Maslach defines this as physical and emotional depletion  resulting from excessive job and/or personal demands and continuous work related stress.

The intensity of the holiday lead up causes many to feel that they are depleted.  Personal and work demands can be just too much.

Often people anticipate the Christmas period with great enthusiasm as a respite from extremely demanding routines.  If for whatever reason the Christmas season isn’t able to fulfil those expectations, we may experience exhaustion and depletion.  Many find themselves lacking the necessary energy to engage the challenges of everyday living that return to confront us in January.

Reduced Sense of Personal Fulfillment

Often people experiencing burnout find that things which we hoped would be fulfilling, or that were fulfilling at a previous point in life, are not now.

They are either not able to reach things that would bring a sense of personal satisfaction, or else we have gotten to the point where those things seem like they just don’t matter

Feelings like these are a very common experience in the midlife transition , and, often throughout the second half of life, but can certainly occur at other points in life, too, and they point to the need for burnout treatment.

Struggling to Deal with My Life

Demands and commitments all come rushing back after the New Year.  I may find that I don’t have the energy or vitality to cope with everything on my plate.  It may be that everything just seems too overwhelming, or that I can’t find the motivation to take on all that lies in front of me  in the long march toward spring.  My struggles may stem from a deep level of emotional exhaustion, or from the awareness that my way of life or the values that I have lived for to this point are not serving me nearly as well now as they once did.

I’m not generally a fan of country music, but this song by Alabama is very eloquent:

“All I really gotta do is live and die” — and that’s the real art

How Can I Re-Engage?

If need burnout treatment, the first step in the process is to genuinely take self-care seriously, and to show myself genuine compassion.  It may well be that my burnout is telling me something essential about the fundamental attitudes in my life.  Burnout treatment in depth may entail a process of encounter with the undiscovered aspects of the self, and a discovery of the symbols and values that really matter to me at the present stage in my life.  This is the fundamental work of the depth psychotherapist.

PHOTO: © Astrid228 |  VIDEO: “I’m In A Hurry” © The Alabama Band and BMG Music, 1992

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A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life 1: Insights

January 6th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

What would a Jungian psychotherapist say, specifically, about the meaning of suburban life?

Jungian psychotherapy

Well, having both practiced as a Jungian psychotherapist in suburban or “edge” cities and having extensively studied suburbias, it’s clear that individuals face particular challenges in living in this kind of environment, while remaining true to themselves.

Whatever else is true, the suburban places of my life, like Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington, have a unique character from the perspective of a Jungian psychotherapist.

That Funny Word “Suburban”…

A suburb, simply put, is a residential area that is neither fully urban, nor is it rural.  Often, the people who live in suburbia are people who hope to live closer to nature, or at least, with more space, than is possible in an urban setting.  Often, this kind of space appeals to people with families.

Living in the Suburbs Has Unique Pressures

From the perspective of a Jungian psychotherapist it’s clear that there are unique pressures on suburban dwellers.  Some of these are very tangible.

For instance, suburban dwellers often have a commute to somewhere in their metro area that substantially eats into their day.  Related to this is the fact that suburban folks pretty much need a car to do everything in their lives, and have to travel some pretty large distances to do the basics.  In most suburban communities you can’t get the goods and services you need via walking or transit.  So there can easily be a sense of disconnect from the physical environment, and from others living in the community.

A Jungian psychotherapist also knows that suburban community has two mirror opposite aspects: it can be both not enough and too much.  In the midst of suburban communities, people can feel incredibly alone.  Simultaneously, people can encounter immense pressure to meet collective expectations.  around lifestyle, levels of consumption. and being “like others” in the neighbourhood.  People can feel strong social pressure and feel extremely disconnected simultaneously.

The social pressure to be “like others” may result in huge financial pressure.

Being Yourself in the Suburbs is a Particular Challenge

At a certain point in life, often around the midlife transition, the challenge of living in a way that is uniquely one’s own takes on a level of urgency.

Jungian psychotherapist

Often, a way of life that once met certain key needs starts to feel like just “going through the motions”.  The need to find a way of living that is uniquely, authentically my own, may come from a pressing imperative — what a Jungian psychotherapist calls individuation.

Creative Individuation in the Suburbs

It can take a significant re-orientation to find a creative and meaningful life in the midst of a suburban lifestyle.  One must overcome the relentless pressure of advertising and marketing, which continually portrays commodity consumption as individual and creative, when it is often at heart abjectly conformist.  It can be an extensive process to get free of this and to get down to the discovery of what is uniquely me.  This is an essential aspect of the work of the Jungian psychotherapist in suburbia.

Attribution Some rights reserved Brett VA , halseike

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