Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Effects of Internet Addiction in Later Adulthood

February 26th, 2018 · effects of internet addiction

The media are greatly interested in the effects of internet addiction on the young.  Yet, what about its impact on your life in later adulthood?

effects of internet addiction

Not how we usually think of social media!  (PHOTO: Mike Licht)

We can find any number of commentators to tell us that social media and other internet activities such as interactive games and porn are having enormous negative and addictive impacts on young and incompletely developed minds in our society.  What is often not so clearly discerned is the way that the internet has changed all of us, and threatens to change us even more.  This most definitely includes the effects of internet addiction, in its various forms, on those in full adulthood.  To understand this fully, we need to view our internet usage from the perspective of our journey towards wholeness — our individuation journey.

The Nature of the Effects of Internet Addiction

The Globe and Mail recently published a dialogue between Jim Balsillie, of Blackberry fame, and prominent psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author Dr. Norman Doidge entitled “Can We Ever Kick Our Smartphone Addiction?”  Dr. Doidge asserts,

[U]nlike other addictions that are opposed by mainstream institutions, screen time is being pushed by educators, governments and businesses….  

[T]he chemistry and the wiring of the brain can be manipulated. There are all sorts of behavioural addictions … that take hold because they trigger the same areas of the brain as drugs. People are unsuspecting of digital addiction. That’s because each addiction… has a slightly different form and effect, so it takes a while to recognize any new addiction as such….

Digital tech is especially good at changing our brains without our awareness. The brain is neuroplastic, meaning it has a property that allows it to change its structure and function in response to mental experience….

[W]e should believe [a former Google strategist, who stated] … “The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine human will.” [italics mine] ….  The study of behaviour and the brain has increasingly turned its attention to technology’s power to transform the way we think….  Data gathered from our keystrokes can be used to further addict us, in a tailor-made way, and sold to advertisers and even to politicians… to get us to buy what they are selling.

Important for the Young, Just as Important for Those Older

The level of manipulation and programming of humans that Doidge describes is shocking.  It’s a powerful indictment of internet and social media technologies, and their power to undermine human freedom.  The article focuses on impacts on young people, but adults also need to consider the effects of internet addiction on their lives.  I would stress that this is particularly true for those in mid-life and later, who seek to find their own true core values, and to live out the fullness of who they are in later life.

Life is the Same as It Ever Was

As individuals move through the major life transitions of adulthood into the second half of life, the individuation journey is as important as it ever was.  Life asks us to seek understanding of who we most fundamentally are, to discover as much as we can of the undiscovered self,  and to live in accord with our deepest and most unique values.  We need to do this things, if we’re to feel that our unique lives have any real significance or meaning.

Given the life journey that we’re on, it’s essential for us to give deep and careful consideration to the impact of social media and the internet on our lives.  Canadians spend more and more time online, and the age group where usage is increasing most rapidly is seniors.  We each need to ask ourselves: Am I moving in my own authentic direction, or am I being subtly molded to meet someone else’s expectations and goals for my life through online manipulation?  This can be an area of genuine and deep importance for us, and it may be strongly related to issues of anxiety and depression.

effects of internet addiction

Beyond the Siren Call of Online Life

The fundamental task of depth psychotherapy is to assist the individual in the process of individuation, of finding grounding in her or his own unique identity.  We live in an age where the individual is subjected to relentless but subtle distraction, compulsion and pressure to comply to the demands of others.  This is often especially true in our online life.  Good depth psychotherapy can assist the individual in getting beyond the effects of internet addiction — to which we are all to some degree subject — and to finding the true voice of the unique Self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Mike Licht (Creative Commons Licence) ;  (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, OntaWIthout rio (near Mississauga)

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Eros and the Meaning of Valentine’s Day: Connection

February 13th, 2018 · meaning of valentine's day

If you ask people about the “meaning of Valentine’s Day”,  you might get some pretty cynical responses!

meaning of valentine's day

Some might tell you that it’s a holiday made up to sell more greeting cards, which is, of course, largely true.  An individual therapist might well hear from a client that it’s a sentimental celebration of romantic love, that is sickly-sweet to an even greater degree than many of the confections sold this time of year.  Yet, could it possible be that, under all the froth, there is something of real substance?

Valentine’s Day is a Manufactured Holiday–But…

…the reality to which it refers is a key part of the human experience.

Very often on Valentine’s cards, or boxes of chocolates, you can see a picture of a chubby little childlike sprite with wings — we know him as Cupid.  He is actually the sentimentalized version of the Greek deity Eros.

meaning of valentines day

Who Is Eros?

Eros is the Greek god of sexual love and passion, but really he is a representation of much more than that.  As Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp tells us, Eros is,

[i]n Greek mythology, the personification of love, a cosmogonic force of nature; psychologically, the function of relationship.

So, in Greek mythology, Eros, “love” has a key role in bringing the universe into being. What is more, he is a personification of the entirety of the human desire to be related to others — in any way whatsoever.  As Andrew Samuels puts is, he is symbolically

“The Principle of Psychic Relatedness”

Eros is really the principal of connection.  He represents all the ways in which we connect to, and are aware of, and bond with others, in any way, shape or form.  However that happens in our lives, it’s fundamentally important to our identity.

meaning of valentine's day

Jung stressed the fact that we need to individuate, to become the unique individual that contain the potential to be.  Some people have interpreted that as a call to individualism, a sort of John Wayne-Clint Eastwood-Marlboro Man stance of “me versus the world”.  However, Jung didn’t mean that .  He stressed that there is no way for us to become the unique people that we’re meant to be, or to move towards that goal, unless we are in some way shape or form involved in a serious and important relationship contact with others.

That doesn’t mean that we have to be “in a relationship”, as our culture puts it — meaning “in a romantic relationship”.  But it does mean that we have to be involved in significant ways with others: open to them, connected to them, with empathy towards them, listening to them.  This is especially important at midlife and beyond.

The Need for Connection

Psychotherapists, and especially depth psychotherapists, know that it’s essential for us to be connected to others, for health, well-being and growth.  We now know from attachment theory, developmental psychology and neuroscience that we can’t even become human without human connection.  We certainly can’t individuate, in Jung’s use of the term.

It’s essential for all of us to be connected to others.  In my opinion, that’s the true meaning of Valentine’s Day — or Eros Day, as I would rename it if I could!

Relationship and Psychotherapy

Humans fundamentally need relationship, and often,  an important part of, yes, individual psychotherapy can be enabling the person to find closer connection with others.  The fundamental work of individuation in psychotherapy comes in part because Jungian psychotherapy is a healing relationship.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS:  Vinoth Chandar (Creative Commons Licence) ; AmazonCARES (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, OntaWIthout rio (near Mississauga)


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Dancing with Your Unlived Life: Living Life Without Regret

February 4th, 2018 · living life without regret

Living life without regret is the desire of many who are consumed by past choices, and haunted by thoughts that “it could have been different”.

living life without regret

“If I could turn back time…”      (PHOTO: MattysFlicks)  

Strong regret can impact us at any stage of our life journey.  The human condition is such that, at any point in our life journeys, we may become haunted by “what could have been”.  Or we can feel keenly that we made the wrong choice. Or that we didn’t act, and if only we had, things would have been so much different.
Are there particular stages of life where regret can fasten onto us?  Actually we can feel regret at any  stage of life.  It can hit in a particularly painful, bitter way after the loss of someone we love, however that loss might occur.  It is also often potently strong in the second half of life, when individuals very often start to intensively review the whole of their life story, and to try to understand their lives as part of a meaningful pattern.

The Burden of Unlived Life and Regret

C.G. Jung was among the first to speak of the psychological implications of the “unlived life”, though many have since followed him.  Here is one of his more famous quotes:

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

Here Jung makes the point that the unlived life of an individual is one of the strongest influences on the environment in which an individual finds him or herself.   Jung makes a point of stressing that this unlived life impacts particularly  on the lives of the individual’s children.  We can assume that the influence Jung is describing is certainly not always for the better.

What Is the “Unlived Life”?

What is this “unlived life”?  At its most fundamental level, it relates to who each one of us is.  It relates to those possibilities that exist deep within us that we sense we could have lived out, but have not. As Jungian psychologist Robert A. Johnson reminds us, it relates to those feelings we have that there is something we could have done, something we could have experienced — for which some part of us is deeply yearning.  This unlived life is often there in those three in the morning waking moments, when we realize a profound sense of longing for something that could have been.

All human beings, no matter how talented or successful, have possibilities contained within them which have not been realized.  At least a few of these options, or perhaps quite a significant number, are associated with regret, either explicitly and consciously recognized and acknowledged, or else carried unconsciously, in unacknowledged ways.  Sometimes we exert incredible amounts of effort to keep from acknowledging them.

Unlived Possibility: It Wants Something from Us

The weight of these unlived-out possibilities can grow and grow as we move through our lives.  This can become so intense that, quite frequently around the middle of life, or sometime after, the issue comes to the fore in an individual’s life in a way that demands a resolution.

Even if the issue doesn’t present in quite so dramatic a manner, the unlived life, and the yearning and regret associated with it, may easily become one of the most important issues in our lives.

Getting Creative with Regret

Needless to say, these feelings are not something that we want to carry in an unbalanced way through the rest of our lives.  To imagine living out life in this way might seem intolerable.  Is there anything we can do to reduce the sense of loss, grief and regret?

Is there any way that we can engage with this unlived life, and either somehow live it out, or else make our peace with it?

living life without regret

Living out a childhood passion... leaving corporate life to look after abandoned dogs

Living Life Without Regret

Individuals often enter depth psychotherapy seeking in some manner to work with, and come to terms with, the various aspects of the unlived life.  They seek to find ways to move beyond regret and grief, and into a creative and life-giving living out of possibilities in the now.  Much of this involves coming to terms with and creatively engaging their own life story, and their own personal journey towards wholeness, .

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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


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