Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Will Talk Therapy Techniques Help Me?

September 25th, 2017 · talk therapy techniques

“Tradition meaning and grounding” is a phrase that might conjure up some very staid images. Yet grounding and a sense of meaning are fundamental human needs — archetypal needs.

Food can be a powerful carrier of tradition…

Tradition is fundamental to our psychological health, and has its roots in archetype and the basic human need for meaning. Yet, tradition, which sometimes can seem so restrictive, can be lived out in ways that liberate us, and free us to be ourselves, in the best “tradition” of depth psychotherapy!
In Canada, we’re approaching the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which we celebrate considerably earlier than our American friends. Celebrating such a traditional holiday in 2017 brings up all kinds of issues. Is there any way to celebrate such holiday traditions, and to still be authentic, and truly ourselves?

Archetypal Roots of Tradition

From a Jungian perspective, we can say that most traditions in human life have an archetypal foundation. In holidays like Canadian or U.S. Thanksgiving, or the various harvest festivals celebrated worldwide, we certainly see an archetypal core to the celebration. The impulse to gratitude is fundamental in humans, whether it is expressed as gratitude to the ancestors, the spirits, the gods and goddesses, God or Goddess, or simply, the Universe or Life. From prehistoric times, humans have found ways to express their gratitude, and have found satisfaction, grounding, and perhaps even healing in doing so.

As with many characteristic human behaviours, traditions like Thanksgiving are tied to our need to feel rooted or grounded, or at home in the universe. They are also powerful forces that help us feel more connected to others, especially those close to us. There is also research, such as that of U. Minnesota’s Prof. Kathleen Vos and colleagues that shows that rituals of gratitude, or that are associated with positive occasions, just plain enhance our enjoyment of the event.

So, this urge to find tradition is deeply rooted in our conscious and unconscious minds, and our need to find a deep level of meaning in our lives.

Tradition Can be Powerfully Restrictive

tradition meaning

The shadow side of tradition, though, is that received forms of tradition may have exactly the reverse effect on people, and may make events seem meaningless. The received traditions for Thanksgiving or Hannakah or Christmas, for some people will be incredibly invigorating and full of life and good positive associations. For others these forms of tradition may feel shallow, meaningless, or worse, may even have negative or adverse associations. Traditions not firmly rooted in the psyche of the individual may make them feel like they’re trapped in the midst of a herd of sheep.

The Individual and Tradition

As applied to traditions like Thanksgiving, depth psychotherapy examines what traditional or ritual practices resonate with the individual. The focus is on what connects with her or his psyche both consciously, and in terms of deep unconscious connections or resonances, that are rooted in symbol or myth.

The individual may very well connect with the traditional symbolism of a holiday or festival. It may be very meaningful to an individual to have a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. In fact, that might well be the absolutely most meaningful way that the individual can keep the holiday. Such an individual should undoubtedly make turkey a central part of their holiday tradition!

Yet, for a considerable number of individuals the conventional symbolism of a holiday like Thanksgiving just doesn’t work. Yet tradition is important, as it provides grounding and meaningful connection to the human story and our shared collective unconscious stores of myth and symbol. So, it may be essential for the individual to work out their own unique expression of a tradition like Thanksgiving, which they then live out in connection with significant others in their lives. This might take surprisingly individual forms. Perhaps your family holiday repast may come to include a “traditional” Thanksgiving squash and duck pizza!

In the work of Jungian or depth psychotherapy, finding appropriate tradition meaning and grounding will often form the basis of a true expression of the individual self, rooted in psychological depth. This is all part of our on-going journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst


PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © Phyllis Flick (Creative Commons Licence) ; U.S. Department of Agriculture (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Symbolism of Home #3: My Journey Home, Both Inner and Outer

September 18th, 2017 · my journey home

As we saw in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, “Home” has huge importance for our well-being; just as important is the symbol of “my journey home”.

my journey home

ANCIENT GREEK VESSEL – Did Ulysses sail home in a ship like this?

The Image of the Journey Home

The story of the hero who struggles with a mighty intensity to find his or her way back home represents a profound psychological dynamic, and has deep roots in human mythology. Examples of such homeward bound heroes are as diverse as Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz and Riley in Disney’s movie Inside Out. As film scholar Susan MacKay-Kallis tells us, the hero’s journey

…does not not involve simply the discovery of some boon or Holy Grail, it also involves finding him- or herself, which ultimately means finding a home in the universe.

This crucial connection between finding oneself and finding a home in the universe, is a perennial, archetypal theme in human storytelling. For instance, the power of the Odyssey, the ancient story of Ulysses’ heroic strivings to find a way home is in our identification with his struggle: his story is the story of my journey home.

Headed for the Emerald City, but ultimately, for Home

As in the case of Ulysses in the odyssey, the struggle to get home — or even to remember that my goal is to get home — is difficult, challenging and, at times even desperate. And so, the hero who arrives back on the doorstep of home is not the person who started on the journey. To get home, she or he has had to change. In the famous words of T.S. Eliot,

We shall not cease from exploration,

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

My Journey Home – Outer

My journey home may involve encounter with my physical home — my actual, outer bricks and mortar house. Often, the energy that people put into their home is an expression of their desire for grounding and security in the world. Work on gardens or renovations, repair or painting may very well help to satisfy the deep need for safe and secure attachment to place. This may particularly be true for those in mid-life transition or the second half of life, when a person may find her- or himself reviewing the course of life up to the present time, and reflecting on how they got to where they are.

A person may feel similarly drawn to explore the meaning of home by returning to a family home where the individual grew up, or perhaps spent a particularly important part of his or her life. This may evoke an earlier time of connection and security, or it may be that the individual is returning to some aspect of “unfinished business” from an earlier stage in life.

My Journey Home – Inner

The inner journey toward home connects with the outer journey, but has its own particular character. It’s concerned with coming to understand and to be compassionate towards our own inner being.

The inner journey home often involves issues or difficulties in our present day lives, that beckon us to look at aspects of our life in the past. We may encounter the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, or find ourselves coming up against parts of our personality shaped by wounds sustained in earlier parts of our life. Questions of identity and past wounding may get stirred up by a major life transition.

When we begin to understand, acknowledge and process how our past experience has shaped us, we come to a place of increasing acceptance and compassion for ourselves. This is connected with what is often referred to as “feeling at home in our own skin”, — another way of imaging the journey home.

Support for My Journey Home

Depth psychotherapy involves discovering and coming to terms with who we fundamentally are. There are many images in human art, literature and mythology of this process, and one of the most powerful is the image of the journey home. This is profoundly connected with the journey toward wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst


PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © Mark Goebel (Creative Commons Licence) ; Chad Sparkes (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Symbolism of Home #2: The Image of the House & Our Inner Being

September 11th, 2017 · image of the house

As we saw in Part 1 of this series, the image of the house, and the symbolism of home pervade our society, and have very deep roots in our own being. What does this mean for our wholeness and healing?

image of the house

In this post, we explore how that deep inner connection relates to our deep needs and anxieties, and to our journey to ourselves.

Image of the House in Dream and Imagination

Gaston Bachelard, a French thinker who has so influenced architects, social thinkers and psychologists, writes extensively on the image of the house:

On whatever theoretical horizon we examine it, the house image would appear to have become the topography of our intimate being.

Our intimate being, which is to say, our dreams and imagination. So, what does that mean for those of us who live, say, in a place like suburban Oakville, where so much energy goes into the creation of the individual family home?

Bachelard looks carefully at how we experience houses and homes. He tells us that a house “has both unity and complexity”, meaning that as a psychological reality a house has not only floors, ceilings and walls, but is also made out of memories and experiences. He points out that each room stirs its own particular set of sensations, but still is part of a complete, unified experience of living in a home. Objects in the home are not dead, soulless things: for us, they’re full of our experience of them accumulated over time, and full of rich meaning.

For Bachelard, the house is not abstract, but is about how we inhabit our fundamental life space. In the midst of all the ambiguities, chances and changes of life, the house is about “how we take root, day after day, in a ‘corner of the world’.” These insights are profoundly important for depth psychotherapy.

image of the house

Container for Soul

Bachelard uses the metaphor of a mollusk to shed light on the image of the house as a symbolic and lived reality. The mollusk has a hard outer shell, which Bachelard would compare to the walls and solid exterior of the house. Inside the shell is the soft, tender living creature, akin to “soul”, the important, lived inner reality of our lives where we are intimate with ourselves and others. This image of the house as the container for our souls connects strongly with Jungian psychotherapy, which is deeply focused on the inner experience of each of us as unique human beings.

The house, in dreams or imagination, symbolizes the richness of inner human life. The houses we live in are full of all the reality of colourful, intimate family and individual life. To be in our house in imagination or in dream often symbolizes inner space where we connect with the deepest, most personal and most precious parts of our subjective lives. Symbolically, to be in a good solid house is to connect with those realities in a living way, while keeping safe from psychological threat.

Perhaps that’s why the image of the house is so important in our time. As Leonard Cohen tells us, in this time the “blizzard of the world” pushes into us so much through our work demands, mass and social media, and the forces of mass marketing and advertising. “Holding on to ourselves” becomes a matter of vital importance.

Working to Build the House of the Self

The image of the house symbolizes the individual self. Our failure to give our unique individual self its due leads to a deep insecurity and sense of anxiety that many experience in our time. For a sense of security, meaning and vocation, we need a “house” firmly founded on a deep awareness of who we actually, subjectively are.

The work of depth psychotherapy focuses on the deep inner life of the individual person, striving to forge a lasting and resilient sense of identity grounded in the Self.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst


PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © Mark Goebel (Creative Commons Licence) ; James St. John (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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