Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Life Transitions: 4 Truths about Seasons of the Heart

August 27th, 2013 · life, life transitions, Transitions

Life transitions are at their most readily apparent in the late Summer-early Fall period: we feel the turning of the seasons — in nature and ourselves.

life transitions

I’ve certainly felt this personally this year as the days move towards early September.  My youngest child is heading off to university this fall, and so this seasonal turning matches the turning of the seasons in my own life. Who knew there were so many seasons, so many life transitions in adulthood!

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Seasons of Adulthood

Well, it turns out psychologist Daniel J. Levinson did, or at least knew more about it than most of us.  His groundbreaking work on the seasons of men’s and women’s lives postulated four stages, overlapping to some degree, that run right through the life cycle: 1. Childhood and Adolescence (birth to 20);  2. Early Adulthood (17-45); 3. Middle Adulthood (40-65); and, 4. Late Adulthood (60 and up).  life transitions

According to Levinson, each stage has a stable period, and transitional stages between it and the other stages.  Whether or not he gets these precisely right, it ‘s hard to avoid his basic intuition that life consists of stages and seasons — an intuition shared by Jung.

Discerning the Time

It’s essential to discern the season of our lives.  What is it that life is bringing to us at this time, right here, right now?  Can we see it?  Can we let it be what it is? Or are we straining to return to some long past reality, trying to fit the present into the mold of a now non-existent past?  Or, striving in some grim, relentless way to bring an as-yet non-existent future into existence, and, in the process, missing what life is bringing to us now?

Or, am I stuck in a major life transition, knowing that I can’t remain in the past, but unsure about how to move into the future?

Life Transitions: Embrace, Let Go

September is a time that really brings home the realities of the seasons of our lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the present moment and its meaning.  We’ll see this reality powerfully mirrored in the faces of some of our children as they face the reality of going back to school!  Still, we have to accept what our lives are, and what we face at the moment, in both our inner and outer worlds.

We also have to be strive to be aware of the feeling response of our inmost being to the season — whether it is anxiety, acceptance, grief, yearning, or any other reaction.

life transitions

Life Transitions of the Fall

Here comes September, a reminder of the changing seasons and of the life transitions of men and women.  Here comes September, mirror of all the seasons of life, and of their call to us, as the Byrds remind us in the beautiful song “Turn, Turn, Turn”, with the words of the Bible sounding remarkably like the words of Lao Tzu:

 

 

Life transitions, especially major life transitions, touch our depths.  Often depth psychotherapy can help us find meaning, healing and direction in the midst of the seasons of our lives.

PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved Nicholas_T ;  VIDEO: © 2006 Sony BMG Entertainment (UK) Ltd.
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Heart: Carlos Castenada, Jung & Burnout Treatment

August 22nd, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

Is it a shocking thing to say that burnout treatment may have a very great deal to do with finding your heart?

burnout treatment

Clearly I’m not advocating an approach that narrowly emphasizes “rationality”!  But this truth finds its roots in the depth psychotherapy of CG Jung and the unique perspective of Carlos Castenada.

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Dryness, Flatness and Burnout Treatment

Often burnout seems associated with a loss of hope or soul.

Frequently, burnout sufferers will describe a sense of “hollowness” or “emptiness”, as I noted in my initial post on burnout treatment.

If you welcome the fundamental symbol or metaphor of life as a journey, and if you come to the realization that the journey seems lifeless and meaningless — there’s a high probability that you’re on the wrong path, and that you need another.

burnout treatment

A Path with Heart

Castenada expresses this in a wonderfully direct way:

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you….   Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

~Carlos Castenada

Castenada reminds us that there are many paths.  But which path is mine?  His answer: the one which has “heart”.  By heart he means the path that engages our passion, or that is full of meaning, or that has an abiding sense of “rightness”.

burnout treatment

Is the path that I’m on the one that has heart in it?

The Voice of the Inner Person

The way that Castenada expresses himself accords well with Jung’s expression of a very similar view.  (Please excuse the male-centric language, —  the norm in an earlier time).

What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist?

It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths.…   Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called. 

There is a strong connection between what Jung refers to as the voice of the inner man, and what Castenada refers to as the path with heart.

Burnout Treatment as Walking Towards My Heart

The way through burnout is to open myself to my own deepest reality.  As psychiatrist R.D. Laing said, “The only person to whom we owe an absolute obligation to be honest is with ourselves.”  In burnout, the most honest truth about my inner reality may be that I experience a devastating sense of bleakness and barren-ness.  If so, it may be essential to ask some very fundamental questions about the nature of my path.

In depth psychotherapy, a container is created for deep level honesty with the self.  At its best, the process also cultivates our sensitivity to the voice of the inner person, and for identifying the path away from burnout — the path with heart.

PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved by MiguelVieira ; jeffhutchison ; © 1973 Ballantine Books 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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4 Healing Truths About Loss & Bereavement Counselling

August 16th, 2013 · bereavement, bereavement counselling, counselling

The experience of deep loss is more common than we often realize; the need for bereavement counselling is greater than we often suppose.

bereavement counselling

Often, bereavement counselling issues arise in depth psychotherapy that was begun for other purposes.

Loss is Very Individual

Everyone grieves differently.  Differences in personality type, culture, life experience, and many other factors all directly bear on how an individual grieves.

Every relationship that an individual has with another is a unique combination, and this uniqueness also colours the character of each grief.

Grief and Bereavement: a Journey

Grieving individuals often fear that they will be “stuck” in bereavement forever — that the pain will never diminish.  Certainly, loss is permanent, and the sense of loss of a loved one is always in a person’s life.  But the acute pain of an initial grief reaction is something that, in his or her own time, and in his or her own way, the individual’s unconscious transforms into another way of holding the person who has passed.

Grief has a course in our lives.  Although Kubler-Ross was right about the range of  emotional states and stages that a person can experience in grief — Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance — it appears that the order and intensity of these stages can vary, and not all of them are necessarily experienced by every grieving person.  The path of grief is indeed a journey, as individual as each of the people who travel it.

bereavement counselling

Grief, Emotion and the Unconscious

Grief goes on in both the conscious and the unconscious minds, and is reflected in the meaning of dreams.  Jungian Mary Mattoon tells of a middle-aged woman who dreamt of visiting her deceased mother, who was unaccountably “crabby and inhospitable” in the dream.  In therapy, she began to realize that she had been quite depressed for many days leading up to the dream.  It turned out that the dream occurred almost exactly on the first anniversary of her mother’s death.  Due to the very serious illness of a child, the woman had been unable to be psychologically present to her loss.  The unconscious mind summoned her back to do her own grief work.

Grief, Healing and Individuation

I believe it is the master work of human life to be able to look  at grief and death, and to say: soul is here; meaning is here.

Grief makes us acutely aware of the human condition.  With its keen pain, it sharpens our awareness of the way in which human life is finite, bounded by the mystery of death. Yet, it simultaneously makes us powerfully, achingly aware of the miracle that is life — our own personal, individual life — and the imperative need within each of us to live and become the one we carry within us, as much as we possibly can.  Mark Knopfler expresses these realities powerfully in his fine song, Haul Away  (video by  ThePhil909 ):

 

Bereavement counselling from a depth psychology perspective is about accepting, ultimately making peace with, and finding meaning in, loss.

PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved  by familymwr ; Nicholas_T   VIDEO: “Haul Away” Musical copyright Will D. Side Limited under exclusive licence to Mercury Records 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Individual Therapy & Ordinary Life as Remarkable

August 9th, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Individual therapy is a contradiction: a simultaneous journey into life as both ordinary and miraculous.

individual therapy

Last week, I had the opportunity to again visit one of the world’s great art museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  While I was there, I spent a great deal of time with the paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Renoir and “Everyday Eternity”

As in his 1877 “Portrait of Eugène Murer”, shown above, there is a particular quality of immediacy and life to Renoir’s paintings.  There is something about the way he paints that imbues his paintings with an incredible vitality, lifelikeness and significance.  We care about the people he portrays, we’re fascinated by them, and we wish that we could talk to them, engage them — and, in a way, we find that we do, as we engage with his paintings.

Renoir actively sought to convey this quality of immediacy, life and deep significance in his painting.  As he said:

“I like painting best when it looks eternal without boasting about it: an everyday eternity, revealed on the street corner; a servant-girl pausing a moment as she scours a saucepan, and becoming a Juno on Olympus…”

individual therapy

 

Renoir’s art reveals the eternity in so-called ordinary life.

Everyday Eternity and the Art of Individual Therapy

In a surprising way, the search for the eternal in the ordinary, which is the heart of Renoir’s art, is not all that different from the quest that forms the basis of individual therapy and depth psychotherapy. Individual therapy is certainly an exploration of the validity, importance and plain reality of everyday, ordinary, individual life. Situations that we find ourselves in, that seem mundane and ordinary are often archetypal.  In the conflicts, transitions, losses and gains of our lives, we share in patterns that have characterized human life right from its distant beginnings. In moments of insight in individual therapy, we can experience both an awareness of our own unique individuality, and a deep sense of connection to the age old experience of the broader human race. individual therapy

Profound Ordinariness

It may sound trite, but sometimes the awareness that “I’m real; my life matters” can be a profound realization.  To feel my own uniqueness, and experience that I’m truly alive, that I truly exist — not as a matter of intellectual awareness, but genuinely to feel it —  can be a deeply changing awareness. Jung describes a particular experience of coming to self-awareness:

Suddenly for a single moment I had the overwhelming impression of having emerged from a dense cloud.  I knew all at once: now I am myself!  Previously I had existed, too, but everything had merely happened to me.  Now I happened to myself.  ~C.G. Jung  [italics mine]

To genuinely feel and accept my own uniqueness is to find myself in a singular experiment in the history of the universe — my own real life.

Eternity / You

The process of individual therapy is a journey into seeing the profundity and importance of my own everyday life.  To feel my own life — and its importance — is a key part of the journey to wholeness.

PAINTINGS: © Auguste Renoir, “Eugène Murer”; “By the Seashore”; “Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children”, all from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. 

© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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