Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Major Change in the Life of a 50-Plus Individual

October 24th, 2016 · change in the life

If you are in that age bracket, you know that major change in the life of individuals aged 50-plus can require sizable psychological adaptations.

 change in the life

Meeting these challenges can require great strength and resilience.  And often, the right kind of support can help immensely.

Common 50-Plus Life Changes

What major changes do people commonly encounter in the 50-plus age bracket?  Here’s a few startling examples.

Divorce.  Leaving a marriage of many years duration in the 50-plus age bracket can be a very difficult, grief-filled experience — even if it’s the best thing for all concerned.

Retirement.  This is very big.  Leaving the work world, to do something entirely different with your life, is an enormous transition, and it can be extremely stressful.

Relocation.  It’s not at all uncommon for people in later life to move or re-locate, possibly for the first time in many years.  This can be very powerful psychological experience.

Coming Out.  It’s one thing to tell the world you have a non-straight sexual identity in your early 20s.  It’s quite another thing in your 50s or 60s, if you’ve led a life that was apparently “straight”.

Bereavement.  The loss of dear loved ones, and the attendant grief, is one of the biggest psychological blows in human life.

Fundamental changes in priorities or worldview.  These can happen in later life!  The person who was apparently “corporate all the way” may find that very different values emerge as they do through the second half of life.

change in the life

Common Characteristics of Major “Change in the Life” Experiences

These are diverse experiences, but there are certain things that people undergoing these “change in the life” experiences very often share in common.

People Experience Fear

The kinds of changes listed above can all be associated with an element of fear.  They’re associated with moving into unknown territory, and that can easily provoke an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.  It can be essential to find some way to move through this, allowing me to retain a sense of dignity and meaning in my life.

People Experience Sadness

People are sad at what the changes might mean.  They experience actual or potential loss.  Losses necessarily have to be grieved in a way that allows the person to move through them, and into the good things that life is presenting.

Those Whom We Love

People worry greatly about those close to them, or who depend on them.  What will happen to those who love us, as we go through the crucible of truly life-altering change?  We feel their vulnerability: that makes us vulnerable, too.

How Am I Going to Get Through?

In conjunction with such sizable changes, people often worry about their survival — economic or physical.  It’s hard to imagine how life will be on the other side of a major life change — how I’ll get through, how I’ll stand the stress.

Loss of an Identity

Many of the situations described above involve the loss of at least one important identity, or “persona”, to use the Jungian term.  Divorce entails the loss of identity as a married person.  Coming out means loss of identity as a perceived straight person; retirement, as a member of the work force; relocation, as someone who “belongs” in a certain place, and so on.  Each such loss of identity has enormous impact on the person (and is probably worthy of its own blog post.)  Finding the way to find a new identity, and how to “live into” it, can be a very major piece of psychotherapy or psychoanalytic work.

“Change in the Life”

When it comes to the major transitions described in this post, it’s clear that, in undergoing them, post-50 individuals seek to avoid chaos, and to ultimately find meaning, in their major “change in the life” experiences.  For the 50-plus individual, this is an essential element of journeying towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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The Goal of Psychotherapy: A Depth Psychotherapy Perspective

October 17th, 2016 · goal psychotherapy

Before beginning psychotherapy to improve your life, it’s good to think carefully about the goal psychotherapy is seeking. 

 goal psychotherapy
This post explores the goal psychotherapy of the “depth” varieties known as analytical, archetypal or Jungian would seek.  All forms of therapy have their unique strengths and perspectives.  In the types of depth psychotherapy we’re considering, the goal is more oriented toward the wholeness of the person than might be found in some other varieties of psychotherapy.
So, what actually is it that we’re actually after in psychotherapy?  The answer to this question may well have a lot to do with what we’re really after in life…

It’s Not Just Removal of Symptoms

Most forms of psychotherapy agree that the goal is not just removal of symptoms.  Very often, what actually brings a person into therapy is a particular symptom, that causes difficulty, possibly quite a bit of difficulty, in his or her life.  For instance, the person may be very angry at a significant person, such as a spouse.  Or, the person may have quite a bit of depression or anxiety connected with going into their workplace.  Understandably, the person is seeking to get the symptom to disappear — they just want it gone.  And it happens reasonably frequently that someone will start to come to therapy, have a few sessions, and start to feel better, as the symptom becomes less intense.  The person may then decide to end therapy.  All too often, the symptoms then will come back, perhaps with a vengeance.  The individual may then reach the conclusion that “psychotherapy doesn’t work.”

Getting to the Deeper Issues

Is that a fair conclusion?  We get symptoms most often because they reflect underlying, deeper issues.  If those deeper issues aren’t dealt with, little may change in the long run.

It’s not just about “being happy.”  “Happiness” might seem like a suitable goal for therapy, but, it’s a very slippery thing.  It can be here one moment and gone the next, to return in a while.  The goal of therapy needs to be something much more lasting.

It’s not just about the pain stopping, either.  Psychological pain, when it occurs, is usually a warning signal that something is not right in our lives.  To get rid of the pain, momentarily, without understanding the underlying cause, is like disconnecting the engine warning light in your car, without doing anything about the fact that the engine is dangerously low on oil.

goal psychotherapy

It’s Connected to “Authenticity”, but Also a Lot More

“Authenticity” is a term used in therapy to refer to being true to oneself.  Yet, to be true to oneself, one has to know the identity of that self.  The same is true of the term “self-actualization”, a term originating with humanistic psychologists like Abraham Maslow. To actualize oneself, to live out one’s personal potential is a worthy goal, associated with a sense of meaning in life. Yet, to achieve it, it’s essential to be in connection with your fundamental identity.

Meaning in Life, and the Undiscovered Self

For depth psychotherapy of an analytical, archetypal or Jungian variety, the goal psychotherapy is seeking fundamentally involves creating a vital relationship between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the personality.  It’s only as the unconscious starts to be connected to consciousness that I begin to get a more complete sense of my own identity.  As that begins to happen, I may gain new kinds of awareness about aspects of myself of which I was unaware.  For analytical, archetypal or Jungian depth psychotherapies, the unconscious mind is not just a repository of repressed memories, but a source of psychic energy and healing vitality, that empowers our inner urge to become the unique individual persons that we truly are.  It’s on that journey that we discover our fundamental sense of meaning.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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Moving Into A New House: The Impact on Psyche

October 3rd, 2016 · moving into a new house

Moving into a new house is a big life event and a major life transition.  It has a huge impact on the psyche of the individual.

moving into a new house

We have an extremely strong psychological connection with the particular place where we live.  In addition, in dreams and other symbolic material, the house can often be a symbol for the whole of the personality.
In my part of the world at this particular point in time, so many people are involved with moving into a new house, or consumed with planning for the time when they will move into a new house.  Immense psychological energy swirls around this  whole subject.
Why is where we live so important to us psychologically?  How does moving into a new house affect us so profoundly?

The Bond of Home

People are immensely bonded to geographical locations that have figured prominently in their lives.  This is especially true of places that they have called “home“.

The research of Prof. Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University with hundreds of people who had returned to see their family homes from the elementary school years bears this out powerfully.  As he says, “Among the unexpected findings to emerge… was the depth of emotion many people feel for their childhood home… [O]ne in five people cried… Many brought photographs to share with us.”  He goes on to say something of profound importance:

One’s home is a part of personal identity for many people… an extension of their self.

Symbolic Home

This consciousness of home can be further amplified symbolically and mythologically.  In an important sense, our first “home” is the maternal womb, and anthropology shows that many of the first homes that humans devised were, in the words of the Book of Symbols, “intimate, encompassing, womblike”, like African mud huts formed like female torsos, with vaginal slits for entrances.  Home can be all of: jail-like, or a sanctuary; a place of domestic harmony, or domestic violence; a symbol of the nurturing of the self, or of most profound violation.  Home is a symbol of the complete Self, the symbol of a final destination, and of spiritual and psychic transformation.  It is this whole, powerful symbolic universe that we conjure with, in moving to a new house.

moving into a new house

“My house” or “my home” can take many different forms

Floating Above the Psychic Reality?

Yet, we live in a culture that often seems blithely unaware of the profound depths of this symbolism of home. In modern real estate parlance, we “flip” homes, “gut” homes, “bridge” homes, “close” homes, “balloon” homes — and goodness knows what else!

The selling of homes is treated as a business, and most often as a business where there is a great deal of money to be made.  That’s fair enough.  But what is often not realized are the ways in which this house we’re selling — and, yes, just as much, the house we’re buying — is going to be an enormous presence in our emotional and psychic lives, and will impact us tremendously on the unconscious level.

Often people plunge into the real estate and moving process, with no awareness of the incalculable emotional impact that this transaction is having on their soul, and on the rest of their lives.

The Inner Process of Moving

Moving into a new house is a very major life event, occurring as part of a very major life transition.  It has implications deep within the psyche, even though our culture seems to largely ignore this fact.

Exploring the meaning of a major move, either before, during or after it has occurred, and understanding the importance of such a life transition for our whole psyche, can be a very beneficial and healing journey, and one with which depth psychotherapy can be of immense assistance.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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