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Adapting to Change in Your Life, 1

August 24th, 2014 · adapting to change

Whether we like it or not, 21st century life has made adapting to change a constant feature of our lives.

adapting to change As depth psychotherapy well knows, it wasn’t always so for the human race!  If we look at our ancestors in the paleolithic age, we know that social and technological change was vastly slower.  It wasn’t much faster in ancient Egypt or China or the Middle Ages and was in fact a great deal slower right up until the 18th century, when the industrial revolution started to bring change at an ever more rapid pace.

Endless Change

The pace of change in human life is still increasing — the automobile age, the computer age, the internet age, the digital age — and on, into the future. Today, we’re thoroughly inundated with change, and must continuously adapt.  We’re also bombarded with the message of the necessity of adapting to change. In fact, there is a danger in our time that we might not properly distinguish between deep, personal change, and the continual background churn of modern daily existence. adapting to change How do we discern those changes in our lives which are truly fundamental, and adapt to them in a way that is authentic, and that furthers our individuation?

The Real Nature of Life Transitions

Some changes are far more profound than others in their implications. Change is so pervasive in our time, that we run the danger of what experts like Harvard’s John Kotter call “change fatigue”, which is a form of burnout that stems from endlessly needing to adapt to new circumstances. Yet we also need to be open and responsive to fundamental life transitions. We need to accept these changes, let their meaning permeate us, and deepen our understanding and feeling of our own individual lives. Such changes are related to the emergence of our deepest identity and true character. We know this type of changes by the way it involves our whole being. Such changes may be extremely difficult or joyous or profound.  They can involve such things as grief, loss, betrayal, guilt, genuine religious experience, existential crisis, profound shifts in our self understanding, disability, serious illness of a loved one, and loss — or discovery — of a passion, dream or ideal.

Common Stages in Change

Often, these changes at the deepest level are characterized by three elements.  The first may be characterized metaphorically or symbollically as a death to a certain identity or understanding of ourselves.  The third, symbolically is a rebirth to a new or different identity or experience of ourselves.  In between these two is what anthropologists such as van Gennep would call liminality, an in-between period where the old identity has been left behind, and the new has not yet emerged.  Often, depth psychotherapy can assist immensely in making the transitions between these phases, which, in the case of major life transitions, can often be no small thing.

Real vs. Inauthentic Change

adapting to change Genuine meaningful life change, while often associated with great upheaval, ultimately take us deeper into our true identity — into the Self, as Jungians would refer to it. This is fundamentally different from inauthentic superficial change, which often leads the individual into a more and more frantic spiral in the attempt to perpetuate to themselves and others the illusion of the false self. In the second part of this post, I’ll look more at the psychotherapy of authentic and inauthentic adapting to change, and the importance of an abiding sense of self in the midst of change.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Ocskay Bence | Dreamstime.com  ;  Morgan  modified ; Dave Conner modified ; Jennifer Woodard Maderazo modified
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Who Does Depression Affect?

August 17th, 2014 · who does depression affect?

The tragic death of Robin Williams brings home a pressing question to all of us: who does depression affect?

who does depression affect?

As many commentators have now pointed out, Williams’ suicide powerfully impacted a huge number of people.  Due to his TV and film presence, very many people felt closely connected to this very engaging, unbelievably high energy and truly ingeniously funny man.  That someone so loved by millions, so successful and so apparently in love with life as his public persona would suggest could take his own life has taken our manic-paced world and plunged us into an uncharacteristic state of deep reflection.

Depression Respects No One

Depression affects all age groups and types of people, and it might affect any one of us.

In fact, one important element of the upswell around Williams’ death may well be that it forces many people who normally would not do so, to confront the depressive person in themselves.

Each of us possesses the capacity for depression.  Each of us knows that, while we may not suffer from chronic, on-going depression, we have suffered from various forms or degrees of what are called reactive depression — depression that comes about as the result of life events.

From a Jungian perspective, many experiences of depression may potentially open a way into the real meaning and value in my life.  As James Hollis reminds us,

Everyone experiences depression from time to time.  

In every case, one has to ask the fundamental question,

what is the meaning of my depression?

Depression and Late Midlife

We see suicide as a huge problem for the young, and so it is.  Yet, statistics from the American Center for Disease Control show a growing suicide crisis for those in late midlife.  Between 1999 and 2009, suicide rates have most dramatically increased in the 45 to 54 age group, and secondly, the 55 to 64 age group, especially among males.

Who does depression affect?  Increasingly, this midlife group, men in particular, and sometimes so severely it leads to the tragedy of suicide.  Individual cases greatly vary, yet, often loss of key relationships, health or a long-held social identity, such as a work role, are key factors.  The persona, or socially constructed self, that may have provided a meaningful identity in earlier life now no longer fits.  The individual is thrown back on the key questions of who they most fundamentally are, and what in life is fundamentally meaningful.

Yet, Issues Around Depression Aren’t New

who does depression affect

Four thousand years ago, in a time of tremendous social upheaval and anxiety,  an Egyptian wrote a book called The World-Weary Man and his Ba (an ancient Egyption word for “soul”).  In that book, the narrator recounts his weariness of life, and his desire to commit suicide, and to travel to the afterlife.  Yet, his inmost self rebels, basically telling the man that he has no understanding of the importance of the here and now, or he could not even think of squandering his life in this manner.  The soul challenges the man to find his real identity, and his wholeness.

In our culture, we tend to flee from depression, yet almost all of us will have to face it in some form or other.  Finding a personal, meaningful and sustaining answer to the questions it asks is right at the heart of the work of depth psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Hot Gossip Italia  ; Institute for the Study of the Ancient World 
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Depth Psychotherapy vs. Psychology: What’s the Difference? – 2

August 3rd, 2014 · psychotherapy vs. psychology

In my first post on depth psychotherapy vs. psychology I focused on the relationship and communication dimensions of psychotherapy; in this post, I look at depth psychotherapy’s approach to the individual person.

psychotherapy vs. psychology   To truly take the individual seriously is to move in some significant ways beyond the science of psychology per se.

Individuality

Depth psychotherapy is particularly focussed on the client as a unique individual.  The individual, insofar as he or she is unique, cannot truly be the object of scientific study.  Science, whether physics, biology or psychology, is based on generalization and law-like regularity.  As such, it cannot take into account the genuinely unique aspects of an individual situation — or of an individual.

Psychology certainly can provide lots of insight that is relevant to an individual and his or her situation, and that may genuinely help.  But there are also the dimensions of an individual’s experience that are genuinely unique.   There are those who would try to explain this sense of uniqueness away, to reduce it to a mere illusion attributable to the interplay of the particular family, social and cultural environment and of genetics.  Yet every person undoubtedly has a strong subjective sense of his or her individual uniqueness, and it certainly seems that our individual stories have many unique features that differentiate us from others, even — or especially — those close to us. The existential, humanistic and, above all, Jungian therapeutic traditions have been particularly sensitive to the unique individual, and to exploring his or her individual reality in psychotherapy.

The “Depth” in Depth Psychotherapy

Another distinguishing factor in depth psychotherapy vs. psychology is the very dimension of depth itself.  By this, we mean the emphasis on the unconscious mind.  Now, as Carnegie Mellon researcher James Bursley shows us, the unconscious mind is once again coming to the fore in brain science and neuroscience. psychotherapy vs. psychology

 

Until very recent times, the unconscious had not played as central a role in the science of psychology per se.  Discussion of the unconscious was often branded as “overly subjective” and “not evidence-based”.
psychotherapy vs. psychology

 

Yet, depth psychotherapy has emphasized the importance of the activity of the unconscious in dealing with the situation of individual persons in therapy.  The unconscious, through dreams, through implicit knowing of the type discussed in attachment theory, and through reactions to everyday situations that we may not be consciously aware of, as in the phenomena of “projection”, and what we have all come to refer to as “Freudian slips”, often play an important role in depth psychotherapy.

 

Unlike psychology, which must concern itself with what is objective, provable and repeatable, the depth psychotherapist must use psychological knowledge, certainly, but must enter into the subjective and unique reality of the individual client, in terms of both the conscious and unconscious world of the client. It is this journey into the subjective reality of the client that forms the healing heart of psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Jean-Rene Vauzelle  ; Harald Kobler
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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