Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Soul Aspects of Career Change After 40, 1

July 10th, 2015 · career change after 40

Career change after 40 can seem like a daunting prospect. This isn’t a post about the logistics of job-finding.  It’s a post about the meaning of changing career — the soul level view.

 career change after 40
What is meant by “soul”?  When depth psychotherapists use this term, they’re referring to the deepest levels of who we are.  How does the possibility of career change look from that perspective?

It’s Not All About the Marketplace

The media, at least in North America, increasingly give us the message that it’s all about the marketplace. If we take this message completely to heart, we would then end up making every choice in a way that molds us into what the market wants. In essence, the continual message goes, that we should give up on our own uniqueness, and turn ourselves into something trendy and salable.

But is that really what human life is all about? Are we really prepared to accept that that is all that human life is about?  Real psychotherapy says no.

In actual fact, there are many people who, on the upside of 40, simply don’t turn themselves into a souless commodity and yet they are able to transform their outer career selves to reflect something important and urgent inside of themselves.  Consider these folks:

  • Anna Mary Robertson Moses – worked her farm, and sold potato chips, up until she age 80, when she changed her focus to painting — and in the process became iconic folk artist Grandma Moses;
career change after 40

Painted by Grandma Moses, at Age 85

  • Julia Child – didn’t start cooking French cuisine until she was 36, and didn’t publish a cookbook until she was 50;
  • career change after 40
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder – of “Little House on the Prairie” fame, didn’t publish any of her books until she was 65; and,
  • Henry Ford – was 45 when he created the Model T
  • career change after 40

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” ~ H.F.

What the Heck is “Vocation”?

It’s not what your junior high school guidance counsellor meant by the term, in the sense of a neat little career pigeon hole into which the individual can be inserted: computer programmer, tree surgeon, jazz dancer, etc.

Vocation relates to an urging, yearning or calling at the level of the inmost self.  Here’s a useful summary:

What is it, in the end, that induces a person to go [his or her] own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist? Not necessity, for necessity comes to many, and they all take refuge in convention [italics mine]…

What is it, then, that inexorably tips the scales in favour of the extra-ordinary? It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a person to emancipate [him- or herself] from the herd and from it’s well-worn paths.

True personality is always a vocation… despite its being, as the ordinary [person] would say, only a personal feeling. He must obey his own law….  Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner person [italics mine]….

~ C.G. Jung

How do I start to hear the voice of the inner person?  The best place to start is to look compassionately at the most vulnerable innermost part of ourselves, which may well also be the most wounded part of our inner being, which may well have been numbed and cauterized by the brutal falsity of “what everyone knows”.

The question of vocation is often central to psychotherapy after the age of 35.

In my next post, I’ll examine several questions concerning vocation, including, “Is Career Change What I Need, or Is It a Stand-In for Something More Basic?


Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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

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Summer, & the Importance of Self Awareness, 2

July 6th, 2015 · importance of self awareness

The season of summer sun may bring home the importance of self-awareness in some ways that are rather different than we might expect.

importance self awareness

In my last post, we saw how the summer solstice is a time that, for many of us, may represents the height of our capacity for consciousness, as embodied in the kind of aliveness that circadian rhythm may allow us to experience at the time of the height of the sun. But there is another aspect to these days after the solstice, and that is that the sun starts to decline, and the days start to become shorter.
What happens to our awareness then?  Can there be anything good that comes out of this?

The Slow Downward Movement

As the maximum power of the sun is symbolic of the maximum extent of the powers of consciousness, so the shortening of the days and the return to darkness can be seen as a move in the direction of the unconscious — the other pole of the human psyche.

Just as it’s inevitable for the seasons to slowly oscillate between light and darkness, so it is that the human psyche oscillates between two different dimensions: the conscious and the unconscious

The sun’s movement mirrors a psychic reality.  At some times we are more aware, more alive, more conscious of who we are, more open to the relatively unknown aspects of the self.  At other times, we lapse more into less conscious ways of functioning, and motives and feelings that are often unknown to the conscious mind can actually affect, or even at times, govern our functioning.

So, we have the conscious and the unconscious dimensions of ourselves.  And the rhythm of the year symbolizes a fundamental dynamic of human awareness: the ebb and flow of the conscious and unconscious portions of the self.  Yet, through using our conscious mind to explore the unknown, perhaps unconscious aspects of ourselves, we can further the process of integration of the conscious and the unconscious self into increased wholeness.

The Nighttime Side of the Psyche

importance of self awareness

As we discussed in the last post, the conscious self can make the grave error of assuming that it’s “the only game in town”.  This is hazardous, though.  If we don’t seek to understand what is motivating us in unconscious ways, we stand a very good chance of finding our lives run by the unacknowleged and unknown parts of the psyche.

Example.  Consider someone who unconsciously always pursues romantic partners who are fundamentally inaccessible.  The individual may continually curse “my rotten luck” in choosing such people, but, in actual fact, they may be choosing such partners precisely because they are inaccessible — and so there is no real risk of trusting them, and therefore being hurt by them, as may have happened in a significant relationship in the past.  This is a dynamic noted by commentators including Jung, Freud and Lacan, among others, as Prof. Ian Parker of Leicester notes.

To function in freedom, in ways that give us what we’re seeking in life, we need to understand the night time side of the psyche: and, we need to integrate it.

Solar Consciousness, Lunar Consciousness

importance self awareness

Sometimes the sun’s bright light is used to symbolize conscious awareness, while the light of the moon represents a softer, more subdued, perhaps more intuitive awareness, that is closer to the unconscious, and incorporates awareness of elements of it.

For the journey toward wholeness, we need the bright light of solar consciouness, but we also need the softer, less rational, less clear-cut consciousness that is symbolized by the light of the moon.

The Importance of Self-Awareness: Bringing Sun and Moon Together

importance self awareness

Rare Photo: The Two Lights Together

We can use our conscious awareness to become aware of our unconscious aspects — what Jung and other psychologists have called “the undiscovered self”.  We can train our consciousness, in its strength to explore and reflect on the unconscious and unknown aspects of ourselves.  In fact, doing so can be one of the greatest adventures in life — and, ultimately, one of the most rewarding.

The importance of self-awareness only becomes more and more apparent as we gradually, increasingly dispose ourselves to it.  In conjunction with growing compassion for ourselves, such self awareness is the heart of the work of depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  白士 李 ; Anindo Ghosh ; Ross2085
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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