Journeying Toward Wholeness

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The New Year & the Promise of Finding Happiness in Life

December 29th, 2014 · finding happiness in life

At New Year’s Eve we tend to confront the elusive goal of finding happiness in life.  What is true happiness, and where can it be found?

finding happiness in life

To ask an even more fundamental question: is truly finding happiness in life even possible?  Well…

…It Depends What You Mean by Happiness…

If happiness means feeling the way you do at Disneyland every day, then, no, you’ll never find true happiness.  It’s basically not possible to live life with every day being a picnic, full of stimulating fun experiences, without any real hardship.  No matter how many times you read and re-read The Secret, reality is going to impinge. You will have hardship, and there is genuine sorrow, and very often, even tragedy, in life.  Even in fortunate, upper middle class communities like Oakville or Burlington.

Well, is there any other way of finding real, lasting happiness?

Does Finding Meaning Bring Happiness?

There may well be strong benefits to the individual in finding meaning or key values, but that these might not quite fit the conventional description of happiness. Certainly, for many, finding something that imparts genuine meaning in their lives  is very good, very positive, very valuable.

Does that fit the conventional meaning of happiness?  Maybe not, but there are significant numbers of people for whom the value they experience from furthering the key source(s) of meaning in their lives is greater than even being conventionally “happy” would make them.

How to find meaning?  That takes exploration, and real work on oneself — but it may very well be worth it.

Self Acceptance

Real, genuine self acceptance takes a great amount of cultivation of self-understanding and compassion for oneself.  This is truly the fruit of depth psychotherapy, as only a psychology that is truly open to the unconscious dimensions of the person, and bringing them into contact with consciousness and the ego, can really bring the possibility of truly in-depth self-acceptance.

Does this kind of self-acceptance bring happiness?  Perhaps, but it is a happiness that brings together all of a person’s joy, pain, despair contentment — everything.  So it’s definitely not a happiness of the “Don’t Worry, be Happy” variety

Does Creating Bring Happiness?

Can creating make a person happy?  Clearly human beings are pre-disposed to be creative.  Creation seems to be fundamental to our nature as a species.  Creative acts, such as creation through the visual arts, music, dance, drama or writing can be accompanied by real joy.  They can also be accompanied by feelings of intense pain, as many artists, writers and musicians attest.  Yet acts of creation can be deeply infused with meaning and involvement of the whole person (see above).  Not exactly conventional happiness — but perhaps something more.

finding happiness in life

Could Being Happy Mean Loving One’s Fate?

CG Jung spoke on several occasions about amor fati, or “the love of one’s fate”, an expression he took from the philosopher Nietzsche.  In his book  The Joyful Wisdom , Nietzsche wrote the following about a very special resolution he made at New Year’s 1881:

Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I, too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year – what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth.

I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful.  Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth!  …And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

E.M. Forster echoes this in  A Room with a View when he has a key character say :

By the side of the everlasting Why,

there is a Yes and a yes.

Yes. “To be only a yes-sayer”, to affirm my life, in its substance and its wholeness.  To look at the whole incredible pageant / circus / tin of worms that is my life, with eyes wide open, and to say: YES.

finding happiness in life

Beyond the glib superficialities, every New Year brings us close to the powerful archetype of Renewal.  Each New Year, like the animating spirit of Jungian or depth psychotherapy , invites us to live in that profound yes.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Herry Lawford ;  Mohsen Masoumi ; Koshy Koshy   
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)




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Overcoming Perfectionism and Learning to Let Go, 2

December 21st, 2014 · overcoming perfectionism

In Part 1, we saw why overcoming perfectionism and learning to let go are so important; here, we look at what we can start to do about it.  An important question is: How do I begin to let go?

overcoming perfectionism

Marion Woodman, in her marvelous Pregnant Virgin shared some deep insights about getting beyond the woundedness that fosters perfectionism.  She explores the image of “the pregnant virgin”as an archetypal symbol for the return to the unadulterated, spontaneous, creative self, in women and men alike:

What does one do when everything rational inside says “Let it go,” and everything emotional says. “I cannot”?…  How does one rechannel love into fresh creative outlets?  How does one reopen oneself to the flow of each new day?  How does one become a virgin again?  Or perhaps a better question: How does one become a virgin at all?

Again and again we have to say to ourselves: what was my feeling in that situation….  Feeling evaluates what something is worth to me.  What am I willing to put energy into?  What is no longer of value to me? [italics mine] 


This dimension of feeling — which is not the same as raw emotion — is essential.  To get to how we really feel about things — beyond the complexes and “trips” put upon us by others and circumstance, is a key part of getting in touch with the spontaneous, unadulterated “virgin” self.

overcoming perfectionism

Find a Creative Passion

overcoming perfectionism

Exploring your deep creative aspects can definitely be a powerful way of getting in touch with the authentic self.  It could be using clay, painting, writing prose or poetry, dancing when you’re alone in your living room, cooking, doing improv — really any of a huge number of possible outlets that take us out of our ordinary, everyday kind of awareness, and let the shy yet luminous being within each of us show him or herself.  This is a topic I’ll be writing a great deal more about in the near future.

Do Analysis —Really Do It

Whether you call it Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy, depth work that gradually brings the unconscious self into dialogue with the conscious self over time, can certainly facilitate the process of “letting go”, by bringing individuals into awareness of the deepest parts of the self.

Such in-depth exploration is not going to occur in 5 or 6 sessions.  Yet, over a period of time, good depth psychotherapy work can help us feel much more connected to our own individual, spontaneous reality.  This is particularly true if the analyst/ therapist is continually bringing us back to both our bodily awareness (please see below) and the activity of the unconscious, in dreams and elsewhere.

Truly Listen to Your Body

This is about doing body work.  Body work does not mean just “working out”.  It’s possible to do all kinds of incredibly strenuous “working out” — and still be entirely alienated from your body.  It’s all well and good to do an “Iron Man Marathon”; yet we need consciousness of the subtle awareness inherent in our flesh, rather than treating our flesh as if it were made out of iron.

As a general guideline, any approach that treats the body as a machine, or treats the physical world as fundamentally illusory is not going to help.  We need the awareness that will keep us right in our flesh, knowing that consciousness is just as present in our left little toe as it is in our heads.  Such awareness can often be a part of depth psychotherapy.

To let go into the flow of our lives, and the reality of our own being is fundamental to true depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Xavier ;  Visit Grand Island ; GollyGforce      ;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Overcoming Perfectionism and Learning to Let Go, 1

December 14th, 2014 · overcoming perfectionism

Overcoming perfectionism and learning to let go are essential if we are ever going to live our authentic lives.  Times like the Holiday season offer a huge opportunity to experience just how much this matters.

overcoming perfectionism

In some ways the Holidays can serve as a little miniature model or encapsulation of the whole of life and the journey to wholeness.

Perfection: the Archetypal Gadfly

Why do we human beings so easily fall into an obsession with things being perfect?  Why does the ideal of perfection have such compelling power?

Humans have always been haunted by the idea of perfection.  From early times, we have ascribed perfection to our deities and divinities.  This is rooted in the young child seeing the parents as omnipotent and morally perfect.  As the child matures in healthy relationship, he or she gradually outgrows this.  The child becomes aware of its own ability and strength, and of the parents’ humanity and fallibility.  Perfection is increasingly seen as something “ideal” or “belonging to the realm of the gods”.


 Gods and Humans

However, York U.’s Prof. Gordon Flett and colleagues show us how parental demands and insecurities can interfere with our sense that we’re “enough”, landing the demand for perfection firmly on our shoulders, and with it, the continual sense that our efforts fall short.

Speaking archetypally, the individual is then sucked up into the “realm of the gods”.  The gods might be perfect; but for humans the demand for perfection is frozen death.  This shows up in curious ways.  Many of us, at Holiday times, for instance, are very aware of the individual who is so obsessed with Holiday arrangements being “perfect” that all the joy is taken away — for themselves, and for others.

Depth psychotherapy seeks to enable the individual to gradually free him- or herself from unyielding perfectionist demands.  It’s about cultivating the acceptance of ourselves in our human ordinariness — which we share with all the humans who’ve ever lived.

To accept the self means to accept human life for what it is, and letting life flow.  As Lao Tzu said so long ago in the Tao te Ching,

Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

What Does it Even Mean to Let Go?

But what does it even mean to let go, and to let life flow?  Here is a marvelous poem that Joanna Wiebe shares, written by her late sister, Christine.  It has a connection to the holidays, to an experience of positive parent, and to an experience of falling through fear into letting go, and letting everything be what it is.

overcoming perfectionism


This is how it should be:
Christmas vacation, and I am six;
Daddy and I are driving outside the city
to a great hill with untouched snow.
Sun warms the car.
I climb up the tracks Daddy makes
hearing the crunch each time the first time.
We stand at the top, just Daddy and I, breathing,
and the sparrows laugh.
“I’m afraid,” I say.
But then we’re sailing
and I’m safe on a narrow strip of wood
clinging to his broad back,
a solid thing in a swaying world,
and I’m laughing and wishing
we could fall like this forever
into the sun sparkles and whipping wind
and the white snowdrift
waiting to embrace us
over and over and over.

~Christine Wiebe

overcoming perfectionism

“This is how it should be.”  Yes: the zone of uncertainty, and of letting go and letting it happen, is where human life occurs.  The mess is where the life is.  For us to be there requires what Jung would call a “religious” outlook.  By this he doesn’t mean organized or formal religion, but an awareness that something bigger is unfolding at the heart of our lives than the ego can understand and control.  We need to stop “shoulding” and “oughting” ourselves, and trust in life.

Depth psychotherapy is about letting go into our own lives, with compassion and hope for who we most fundamentally are.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Pascal modified ;  Visit Grand Island        Ramón Cutanda López modified;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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7 Stress Management Tips That Take Soul Seriously, 2

December 7th, 2014 · stress management tips

In the Part 1 of this post on stress management tips from the perspective of soul, we started to explore options for reducing stress by making choices aligned with who we really are.  Here, we continue that exploration.

stress management tips

Although these “tips’ have broad general reference to our lives, they’re also relevant to trying to live authentically through the Holiday season.

Claim Your Right to Go Your Own Way

Going with your own chosen path can be tough.  Clinical experience certainly shows the   incredible climate of expectation surrounding people at the Holidays.  Some of this is outer, stemming from friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.  But just as formidable is the mass of inner expectation, the ways we “should” and “ought” ourselves.


Being social beings, we face the expectations of others.  Sometimes those expectations are benign, and, even if they don’t reflect everything we want, the cost to us of meeting them is small.  But sometimes the cost of meeting others’ expectations is higher than we can possibly afford to pay.  A person who has been emotionally abused by a parent or sibling, for instance, may find the prospect of spending Christmas day at a family gathering with that family member simply unbearable.  If the abuse has been physical or sexual, this may well be true in spades.

Even if the emotional issues are not as dramatic, the emotional undertow may be just as powerful.  It can be extremely painful to be in family situations where an individual cannot be who he or she is: in Jungian terms, the Self may simply not allow it.  We have to be discerning, and continually asking ourselves, “What works for me?”

Discern What Really Matters — to You

The type of discernment described above is a matter of great importance throughout the adult life journey.  Yet, the Holidays just have a capacity to bring this need for discernment home, often, in uniquely powerful ways.

stress management tips


In my deepest self, what do I really value and desire?  This isn’t an easy question.  Often some real journeying and real work on one’s conscious and unconscious selves is needed to find answers.

The Holidays may underline for us just how important these questions are.

Affirming My Own Story, Distinct from “The Family Story” or “The Collective Story”

My authentic story, who I am, does not boil down to the way my family sees me, the story that they tell about me, or the expectations they have of me.  The same is true of the perceptions and stories of society as a whole, or of the particular social groups to which I belong.

It’s essential to identify “the real story” about myself.  This is not the superficial story that the ego may settle for, but the authentic story of myself that emerges from my deepest being.  This deeply resonant story is what Jung refers to as my “personal myth”.

Be Open to Your Own Experience

Can I really be open to my own experience, or am I continually governed or dominated by what others say of me, perceiving myself and living my life only as “they” tell me that I “should”?  Such a posture in life can be a source of immense, often unrecognized stress.

Consider the Holidays.  They promise an experience of transcendence, numinosity, wonder, and intimacy.  They often deliver so much less — and our culture seeks to fill the gap with sentimental schlock and materialism.  So the question I face around the Holidays is essentially the same question that I face about life as a whole.  Will I settle for the paltry experiences that my culture insists are my birthright, or will I go in search of my own experience, my own lived truth, my own real life?

This key question in life is writ large for us at the Holidays: What is mine?  What is my own individual experience?  What makes me feel alive?  Consider Jung’s answer, embedded in a striking photo from the Martha Graham dance company:

stress management tips

Depth psychotherapy is passionately concerned with the individual becoming “on fire” — fully alive.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © John Talbot modified ; Ramón Cutanda López modified;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)