Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Emotions, Spirit, Mind & Body : A Jungian Holistic Psychotherapy

June 23rd, 2014 · holistic psychotherapy

There’s great yearning today for a holistic psychotherapy, one that takes in all of the emotions, spirit, mind and body — all that is involved in being human.

holistic psychotherapy

Some people have a stereotype of Jungian or depth psychotherapy as a “heady” or “spiritual” perspective that couldn’t be a holistic psychotherapy.  But folks who think that, haven’t really understood Jung!

Is “Holistic Psychotherapy” Just a Buzzword?

In a word, no.  One of the crucial insights of modern psychotherapy has been that many important aspects of the healing that people need through psychotherapy are not simple matters of intellectual insight.  This is because we have many types of experiences of consciousness, not merely intellectual, something that Jung stressed in his pioneering work on the 4 psychological functions:

  • sensation – perceptions by means of the sense organs;
  • feeling – the function of subjective evaluation;
  • thinking – intellectual cognition and the forming of logical conclusions; and,
  • intuition – perception by way of the unconscious.

holistic psychotherapy

As described by Jung, these 4 functions form the basis of the Myers-Briggs personality type inventory, now so widely used in the business and educational worlds.  Jung’s basic idea was that there are a variety of forms of consciousness in the wholeness of our being. Jung discovered powerful interconnections between body and mind and what many traditions have called the human spirit.

Jung was one of the first to become aware that human consciousness is fundamentally embodied consciousness, an awareness borne out by contemporary research in neuroscience.  He saw clearly that mind and body and spirit influence each other in profound ways, in both the conscious and unconscious realms.  The human journey of individuation involves both body and mind.

Spirit and Body Need Each Other

While Jung early on recognized these profound truths, it was up to later Jungians like Marion Woodman to work in new ways with conscious and unconscious body awareness in depth psychotherapy and soulwork.  As Woodman states in her important book Addiction to Perfection:

Ego can only be strong enough if it is supported by the wisdom of the body, whose messages are directly in touch with the instincts. Without that interplay… the spirit is always trapped… undermined by fear and lack of confidence because it cannot depend on its instinctual ground even for survival.  Without that ground, the body is experienced as the enemy. [italics mine]

For Woodman, the aspiring, yearning part of the human being — what many would call the spirit — can only come into its own when a person’s life is directly grounded in her or his instincts.  In this awareness, Woodman anticipated the work in neuroscience in recent years which has shown how fundamentally powerful the instinctual basis of human life is.  As the evolutionary psychologists Tooby and Cosmides tell us,

…the mind is not a blank slate, passively recording the world.  Organisms come “factory equipped” with knowledge about the world …. [Innate “programs”] organize our experiences… give us our passions… [and] make certain ideas, feelings and reactions seem reasonable, interesting and memorable.

Woodman stressed the need for human beings to be rooted in this instinctual layer, which participates in powerful ways in both body and mind.  Depth psychotherapy often opens the door to awareness of our instinctual reality.

In the next part of this post on holistic psychotherapy, I’ll look at “Why Emotion and Reason Need Each Other.”

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©   Hermetic Hermit ; Robert S. Donovan  VIDEO: “Money” © Virgin Records, 1979
© 2014 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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What to Ask Yourself When Considering Midlife Career Change, 2

June 17th, 2014 · midlife career change

In my first post on midlife career change, I looked at the issue of vocation and some other factors essential to career change at midlife.

midlife career change

In this post, I look at additional factors that may help to decide whether to make a midlife career change.

What Kind of “Reward” Do I Want and Need?

Undoubtedly, everyone has heard the expression “money talks”. But is it the sole thing speaking in our lives, or are other things trying to get our attention, as well?

Money is one of the few things that everyone in our society values. Why? Because money has a neutral character. Whatever it is that one might want, one can pay money, and get it. So it’s a value to all kinds of different people who value all kinds of different things.

Because of its special character, money is also tied to status. There is a tendency in our culture to assign a higher social standing to someone, simply because she has a lot of money.

So, for many reasons like these, we may well feel that we need to go after money, and that it needs to be the key value in our lives.  To what extent should money be the determining factor in our work or vocation in the second half of life?

We need a certain amount of money. But is money enough, for us to lead a good life, past midlife? Often depth psychotherapy uncovers values in individual’s lives that are truly greater than money, but it also uncovers our money shadow:

 

 

To deal in therapy with career and vocation, we may well need to confront and deal with our money complex. What really is “adequate reward” for our work — in every sense of the word?

The Precious Nature of Time

I once was working therapeutically with a lawyer who decided to give up the law, because it didn’t leave room for anything else in his life.  I asked him if he had gained anything positive from the practice of law.  “Yes” he told me, “One very big thing. I learned that, for me, the single most valuable thing there is, is time to devote to the things that really matter to me.”

He was right.  Journeying through the second half of life, we often confront the awareness that the time remaining is short and it’s precious.  Five years, ten years — time was much easier to squander at an earlier point in life.  But now I live in the reality that I simply cannot have everything that I want in the available time.  A key question is: how do you most want to spend your precious time? midlife career change

You can’t have it all.  What, to you, is worth spending time on?  It may take deep soul searching, to properly decide.

The Individual Equation

With work and vocation, it’s essential to not lose sight of one’s unique personal nature and needs.  As Jung was fond of saying, “Only that which is truly oneself, heals.” Often the journey of midlife leads through the issues of vocation and possible midlife career change.  Jungian psychotherapy can be of immense help in finding your own genuine priorities.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©   Hermetic Hermit ; Robert S. Donovan  VIDEO: “Money” © Virgin Records, 1979
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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What to Ask Yourself When Considering Midlife Career Change, 1

June 9th, 2014 · midlife career change

Many people will consider making a midlife career change, and here are some important questions to ask to decide if a career change is right for you.

midlife career change Rather than starting from the place that a career change will “fix everything”, a depth psychotherapist would tend to start with questions about the relationship to oneself.

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 IS the Issue Really Career?

This might be a hard question to answer clearly. Often, the need for a career change can seem so immediate and compelling. Yet, it’s very important to remember that it is very common to encounter deep unease at midlife transition. It can be very easy to blame externals for that unease, such as one’s career.  But it’s essential to ask whether the issue is really career, or whether other factors within myself, or between myself, others  and/or the world may be involved.

Most meaningful and effective midlife career change will result from some resolution or growth in my relationship to myself, and not the other way around.  Career change is not a magic bullet making everything alright  — but it can be an important part of connecting with who I am now.

What are My Values — Now?

This whole question of understanding myself at midlife is related importantly to the question of my key values.  Those are the things that I hold to be important and precious in life.

As a person goes through the middle of life, it will be essential to ask, what are my values now? Have the things that are important to me changed as I’ve moved into the middle of my life? It’s very common that what was important to me when I was in my twenties is no longer as important to me in my 40’s. It may well be that some other key values have taken their place. It’s essential to know what’s important to me before I embark on any process of midlife career change.

midlife career change

What is My Vocation?

The question of values is intimately related to the question of vocation. As Ryan Duffy of the University of Florida reminds us, vocation literally means “call”, and, many people would see this word is having a specifically religious meaning. But it does not need to be viewed like that. It is possible to ask oneself the question in this way:

What is it that my own deepest being calls me too, or wants me to do? What is it, that, when I do it, something in me feels a profound rightness about it, or rejoices in doing it?

Sometimes, people really know what this is. Sometimes, it only becomes apparent through in-depth soulwork.

Often a person’s vocation will need to be expressed in their choice of career. But almost equally often, the thing or things that a person does that are of greatest importance to them, may be something outside of their work, and it may be essential to choose a career that doesn’t get in the way of the fulfillment of this vocation.

What is my calling?  Again, it can often take the real discernment that comes through depth psychotherapy to know how to best fulfill a calling from the person’s inner being. In my next post, I’ll continue with other important questions to ask when considering a mid-life career change.

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© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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How to Cope with Depression After a Divorce, 2

June 1st, 2014 · how to cope with depression

In How to Cope with Depression after Divorce, 1, I explored some of the healing that can emerge from post-divorce depression; I continue that exploration here.

how to cope with depression

Here are some additional factors relevant to post-divorce depression, namely, the shadow and the Self.

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Shadow

Divorce often highlights aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge.  I speak from personal experience, but I also know it’s the experience of many.

Psychology journalist and writer on relationship issues, Maggie Scarf, tells us:

It is a fact of marital reality, well known to experts in the field, that those qualities cited by intimate partners as having first attracted them to each other are usually the same ones that are identified as sources of conflict later in the relationship.

It’s quite true that often we react to the qualities in partners in this manner, and those reactions to the Other can become very charged when we’re dealing with relationship breakdown.  A question that might often be a gateway to self-knowledge in this circumstance might be this:

how to overcome depression

Answering this question can take us deeply into our own reality.

Example.  Jim is a rational, pragmatic and matter of fact guy.  He married Cara, a very energetic, lively woman, who responds to situations with deep feeling.  When Jim met Cara, he was utterly beguiled and captivated.  “There’s so much life in her!” he told friends.  Something in him yearned to share that, to have it in himself, to meet his life with it.

Fast forward 15 years.  Jim and Cara, married, have been through much.  Jim was downsized from his role as a middle manager in an IT firm. The couple endured 18 difficult months where he was out of work.  The couple had two children, the second of whom experienced ADHD and learning disabilities.  In attempting to meet the challenges in their lives, Jim and Cara often found themselves in conflict situations.  Typically Cara responded with intense expression of feeling, while Jim, feeling out of his depth, responded rationally and pragmatically, which Cara experienced as cold and unfeeling.

With time, the gulf between them grew insurmountable.  When intimacy died, Cara and Jim agreed to go their separate ways.  While acknowledging the necessity of their parting, Jim finds himself feeling as if part of himself has died.

In seeking how to cope with depression after a divorce, it may be essential to accept and honour the parts of ourselves that were in the relationship, but that we couldn’t acknowledge.  To do so may be painful, but it may be essential for healing in our lives, and to enable us to continue our journey towards wholeness.

Divorce as Honouring the Self

CG Jung referred to our psychic wholeness as persons as “The Self”.  The Self is bigger and more inclusive than the ego, the conscious part of us that regularly runs the show in our lives.  The Self has many aspects that we have yet to explore and acknowledge.  After a divorce, it can be essential to affirm many of these aspects of ourselves that have come to the fore in marriage, and in marital breakdown.  This can be essential for working through our feelings, getting beyond divorce-related depression, and moving forward into a fuller experience of life.  Often depth psychotherapy such as Jungian therapy is of invaluable assistance.

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© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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