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What is My Legacy? A Key Question in the Second Half of Life

August 27th, 2018 · what is my legacy

What is my legacy?  In other words, what will be the impact of my life on others, and on the world?

what is my legacy

It’s certainly a question that grows in importance for me, the longer that I’m alive.  I think that it becomes more important for most reflective people in the second half of life, as they travel further on life’s journey.
Some think of legacy as the things that they pass to other people after they die. — their material legacy.  Yet legacy is much broader.  It concerns the impact that our lives have on the lives of others — and continue to have on others long after we’re physically gone.  In this broader sense, it’s very much tied up with the overall question of the meaning of our lives, with questions like What difference has my life made? and How will I be remembered?
On Saturday, U.S. Senator John McCain died.  Without getting political, allow me to say that this is a man with whom I have little in common politically.  Yet, like many people who didn’t share his views, I have immense respect for him.  In his political life, and his personal life, Sen. McCain embodied a strong will to go in his own unique direction.  Yet, he combined this with a deep level of respect, courtesy and openness towards others.  He demonstrated this in his presidential contest with Barack Obama, but these attitudes marked his whole approach to political and personal life.  He will influence others for a long time to come.

Living out Legacy

We should live to express who we most fundamentally are.  To find what’s distinctive to ourselves, and to live it out is a matter of central importance for our well-being, and our sense of connection with our true identity.  As Cal State Prof. Loretta Breuning puts it,

You are hard-wired to care about what you leave behind when you’re gone. Animals focus on making babies… [Yet,] your unique individual essence can live on in myriad ways. The neurochemistry that drives animals to promote their genes is what drives you to care about your legacy. 

To express ourselves.  To be in the world and to be ourselves.  Something hardwired in us — or, as Jung would say, archetypal — drives us to do this.

Showing Up — Or Not

If we have no idea of who we are and what we want, the legacy we give to others, including to those near and beloved by us, will be nothing other than muddy and unclear.  If I’m governed by other people’s opinions for my whole life, afraid to express and live out who I most fundamentally am, then I can expect that my legacy will be pretty mediocre, without a lot of the real “me” in it.  If I don’t ever take the risk of being vulnerable and expressing myself — “putting myself out there” — as they say, then I can expect that people may not react very much to my presence in the world.

Or, they may be strongly influenced by the way I haven’t been in the world.  As Jung states in at famous quote,

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

What we have not lived out in our own life, our unlived life may become our legacy, sometimes with quite a negative effect.

What is MY Legacy?

Even if we’re not famous figures, the potential exists to influence the people in our sphere, and to make a contribution to greater consciousness and connection.  This is a fundamental aspect of human reality as Jung notes,

If you are a gifted person, it doesn’t mean that you gained something. It means you have something to give back.

Jung is not just referring to Einstein and Mozart when he writes about giftedness.  In an important sense, Jung sees each of us as gifted with our own unique self, our potential for our own unique awareness, and our own unique capacity to express that awareness in some way or other.

Beginning to explore our unique legacy, and how to express it is a key part of our human journey.  Depth psychotherapy can be of immense help in connecting us with the unexplored and unexpressed aspects of ourselves, bringing fulfillment, meaning and joy in our life journey.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

 

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A Great Human Struggle: How to Deal with Emotional Pain?

August 20th, 2018 · how to deal with emotional pain

One of the greatest struggles of human existence, if not the greatest, concerns the question of how to deal with emotional pain.

how to deal with emotional pain

Psychological suffering is truly one of the most difficult parts of human existence.  The human race has been conscious of it as a grave difficulty for pretty much as long as there have been humans.
The Globe and Mail recently ran an article by physician Gabor Maté, an Order of Canada recipient with a particular interest in childhood development and trauma, and addictions.  He argues strongly that our society needs to understand that addiction is rooted in deep pain and despair.  As he states,
[A]ddiction is neither a choice nor primarily a disease….  It originates in a person’s attempt to solve genuine human problems: those of emotional loss, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection. It is a forlorn and ultimately futile attempt to solve the dilemma of human suffering. 
Maté invites us to see serious addiction as an unsuccessful attempt to cope with overwhelming emotional pain.  We can relate compassionately to that, because very many of us have had to cope with the reality of emotional pain.  I know I have, and I suspect that you, too, have also had that experience.

Emotional Pain in Human Life

Acknowledged or unacknowledged, emotional pain is in the life of every individual human being.  How to deal with emotional pain is a question that all human beings face.  At certain key times in our lives, the intensity of  pain may make the question urgent.  This may be particularly true at times when emotional pain is associated with major life transitions, such as illness, job loss, illness or disability of a child or adult family member, the loss of a loved one, marital breakup, and many more sorts of issues.

Such pain can be debilitating.  It can stop us in our tracks, bringing our lives to a standstill.  It can be even worse if we deny the pain’s existence, and try to act as if it isn’t there.  This can easily lead us into the grip of serious anxiety and/or depression.

Denial of Emotional Pain

Denial of emotional pain takes many forms.  One of the most significant ways in which people can end up denying their emotional pain is through addictions.  Though we tend to think of alcohol and drugs, there are actually many kinds of addictions related to seeking relief from pain.  Addictions to food, the internet or social media, pornography and overwork are only some of the possibilities.

Sometimes, when emotional pain is related to overwhelming experiences of trauma, individuals can deny their emotional pain, or can be completely dissociated or cut off from it.  To live in denial of traumatic pain often only makes it worse.

How to Deal with Emotional Pain

Essential to determining how to deal with emotional pain is acknowledging to ourselves in full honesty that the pain actually exists.  This is often not so simple or easy as it sounds.

One great initial challenge may be to extend compassion to the part of ourselves that is enduring ongoing emotional pain.  It can seem easier to be stoic about pain, pretending that it doesn’t matter.  However, healing only begins when we acknowledge how bad the hurt is.  This is a particular challenge for men in our culture, but many women also find this extremely hard.

Equally challenging can be finding someone to talk to about what we’ve been through.  This is an essential part of finding our own personal answer to how to deal with emotional pain.  It can be very important to find someone who is not immediately involved in our family situation or our lives, who has the capacity to hear of our pain with objectivity, certainly, but also with care and compassion.

Depth psychotherapy can be of tremendous value in this process.  In many cases, it’s the best way to discover how to deal with emotional pain.  A depth psychotherapist can be an excellent witness to our emotional pain, and can help immensely with the process of self-compassion.  Depth psychotherapy also gives essential help in finding meaning and purpose in our life journey given what we’ve endured.  This can be essential to the process of learning how to deal with emotional pain.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist

& Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Selena N. B. H. (Creative Commons Licence) ; (Creative Commons Licence) ;
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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Late Summer Depression and the Call of the Unlived Life

August 13th, 2018 · summer depression

Yes, late summer depression is a reality!  Summer is the season of care-free sun and beaches — yet many struggle with depression at this time.

summer depression

As depression expert Prof. Deborah Serani points out the possible sources of summer depression are many and varied.  It’s possible that the seasonal changes of summer may disrupt an individual’s circadian rhythm, forcing his or her body clock out of alignment.  Heat and humidity in summer may also trigger changes in mood and behavior, bringing feelings of helplessness and irritability.
It may also be that factors like poor body image, or constrained finances that prohibit individuals from enjoying vacations or the other opportunities of  summer create summer depression.
Additionally, the late summer period, when our society as a whole is thinking about re-engaging with the busy round of fall and winter activities, and many young adults and others are embarking on new educational or life opportunities, may be a difficult period for many.  It may be a time when individuals experience a real sense of “stuckness” or regret about their lives.

The Unlived Life and Summer Depression

Individuals at any point in their life journey, and especially individuals in the second half of life, can experience the steadily increasing tempo of late summer days.  Kids get ready to go back to school, and young adults head off to university and other opportunities can lead to reflection on the course of one’s own life.  This can easily lead to complex feelings about missed opportunities, and aspirations that may never have been realized.  As I well know myself, any of us can reflect with yearning about how life could have been — “if only”!  Sometimes, too, we yearn for something in our lives and we can’t even articulate what it is.

Ignoring the Unlived Life Brings Us Less and Less Fulfillment

These unlived possibilities in ourselves can sometimes actually show up in the form of depression.  We may become strongly aware of those feelings of summer depression at times when others are optimistically embarking on new journeys and adventures.

If we continue to ignore or deny the unlived life within us, we may find ourselves moving towards a place of steadily increasing sterility, where life seems to offer us less and less.  Is there any alternative to becoming more and more absorbed in pining for and regretting what might have been?

Discovering the Undiscovered Self

In dealing with the unlived life, there can be tremendous value in working on focusing on the present moment, and trying to get the most out of life that we can.  Being very conscious about doing this can be a very helpful way to stay in a place of feeling good about your life.

It may well be, though, that depth psychotherapy can provide essential assistance in dealing with depression related to the unlived life.  It can help greatly in the whole process of exploring what it is that we really do want from life.  It can also help greatly in understanding the barriers coming from trauma, pain, loss, guilt, fear and regret that might stand in the way of both living in the present, and also finding ways to live out of our true selves.  In these ways, depth psychotherapy can prove to be an essential part of our life journey.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

 

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