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Help for Anxiety Through Depth Psychotherapy 4: Concern

February 24th, 2013 · Anxiety, depth psychotherapy, help for anxiety, Psychotherapy

Concern sounds like such a benign word, yet disproportionate concern can be a sign of needing help for anxiety.

help for anxiety

Well, Isn’t It Good to be Concerned?

Yes, of course it is !

Life is full of all sorts of things that need our concern — that’s the source of the meaning in our lives.  However, concern can get distorted into anxiety so intense that it gets in the way of our genuine living.

We have concerns because we value certain key things in our lives.  But when the concern becomes so intense that it destroys much of the value in our lives… well, …that’s a concern.

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Concern for Others

Inevitably, we’re going to be concerned for people in our lives whom we love — children and lovers, for example.  But that concern can escalate to a level where we definitely need help for anxiety.

In such cases,  the line may get crossed between our genuine caring for the security of the other, and other factors such as:

  • unconscious desire for power or control,
  • out of control guilt feelings,
  • unconscious identification with the other, and desires to live our unlived lives through them; or,
  • radical insecurity, and fear of the future.

Any of these, and many other factors, can masquerade as caring, and can get blurred and mixed in with genuine feelings of love.  Concern can get so extreme that it colours everything in my life — and becomes obsession.

help for anxiety

Obsession Colours Everything

We can defend ourselves from our own mixed feelings by wearing the mask of obsessive care — “I just love and care for her/him/it so much!”  Such “love’ can actually push away unconscious feelings about ourselves and our lives that we’d rather not have.

Overwhelming Concern

Where our concern becomes overwhelming, or disproportionate, or it completely violates tour personal boundaries, we need to examine, not only the impact of this concern upon our lives, but also its deepest roots.  In this way, our search for help for anxiety may take us into issues of depth that might not have been at all apparent initially.

This clip from WGN-TV in Chicago masterfully opens up one form of such overwhelming concern: the “helicopter parent” phenomenon:


In this clip, Linda, the mother,  does have very genuine and deep love for her son, Anthony.  However, her feelings of guilt and regret have built up her concern for him to such an extent that she cannot say “No”.  This must surely be debilitating both in her own life, and in its impact on her son.

What’s the Real Concern?

When our concern gets in the way of our freedom, our autonomy and our capacity to fully live our lives, we may very well require help for anxiety.  To free our concern from underlying entanglement with unconscious issues and conflicts can be a key part of our process of individuation, and a key part of work in depth psychotherapy.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by [ Roberto Bouza ] ; victoriapeckham   VIDEO: “Helicopter Parents” © 2010 WGN-TV Chicago
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Can Midlife Transition Bring Renewal? 1: Out of Decay

February 19th, 2013 · midlife, midlife transition, transition

Midlife Transition is a key part of our life journey, but can it bring renewal?

midlife transition

In midlife, often the values and activities that have been meaningful for us to that point, start to die or change.  Could good or life-giving things ultimately come from this transformation?

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Fruitful Exhaustion

We embark upon adulthood embracing key values and fundamental attitudes which carry us up to the second half of life.  They may be around education, occupation, relationship, family… all the things that carry meaning in the first half of life.

But, in midlife transition, those values and attitudes may not carry the same meaning for us.  A career that was once energizing may now feel gray, empty and valueless.  A relationship with a partner or significant other, once full of promise and life, may now be something that we only endure.  Things once full of life, and joy [e.g., “the gang”, “playing hockey”, “working on home improvements”], may lose their magic at midlife.  We may feel plunged us into confusion and disorientation.

day-of-the-dead-mexico-city

When the Past is Dying

When in this kind of midlife experience, it’s easy to feel that “this funny state I’m in” is the culprit, and is responsible for my despondancy.  We can end up trying to eliminate our “messed up state of mind”, and attempting to return to the past.  But we may find that’s impossible.  Often those in midlife transition find themselves trying harder and harder to get back the sense of vitality from things that used to have value or meaning, but do so no longer.  This can bring the individual considerable anxiety and/or depression.

Emergence of the Unfamiliar

Often, the only way forward is to fully understand what is actually emerging from the unconscious at midlife.  It may very well be that shadow aspects of the personality long submerged in the unconscious are now demanding to be acknowledged.  At this stage in life, we may well surprise ourselves!

midlife transition

The Green Man, Symbol of Renewal, Crowcombe, Somerset, 1535

Psychologist Mary Ann Mattoon  notes that the the non-dominant attitude emerges from midlife on.  The person who has been a strong extrovert may find  that the need to turn inward becomes more apparent.  The introvert may experience a strong desire to connect more with others.

Similarly, the complementary functions may start to emerge.  The person whose life has been dominated by rationality may suddenly find that emotion and feeling are coming into her life with surprising force.  The person strongly in touch with feeling may suddenly feel the need for a more rational framework  in his life.

Jung referred to this as the “reversal of values”: values, attitudes, and commitments that once served us no longer do so.  New values are needed.

Renewal Out of Decay

Midlife transition approached with the right attitude contains vitality, even if its onset seems only like collapse and loss.  As a depth psychotherapist, I work with individuals to uncover the seeds of renewal within their own unique experience of midlife transition.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by Bogdan Migulski ; Jacqueline Ross  

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Help for Anxiety Through Depth Psychotherapy 3: Worry

February 12th, 2013 · Anxiety, depth psychotherapy, help for anxiety, Psychotherapy

Relentless worry may well be the reason an individual seeks help for anxiety, and depth psychotherapy may play a key role in the process.

help for anxiety

The Unknown and Uncontrollable

One of the things that we have to accept is that a certain amount of anxiety is a perfectly normal part of life.  We have to expect that we will have — and we need — some anxiety.

But not crippling anxiety.  The famous therapist Rollo May differentiated between normal and unhealthy anxiety.  The unhealthy type is disproportionate worry that  results from consistent unwillingness to face the normal anxiety of life.  Even if only unconsciously, we know that anxiety is there: there’s nothing in the outer world that we have that we could not lose.  When we refuse to accept and tolerate anxiety as an inevitable part of life, we  set ourselves up for pathological anxiety and out-of-control worrying.

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Worry and Denial of Anxiety

Healthy anxiety is the kind that we can accept and deal with.  We can do something about it, and the anxiety dissipates.

But if we cannot accept the presence of  healthy anxiety in our lives, and of our true feelings, it intensifies, and we set ourselves up for out-of-control worrying.  Toxic worry can bring chronic tension and fatigue, disturbed sleep, headaches, hyper-alertness, irritability, reduced ability to concentrate, bodily problems, panic attacks, or even psychiatric symptoms. It can make us quite sick and quite miserable.  When it gets this intense, we definitely need help for anxiety.

Worry and Persona

Our inability to accept our normal anxiety often relates to our desire to be perceived by others in a certain way.  We get heavily invested in being seen by the world in a particular way.  We frantically guard what Jung called the persona — our image — often driven by fear that others will see us in a negative light.  We worry, often unconsciously, that the world might show us up as other than our carefully constructed social mask.

Is it possible that we’re too invested in this outer image, for whatever reason, and too out of touch with our real identity?

Worry and the Unacknowledged Self

Worry takes us back to the question of our ability to be conscious of, and to accept ourselves and life.

When we divorce ourselves from the hypnotic image of the social self, the persona, can we really accept who’s there?  Can we accept our real situation in life?  Can we get free of the often crushing weight of internalized expectations and perfectionism?

Self awareness and self acceptance is central to therapeutic help for anxiety, and indeed for any approach to therapy that truly has transformative power for the individual’s life, as Rollo May tells us:

The capacity for self acceptance, and for accepting one’s life as it is, without illusion, is at the heart of reducing the level of anxiety in our lives.  The journey of self-discovery that enables such acceptance is a key element in the kind of help for anxiety and worry provided by depth psychotherapy.

What are the circumstances that create worry in your life?

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PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by jonrawlinson ; VIDEO: © psychotherapy.net

 

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A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life, 3: Money

February 9th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

Money in all its aspects is highly significant in suburban life, as any Jungian psychotherapist well knows.

Jungian psychotherapist

This isn’t surprising: money has immense psychological importance, overall.

What do I mean by that?

Money as Energy

Psychologically and symbolically speaking, a Jungian psychotherapist thinks of money as representing a form of stored energy.  The money we earn effectively results from the expenditure of our life’s energy.

As a result, money is fundamentally tied up with our hopes and dreams, for ourselves, and just as importantly, for those whom we love.  It is also powerfully associated with our fears and insecurities.   Let’s make no mistake: financial crises, recessions or other situations of financial threat, personal or collective, are powerful emotional events.

These psychological facts take on a particular nuance or flavour in suburban settings.  In suburbia, success and affluence are highly prized, and deeply tied up with personal identity.

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Money Complex and Social Self

Basically, everyone has a money complex.  Money issues can leave us in the grips of many different strong emotional states, but money “gets” to almost all of us, one way or another, whether as extreme competitiveness or extreme worry, or other emotional states.

jungian psychotherapist

The world’s great financial organizations and institutions gives us the impression that money is one of the most rational — even mathematical — of things in human life.  Actually, money is one of the most emotional things on earth.  Again, this emotionality is often heightened in suburbia, where outward trappings of affluence and success are a highly prized part of our social masks.  The social collective stresses the need to be, and to be seen to be successful– in order to have any worth.

Songwriter Aimee Mann explores the complexity around “looking successful” and money in her insightful song, “Freeway” — “You’ve got a lot of money / But you cannot keep your bills paid.”

Suburban Life: A Troubled Marriage with Money

As a Jungian psychotherapist, a key area of investigation, and a key issue for people who see me in my practice, is the particular relationship between suburban life and money.  It’s a potent, potent mixture!

The constant message of suburbia?  Successful people live here.  In fact, that’s why many chose to live in the more affluent suburbs.    Certainly, “success” in this sense means financial success: having a lot of money.  The not-so-subtle message in our society, which screams from every brick in suburbia, is that self-worth is directly connected to worth in dollars.

Upscale suburb living symbolizes success.  And, very clearly, those living here need to appear successful.  This can be an extremely trying pressure in economically uncertain times.

Self Worth and Money?

Human beings are worth infinitely more than their assets.  There’s irreplaceable value in our individual uniqueness.  Our culture doesn’t always affirm this.  We need to live in the conscious awareness of our own uniqueness, and our own unique journey.  A Jungian psychotherapist focuses on grounding people in their unique identity and worth.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved bee wolf ray ; francisco.j.gonzalez  VIDEO: “Freeway” © 2008 SuperEgo Records, Aimee Mann  BebingtonGirl
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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Restless: Help for Anxiety Through Depth Psychotherapy

February 3rd, 2013 · Anxiety, depth psychotherapy, help for anxiety, Psychotherapy

One kind of help for anxiety is to take the restless character of anxiety seriously, and to fully explore it, as depth psychotherapy does.

help for anxiety

Restlessness is a very frequently described symptom of anxiety.  There are many individual experiences of anxiety in which restlessness is prominent — even the most prominent symptom.

What if we were to really examine the restless aspect of anxiety, and approach it from the point of view of depth psychotherapy?  What might we learn about the nature of our restlessness?

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I Cannot be at Rest

In anxiety,  restlessness may be a continual companion.  It may be an inability to focus, or the sensation that I simply cannot be at peace, or relax.  In a restless state, we search for something that we never find.

From a depth psychotherapy perspective, such restless anxiety can often be rooted in what is going on the the unconscious, and the best help for anxiety may well be to help the individual to find what it is that is restless within the more fundamental parts of the self.

Denial of our Instinctual Grounding

Like all things in depth psychology, help for anxiety comes from understanding the uniqueness of the individual and his or her situation.  The roots of our restlessness may not be immediately obvious.  It may stem from living in a way that is fundamentally at odds with who we are in our individual nature.

As we examine ourselves in depth, we may well find that we subject ourselves to inhuman demands.  We may well be living in a manner where we are not listening to our deepest and most fundamental feelings, longings and yearnings — and may not even have the freedom to admit these things to ourselves.

What is it that I’m really feeling, or, really restless or longing for?  What part of me is it that believes that I must “suck it up”, and deny these feelings and realities in my life?

Truths of the Blood

Jung wrote about the the need to align our lives with the fundamental truths of our lives that lie at the basis of the human psyche, which he called the truths of the blood.  As he put it,

Deviation from the truths of the blood begets … restlessness, and we have had about enough of that these days.  Restlessness [in turn] begets meaninglessness… (Jung, CW 8)

I know of no better musical portrayal of the psychological reality of that restless meaninglessness than “The Good Life” by the avante-garde jazz musician Ornette Coleman:

 

So long as we are not listening to the reality of our own lives, our own feelings and our own instinctual reactions, we may experience our lives as restless and devoid of meaning.  The help for anxiety that we need may well be rooted in self-acceptance, and discovering the vitality in ourselves that lies out of sight in the depths — and that is the key work of depth psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved bee wolf ray  VIDEO: “The Good Life” © Ornette Coleman © Verve Music Group, UMG Recordings Inc.
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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