Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Eros: Towards a Depth Psychology of Relationship

September 28th, 2015 · psychology of relationship

Moving into Fall, our culture celebrates events that emphasize the importance of the psychology of relationship.  Does depth psychotherapy, in particular, have anything important to say to us about connection to others?

psychology of relationship

EROS – God of connection and relationship

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, Hallowe’en comes at the end of the month, and the lead-up to Christmas soon follows.  It’s the season of connection, it seems.  But in the 21st century the meaning of relationship and connection has shifted dramatically.  Can depth psychology help us make sense of all this?

Relationship is Changing

psychology of relationship

At this time of year, psychotherapy clients start to talk to me about Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities.  They wonder how they’re going to organize things with their complex family situations.

They face many of the demanding situations of modern day family life: dealing with holidays in the aftermath of marital breakup; addressing issues of blended families after re-marriage; facing complex issues that used to go unacknowledged, such as family members “coming out”, homophobic relatives, close relatives who have been abusive, or family members struggling with addictions issues.

As a culture, we are conscious of different things than we used to be.  Relatives can be distant or alienated from each other, and it can be hard to know how to have them in the same room during holiday and festive occassions

For many, connection with family isn’t simple or straightforward.  In our fast-moving age, the same can be true of friends.

Individuality and the Meaning of Relationship / Connection

We live in the era of triumphant individualism.  Once, blood connection between people was a secure bond.  Not now.  Many today experience increasing alienation and isolation.  Our culture often promotes a ruthless self-sufficiency that flies in the face of vulnerability and relatedness.

This is very true for men, but also for women, as they adopt more and more masculinized social roles.

Individuation, Individualism, Eros and the Psychology of Relationship

psychology of relationship

Our culture promotes individualism, which is not the same thing as individuation.  Individualism promotes self-reliance, even suspicion of others, and a very robust kind of self-interest.  Depth psychotherapy, after Jung, emphasizes the psychological need for individuation, which is the process of more and more uncovering your own individual identity.  However, individuation includes the dimension of Eros: the development of empathy and discovering how I can connect to others.

Eros is involved in sexual love, but it is much broader than that.  Psychiatrist and Jungian Analyst Adolf Guggebbuhl-Craig speaks of Eros as the attribute that makes Gods and humans loving, creative and involved.

To get to an authentic, creative, and life-giving connection with others, we have to understand our individual selves, who we are drawn to, and with whom we really want to be connected.  Such intentional connection goes far beyond the old saying that “blood is thicker than water.”

The Divinity of Eros

Greeks made Eros a God, recognizing the great power and necessity of this dimension of human life.  Similarly, we can’t afford to ignore our own need for meaningful connection with others.  We cannot afford to “offend the God”, as the Greeks would say.  Eros — true human connection — is centrally important to our journey toward wholeness.

Yet we can’t force our Eros to go where it won’t, or force others to be what they’re not.  In our time, when “compulsory” connection with others is breaking down, we need to be resourceful, creative and intentional about connection with others.  Just how we do that matters for our individual journey — and is the subject of our next post.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Ben Salter ; Bev Sykes ; Eugene Kim 
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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What Does the Meaning of My Dreams Have to Do with My LIfe? #2

September 21st, 2015 · meaning my dreams

As we began to discuss in the last post, how can I learn “the meaning of my dreams”, in a way that makes a concrete difference in my life?

meaning my dreams

We can’t control our dreams’ content, but there are things we can do, to be open to what the unconscious may be telling us in our dreams.

Write Those Dreams Down!

meaning my dreamsI may sound like a broken record, but this is very important — if you want your dreams to make any pragmatic difference in your life.

Research shows that we tend to forget our dreams immediately upon starting to move around, as when we get up and start their morning.  Also, memory isn’t always perfectly reliable. If a dream isn’t comfortable to the ego, our memory can often be unconsciously changed around to fit the ego’s comfort level.  Impossible, you say?  Ask a traffic policeman about the reliability of peoples’ actual memories of road accidents.

Accept That Dream “Language” is Unique

meaning my dreams
The ship… a common dream symbol

Very often I’ve sat with therapy clients, who show me a dream, with some embarrassment.  They apologize for the dream, saying “this is really silly”, or, “this doesn’t make any sense”.  Of course, from the perspective of waking consciousness, they’re absolutely right.

Dreams simply don’t “make sense” the way that everyday reality “makes sense”.   They don’t tell stories logically, viewed from the perspective of the waking mind, because the levels of the brain where dreams originate don’t process things logically, but rather imagistically, or symbolically.

To understand the dream, we must get inside its language, its way of telling a story.  We have to understand the symbols and images, and the way that the dream puts them together.

Get Beyond Preconceptions about the Meaning of My Dreams

Our preconceptions or theories about our dreaming can be a big roadblock.  The ego often has plenty of ideas and theories about what we should be dreaming about, but, they may not match the concerns of the unconscious mind.

Recently I posted the photo and quote below on Twitter, which is very relevant to our current topic.

meaning my dreams

C.G. Jung was remarkable in his ability to keep an open mind about the meaning of dreams.  Where most of us cling tightly to our prize theories, Jung sat loosely to his.

He was often able to suspend a lot of assumptions about the meaning of images, and really focus on what that particular symbol might mean for that particular individual.  He didn’t believe that the same symbol means the same thing all the time.  As Prof. Mary Ann Mattoon put it, “he looked for a meaning that exceeded the obvious and immediate appearance of the image and accorded with the dreamer’s experience.

We’ll better understand our own dreams, if we can keep a truly open mind about their meaning.

Finding the Meaning of My Dreams on My Own is Difficult, If Not Impossible

Our ego has a strong need to create control and order.  It doesn’t easily accept that it has blind spots, or a partial view of reality.  Yet, even geniuses can’t fully comprehend reality.  Nicola Tesla, engineering genius par excellance, was for his whole life consumed by an irrational fear of women’s pearls.  Likely we have similar loopholes.  It’s extremely difficult to accept that we simply can’t  comprehensively understand most dreams.  Yet we must accept it, and we’re greatly benefitted by the perspective of someone who has a sound knowledge of the ways of dreams.

The dream may be trying to tell us something that is difficult for us to hear.  Yet, if someone else can help us to take it in, it may be the source of real transformation in our lives

The Ultimate Test of a Dream Interpretation

The ultimate test of a dream interpretation: the dream rings true to the dreamer.  This is often accompanied by a sense of insight, or “aha!”, and a feeling that our view of ourselves is somehow more whole or more complete.

That “felt sense” awareness of an expanding sense of self is at the very heart of the experience of depth psychotherapy .

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Mark Strobl ; waferboard ;  ; John Fowler ;
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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What Does the Meaning of My Dreams Have to Do with My LIfe? #1

September 14th, 2015 · meaning my dreams

The internet is full of people who are willing to tell me “the meaning of my dreams” — but what do dreams actually have to do with the way I live my life?

meaning my dreams

From a psychotherapy perspective, there is only one real justification for spending the time and effort to look at one’s dreams, and that is that the dreams must have some direct impact on the way life is lived.  Otherwise, there’s just no point!
So, what can I determine about my life from my dreams?  Well, here’s some things that we know…

Moving Away from the “Garbage Dump” Theory of Dreaming

meaning my dreams

When I studied psychology as an undergrad, the dominant theory that I was taught was that dreaming was a basically meaningless activity  that amounted to the brain “clearing its tapes” during REM sleep, to allow space in memory for the following day.  Thus dreams were reduced to something fairly banal and meaningless.

However, with the rise of neuroscience, this kind of an approach to dreaming seems to be gradually on the wane, and is being replaced by theories that recognize that dreaming is a psychologically meaningful activity of the brain, with implications for our personal journeys.  Much research has contributed to this change in understanding.

For instance, Harvard Medical School’s Prof. J.A. Hobson has analyzed brain functioning in dream states, and theorizes that dreaming involves a “protoconscious” state, providing a kind of “virtual reality model of the world” that serves a very concrete functional purpose in the development and maintenance of waking consciousness. Somewhat similarly, psychiatrist David Kahn, also of Harvard Medical School draws the theoretical conclusion that dreaming is an important state of consciousness, potentially leading to creative insight.

If dreaming develops and maintains waking consciousness, and enhances creativity in our lives, it’s far from meaningless.  This strongly emphasizes the benefit of paying attention to dreams.

Don’t Over-Rate the Unconscious… but Give It Its Due

On the other hand, it’s important not to inflate or distort the meaning of my dreams.  As Andrew Samuels, following C.G. Jung, points out, to treat dreams as infallible impairs human freedom and diminishes the power of conscious decision.

We should particularly beware the incredibly, overpoweringly, beautiful or compelling dream.  Such a dream can seem so overwhelming that it appears as the voice of absolute truth.  There may well be much truth in it, but it’s important that consciousness enter into dialogue with such a dream, not just submit to it.

It’s most likely best to be receptive to what the dream might be saying, and treat its message as a supplementary “take” or perspective on our life situation.

Sticking with the Dream Images

menaing my dreams

Dream images are the best possible expression of still unconscious facts.  So to get benefit from my dreams, I really need to understand what those dream images mean.

“To understand the dream’s meaning I must stick as close as possible to the dream image.”

~C.G. Jung, Collected Works, vol. 16

Now let me be clear and blunt.  This isn’t something you’re going to be able to get out of a dream dictionary sold at the supermarket check out — or even a really good symbol dictionary!  (And let me assure you, there are far more bad ones than good on the market.)

To truly understand the images in dreams may well be one place where help from a depth psychotherapist well versed in the psychology of dreams would be of genuine assistance.

Patience and Honesty Are Rewarded

We live in an era of instant gratification.  It’s very easy to be seduced by the assumption that we should be able to get answers to life’s questions right away.  However, working with dreams takes patience and honesty, if it’s really going to bear meaningful fruit.

Dreams can provide an important perspective on our lives, but it takes diligence in recording them, patience in bringing them into therapy sessions, and hard work with the symbols the dreams present.

What I can learn about myself from my dreams depends very much on my taking them very seriously, and patiently uncovering their meaning.

 

Next time, we’ll reflect on how the unconscious complements the conscious mind through dreams, and what this means for us in terms of a creative and aware approach to our lives.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Raluca Marie Wolfski ; martinak15 ; Sebastian Appelt

 

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