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The Ongoing Transition: Young Adults Living at Home — Again

May 29th, 2017 · young adults living home

This is the time of year when many parents experience young adults living at home — once again!

adult children living home

At this season many young adults come back from college or university to live temporarily in the family home, which can be a very important experience of life transition for both parents and children.
Children living at home can be temporary, for the summer. Or, these summer returns may be a foretaste of a growing phenomenon: children returning to the family home after finishing post-secondary studies.
Children returning for the summer can generate strong emotions for both young adults and parents, as depth psychotherapists know. As part of a key life transition, it’s important to think about what occurs to us psychologically as a result of these returns.

What Has Changed?

In this situation, parents may first become aware of changes that have occurred from the time when the adult child lived at home. Their child may appear more independent, more vocal, more morose, or any of a range of other possibilities. College or university may have liberated or empowered, or it may have been an experience of genuine hardship and disorientation.

The parent may struggle to come to terms with the emotions generated in this situation. There can be grief for the loss of the old relationship, joy for a sense of newfound strength and empowerment, or anxiety for the future of the adult child.

It’s rare for this type of re-encounter to have little or no emotional impact.

What Has Stayed the Same?

Yet, these returns to the family home may also make both parents and students aware what has stayed the same through the separation. For better or worse, in many respects, people will be the same, showing up much as they always have. Habits and characteristics of individuals will be the same. One very difficult thing in such situations may be the ways in which people are unable to see even others they deeply love for who they really are. The other may also miss who we really are, as well.

What is Stuck?

Young adults living at home again may remind us of stuckness in the relationship. We may get absolute, merciless clarity on how the relationship between parent and child is stuck into patterns that neither party knows how to change.

adult children living home

Where is Soul?

For the young adult living at home again, but even more so for the parent who lives the experience of the adult child’s return, much may lead us to an encounter with our own soul, and our own hitherto undiscovered self.

The adult child seeks to discern and move in a forward direction, toward an autonomous, fulfilling and contributing way of life. Yet, equally important are the transitions undergone by the parent of the adult child.

The meaning of parenthood often changes as the relationship with the young adult living at home shifts into new forms. Given that, for many in our current world, parenting is such a demanding and involving engagement, this may entail deep shifts in personal identity.

For many a parent, encounters with changing adult children may be the heralds of a new soul journey. Involvement in the world of the child may now start to be solely at the invitation of the child.

Even if, as the Pew Report and UC Santa Barbara’s Bella DePaulo suggest, adult children are increasingly returning to live at home after finishing post-secondary, many parents will experience of a slow but inevitable change in the relationship with the adult child.

Simultaneously, an inevitable and ever stronger call to listen to the leadings of one’s own soul, and the journeys of individual self discovery that now invite us, can free us into a new and unexplored aspect of our identity, and our lives.

The process of individuation, and finding the direction forward in the post-child rearing years are key parts of the ongoing soul work engaged 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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Archetypal Mother’s Day: Mothering & Attachment Issues In Adults

May 15th, 2017 · attachment issues in adults

Happy Archetypal Mother’s Day! Here I look at our genetically engrained need for good mothering, and how childhood experience profoundly impacts attachment issues in adults.

attachment issues in adults

Mothering has many key similarities across different cultures.

By “attachment” we mean our ability to connect meaningfully with those close to us. Our need to attach is one of our most profound human needs. Our capacity for healthy attachment is going to impact our whole capacity for handling major life transitions.

Whether we can do this depends, first and foremost on our experience of mother at an early age.

At the Beginning of Life, Mother is Everything

Initially, as infants, our mother is everything to us. The way that she relates to us, and how she treats us will literally impact our whole experience of our lives. Whether we see life is dependable and supportive will depend in absolutely crucial ways on the mother-child relationship.

In addition, whether we are able to form a loving attachment bond with anyone else is profoundly impacted by whether our mother is able to teach us how to have a secure attachment bond with her. If we experience the mother-child relationship as secure and supportive, feel seen and valued for who we are, and experience our mother as able to help us “emotionally regulate” (calm ourselves in intense distress) — it will make a huge difference as to whether we can give these things to others in relationship later in life, and receive them from someone who wants to give them to us.

attachment issues in adults

Throughout Life, We Have a Deep Need for Successful Attachment

Our relationship with our mother is going to change with time. We also need to develop attachment bonds to other people in our lives: family, lovers, friends, children. To get the best from life we have to be able to be open, trusting, giving.

Yet, attachment issues are widespread in adults. For many, they impair ability to be close, to trust, and to give. Situations with partners, children, or even close friends may evoke feelings, and possibly memories that go back to experiences when we were very young, when attachment was disrupted.

Major Life Transitions of Those Close to Us Profoundly Affect Us

Those deeply affected by disrupted attachment at crucial points in their life journey can find that major life transitions consciously or unconsciously evoke feelings and memories connected with the original experience.

Example 1. A woman who had powerful experiences of parental loss and abandonment, which came to a head in her very early 20s, underwent a very strong emotional reaction at a time when her daughter encountered medical and vocational challenges at a similar age, and, simultaneously, the oldest and best of her parents’ friends died.

Example 2. A man who underwent a crisis in his relationship with his mother in his late teens underwent a period of intense feeling as his own children went through the same life stage, and, with his help, got launched on very positive post-secondary paths. He found it genuinely healing to realize that, through his and his spouse’s efforts, their children were having very life-affirming experiences of this life stage. In addition, he was able in this time to process a great deal of feeling associated with that difficult period in his life.

Healing of Attachment Issues in Adults

When people confront severely disrupted attachment or early life trauma, they can experience a sense of genuine, chaos, or meaninglessness, or sometimes a mass of indescribable, incoherent emotion. Such experience may well lead to attachment issues in adults. To address them, it can be essential to find someone supportive who can help to contain the emotion involved, to regulate it, and to turn traumatic events into meaningful, coherent story.

Depth psychotherapy with a high quality therapist can provide ways for individuals to confront and process their early experiences of disordered attachment or trauma. As Jungian neuropsychoanalyst Margaret Wilkinson, states, “Exchanges that involve putting feelings into words… are an intrinsic part of the process of coming into mind. [Therapy] that encompasses relational as well as interpretive [work] can bring about … change in the nature of attachment [and] permit the self to emerge more fully through the process of individuation.”

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Selfhood, Anxiety and Social Media

May 8th, 2017 · anxiety and social media

We hear more and more about anxiety and social media. Why? Because social media is uncanny in its ability to foster self-doubt.

 

anxiety and social media

...Drowning in Social Media… Photo Credit: howtostartablogonline.net

Among new technologies, social media have an unrivalled capacity to lead us into negative self-assessment and anxiety. Why exactly is that? In this post, I look at social media through the lens of depth psychotherapy and Jungian psychology.

What Do We Do to Ourselves with Social Media?

Social media has a real effect on personality and sense of self. Research shows that predominant reasons for people going on to social media are to experience connection with others, and to feel a sense of belonging. Unsurprisingly, in an era when many people feel less of a sense of community, we often tend to gain a sense of social support through our networks.

What Do Others Do to Us?

However, there’s a powerful connection between using social media and comparing ourselves with other people. A body of research shows that, as Facebook users,anxiety and social media we have a strong tendency to socially compare ourselves with others. Apparently, whether this leaves us feeling better or worse emotionally depends on whether we engage in “upward” or “downward” social comparison.

As the research of E.A. Vogel and colleagues at University of Toledo shows, if we engage in upward social comparison, there seems to be strong evidence that it leads to negative outcomes for many users such as lower self esteem, and depressive and/or anxiety symptoms. On the contrary, if we compare downward, to others who don’t seem to have as much going for them as we do, apparently, we feel better. However, Vogel et al.’s research indicates that people tend to believe that other social media users have better lives than they do, and also indicates that Facebook users are more likely to engage in upward social comparison than downward.

Whether “upward” or “downward”, all of this leads to a very important question: Why are we getting our self-esteem, or lack thereof, from comparison with other people in the first place? And how could self-esteem based on such a source be anything but flimsy?

What About the Self?

Another factor that strengthens the link between anxiety and social media is the extent to which social media reinforce social conformity and group think. UCLA Prof. Lauren Sherman and colleagues show that the same brain circuits activated by eating chocolate and winning at gambling are activated when teenagers see large numbers of “Likes” on their photos on social media, and that teens are far more likely on social media to like a photo that many others have liked than one with few likes. Such tendencies might be particularly pronounced in teens, but it’s highly likely that similar dynamics are at work in older populations, and contribute to the self-reinforcing “echo chamber” effects that reinforce conformity in thinking around political and social issues on social media.

Starting with Jung himself, Jungian psychology and psychotherapy has stressed the unique value and dignity of each of us as human individuals. Ever since the 1920s, Jung warned urgently of the dangers of individuals becoming submerged in the collective mass of humanity. When social media were far in the future, Jung recognized very well the danger of individual identity disappearing in mass political and social movements. He stressed that each of us need to take time with ourselves, away from social pressures, making the effort to understand and accept who we really are, and finding our own individual path. In our own time, we urgently need more time away from modern communications and social media, to orient ourselves by our own inner compass, rather than the compass of the crowd

Depth psychotherapy actively engages with individuals in their uniqueness. It works with the deepest elements of the individual’s personality to find meaning and self-esteem in the individual’s unique being and unique calling, rather than through comparisons with others.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Canadian Mental Health: Jungian Depth Psychotherapy Perspectives

May 1st, 2017 · Canadian mental health

The 66th CMHA Mental Health Week begins Monday, May 1, making this a prime time to reflect on Canadian mental health from a Jungian perspective.

My Alma Mater: University of Calgary Alum at CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide event, 2016

There’s real value in looking at the central message of this week from the viewpoint of Jungian depth psychotherapy. What does a depth psychotherapy perspective make of our current deep societal concern with issues of mental health?

What’s So Important about Canadian Mental Health?

On the CMHA Mental Health Week website, the Canadian Mental Health Association states:

This year during CMHA Mental Health Week, Canadians are speaking up: we’ve been in line for mental health care for way too long…. We are literally sick of waiting. But we’re not only waiting for mental health care. To be truly mentally well, Canadians also need psychotherapy, counselling and community-based mental health services and programs; we need acknowledgement and respect; and we need adequate housing.

Canada (like other nations) has enormous mental health and mental wellness needs, and there are huge gaps in the provision of vital services. This is particularly true for the young and the elderly, but the need extends through all ages and social strata in our society.

Canadian Mental Health: It’s Close to Home

This is not some abstract issue. If it doesn’t affect us personally, it affects people close to us in our lives. Psychotherapists are well aware that almost everyone knows and cares about someone who is wrestling with a mental health issue. It could be a spouse or partner, a relative, a friend, a co-worker, or one’s own children. Looking at people in our lives, we see the huge cost that mental health issues exact on good, worthwhile human beings.

The Wounded Parts Within Ourselves

If we need more reasons for solidarity with those struggling with mental health needs, we could look within. If we’re radically honest with ourselves, we realize that, within each of us, there are deeply psychically wounded and unadapted parts. As C.G. Jung stated long ago,

If we feel our way into the human secrets of the person… we recognize in the mental illness merely an exceptional reaction to emotional problems which are not strange to us.
C.G. Jung, “Content of the Psychoses”

This is clear when we consider depression and anxiety, for instance, which almost everyone has experienced to some degree.

Mental Health and Jung’s Idea of Shadow

Jung often spoke of “shadow” which he defined as “the thing which one has no wish to be”. Jungian Andrew Samuels interprets this as “the negative side of the personality, the sum of all the unpleasant qualities one wants to hide”. This certainly includes those parts of the personality that are not adapted to our lives, and/or that represent areas of weakness for us.

canadian mental health

From 1913 to 1917, Jung went through a profound inner exploration later communicated in his famous Red Book. He encountered what he regarded as profoundly unbalanced and unstable elements in his own personality. Jung became convinced that every human personality has such elements, and that the only way to deal with them is to get to know them as much as we can, and to meet them with an attitude of profound acceptance and deep compassion. This can only have good consequences for our attitude to Canadian mental health. As he puts it,

If people can be educated to see… their own natures…. [a] little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance towards oneself can only have good results for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to [others] the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures.

Mental Health: Our Own, and Others’

Only greater self-understanding and acceptance lead to genuine compassion toward the Other. Beyond terrifying stereotypes and myths of mental illness are profound truths of human living and suffering that we all share.

It’s the task of depth psychotherapy to not only make us more aware of our unique individuality, but to heighten awareness of our profound connection with all other people in our shared human nature and experience.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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