Journeying Toward Wholeness

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The Psychology of Hope in the Second Half of Life

April 24th, 2017 · the psychology of hope

I’ve written previously on the psychology of hope, but this post focuses on the meaning of hope, and the impact of hope on midlife and older individuals.

psychology of hope

What is this elusive thing called hope, and what is the impact of hope, and its opposite, despair, for those on the second half of their life journey? Why is hope absolutely crucial to those who face difficulties or obstacles in the mid-life transition or later in life?

Hope is Not an Effervescent Feeling

Real hope is not the excited feeling that children feel on Christmas Eve. It’s not that kind of fleeting emotional state. Mature adult hope combines thinking and feeling. As Dr. Shane Lopez put it, hope is “…where transcendence meets reason and caution meets passion.”

Hope and Basic Trust

Erik Eriksen saw hope as fundamentally related to the development of basic trust in life, which stems from experience as a child getting adequate, warm and appropriate care.

Hope rests on basic trust in our lives, and on deep awareness that something is moving in our lives, and seeking to actualize itself, to become in our lives.

How do we act in such a way as to create hope?

Hope and its Shadow

A famous study by social psychologist Prof. Leon Festinger et al. documents a UFO cult whose prophet predicted the end of the world, and that, just prior, aliens would take the faithful away to another, better place. The group sold all their worldly possessions, and, on the appointed night, waited for the saucers. Unfortunately, there was no apocalypse; the saucers did not spirit them away. There they stood, realizing that the prophecies were unfulfilled. The groups’ conclusion? Not that their faith and hope was misplaced, but that their faith had saved the world!

This is delusory hope, hope that does not serve the lives of those who hope. In fact, such hope hurt them, by avoiding the real facts of life and realities of human existence. Especially in major life transitions, we need discernment to avoid delusion, which is the shadow of hope.

Hope and Resilience

If the saucer cult represents the shadow of hope, how do we get the real thing? As a study by Cornell Prof. Anthony D. Ong and colleagues showed, individual differences in hope influence the well-being of older adults. Hope is an important source of resilience in later adulthood, altering daily stressors in ways that reduce their intensity and number. High-hope individuals have diminished stress reactivity and more effective emotional recovery. In short, hope matters. The psychology of hope is about finding things in our lives that give us all the benefits of genuine hope.

How Can I Actualize My Hope?

Depth psychotherapy knows that, at midlife, or in the second half of life, I need positive, valid, real hope. I need to actualize it in my life. How can I do that?

Hope has a social dimension. Spending time with other hopeful people undoubtedly increases our own hope. Hope also relates to increasing one’s sense of basic trust in life. It also entails seeing and dealing with our core selves in a fundamentally compassionate way, enabling trust in the meaning and direction of our own individual lives. As we discover meaning and value in our individual lives, and awareness of how life might be calling us, we experience a growing sense of hope. In the words of Jungian analyst James Hollis,

“And they will say that I am hopeless, and I will say that I am filled with hope, remembering Eliot’s admonition to beware of what we hope for…. I am filled with hope, that, around the next corner, the new and unexpected will cause me to reinvent myself, revise my way of seeing, and take me back to the point of beginning, which is awe, which is wonder, which is curiosity… and which is [enduring] summons to stay in the fight.”

It is towards this vital, flexible, living hope, free from both cynicism and delusion, that working on oneself through depth psychotherapy, especially in the second half of life, aims.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © Denise Krebs ;
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Jungian Personality Type: Making Space in My Life for the Real Me

April 10th, 2017 · Jungian personality type

I’ve written on Jungian personality type previously, but in this post, I’d like to look at it from a different angle.

Photo by Nelson L.

 

This post explores how, in major life transitions, we’re often forced to be honest with ourselves, and to come to terms with our Jungian personality type. We may not be consciously aware that that’s what we’re doing, but it happens nonetheless, and with powerful effect.

Building Blocks of Jungian Personality Type

If you’re not familiar with Jungian personality type, more has been written on the subject than we can review here. Yet, Jung’s ideas of personality type lie behind the famous Myers Briggs Typology Inventory (MBTI) now so frequently used in business and human resources contexts. In Myers-Briggs, there are 16 broad personality types. However, there are 6 core factors which Jung identified that form the basis of each of our personality types.

People tend to be either introverts or extroverts. An introvert is someone who is stimulated, excited or energized by the internal world. An extrovert is just the opposite: someone who is stimulated, excited or energized by the external world.

Also, each person has one of four functions. The primary function is the primary way the individual takes in the world.

  • the thinking function involves knowing what something is, naming it, and linking it to other things;
  • the feeling function is not affect or emotion, but rather the way that we take in the value of something, or understand its significance;
  • the sensation function brings to us all the awareness that comes through the various physical senses; and,
  • intuition, the function of awareness of all the possibilities in a situation or thing, on the basis of “hunches”, without conscious proof or knowledge.

These elements combine to make the personality type of the individual. Jungian depth psychotherapists know this type will profoundly effect how an individual approaches his or her life, what he or she values, the nature of key life goals, relationships with every other human being, and the individual’s religious or philosophical stance, or lack thereof. An individual’s Jungian personality type is a fundamental fact about her or his nature.

Confronting the Truth of Our Personality Type

In key transitions in life, the individual may well confront their Jungian personality type, which is to say their fundamental nature in some very profound ways. Here are two examples, which are fictionalized accounts, but each loosely based on the combined experiences of many former clients.

Example One. “Camilla”, a young woman just accepted to law school, faces enormous pressure to be a lawyer. Both her parents are extremely hard working immigrants, and are lawyers of some distinction. Camilla is a very intelligent and capable woman herself, and believes that she probably could meet expectations, and successfully complete law school. “I could do it,” she realizes, “but at what cost? I’d be continually unhappy, because it’s just not my idea of creative work. I have all kinds of energy for people! I want to connect, co-operate, feel good about working on a common project!” After a considerable amount of personal therapy work, Camilla makes the hard decision to turn down law school, goes to film school, and ends up in a happy, successful career as the creative director of a multimedia team.

Case Two. “Jake” works for a successful family-run printing business. Originally the only salesperson, Jake is now in charge of a team. The role continually draws on Jake’s extroversion and feeling function, both in relating to clients, and in inspiring and leading all the sales staff. Jake, 45, has been doing this role for nearly 20 years, and realized in the course of therapy that he is exhausted. “I can do this job, but it sucks the life out of me! I find it so hard to be continuously socially engaged with people!” Jake, an introverted thinking type, somehow found the time to take courses to become a real estate appraiser, left the family firm, and as part of a midlife transition found a new career, with more meaning and fulfillment, and less stress.

Living with Psychological Integrity

Jungian personality type

Aligning your life with your Jungian personality type can contribute tremendously to the feeling that life is rich and full of meaning. This is more than just identifying your personality type. It also entails finding out what that personality type is like for you as a unique individual, and finding creative ways to bring your life into alignment with it — what Jungian analyst John Beebe, MD refers to as personal integrity.

Identifying your personality type, and doing the needed personal work to make your life an expression of your personality is a key part of the journey to wholeness in depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Psychology of Change: Is Transformation Possible?

April 3rd, 2017 · psychology of change

The psychology of change and personal transformation is a matter of vital concern to many people. Yet many wonder: is it even possible?

psychology of change

Jungian therapists know that this is a vital matter to many troubled people. Many people yearn for transformation in their lives, and yet may be unsure whether it can really happen.
I had an odd experience. Searching for appropriate keywords for this post, I tried the phrase “possibility of personal change”, and the keyword tool recommended another phrase instead: “possibility of zombie apocalypse”! Apparently more people search for this phrase than the one I was investigating. Hopefully, we therapists aren’t giving the impression that zombie apocalypse is more likely than personal transformation!

Is Transformation A Real Possibility?

The theme of transformation runs through the depth psychotherapy of C.G. Jung. Jung’s psychology of change most definitely does affirm that transformation is possible. However, it most often does not commence as the result of an ego-driven self improvement project.

Rather, as Prof. Andrew Samuels puts it, , transformation involves

[A] temporary loss of ego-hood in order to bring to consciousness and fulfil a psychological need hitherto unrecognized.

Samuels, A., Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

In all of us, the ego, that part of ourselves most associated with conscious awareness, with being in control, and with taking initiatives is very often bound up with routines, or even stuck in a rut — often without knowing it, and often without sufficient power to make any changes.

Jungian analyst Dianne Brutsche reminds us that commencing Jungian analysis or a similar depth psychotherapy is often triggered by a crisis or by passing a major turning point in one’s life. Often a major life transition like a divorce, the death of a close loved one or a life-altering health issue gives people the impetus to seek a deeper level of understanding, or a fundamentally renewed perspective on life.

People who become concerned with the issue of transformation often function well emotionally and intellectually, and are well-integrated into their place in life. Yet they’re seeking something beyond just being normal and “appropriately adapted” to their lives and their environment. They often feel a kind of inner stagnation, a sense of somehow “missing the boat” in terms of the real experience of life. There’s an inner drive or impetus to find more — but often, they’re unsure where to look.

What Is Transformation?

psychology of change

…An Age-Old, Universal Symbol

Virtually every human culture has created symbols of human transformation. A near-universal symbol is the transformation that occurs from caterpillar to butterfly. Humans have watched this with intense fascination for probably as long as there have been humans. Similarly, the process of the snake shedding its skin and the symbol of the inner marriage are powerful symbolic representations of this vital psychological reality. Psyche has also portrayed this reality in a thousand other ways.

 

The Dance of the Ego and Unconscious

Depth psychotherapy rightly affirms that real transformation comes from an initiative or impulse originating deep in the unconscious mind, which the ego gradually discerns, comes to understand and, to which it ultimately yields. Yet, over the course of the work, if the ego can relate to the unconscious from a place of acceptance and respect, the ego often has a role in the transformation of the Self. Self and ego can then become partnered in mutual and ongoing transformation.

The Real Stuff

Depth psychotherapy can be an experience of genuine personal transformation. In an environment of deep non-judgmental acceptance, close empathic attunement and careful sensitive watching for stirrings of the undiscovered aspects of the self, many find fundamental change through this type of inner work. If you are at a major turning point in your life, or seeking a deeper meaning or more intense experience, you may find depth psychotherapy to be an appropriate path.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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