Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Depth Psychotherapy and Nature, Outer & Inner

July 31st, 2013 · depth, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Depth psychotherapy concerns itself with nature — inner human nature, which is fundamentally connected with outer nature, which we often experience so powerfully in the summer season.

depth psychotherapy

Nature, Inner & Outer

The McMichael Art Gallery is currently exhibiting a wonderful group of works by photographer Ansel Adams.  Just to declare my bias: Adams was one of the great artists of the 20th century.  In works like “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” above, he opens up a vision of outer nature that resonates profoundly our own inner life — our inner nature.

Jung on Nature

Jung’s depth psychotherapy was similarly concerned with the relationship between nature and the human mind.  He wrote a lot about his own experience of nature:

“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go , in the procession of the seasons.  There is nothing with which I am not linked.”

C.G. Jung, MDR

depth psychotherapy

IMAGE, JUNG’S RED BOOK

But Jung cautioned western culture:

“Our intellect has  created a new world that dominates nature, and has populated it with monstrous machines….

‘We have conquered nature’ is a mere slogan.  In reality we are confronted with anxious questions, the answers to which seem nowhere in sight.  The so-called conquest of nature overwhelms us…

Western man has no need of more superiority over nature whether outside or inside.  He has both in almost devilish perfection.  What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around him and within him.  He must learn that he may not do exactly as he wills.  If he doesn’t learn this, his own nature will destroy him.  He does not know that his own soul is rebelling against him in a suicidal way.

The one thing we refuse to admit is that we are dependent on “powers” beyond our control…

The afternoon of humanity, in a distant future, may yet evolve a different ideal.  In time, even conquest will cease to be the dream.”

C.G. Jung, CW 11; CW 18

Jung anticipated the eco-psychology and environmental psychology of our era by 50-60 years.  I’m struck by the way that he brings it together with depth psychotherapy and the unconscious mind.

Peace with Outer and Inner Nature

Jung stressed connections between natural landscapes and the unconscious.  He spoke in very positive terms of consciousness of indigenous people, as when he stated

“The country [the indigenous person] inhabits is at the same time the topography of his unconscious”

[CW 10]

The unconscious and nature in its outer form are profoundly connected: there is a strong similarity in the ways in which consciousness relates to both.  Jung notes that modern culture has an attitude of exploitation towards nature, seeking the “conquest” of nature.  This manifests in dismissal and contempt of inner nature — the unconscious dimensions of the personality, and the rhythms of bodily existence.  Result: people fundamentally at odds with their own being.

Depth psychotherapy aims at staying real by re-establishing an intimate relationship with nature, inner and outer.

PHOTOS: “Aspens, Northern New Mexico”  © 1958 Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust ; C.G. jung, Red Book, © 1958
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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3 Key Facts re: Summer, Burnout Treatment & Nature

July 26th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

Burnout isn’t confined to winter: summer encounters with burnout show us a lot about the kind of burnout treatment that we really need, and our relationship to inner and outer nature.

burnout treatment

Burnout and Outer Nature

Summer offers a chance to break with regular routines, and get closer to the natural world.  That closeness can have some profound effects on us.  Very often, when modern people do have the chance to come into contact with nature, there is an incredible feeling of “rightness” to it.  There is something in our psyche that is ready to respond to the natural world, to its rhythms, to acknowledge that we’re part of it. We feel the reality Jung points toward when he writes:

Natural life is the nourishing soil of the soul.  

Anyone who fails to go along with life remains suspended, stiff and rigid in midair.

-C.G. Jung, CW 8

Then when we leave nature, something in us can really feel the break.  For this reason,  for many people, returning to work may feel like a grief reaction, especially if we are confronting the emotional reality of burnout.

This is one way the summer / vacation season can bring us to realize our need for burnout treatment.  Summer can also find us confronting that reality in other ways.

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Can Summer Itself Seduce Us Into Burnout?…

“…Surely not!” is our instant reaction — surely summer brings us the very opposite of burnout, doesn’t it?  Summer is associated with warm, relaxed times in the sun, far from work.  But other realities are also part of summer.

As Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy. D. has pointed out, 4 very significant factors, listed in the graphic below can drive burnout, and these can take on a formidable potency in summer:

burnout treatment

So, relative to the past, the summer experience of many middle class people have in our society is one of increased pressure.  The workplace demands more, and makes it less easy to take vacation time.  Technology keeps us continually looped in, thwarting escape from work and other demands.  The pressures of consumerism push us to entertain and have fun at ever more expensive levels, which further ups the stress ante.  And perfectionism in business, technology and professional people is continually pressuring us to do more, more, more.

Burnout and Inner Nature

The most fundamental types of burnout involve alienation from our own inner nature — from who we most basically are.  In a manner akin to alienation from outer nature, described above, we can find ourselves in a work role — or in roles of family or other responsibility — that have the character of burnout, and that requires burnout treatment in the broadest sense of the word.

burnout treatment

Burnout happens at any time of the year, occuring more frequently in summer than you might suppose.  Contact with nature in summer may make us aware of just how fundamentally we need to address burnout.  Depth psychotherapy is often important as a form of burnout treatment , as it brings us contact with our fundamental inner nature.

PHOTOS: © Teraberb ; Rido | Dreamstime.com  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved  ; USAG-Humphreys ;  
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Psychotherapy: Quit Living Provisionally! 1

July 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

In individual psychotherapy, a key issue for an individual can be finding a way to return to his or her own actual, immediate experience of life.

individual psychotherapy

As Jung  indicates in this quote, it is far too easy for us to live provisionally.  That is to say, to live our lives as if they don’t really matter or count.

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Still Not Taking This Life Seriously

For a very, very long time, Western culture  has conditioned us to treat the real happenings in our lives as not real — as if they don’t count.  Partly, this is due to a certain version of Christianity, which views this world as a veil of tears, and sees the sole purpose of this life as readying us for life after death in “a better place”.  The power of this worldview has diminished — although many are still under its sway — but there is a variation of it, still very potent, that goes back to Plato.  On this view, only thoughts, and particularly reason and logic, are truly important.    And, as a result, western civilization is very much stuck in its head.

individual psychotherapy

Virtually Alive (Sort Of)…

For many in our time, information technology has intensified the tendency to live in our heads, to live “virtually” or “in the cloud”.  There are many in our culture whose most intense experiences have involved video games, or role playing in online chatrooms.  From the perspective of individual psychotherapy, that is quite concerning.  Such “virtual worlds” are the latest, most technologically intense version of provisional life: spoon-fed generic experiences, rather than real, individual life.

As a culture, we are in continual avoidance of our own real lives.  We are too ready to float above the real joy and pain in our life, and call it living, when it is really only participation in the collective fantasies of mass entertainment and consumerism.

The Unconscious In the Immediate

Jung tells us, “our unconscious often tries to convince us of the importance of living here and now.”  I believe that this may be even more true in our time than his.  Our dreams may well reflect when we get too divorced from the immediacy of life.  Similarly, we may find that inexplicable slip-ups and errors in performing ordinary daily activities may be the way in which the unconscious draws our attention away from our ceaseless mental taskmaster, with his or her inflexible agendas and killer timelines.

Epidemics of events such as repeatedly losing our car keys as we are trying to get out of the door to go to work may reflect the attempts of the unconscious mind to bring us back to more natural rhythms, and a greater awareness of the immediate events in our lives.

individual psychotherapy

This, Now, COUNTS

This present abiding, right here, right now in the awareness of our actual this-moment experience, is what makes human.

Often individual psychotherapy, and particularly depth psychotherapy, brings us much closer to our feeling, sensing and overall experiencing of our own actual lives.

Next post in the series:  Why Living Now Matters

PHOTOS: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved Loco Steve ; fifikins ; Eljay 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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3 Big Surprises about Help for Depression in Summer

July 6th, 2013 · depression, help for depression

It might seem very strange to focus on help for depression in summer, when summer itself is supposed to help lift depression.

help for depression

But here’s the thing: for many people–it doesn’t.

In our culture, we hold up the icon of summer as a time of playful hedonism, typified by this classic song by Mungo Jerry:

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1. Summer Doesn’t Actually Make Everything O.K.

But for some who struggle with depression, the high summer can actually make things worse.  Season affective disorder, known as SAD, is common knowledge nowadays.  Canadians tend to associate it with the cold and short days of winter.  However, as the Mayo Clinic notes, and as research from India shows, SAD can be associated with oppressive summer heat.

That school is out can also contribute to depression for parental figures who find themselves at home with kids for whole days, day after day.  Also, teachers and college professors can find themselves subject to depression when, after a busy, demanding year, they suddenly find themselves at home with large expanses of time.

2.  The Symbol of the Burning Sun

For depth psychotherapy, another aspect of summer depression involves the symbolism of the summer sun at its most intense.  When the summer sun is at its most direct, and sweltering, it can make everything seem stark, bleak and lifeless.

The ancients used to refer to the experience of the sun in this bleak, piercing way as the “sol niger” — Latin for the “black sun”.  Below is an example of how they might typically have portrayed or symbolized it.

help for depression

Sometimes, for modern people, too, the hot sweltering high summer sun can symbolize or highlight experiences of bleakness, starkness or joylessness in our lives.

Could it be that the intensity of the sweltering sun symbolizes or highlights aspects of our lives that we might experience as bleak? Could it reveal our over-thinking, over-driveness, workaholism, excessive win-at-all costs intensity; or obsessiveness?

help for depression

 

3.  Other Summer Stressors

There are other stressors not directly related to the weather that can find us out in summer.

Summer can be a time of particular financial stress.  Activities such as vacations can take a great deal of money.  We can easily find ourselves in financial crunches related to summer plans — and sometimes, when we stop and ask ourselves, “Do I even really want to be doing this stuff?”,  a surprising answer may come back: “No!  I actually don’t!”

There’s a tide of collective sentiment that a certain way of spending the summer is what we really need to do if we want life to be fulfilling.  We may even end up saying  “I’m Supposed to be Having Fun, dammit!  What’s wrong with me?”

But it may well be that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that, at the deepest level, I just want to live life in accord with my own nature.

Acceptance of the true self is a key part of the journey towards wholeness, and of genuine help for depression through meaningful individual therapy.

PHOTOS: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography ;  dreamattack ;  magnetbox VIDEO: © “In the Summertime” 1970 Mungo Jerry 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A Midlife Grad? Individual Therapy & Rites of Passage 1

July 2nd, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Doing individual therapy with many through their life journey often makes me wonder why society doesn’t have a proper graduation ceremony for people passing into midlife.

individual therapy

 

This might seem like a wonky idea — so let me make it even wonkier!  Shouldn’t our society have many more true rights of  passage for people moving from one life stage or situation to another?

At this time of year, high school, college and university grads celebrate their particular passages, leading all of us to reflect on the key passages in our own lives.

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Life is Many Passages

Many events in an individual’s life are really life passages.

Going through major life transitions actually changes our identity in fundamental ways.  We often feel that we are different, and experience life differently as a result.

Other cultures have often done a much better job of recognizing the psychological significance of such life transitions.  Indigenous peoples, for instance, often recognize major life transitions by giving the individual a new name.

A Death; A Transitional State; a Resurrection

The famous French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep identified three key stages in rites of passage:

individual therapy

1. Separation: Death to a Former State.  Clear recognition that a former way of life, or former status is now dead.  Often the rite involves mourning the death of the former individual, as in indigenous cultures, where, in the rite of passage to adulthood, the “death of the child” may be mourned.

2. Transition or “Liminal State”.  For a time, the individual lives between the old state and the new state, in transition.  It is of psychological importance for the individual to experience this state of “between-ness”.  Often this is a time when the individual undergoes trials or ordeals associated with the life transition.

3. Incorporation or Re-Birth.  In this third stage, the individual actively takes on the state of new life or identity.  As this National Geographic video clip shows, this might be recognized by the community, but fundamentally reflects a key transition within the individual.

We can see these stages in many contexts.   At midlife transition , for instance, individuals often experience the death of a more conventional identity; a time of disorientation and uncertainty; and, the gradual birth of a new, much more individual, path in the individual’s life.

Why the Passages Matter

Rites of passage are important for many reasons.  In particular, they provide:

1. A context for a major life transition, showing that the event is not chaotic or random, but is a common, natural part of human life; and,

2.  Meaning to the life change that is occurring.

If the rite of passage could speak, it might say:

“This is not an isolated event that occurs to you, in a random or haphazard manner.  This is a human thing.  A deeply significant thing.  Perhaps even, in the best sense of the word, a sacred thing.”

individual therapy

 Individual Therapy as Passage, & Aid to Passage

For many, individual therapy serves as an aid to major life transitions or passages.  It may even turn out to be a kind of rite of passage itself, as a part of the journey towards wholeness.

PHOTOS: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved AlishaV ; puliarf   VIDEO: © 2007 National Geographic 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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