Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

What is My Life’s Work? — A Vital Second Half of Life Question

January 25th, 2016 · what is my life's work

“What is My Life’s Work?” might be a question we expect from those in their 20s, but it also matters in midlife transition and throughout the life cycle.

what is my life's work

It may not be obvious to everyone, but we have a life’s work — something that we do and live as an expression of who we most fundamentally are.  As James Hillman suggests in his book The Soul’s Code, there are things for each of us that are simply a natural expression of the inherent way we are in the world.  The trick is to keep others peoples’ images of ourselves, expectations and prejudices about us at enough of a distance that we can begin to see what it is that really expresses us.  And, as depth psychotherapy knows, there is another whose images, expectations and prejudices are potentially even more destructive — and that person is found right in the mirror.

The question “What is My Life’s Work?” only gains in importance as we move through adulthood:

Don’t Assume That It’s Your Career!

It would be a very big mistake to assume overly quickly that your life’s work is your career.  Some careers are true vocations; many are rather partial things.  Often people will like their career, or tolerate it, but that is not the same thing as finding oneself  in the grip of the passion of one’s life’s work.  The question “What is my life’s work?” is only answered when one feels that “Yes!  This is why I’m here!  I was born to do this!”  It may well take psychotherapy to help people find this place.

Don’t Assume It’s Over If You Retire

Some plan to retire, and have a life of relative leisure, living as if their “life’s work” is over.  However, as Jung put it, it’s good to retire, but not into nothing.  If retirement is to be good, it mustn’t just be fun.  It must be meaningful and engaging.  That means that there must be involvements in retirement that have soul in them.

Don’t Expect to Find It Just By Thinking About It

Answering the question”What is my life’s work?” is not going to be accomplished by just sitting around reflecting on it in the abstract.  It’s necessary to try things, to do things, to have experiences.  If you feel something beckoning to you through a feeling that it would be good, joyous or meaningful, then it’s essential that you go and do it.  Only by trying it will you know whether it’s truly you or not.  Your unconscious mind will have something to say on the subject, also.

Your Life’s Work May be the Same Thing as “You”

Sometimes, a person’s life work may be something they do so easily or naturally that it doesn’t seem to have particular significance.  I can think of a letter carrier who used to deliver mail in my area, a man with such a natural gift for connection with others that everyone in the area knew his name.  I don’t think that he was aware, but I believe that his uncanny capacity to bring about connection may have been his life’s work.

what is my life's work

Wholeness and the Self

The call to wholeness may have a great deal to do with our life’s work.  That which we do with a natural creativity, and that continually opens new doors may be both our life’s work and a key part of our journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  Mike Beauregard
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Hope for Uncertain Times: the Deep Self & Major Life Transitions

January 18th, 2016 · hope uncertain times

Yes, hope, and specifically “hope for uncertain times” is again a very relevant topic, given the financial uncertainty and overall social churn 2016 has so far exhibited.

hope uncertain times
Economic fluctuation, chaos and dysfunction seem to flood the news media, and sometimes seem to crowd out hope-giving and empowering messages.  Often, these larger scale events seem to combine with personal issues and personal life transitions, such as divorce, changes in employment status, health issues, issues with children, loss of loved ones, and a myriad of others, which can be matters of very major importance to those undergoing them.
Depth psychotherapy has a different concept of personal identity, which is based on the wholeness of the individual, both conscious and unconscious, as the slide show below explains:

 

Is there any way that this broader concept of the self can help us in facing the challenges of current day existence, and finding hope for uncertain times like these?

hope uncertain times

Psychological Resilience in Major Life Transitions

One of the best sources of psychological resilience is a sense of security in a rooted sense of identity.  But there is the problem, because undergoing a major life transition may lead us to a crisis of identity.  A social role, or a certain understanding of ourselves, as family member, parent, employee, member of a certain community may be brought into question by a life transition.

Example: Jan, a native of Halifax, has had to move 4 times in the last 12 years, in order to keep the job she has with a trans-national corporation.  These jobs have taken her to 4 countries on 3 continents.  “Every time I put down roots, and start to get comfortable, it’s time to pull up stakes and move again!  I just start to know some of the parents at my kids’ schools — and then it’s time to go.”  In the midst of these job changes, Jan retains a certain continuity as an employee, but she never gets to feel a real sense of attachment to a community, or have a circle of permanent friends.

One question that Jan’s situation poses is, what is my real identity?  Also, where do I really belong?  Jan is fully aware that her identity does not consist in the connection to the particular community that she’s living in.

The unconscious mind is continually seeking to put before us symbols and indicators of our real identity and the things that we most richly value, through our dreams, our reactions to other people, our unconscious responses to situations, and in still other ways.  An important part of the work of depth psychotherapy is to make the individual aware of these indicators, and to help him or her to become grounded in them.

Hope in Our Uncertainty

The conscious mind is subject to continual shifts in the chances and changes of our uncertain situation.  Very often, it’s overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the demands and the complexities of life in our uncertain time.  The instinctual and intuitive side of our being brings us into contact with a whole other dimension of ourselves, grounding us in parts of our inner reality that often go beyond our language and the reasoning parts of the psyche.

Sticking with What Matters

A key part of our journey is finding out what really matters to us as individuals, and living it out.  Another important element is responding to life situations in a way that accords with our deepest selves.  Both of these things are connected with having hope for uncertain times, and are rooted in the essential aims of depth psychotherapy.

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  B Hartford J Strong ; Gerry Thomasen
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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4 Non-Obvious Thoughts about Hope and the New Year

January 11th, 2016 · hope and the new year

It’s common to associate hope and the New Year.  Yet, as 2016 dawns, we know we live in an era of huge life transitions and challenges, individually, nationally and globally.

hope and the new year

                                Art by Andrew Junge – “Pandora’s Box”

Hope is a vitally important feeling state. Studies link hope to: good health; finding life meaningful ; and, all kinds of academic and athletic performance.  Prof. C.R. Snyder  and other researchers have shown that hopeful people value themselves more, take better care of their bodies, and have higher pain tolerance and resiliency.

Here’s four thoughts on hope and the New Year.

Hope Isn’t Just “Optimism”

At least, not in any short-term sense. Optimism tends to be about a certain result occurring, often in the short run.  But hope is not dependent on short term outcomes.  Hope tends to be less rational, less cut and dried.  Even when it’s not immediately apparent how, hope is convinced that life will bring good things to the self.

Hope Is Not Just “Making Plans”

Certain types of psychology emphasize defining or perceiving hope in relationship to the number and type of plans for the future.  Again, this would seem to be more of a measure of optimism, and to be very centred on the plans and projects of the ego.  And sometimes frenetic plan-making can be indicative of the opposite of hope: despair.

Hope is about my expectation that the self will survive intact, and continue to grow and thrive, and that value and meaning will survive and thrive, also.

hope and the new year

Hope and Trust Go Together

Depth psychotherapy lives in the awareness that hope and trust go together.  Psychological theorists have long maintained that the essential conflict in the earliest stages of life is trust vs. mistrust.  This revolves at first around feeding and nutrition, and the infant getting its needs met.  As the world proves predictable and responsive to the child’s needs, so the child will grow into a stance of trust.  Out of this position of trust, it becomes possible for the young human to hope.

As the life journey continues the question of trust will continue, in ever more elaborate ways.  As the child is loved and cared for, and is positively mirrored by the world, the sense of trust will grow, and deeper and more profound types of trust in the world, and hope for the possibilities in life will become rooted.

Love, the sense of positive valuation by others, and the sense of being seen for who he or she really is give the child the possibility of feeling real, as the psychoanalysts might say.  This awareness goes hand in hand with what we can call basic trust in life, and an overall attitude of hope towards the possibilities in life.

Jung took this further.  He emphasized the need to become as conscious as possible of everything that we are, of our own wholeness.  By doing this, we become as aware as we can of  our own reality, and, through connection to both instinct and spirit, to ultimately feel connected to the world, and like we belong in it.  From a Jungian perspective, this is what ultimately grounds hope.

There’s Good and Bad Hope

Hope has an archetypal, and mythic, aspect.  In the Greek myth of Pandora, she opens her box or jar, she releases all the plagues and woes that beset humankind.  Only one thing remains in the bottom of the box: Elpis, the Greek daimon of hope.

Why does hope remain?  Why is it in there in first place?  Is hope a curse?  The answer is, it can be, if it’s delusory, compulsive hope that, say, keeps one “looking for love in all the wrong places”, rather than a hope rooted in a basic trust of oneself and of the goodness of life.  Helping a person get to the latter is the core business of the depth psychotherapist.

Wishing you Happy New Year, and the fullness of  good hope for 2016!

 

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  SWARM GALLERY OAKLAND ; Karen Roe
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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