Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Empty Nest Anxiety: Where Can I Find Identity and Meaning?

July 30th, 2018 · empty nest anxiety

Funny thing about empty nest anxiety: we tend to associate it with mothers.  Yet, it’s actually something that can affect all committed and involved parents — as I well know!

Young Sparrow

Those of us who view parenting as a creative activity, and those of us who are deeply committed to the well-being of our children often find it very challenging as they head out more into their own lives.  This can be a reality that many experience strongly at this time of year, as young adults start preparing to move away from home for study or work for the first time.  Parents can feel it more and more acutely as each year passes, and adult children return to school with an ever increasing level of self-direction and autonomy.

The Roots of Empty Nest Anxiety

When children get to the age of starting to move out of the house, and into their own involvements, it’s a time of major life transition for all concerned.  What is often less visible than it should be is the huge impact on parents.

Particularly if you’re like me, and you’ve been close to your children, this is time of powerfully conflicting feelings.  We naturally have feelings of gratification and success that our kids are making this important transition, combined, naturally, with anxiety and hope.  We also recognize that it’s a huge change in the way that we as parents live.  There may be feelings of possibility and freedom, but also feelings of loneliness, and of the differences we’re starting to experience in our lifestyle and social networks. So, different parts of us may experience confidence and fear, happiness and sadness, optimism and dread — all at the same time.

It’s very natural and very common for people to experience this transition with anxiety, stress, and joy.  There will often be genuine period of grief as people adjust to this new reality.  This can lead to a sense of new possibilities opening up in peoples’ lives.

Why It’s Important Not to “Get Stuck”

As Prof. Barbara Mitchell, of Simon Fraser University, and her colleagues have observed in their research, there are a number of factors that can complicate the process of dealing with empty nest anxiety.  These include:

  • Having your identity wrapped up in being a parent.
  • Finding it difficult to accept loss of control over your children’s lives.
  • If you have few or only children.
  • If you’re lacking a social support network as you go through this transition.
  • If you feel that the child’s departure was too early or too late, or some situations where children don’t completely leave home — so-called “boomerang” children.
  • If you experience intense worry over how your child is doing in the world outside the home.

These factors can lead to a “stuckness” in empty nest anxiety, where the parent perhaps makes excessive bids for control over the child, or involvement in his or her life — or the parent may find that he or she is simply unable to move forward with his or her own life.

empty nest anxiety

Moving Beyond Empty Nest Anxiety

If you’re dealing with empty nest anxiety, it may be very helpful to use meditation or relaxation techniques.  There may also be real value in connecting socially with friends or others who are close to you.

However, it may be important to consider depth psychotherapy for empty nest anxiety, if you are facing any of the issues mentioned above that complicate the process, or if you have a sense that you are “stuck” or “sinking” as you face this time in your life.   Often, the time of children leaving home is a focal moment in the life of an individual, and the journey of depth psychotherapy can help us find its individual meaning for us, and help us to identify the way forward our our particular life path.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: MICOLO J Thanx (Creative Commons Licence) ; Richard Hurd (Creative Commons Licence) ;
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


→ No Comments

Depression About Work: What’s at the Root of It?

July 8th, 2018 · depression about work

Depression about work is a very common form of depression.  It’s essential for the individual suffering from such depression to get to its root.

depression about work

We know from much careful research that there’s an epidemic of depression about work in the workplace.  According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the world’s most disabling diseases, and one which exacts a huge toll on individuals in the workplace — an impact that is only projected to grow by 2020, and thereafter.
What is this thing we call depression at work?

What Depression at Work Looks Like

Psychological or social aspects of work that might lead to or contribute to depression are known as psychosocial stressors.  Many types of such stressors exist, but research by occupational stress expert Dr. Bo Netterstrøm et al. indicates that jobs combining high levels of demand with little opportunity to exert any control or influence are the work situations most likely to lead to depression.

If such a high responsibility / low level of control workplace also offers little or no real social support in handling these high demands — we have a near-perfect breeding ground for depression about work.

Depression About Work: Making the Connections 

However, depth psychotherapists know that there’s also often much under the surface in the lives of individuals suffering from depression about work.  A person’s depression may overtly manifest in terms of its connection with work, and yet may have strong linkages to a whole range of circumstances in the individual’s life.

We can see this powerfully, for example, around boundaries issues.  For example, an individual may face great difficulty in a work situation because she or he has trouble effectively enforcing their personal boundaries, and keeping work obligations from crossing the line and interfering in violating ways in his or her personal life.  Yet, as therapists dealing with anxiety and depression issues well know, a boundaries issue, and the need to say “No!” and protect oneself from excessive demands may well appear in several dimensions of a person’s life.  An individual experiencing boundary-crossing in the workplace, may also face it in other areas, such as relationships with spouse,  children, parents or peer group.

Depression About Work: Exploring the Depths

Perhaps even more importantly, depression about work may be connected to vital questions about who the individual really is, and what is really important in his or her life.  We may experience depression for any of a number of reasons.  One form of depression, as Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels tells us,  is caused by a

…damming up of energy which, when released, may take on a more positive direction…. 

He goes on to say, perhaps surprisingly that

A state of depression… should be entered into as fully as possible [italics mine]… so that the feelings involved may be clarified [and so represent] …a more precise idea or image to which the depressed person can relate.

depression about work

What Needs to Live and Breathe?

Samuels is helping us to understand that certain types of depression or “being shut down’ may be connected with deep feelings, or hopes, desires or yearnings for our lives that may be trying to come out of the unconscious, and come into focus — and that quite possibly need to be lived out in some form or another.  As American Jungian analyst Robert Johnson emphasizes,

…there are key aspects of your being that must be brought into your life, or you will never realize your fulfillment.  When we find ourselves in a midlife depression, suddenly hate our spouse, our job, our life — we can be sure that the unlived life is seeking our attention.

Work with individuals in depth psychotherapy often focuses on depression at work.  Depth psychotherapy seeks empowerment and healing through understanding how work-related depression connects to to the deep levels of the person, and by trying to explore what is emerging in his or her life.  The results of this journey of depth psychotherapy are often genuinely life-changing.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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


→ No Comments

Reasons to Stay Alive: Getting in Contact with Your True Self

July 2nd, 2018 · reasons to stay alive

Reasons to stay alive are not just a matter of concern to people in extreme situations: if we are honest, we need them every moment of our lives.

reasons to stay alive

This theme is related to the topic of my last blog post “How To Be True to Yourself in the Midst of Big Life Changes“. However, in this post, I want to take it a little further, and point out, in true Jungian fashion, how the genuine experience of reasons to live is deeply connected with the experience of our own genuine individuality and uniqueness.  Recently, I watched a documentary that brought this home in a powerful way.

15 Reasons to Live

The documentary “Fifteen Reasons to Live”  was originally included in the 2013 Hot Docs Film Festival.  The director, Alan Zweig, who also narrates the film has chosen 15 initially abstract-seeming abstract “reasons to live” that form the structure of the film:

reasons to stay alive

What is fundamentally important about this film, though, is not the abstract word or concept, but the way in which the film uses each “reason” to introduce a very individual story.  We learn of 15 people, who in one sense, are very “ordinary”. Yet they’ve brought unique, even surprising sources of value into their lives, giving them a sense that their lives are worth living.

Individual Paths to Validation and Meaning

We meet:

  • the busy mother of several kids who finds sanity and meaning in spending time each day just being silent and watching people at a mall near to her home;
  • the Montreal man whose response to a difficult mid-life transition was to walk around the world;
  • the woman who finds meaning and secure attachment by making her home in an east coast lighthouse;
  • the man who as a recovering alcoholic found community, connection and a place for self-expression through his blog about “a thousand songs”; and,
  • the man who has found essential relief for anxiety and depression, and a sense of meaningful contribution through immigrating to Canada, and transitioning to a career as a registered massage therapist.

There are many more highly individual stories of individuals finding value and meaning in unexpected, very unique places.  These people make it very clear that their paths bring genuine validation and meaning into their lives.

Finding Your Daimon

As psychologist and Jungian James Hillman would emphasize, these people seem to have found very unique things that carry value for them as individuals, providing singular opportunities to those individuals for self-expression and living authentically.  Hillman refers to the “unique daimon” of the individual, the inner soul-companion that enables us to live out what he calls “the necessity of the soul”.  He sees each of us as having a unique calling, and, as he tells us,

A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed.  It may also possess you completely.  Whatever; eventually it will out.  It makes its claim.

These individuals seem to have been “possessed completely” by the passion, meaning and value that they have found.  They find validity and vitality in their lives as a result.  Beyond just rather sterile-sounding “reasons to stay alive”,  they’re immersed in things that fundamentally alter their perspective on their lives — and provide a profound validation.

A key goal of depth psychotherapy is to bring each individual into connection with the things that bring such a profound sense of worthwhileness to an individual’s life.  The great psychologist Rollo May emphasized that

Therapy isn’t [fundamentally] curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. 

Depth psychotherapy is in fundamental agreement with this, and would add: —and helping a person to find the unique creative value and meaning that not only gives reasons to stay alive, but a bedrock affirmation of who and what we most fundamentally are.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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


→ No Comments