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Feeling Betrayed: Emotions, Archetypes and Recovery, 1

February 24th, 2015 · feeling betrayed

Feeling betrayed is one of the most painful and difficult of emotional states.  A betrayal in a key relationship — sexual, familial or friendship — can lead to an individual facing feelings of abject despair, and of being completely undone.

feeling betrayed

Many of us learned the famous line from Shakespeare uttered by Julius Caesar in school:
“Et tu, Brute?  Then fall, Caesar!”

Just last week, in my therapy practice, I met with a client who revealed a history of experiencing multiple betrayals on matters of great emotional importance within relationships of high significance.  When the individual confronted the depth of the feeling involving these experiences, they were close to those of Shakespeare’s Caesar, who fell into absolute despair in the face of the betrayal of his friend.

We humans are social animals.  Our evolutionary past centers around life in small, close groups.  It is in our nature to form close bonds of crucial importance, which psychotherapists call attachment bonds, with those people who are closest to us.  When those bonds are most crucial to us, when we trust them, and that trust is flagrantly broken, our reaction is most often intense grief and despair.

The Pure Bitterness of Betrayal

Betrayal is a common enough experience in human social life.  It has been with us throughout the ages, and people in the 21st century experience its reality just like all who have come before us.

Trust is natural.  The more complete the trust, the more devastating the betrayal.

Often, when people encounter betrayal of various sorts, they feel that they have been gullible and unwise.  Their refrain is often, “How could I have been so stupid?  I should have seen this coming!  How could I have been so blind?”  Yet, often for these individuals, betrayal has actually come with little, if any, warning.

feeling betrayed

At its extreme, betrayal can be traumatic.  For instance, when an unsuspecting spouse suddenly finds clear and flagrant evidence of an affair, the experience of the discovery may take on many of the typical aspects of a traumatic event, such as re-living memories or finding the discovery of the affair appearing as recurring parts of a dream sequence.

The Archetype of Betrayal

In his work “Symbols of Transformation” Jung discusses the “unjust betrayal of the hero” motif, found throughout human mythology.  Some examples would be:

  • Siegfried and Hagen;
  • Baldur and Loki;
  • Samson and Delilah;
  • Julius Caesar and Brutus; and,
  • for European cultures, the iconic image of Jesus betrayed by Judas
  • feeling betrayedThis motif keeps appearing in our myths, mythologists would tells us, because it represents a perpetual fact of human life: there will always be those who will betray the trust of others, for whatever reason of their own.  Even the heroes and the gods, with all their strength and wisdom, are subject to having their trust betrayed.  We ordinary human beings share in their vulnerability, not because we are weak or stupid, but because it is in the nature of our life as social beings that we are made to love and to trust — and we must run the risks of that.

feeling betrayed

Can Life be Found on the Far Side of Betrayal?

In myth, a death due to betrayal is often followed by a re-birth or resurrection.  Similarly, individuals can and often do find a way forward on the other side of betrayal.  This is not to underestimate the difficulty of recovering from betrayal, but often there is a new life — even a better life — to be found in the ashes of betrayal.

Feeling betrayed may require us to go deep into ourselves, to recover who we most fundamentally are, what is truly important to us, and where life is calling to us. Often depth psychotherapy can be a vital part of this process.

In the next part of “Feeling Betrayed” we will look more at the self-knowledge that can come from betrayal, and recovery into life on the far side of it.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How to Get Help for Depression, 2

February 16th, 2015 · help for depression

In the last post, we started to look at how to get help for depression through depth psychotherapy; here we’ll look more at how depression impacts us in key life situations and how we can begin to journey through it.

help for depression
 Here are three types of life situations where depression may have a large impact on the life of the individual.

Major Life Transitions

Major life transitions can be of such great significance that indigenous peoples often use the symbol of death and rebirth or other equally dramatic symbolism to characterize what is happening to the individual as he or she undergoes such transformations.

help for depression

 

Here’s a more extensive list of some circumstances that are major life transitions:

  • moving to a new location
  • entering the workforce
  • marital breakup
  • changes or realizations about sexual identity
  • job loss
  • major illness
  • career transition
  • religious crises
  • aging or death of a parent;
  • divorce
  • loss of a loved one; or
  • major illness or disability in a child.

There are many, many others that could be listed.

Events of this type can lead to depression in the individual.  Often that depression can be rooted in ways that the core of the individual has experienced wounding or has met with indifference at key points earlier in life.

Midlife Transition

An individual confronting midlife transition, or midlife crisis may well be confronted with a significant depression.  An individual at or around the middle of life may find that the things in life which once gave energy and motivation now seem entirely and unexpectedly gray.  Occupation, family life, religious commitments, hobbies, friendships, and even family relationships can be entirely bleached of their vitality and meaning.  Sometimes people will describe this situation as akin to travelling through a waterless wasteland or desert, or a frozen Arctic landscape.

help for depression

The individual’s particular make up, and his or her specific life experience will strongly influence how depression may manifest, and its impact on the individual.  Only by discerning one’s unique personhood, and finding what is seeking to emerge in one’s life will the individual start to move out of depression on any lasting and authentic basis.

Depth psychology views depression related to midlife transition as rooted in the individual’s unconscious.  Often, only when the unconscious is made more conscious, and the undiscovered self of the individual is brought closer to the conscious self, can energy from the depression start to transform into vitality, passion, desire to move more into life, and purpose.

Depression in Later Life

help for depression

Individuals moving through the second half of life encounter genuine difficulties and challenges.  Often, these concern physical illness or disability, mobility restrictions, illness or loss of significant others, restrictions on independence, loneliness, financial concerns, and a range of other factors.  As a result of these factors, and of many more, it is not uncommon for people in the second half of life to experience depression.

There are many issues that can pertain to opening up depression when it appears in the lives of older people.  Often, as with midlife issues, much may center on connecting with important elements of the person that are coming up from the unconscious and seeking connection with the conscious portion of the person (the ego).  There can be many unresolved issues that remain from earlier stages in life, and that also have to do with connection with others, and with value, meaning and purpose.  Often, the sense of connection with something larger is important.

The Individuality of Depression

As Marion Woodman reminds us, depth psychotherapy stays in the awareness that, to move through depression, we must truly be in contact with our individual being — particularly our own feeling.  Through in-depth connection with our true selves in an open and self-compassion manner, we move into true, lasting — and highly individual — help for depression.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How to Get Help for Depression, 1

February 9th, 2015 · how to get help for depression

So, how to get help for depression, when it’s a little like Proteus, the ancient Greek sea god: a shape-shifter right from the word, “Go?”

hoe to get help for depression
In the Odyssey, Ulysses and his companions try to lay hold of Proteus, and he continually changes shape, again and again — a formidable foe to try and tie down.  Depression can appear in so many shapes and forms it can be hard to know just how to get hold of it.  Where should you turn to get a handle on depression?

Antidepressants

Many in our society might jump to the conclusion right away that the kind of help one needs for depression is an antidepressant.  There are countless others who feel that the only real help for depression would be an antidepressant, but who are determined to never “become dependent” on a pill so they suffer on endlessly, never getting any substantial help.

Antidepressants have their place, and they may be of significant help, but there is strong evidence that, with many kinds of depression, the best approach is to combine antidepressants with psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy Genuinely Helps

There is a strong body of evidence showing that psychotherapy is effective in allieviating depression.  But, a very important question to ask here, is effective at what?

Often, depression has key symptoms.  For instance, it can show itself via insomnia, or via its complete opposite, continual tiredness.  Similarly, it can show itself through complete loss of appetite, or through a dramatic increase in appetite.  Or through lowered self-esteem.

Such symptoms can be very distressing.  Quite naturally, the person suffering from such symptoms is eager to have them gone, and seeks treatment, of one kind of another that reduces, or, where possible, eliminates the symptoms.

Yet, depression is not identical with these symptoms.  Very often at the core of depression are some fundamental issues in the inner life of the person, and in the unconscious.

As Jungian Prof. Andrew Samuels of Essex reminds us, analytical psychologists often metaphorically image depression as a damming up of energy in the psyche.

how to get help for depression

This “damming” is often caused by a major underlying conflict or life problem.  If the “dam” can be broken, the energy released often greatly assists in solving the particular life problem.

how to get help for depression

Often, this “damming up” occurs as the result of conflicts or issues that have begun in early life, and been with the individual ever since.  However, it may also stem from specific decisions made or paths chosen by the individual in his or her later life.

The experience of this kind of “damming” or conflict opening up can have a life-giving, liberating effect on the individual.

Among the most significant situations in the life journey where depression can be a big issue are these:

Major Life Transitions

Major emotional blockages are often activated when an individual of any age undergoes a major life change, such as moving to a new place, changing jobs, loss of job, illness, marriage, divorce, loss of a loved one — the list goes on.  Depression may often contain a conflict or a life pain associated with these events, but also an energy that can help in dealing with them, if we can get to its core, and understand it.

Mid-Life Transition

Similarly, the transitions that occur at mid-life, which can take many shapes for an individual.  Often at the heart of it all in the midlife passage is a very substantial depression, and, if we can enter into that depression and understand it, we can understand the various elements seeking to emerge in the individual’s midlife journey.

Depression in Later Life

Depression is not uncommon for those in the second half of life.  It can be associated with increased limitations in lifestyle, loss of a loved one, illness of various kinds, loneliness, decreased ability to look after oneself — and many other factors.  Carefully exploring such depression in the context of psychotherapy may release long-standing unresolved conflicts and blockages, and free energy for living in new possibilities that add meaning and vitality to life at this stage.

In my next post, we’ll be looking at depression in more detail in all these stages of life, and how to get help for depression through effective depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Art as Therapy: Creativity as Part of the Therapeutic Process 2

February 2nd, 2015 · art as therapy

In the first part of “Art as Therapy” we looked more generally at how art can be effective as a form of non-verbal therapy; in this post, let’s look at some more of the specifics.

art as therapy

What actually goes on when people create art as therapy?

How the Unconscious Speaks Through Art

“Well,” someone might say, “the unconscious parts of the mind speak through an individual’s artwork.”  OK, that’s fine as far as it goes — but what does that actually mean?

To answer this question, we need to be clear about the overall significance of the unconscious mind.

The unconscious mind is huge, relative to the size of the conscious mind.  Renowned neurologist Prof. Antonio Damasio of  USC has summarized a vast body of research on consciousness and the unconscious, and concludes that:

The unconscious, in the narrow meaning in which the word has been etched in our culture, is only a part of the vast amount of processes that remain nonconscious…  In fact the list of the “not known” is astounding [and includes] all the hidden wisdom and know-how that nature embodied in innate, homeostatic dispositions

The Feeling of What Happens, 1999

So, the “unconscious” contains the vast majority of brain functioning — much more than repressed memories etc.  There is inherited wisdom within us that is relevant to the life situations in which we find ourselves.  But does the unconscious embody this wisdom in any particular form that allows our conscious selves to experience it, and to begin to dialogue with it?

There is such a form: the symbol, which Jungian analyst Warren Colman describes as “the clothing of affect in image”.  The symbols that come forward from the unconscious embody the wisdom of the unconscious, if we have the courage and the humility to accept it.  They manifest in many forms: in dreams, certainly, in myth and folk tale, and, often without our even being aware of it, in all the forms of artistic expression.

art as therapy

How Art as Therapy Can be Involved in Healing

If the individual lets him or herself go, the unconscious will manifest itself in works of art, often giving us a clear commentary on what is going on in the depths of the person.

“Creative work is intimately close to the operation of destruction, at least when old forms must be rejected to arrive at a new form of expression”, Jungian analyst Prof. Christian Gaillard of the Ecole Nationale Superior des Beaux-Arts tells us.

Destruction and creation are intimately connected in the use of art as therapy.  Initially it’s creative to demolish old perceptions, often the perceptions of the conscious self separated from our instinctual grounding, so that new perceptions, new ways of seeing, and being, can be available to the individual.

Can engaging in such destruction and creation be healing?  Yes: profoundly so.

What Use is Doing Art If I’m a “Lousy Artist”?

I watch many analysands wrestle with what they feel to be their artistic limitedness when they come into analysis.  I can relate: I felt exactly the same way when I began analysis and started to create in paint and clay.  But whether one measures up to some aesthetic benchmark is irrelevant.  This is the power of art: if a person strives to bring his or her passion and vision into the clay or paint or writing, something powerful and transformative will start to happen. It will bring a certain kind of encounter with the self.

To Make the Inner Life Concrete

art as therapy

What does making these aspects of one’s inner life concrete and outward in this manner do?

It’s not too extreme to say that what one sees as emerging from a person’s work of this kind is an alternate life story.  Perhaps it’s even better described as an alternate mythology.  A story that is both an “explanation” of the individual’s lived experience and a letting-go-of-explanation, as I become aware that something more is going on in my personal existence than I can possibly comprehend.

But I can connect with it through the symbols.

Jungian or depth psychotherapy encourages each individual on their creative journey, providing transformative ways in which to take in the meaning and vitality of this process.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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

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