Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Key Factors in Lasting Help for Depression: #1 – Depth

October 27th, 2013 · depression, help for depression

“Where can I find lasting help for depression?”  This is a question on the minds of many.

help for depression

It is a matter of great importance for those who are active in their seeking to obtain help for depression.  Individuals don’t want to receive help that will make a difference just in the short term.  They are seeking help for depression that is going to make a fundamental change through the course of their lives.

Lasting Benefit

Studies of groups are certainly not the last word in the search for individual healing and wholeness.  Neither can any one study’s results be seen as definitive. Nonetheless, a recent study by Prof. Dorothea Huber of the Technische Universität München and her colleagues on the benefits of help for depression is quite striking.  That study showed that the benefits from psychodynamic psychotherapy persisted and were experienced 3 or more years out from the time of the therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy, also known as depth psychotherapy, refers to those forms of therapy that concern themselves with the unconscious mind of the individual and its processes–what’s going on deep in the mind of the individual.  And that’s part of the reason why, for many individuals, the benefits from psychodynamic therapy persist.

A Shift at a Fundamental Level

In forms of depth psychotherapy like Jungian therapy, there is an emphasis in focusing on what is going on in the individual at quite a deep level.  In this kind of approach, a great deal rests on what may be going on at the deepest levels of the individual, which are often in the unconscious mind.

In the Jungian approach in particular, the individual, and the unique characteristics of his or her life are given particular significance.  In the following video, I read a passage from Jungian analyst June Singer that expresses this with great clarity:

 

 

Depression and the Unconscious Self

For the depth psychotherapist, help for depression is inextricably bound up with a person’s unique individuality and the reality of the unconscious mind.  From this perspective, depression is fundamentally related to the ways in which an individual’s vitality and spontaneity become locked inside them, as a result of the various wounds that are experienced in life, and also as a result of dilemmas in the present that may appear as insoluble to  the  person from a conscious perspective.  As James Hollis states,

Depression can feel like a well with no bottom, but from a Jungian perspective

intrapsychic depression is a well with a bottom,

although we may have to dive very deeply to find it.

help for depression

Diving Deep

From a Jungian perspective, lasting help for depression is to be found in the inward journey, and in bringing into contact with consciousness those energies within us which, for whatever reason, have become walled off.  Individual psychotherapy from a depth perspective can often be a powerful factor in the recovery of the natural and instinctive self, and in opening up an understanding of the meaning of my depression.  This type of change can be a fundamental element in lasting help for depression.

 

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

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Individual Psychotherapy & the Spiral Path

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

Many people enter individual psychotherapy consciously or unconsciously expecting the process to be linear, rational and directly goal-oriented.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, people often find, as they start to tell their stories, that the real course of their lives is not nearly as straightforward, simple or consistent as they expected.  It often seems to have much more of a spiral or multi-spiral character.

People start to experience themselves as much more many-layered and subtle than they had initially supposed…

Stories and Apologies

In therapy sessions, as people talk about ordinary life, one of the commoner things that I hear them say is:  “I’m sorry that this is so convoluted”; or, “I’m sorry, I seem to have gotten way off track…”; or, even, “How did we end up talking about this?” individual psychotherapy

Then, very often, I try to connect what we are talking about to a theme from earlier in the session — the connection, for instance, between this week’s episode of Breaking Bad and their own father’s illness, that they hadn’t yet made consciously.  Such connections are often not just blatant, but they most often reflect the person’s inner reality. That unbelievably varied and multi-hued inner reality that we each are, which is not so easily encapsulated, explained or described.

Irreducible Me

We all have a story that we tell about ourselves.  But a key question is whether that story going to be the small story, or the big story. The small story is most often the one dictated by social convention. The big story might be seen as what Jung refers to as our personal myth; the deeper, more complete story, that takes in all the dimensions of who we are.

It matters which story we accept.  Are we going to let ourselves be reduced to what others say or know about us, or are we going to accept the full truth of all that we are?

Yet the Movement is Around a Centre

individual psychotherapy

Letting in that fuller experience of ourselves can seem disruptive and chaotic.  Over time, though, the apparently random and haphazard movement in inner life shows a very different character.  As Jung tells us:

The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere. The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals: the dream-motifs always return after certain intervals to definite forms, whose characteristic it is to define a centre. And as a matter of fact the whole process revolves about a central point or some arrangement round a centre…

~C.G. Jung

The Fundamental Reality of the Self

The central point to which Jung refers is the heart of our identity, the Self.  As Jung puts it elsewhere, the self is the sum total of our psychic wholeness, or, as Professor Samuels puts it, the “archetypal image of the unity of the personality as a whole.”

To enter into individual psychotherapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, is to enter into a deeper experience of the Self and its many dimensions.   As we experience this wider Self, we experience our own reality, solidity and uniqueness.

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

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Help for Midlife Issues: Hitting the Escape Button, 1

October 12th, 2013 · help for midlife issues, midlife, midlife issues

Providing people with help for midlife issues makes you very aware  of the truth that, in midlife, we often yearn to hit the “escape button”…

escape-button

Many people on the midlife journey can relate to that “escape button” feeling.  Help for midlife issues often consists of enabling individuals to find ways to deal with just that state of mind.

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When the Real Lines Get Drawn

In midlife, situations which individuals have endured for much of their lives can easily become unendurable

This is illustrated powerfully in the insightful new movie , Concussion, (dir. Stacie Passon).

help for midlife issues

Having just been struck in the head by a baseball at her son’s game, Abby (Robin Weigert) screams, “I hate this. I don’t want this. I don’t want it!” — and we know she is talking about more than her concussion.  Abby experiences herself as trapped in a whole banal suburban existence in which she can find no reality or life, and which she experiences as completely claustrophobic.

Many who seek help for midlife issues encounter such claustrophobia.  It is not at all uncommon for people to be living with the feeling that “I just can’t do this any more”.  For better or worse, their finger is hovering over the escape button.

help for midlife issues

Escape from What?

For anyone seeking help for midlife issues of this type, a key question may be, “Just what exactly is it, from which you are trying to escape?”

“We are not much at home in the world we have created.” – Rilke

Rilke’s sentiment can resonate strongly with many in midlife transition.  Through the sheer momentum of life decisions made leading up to midlife, it can easily feel that the life that I have created is quite an alien construction having little to do with  who I most fundamentally am.

I may well feel that my persona, the social self that I put out into the world, has little or no connection with my genuine self, in its own nature.  The cumulative weight of my life choices may lead to a way of being in my world that is actually painful to me.  I may sense that who I actively present to the world doesn’t line up with my fundamental identity.

Similarly, perhaps the social milieu surrounding me has little to do with my true identity.  I may come to feel that the people in my vicinity simply don’t share very much with me.  This can be disconcerting when the people in question are neighbours; it can be literally shock inducing if we suddenly make this discovery about people we’ve regarded as intimates.

All such sentiments may induce a strong, seemingly undeniable feeling of “need to escape”.

But, Escape to What?

Is our escape to ourselves, to who we really are — or is it from ourselves?

help with midlife issues

Sometimes,our desire can be simply to escape from ourselves, from freedom and decision.  It’s easy to crave infantile states where we actually hover above life.

But sometimes the escape we need and yearn for can be to escape the pressures of the false self, and forces in life that do not allow us to be who we authentically are.

Individual psychotherapy that provides help for midlife issues involves the important task of discerning between those forms of escape that lead us to evade our own authentic being, and those forms that allow us to live in connection with our deepest personal identity.

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

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PERFECT Misery #2: Perfectionism and Procrastination

October 6th, 2013 · perfectionism, perfectionism and procrastination, procrastination

To continue the themes from my initial satirical post on finding perfect misery through perfectionism, here’s an option that the true misery connoisseur should not pass up:   the “perfectionism and procrastination” combo.

perfectionism and procrastination

This little number has it all: the perfect combination of eternally deferred gratification and endlessly shooting oneself in the foot.

The Subtle Dance of Perfectionism and Procrastination

As Dr. Tim Pychyl of Carleton University stresses, perfectionism and procrastination can be fundamentally related if the perfectionism that  the individual suffers from is very other-directed, and related to anxious concern to meet the expectations of others.  If we were to put this in Jungian terms, we would see this as the type of  perfectionism that is wedded to meeting highly collective expectations, to a persona, or outward presentation that is very sensitive to gaining the approval of others, and to a sense of self that is highly dependent on gaining others’ positive regard.

Dr, Pychyl also cites other research that would indicate that such “socially-prescribed perfectionism” is related to procrastination, depression, reduced self-esteem, anxiety, and dealing with shame.

In depth psychological terms, what is going on here?

Unrelated to Instinct, Body

perfectionism and procrastination

Jungian analyst Marion Woodman sheds considerable light:

The technological age is propelling us into a space quite unrelated to our instincts.  We have forgotten how to listen to our bodies: we pop pills for everything that goes wrong with us….  We can turn ourselves over to medicine without ever questioning what the body is trying to tell us.  To our peril, we assume that it has no wisdom of its own….  

As a culture, we are not in touch with our instinctual roots, and parents tend to treat their children as if they too were machines instead of human beings with feelings and fears.  If the child is treated that way, consciously or unconsciously, it in turn treats itself that way…

Woodman illustrates the effect of this on the individual with a quotation from a 20 year old client:

“When can I get out of this box?  I drag my body around as if it’s some gross foreign object.  I’m so scared of cancer and war and school and what other people think [italics mine]….  What am I doing?  I keep setting these standards for myself and I just can’t do it.  I can’t do anything.  NOTHING!  NOTHING! Ugly, filthy, fat slob!”

~Addiction to Perfection, © 1982 Marion Woodman

The viciousness of such lack of self-acceptance is staggering.  Yet here we see clearly how totally we can lose ourselves in slavish devotion to machine-like perfection.

Perfectionism, Procrastination, Inflation

Woodman makes the point that this perfectionism is grounded in a god-like inflation, which is fundamentally rejecting of our individual, vulnerable, fleshly humanity.  In the name of meeting the ruthless onslaught of the expectations of our society and of others, we seek to turn ourselves into god or goddess, standing aloof above the human condition.  She sees this portrayed mythologically in the contrast between the goddess of Athena, the paragon of perfection, and her archrival Medusa “whose snaky locks twist and writhe in constant agitation, reaching… wanting more and more…”:

The “terror of knowing what this world is about” is the crushing weight of the meeting the expectations of others and of the world as carried by the perfectionist.

To be freed from this burden, and released into the acceptance of our own mortal, instinctual lives — this is at the heart of the journey of individual psychotherapy.

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

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