Journeying Toward Wholeness

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When Work Related Stress Turns Into Major Life Transition, 2

May 28th, 2018 · work related stress

As we saw in the first part of this post, a work related  major life transition can involve a very great amount of work related stress. 

work related stress

In this part, we’ll look at more at what’s involved in traversing such a transition.  As we will see, such transitions can have an enormous impact on the personal and interpersonal levels, and even on the dimensions of meaning and spirituality. As we saw in Part 1, such major life transitions related to work can emerge from: 
  • Merger or Takeover
  • Change of Leadership
  • Long Distance Moves and Transfers; or,
  • Termination of Work
The effects of such things are often deep and complex, and they are often much more profoundly personal in their impact than you might initially think.  Perhaps surprisingly, there may well be elements of these experiences that give significant opportunities for growth towards wholeness.

Relationships

Work transitions can profoundly impact relationships, both inside and outside the work place.  There are a significant number of employees in workplaces for whom work-related relationships are very significant connections, and work-related stress can lead to profound anxiety and be profoundly disruptive of these relationships.

Work relationships often assume great emotional importance.  We’re familiar with the expression “work spouses” — referring to people in the work environment who often have formed a close, even dependent, relationships.  Any of the events we’re describing can result in disruption of these key relationships, deeply affecting the involved individuals.

When long-standing work relationships fray, or are pulled apart by a changing work environment, individuals may face profound questions about priorities far beyond the workplace, leading right into the heart of life.  Relationship is a fundamental part of what gives life meaning and colour.  When work-related major life transitions disrupt relationships, they raise deep questions about where and how we find meaningful relationship in our lives.

work related stress

Changing Priorities

A profound change in the work environment leads to deep questions around priorities.  It may take us to the question, “What truly is of lasting importance to me?”

For many today, work easily becomes the central priority in life.  Its demands can supercede the importance of key relationships, and the other strongest and greatest values of our lives.  When a work crisis takes on the form of a major life transition, it can call into question the whole set of priorities by which a person lives his or her life.

A work-related major life transition can confront us with deep issues around priorities of meaning and spirituality.  Here I mean not so much organized religion as the whole question of over-arching and transcendent values — what we fundamentally want our lives to stand for and honour.  Viewed in this light, our work as a spiritual endeavour.

Identity

Similarly, fundamental questions of identity can be stirred by work related stress that amounts to a major life transition.  Often at times of deep crisis we’re moved much closer to the central question of “Who am I really?”  This all relates to what Jungians refer to as individuation, defined by Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels as

A person’s becoming [him- or her-]self, whole indivisible and distinct from other people or collective psychology (though also in relation to these).

This may take us into shadow work, examining the parts of the self that the individual would rather not acknowledge.  As an individual goes through a major life transition related to work, she or he may come up against fundamental questions of identity, that take the form of unpacking and recognizing the difference between passive acceptance of who my work role tells me I am, and who I am really.  Jung puts it starkly:

The more [someone’s] life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is [his or her] individual immorality.

..where we may think of immorality as “not being true to, or living out, my own fundamental and unique identity.”

Individuation and Work Related Stress

In depth psychotherapy, when the individual is in the grip of work-related stress that is intense enough to be regarded as a major life transition, the goal of the work is to create a safe environment or “container” where the individual may examine the impact on his or herself of this momentous transition, and hopefully also begin to sort out and hear the voice of the true self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Rodrigo Galindez (Creative Commons Licence) ; barbara w (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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The Power of the Mother: Encountering the Mother Archetype

May 14th, 2018 · mother archetype

In our culture, we have a tendency to sentimentalize “Mom”; as a result, we often minimize the power of the mother archetype.

“I love you, Mom!”

Yet, depth psychologists stress that the mother archetype is one of the very most powerful archetypes.  What does that mean?  Well, it amounts to this: the experience of mother almost inevitably has a profound effect on an individual’s life.  In fact, the experience of the mother can be so powerful, that it can effectively determine the whole course of someone’s life.
We’ve just celebrated Mother’s Day, and I’d invite you to take a moment to reflect on the deep psychological power of Mother.

Mother: A Fundamental Experience

The relationship with the mother is usually the first relationship that a child has, and it has a fundamental impact on our relationship to self, other and world.  The child’s sense of security and trust in the world, and her or his ability to relate to others and to process emotion all stem from the quality of the connection with the mother.

We also know through neuroscience research that a nurturing mother leads to an increase in size in the parts of the brain dealing with memory, increases the overall rates of brain cell production and leads to better learning and stress responses.  As Dr. Joan Luby, a leading researcher at Washington University School of Medicine puts it, “It’s now clear that a caregiver’s nurturing is not only good for the development of the child… it actually changes the brain.”

The mother is central to our early experience, and to the whole way we are in the world.  One of the very first forms of human religious expression to ever emerge was the symbol of the Great Mother.  Whatever your particular religious convictions, this fact reveals the sheer enormity of the symbolic and psychological power of mother in human life.

mother archetype

Lakshmi – Hindu Mother Goddess

The Experience of Mother is Very Diverse

The experience of mother, and of particular mothers is very diverse.

Yet, it’s fair to speak about a distinction between people who have an overall positive experience of mother, and people who have an overall negative experience.  For this reason, Jungians often refer to positive and negative mother complexes.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of research in the area of what is called primary attachment — the connection between the primary caregiver, who is usually the mother, and the child.

Simply put, “attachment theory” holds that the capacity which an individual possesses to create emotional and physical “attachment” to another person leads to the psychological stability and security necessary for coping with risk-taking, innovating and trying new things, undergoing major life transitions and developing overall as a human personality.  This capacity is not just important to children.  The capacity of the adult to attach to partners and families has to do with a number of factors — but the most important is the attachment bond with the mother.

The Mother Archetype Stays Important Through Life

The mother archetype, and our relationship to it, is hugely important for our whole relationship with life. Almost everyone has a positive or negative mother complex, and that complex has particular importance for our whole relationship with and trust of others, and of life as a whole.

In depth psychotherapy, people often start to come to terms with mother complexes that may have profoundly affected the overall course of their lives.  Effective depth psychotherapy can change the nature of attachment, relationship, and a sense of security in his or her life, and allow the individual to more fully follow their journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Janice (Creative Commons Licence) ;  (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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When Work Related Stress Turns Into Major Life Transition

May 7th, 2018 · work related stress

Work related stress is part of the day-to-day demands of work.  Yet a work related major life transition combines even greater stress with a huge emotional impact.

work related stress

This is not in any way meant to minimize or dismiss the amount of work related stress stemming from such “everyday” things as strenuous long distance commuting, almost-impossible deadlines, dealing with conflict and office politics, or any of quite a number of other factors.
Yet some stress connected to work stems from a whole other range of factors.  This type of stress involves fundamental life changes related to a person’s work.
In the first part of this post we’ll look at the nature of work-related major life transitions, and in the second part, we’ll examine the personal work of moving through such a process as a part of the journey towards wholeness.

When Work Related Stress Involves Fundamental Life Change

Sometimes the changes brought about in a person’s working life can be so significant that they amount to a basic change in a person’s life and identity.  This can be particularly true for individuals who derive a great deal of their meaning and value from their working lives.  Consider the following examples.

Merger or Takeover.  Consider the individual who has a long and successful career at an organization where the level of responsibility has increased steadily over years of engagement with the firm.  The individual is conscientious and very devoted to work.  He or she has developed a strong network of connections within the organization, and derives his or her identity to a considerable extent from the role in the organization.  When an amalgamation occurs, the structure of the organization can change dramatically.  Often there is a whole new cast of staff, and the mission and business goals of the organization may change out of all recognition.  This may have a profound impact on the individual affected.

Change of Leadership.  Change of organizational leadership can have just as dramatic an effect as a merger or takeover.  It can completely change the character of an organization, and of an individual’s role within it.  If the individual has been largely identified with that role, it can mean that the individual is suddenly struggling to hold onto an identity that once seemed secure, meaningful and unshakable.

Long Distance Moves and Transfers.  When large organizations require their employees to move to a substantial distance, or even internationally or intercontinentally, the work related stress impact can be enormous.  Individuals and their families can be torn out of environments where they felt rooted, and forced to leave supportive communities, networks of relationship and personally meaningful locations behind.  Given that this can occur with regularity for some corporate employees, this can have an enormous cumulative impact.

Work is Terminated.  Once again, if termination occurs to an individual whose identity is largely work-related, it is produces enormous work related stress and is clearly a major life transition.  This is particularly if it occurs to the older employee who might be nearing retirement age.

work related stress

Meaning, Identity and Work Related Stress

These types of work-related major life transition can clearly put a huge focus on questions of personal identity and meaning.  They obviously also create enormous work related stress and anxiety.

Depth psychotherapy recognizes that these issues of meaning, identity and personal connection must be addressed directly to bring healing to the individual.  Yet it recognizes that the individual must often confront strong reactions of anxiety and grief associated with the loss of established identities and roles.

Often, working within the secure container that depth psychotherapy can provide, the individual is able to safely explore his or her own true feelings and reactions in a healing, in-depth way.  Gradually, a renewed and more solid sense of identity and meaning emerges as the individual moves through such major life transitions.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Oscar Rohena (Creative Commons Licence) ; WOCinTech Chat (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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