Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What is Real Success in a Status-Driven World?

November 20th, 2017 · what is real success

What is real success?  Some people would tell you that the true indicators are readily visible, and are embodied in key brands like “Rolex”, “Gucci” and “Porsche”.

what is real success

…or, possibly, “Lambo”…

Certainly, we live in a world where the outward signs of “success” appear to be more and more prized all the time.  In a large metropolitan area like the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, where I live, the marks of success seem to be very visibly on display.  There’s no lack of cars, houses and wardrobe items that seem clearly intended to convey the message that their owners have “arrived”, as the expression goes.

Real Success — At What?

If we disdain to view such material things, pleasant as they might be, as the hallmarks of success, we might adopt an alternative standard based on the degree to which a person’s accomplishments conform to a set of widely accepted social values.  These might include material or financial success, or else an individual’s social prominence or status.  Such things are indeed common yardsticks used in our culture to determine whether an individual has attained the things that render an individual life worthwhile.  Another, somewhat more altruistic standard that might be applied would be the level of the individual’s contribution to the well-being of society (for instance, through enterprise, philanthropy, or performing a particularly socially useful service such as medical care or piloting jet airliners).

Yet, here is a psychological fact borne out by clinical experience.  An individual might do any or all of these things, and still feel that he or she has not succeeded, that what he or she has done is not fundamentally worthwhile.

What’s Worthy of Being Called Success?

Any of the things mentioned above might easily be regarded by one person as the true criteria of success, and by another as something completely worthless.

Santa Clara University’s Prof. Thomas Plante reminds us,

Too often in our increasingly competitive, connected, and often Darwinian world we are told in multiple ways that success is defined by money, power, fame, and basically being better than everyone else! …[I]t seems like the meta-message is “more is always better than less” and that you can never be satisfied until you have more than what you have now.

The essence of what Prof. Plante describes is comparison.  Hence, success amounts to comparing yourself to others, and, if you feel that you come off better than they do, well, congratulations, you’re a success!

Social sciences literature is now full of articles describing the relative effects of so-called “upward” and “downward” social comparison, and which makes you happier.  Certainly, any psychotherapist knows that we’re going to compare ourselves to others; that’s a pretty innate impulse in humans.  But is there any other possibility for determining a way to success?

Inner Directed Success

Well, it’s a psychological truth that humans can choose to apply yardsticks to things in their lives that emerge from their own being, rather than from externals.  What if we were to draw our understanding of success from our own inner standards of what we find meaningful?  Jungian therapy, in fact, gives us a bit of a touchstone that helps us connect with our own inner standard of true meaningfulness:

What is Real Success

…A Touchstone!

The child’s capacity to be utterly absorbed in something, to give her- or himself over completely to an activity or engagement helps us to see and understand how it works when something is truly important to an individual.  Despite the distractions of the urge for external comparison, the individual needs to focus on what it is that truly grips him or her at the deepest level, and to try to embody that value in his or her life.

So, in a sense, there is an objective inner standard for each of us as to what success is.  However, that standard is very personal and unique.  To understand it, we have to engage deeply with our own inner reality.

What is Real Success? That Depends on Your Inner Journey

“Real success” will depend on being attentive to your own inner experience, and you own inner journey.  It will be impossible to tell if you have attained real success if you don’t understand your inner life.

The work of inner journey is the heart of psychotherapy in a depth modality.  The shift from an outer, other-directed focus to a definition of success focused on living out the essence of my own being touches on the fundamental meaning of our journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Attribution Philippe Put (Creative Commons Licence) ; (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How to Recover From a Burnout in a Professional Career

November 13th, 2017 · how to recover from a burnout

More and more professional people are struggling with how to recover from a burnout.  While some think that burnout is a hypochrondriacal fantasy — it’s not.

how to recover from a burnout

…Is your work life feeling utterly robotic?

Depth psychotherapists know that burnout is a psychological condition with dramatic effects.  Some of the most commonly noted characteristics of burnout are cynicism, depression, listlessness, lack of energy, indifference and apathy. It often occurs when you feel that how you carry out your job is not under your control, or you’re working toward goals that don’t resonate with you, or there’s no social support.

A Pandemic in Professional Work

There is more and  more burnout now among professional workers of many types.  It tends to strike highly motivated “can do” personalities.  Such people work extremely hard, often for very long hours, and continually set the bar higher for themselves.  They tend to become professionals in fields that include medicine, law, engineering, teaching, accounting and management.  They’re motivated to do a very good job, but can often find themselves in unsupportive environments where they’re not appreciated.

First Recognize The Markers of Burnout

Three markers that at least raise the question of whether you are suffering from burnout are:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion;
  • cynicism and detachment, especially with regard to your work; and,
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

If you’re suffering from these three, or suspect that you are, it may well be time to consult with a therapist about burnout.

The Burnout Double-Bind

Burnout almost always has elements of depression and anxiety within it, due to certain common characteristics of burnout situations.  Such situation often involve someone who is highly motivated to do a good job and bring positive benefit, who is put into a situations where he or she is powerless to achieve a good or a positive outcome, due to constraints that are beyond their control.

This situation very often occurs in the helping professions — medicine, teaching, nursing and so on.  However, it can certainly effect individuals who are well outside of what is normally thought of as a “helping profession”.

Example.  Kelly is a mechanical engineer with a long record of working extremely hard to overcome formidible obstacles and achieve unexpectedly good results.  Kelly has spent 12 years at “PartCo”, has been promoted many times, and is now the head of one of the firm’s divisions.  She’s achieved much in this role, surrounding herself with hand-picked, very high quality people who form the backbone of the division.  A sense of team, deep loyalty, and the absolute importance of working extremely hard to belong and contribute have been key values, with long, deep roots in Kelly’s personal story.

Due to sudden market changes, the demand for the parts Kelly’s division creates has halved.  The new CEO has told Kelly to cut 45% of her staff, and is drastically cutting her budget.   Kelly now sees little opportunity in her division.  Previously committed to fostering team and supporting people, now she must let many go.  Values of loyalty and hard work and setting an example that were fundamental until recently, now seem completely irrelevant.  “I’m just serving time now,” she says, ‘it’s all I can do to drag myself to work, yet I have to work harder than ever just to keep things going.”

Burnout As a Call to Your Own Journey

The journey out of burnout is often demanding.  It may involve very substantial changes in life direction.  To authentically move one’s life past burnout may involve considerable personal work, attentively listening to, and waiting upon what is trying to emerging in the individual’s life.

Nonetheless, in the short run, there are several key elements of self care that individuals seeking how to recover from a burnout should consider:

  • Avoid taking on any new work commitments or responsibilities;
  • Delegate as many things as possible;
  • Avoid jumping from one stressful, time-consuming project to the next in order to give your mind and body a chance to recover;
  • Limit the presence of intrusive technologies into your life as much as possible; and,
  • Move beyond your professional group(s), so as to be in contact with how others experience you in a non-work context.
  • Discover where in your life you find your most strongly motivating passions and explore them.
  • Find ways — through therapy, journalling, artistic or other expression — to listen to your inner being.

Burnout and Integrity

The work of Jungian depth psychotherapy, in particular, focuses on uncovering the authentic self and the unique individual.  The challenge of burnout may be excruciating, but therapy work that involves finding ways to listen to the depths of the self, may transform it into an essential element in our journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Attribution herval (Creative Commons Licence) ; (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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“Time Flies So Fast”: Baseline Truth in the Second Half of Life

November 6th, 2017 · time flies so fast

“Time flies so fast” is a sentiment that psychotherapists hear with extraordinary frequency, along with many equivalent expressions. This is a very common perception, especially in the second half of life.

time flies so fast

Just this weekend, we in Ontario set our clocks back from Daylight Saving to Standard time.  On the one hand, this is very good news: everyone gets an extra hour of sleep!  On the other hand these seasonal  or annual events that require that we change our clocks remind us that time is passing, perhaps more rapidly than we would like.

Life is Passing Time

Yet, if we imagine having a magic genie who could stop the flow of time for us, we would probably be wise not to let the genie do it!  As humans living in this universe, we are creatures who only exist because we live in the flow of time.  The awareness of time passing is the awareness of being in our lives.  We need the passage of time in order to have all the experiences — love, joy, peace, sorrow, and all the others.  Yet, as we grow older we notice something that is profound and that seems to be a universal part of human experience.

It Can Seem That “Time Flies So Fast”!

A great many people report the sense that, as they age, time seems to pass more quickly.  We’ve generally known this for a very long time, but now empirical research tends to support the conclusion that this effect is nearly universal.  IN 2005, researchers Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lehnhoff of Ludwig-Maxmillian University Munich found a general perception that time speeds up with increased age, which is compatible with the findings of other researchers, such as Douwe Draaisma  of  Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Many will find that this research accords with their experience.  We remember the infinite reaches of uncharted time that we seemed to have as preschoolers.  Then as school age children, time seemed to move, but the length of time, for instance, from a sixth birthday to the final day of grade 6 seemed vast, almost geologic.  As we aged into our high school years, then perhaps university or early 20s, it still often seemed that reaching landmark dates like graduating from high school or university or even graduate school occurred with glacial slowness.  But then, as we move through the years, each successive year seems to come quicker, and finally, perhaps, we reach the point where we say the same thing about the decades.

Paralysis and Stuck Patterns

People can find this ever-increasing speed of passage to be a source of distress or anxiety.  “Time flies so fast”, the individual tells us, “it feels as if my life is slipping between my fingers, and I can’t even grasp it!”

Yet research also highlights some things that the experience of depth psychotherapists confirms, having to do with the ways in which we remember experiences we’ve had.  Notably, we tend to recall experiences that are different or novel in much greater detail.  We also tend to have greater attention and awareness of novel experiences occurring in a joyful or expectant context.  Research also suggests that people who are less anxious and depressed, and less stressed out in daily life not only report greater life satisfaction and self-esteem, but also, in subjective memory, the last 10 years of these individuals lives seem to pass more slowly.

Important Conclusions

All of this is connected to the work that people do in encountering their own unique selves in depth psychotherapy.  As people move into the second half of life, it’s essential to realize that time — and life — are moving fast. Life continues to challenge second half of life people to make the most of every moment and every opportunity.

If we’re in the second half of life, the question of key values becomes absolutely immediate: “What is really important to me now in my life?”  It’s key for us to open up our lives, and deepen and enhance our experience of ourselves, others, and the things that really matter to us in our world.  This may well bring us to questions concerning what in our particular, unique human life experience has transcendent value.  And that may lead to depth psychotherapy as a way of furthering our journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Attribution jimnista (Creative Commons Licence) ; (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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