Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Should I Leave My Marriage? — Some Further Reflections

September 24th, 2018 · should I leave my marriage

Should I leave my marriage?  As we saw in the last post, this is an agonizing question for many people.  In this post we’ll be looking at some other related key questions.

should i leave my marriage

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

Having been divorced, I’ve experienced how complex the question “Should I leave my marriage?” can be.  Often, it seems there are a lot of more specific questions about our lives that we may have to answer before we can give a firm “yes” or “no” to the question of leaving or staying.
Once again in this post, the focus will be on the questions that an individual must face, rather than those questions that might be more appropriately worked on by a couple in couples’ therapy.  There most certainly is a very important dimension of individual decision-making involved, and that’s what we’ll be looking at here.
So what kind of questions might precede a decision to stay or go in a marriage?  There are very many, but here are a few important ones that the individual may have to contend with.
Can I really find what I need in this marriage?  This broad question requires being generally honest about all aspects of the marriage, and how it really fits with what we need.
Is marriage really for me?  Perhaps I have to be honest in confronting whether I’m really well-suited to being tied down in any marriage?
Do I really love somebody else?  Have I gotten involved with someone else?  And, if I have, the real test of honesty may be in asking — is my “outside” relationship a love relationship, or is something else going on?
What about my unlived life?  Are there fundamental aspects of who I am that I really need to live out, in some form — and, if so, are they compatible with this marriage?
What, really, is keeping me in this marriage?  Love?  Kids?  Fear?  Money? Sense of duty or guilt?

Facing Key Questions May Mean Facing the Shadow

Answering the questions above may well mean that I have to confront what Jungians call the shadow, which C.G. Jung once defined as “that in ourselves which the ego refuses to acknowledge.”  In other words, it is those aspects of our whole personality that everyday consciousness is not comfortable with, and would sooner pretend don’t exist — all our thoughts, feelings, desires and intuitions that are not acceptable.

Is the shadow evil?  No, not necessarily.  It may contain parts of ourselves that, for some reason or other we find it very hard to acknowledge, but which may actually be very precious.  Does the shadow contain evil?  Yes it might well contain some things that don’t fit with our espoused values or morals at all.  It may be extremely hard to accept or admit that these thoughts or feelings are there.  Yet acknowledging their existence may be absolutely essential to our well-being, our wholeness as a person — and to having any kind of healthy perspective on our marriage.

You Can Run, But You Probably Can’t Hide

The shadow is hard to face.  It leads us to ask questions like those above, and the answers may not always be very easy to tolerate.  Yet,  depth psychotherapists know that a prolonged refusal to look honestly at our feelings, thoughts and reactions in marriage in a self-compassionate way can lead to lasting trouble.  If we fail to look at our real thoughts, feelings, yearnings and resentments, it can certainly pave the way to anxiety and/or depression, possibly quite severe in character.  It might also lead to a host of other issues, such as self-medication with various forms of addiction  — from gambling to alcohol to porn to drugs to work — or physical illness.

Leaving or Staying — But First, Facing the Questions

The best way to come to terms with the “should I leave my marriage” question is to identify, face, and do our best to answer some of those tough, more specific questions about your marriage as described above.  Trying to be as honest with yourself as you can be is a key element.  It’s often a great deal of benefit to consult with a depth psychotherapist when considering the question of leaving or staying in a marriage, or dealing with any other major life transition.  It can be of tremendous value to gain knowledge of yourself and to gain support for yourself in the midst of such a demanding time.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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Should I Leave My Marriage? — For Many, A Difficult Question

September 17th, 2018 · should I leave my marriage

Should I leave my marriage?  For many people, this is an agonizing question.  In many cases, people may have struggled with it for years — or even decades.

should I leave my marriage

Having been divorced, I know that facing the question of whether to end a marriage and, if so, when and how, can be extraordinarily difficult and painful.
In this post, I’ll be looking at this issue from the perspective of an individual seeking to make the decision of whether or not to stay in a marriage.  Certainly, this is an issue that might get worked on in couples’ work, but it there is also a very important dimension of individual decision-making that is involved, and that is what we’ll be looking at here.

The Dilemma

Someone who is struggling with staying in their marriage, or leaving it, may be doing so for any number of complex reasons.  And actually, it’s a very natural and normal thing for married people to wonder at some point in their life journey whether they want to remain married.  Actually, as Dr. Harville Hendrix stressed, it’s hard to be truly committed to another person and to mutual growth as a couple, if a person is not consciously aware that there’s an alternative to being married.

Yet, it can often happen that the question of “Should I leave my marriage?” becomes crucial and unavoidable.  The sense of happiness or meaning in life, and even a person’s mental and physical health, can hang upon this question.

Often the answer to the question, “Should I leave my marriage?” will not immediately appear to be clear cut.

Not to Decide is to Decide

As mentioned above, individuals can sometimes be stuck in indecision about this question for a very long time.  They may not even acknowledge that “Should I leave my marriage?” is a genuine question for them, effectively staying in a state of denial.  However, as Paul Tillich once said, not to decide is to decide.  If individuals don’t confront the question of whether to stay or go directly, when they are really feeling that their marriage is not fulfilling or affirming in its present form, it can often be a recipe for formidable levels of anxiety and depression.

If marriage is not bringing you the things you feel that you need from a relationship, it’s very important to bring this awareness into consciousness.  Being honest with oneself is crucial!  Pretending that “everything is OK” can be a recipe for spinning away the years and ending up with nothing to show for it but regret.

On the other hand, an impulsive or reactive approach to the relationship, whether staying in it, or leaving it, can also generate heartache.  To make a knee jerk decision to either stay or leave without understanding both why one is reacting the way one is, and also what it is that you really want, can be a recipe for disaster.

Should I Leave My Marriage? — Answering the Question Consciously

A decision to stay or leave a marriage will affect many lives, and not least of all your own.  It’s best to go into a major life transition like divorce — or like seriously re-committing to be in a marriage — with your eyes wide open, and knowing as much as you can possibly know about yourself and your deep motivations.

Depth psychotherapy , where the individual explores all the aspects of his or her marriage, conscious and unconscious, and explores thoroughly the question of “what is it that I really want?”  — can be of invaluable assistance to individuals as they wrestle with this weighty life question.  Knowing and accepting oneself can be an invaluable gift to give oneself, at a time when it may feel like many things in life are up in the air.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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

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After Labour Day: Meaningful Work, Workaholism and Perfectionism

September 10th, 2018 · workaholism

The intense period after Labour Day is a good time to look at meaningful work, workaholism and perfectionism.  These are big issues in our work-obsessed world!

workaholism

Work has at least two distinct faces in our place and time. We truly need to stay aware of both of them.
The one face of work is that it’s essential for our health and well-being.  This is true both in a physical sense, in that we need work to get the means to obtain the food, shelter, transportation and other things necessary to maintain life.
This is just as true psychologically: if an individual is to be healthy, growing, and, as Jungians would say individuating — becoming and expressing who is is that they truly are — then a human has to be engaged in meaningful work.
What that meaningful work is, varies greatly from person to person.  As they say, one person’s meat is truly another person’s poison!  In my case, I would probably rather do prison time than work as an accountant — for many people, it’s their dream job!

But the Trouble with Work Is…

The other face of work is, that while we need meaningful work, but we also run the risk of getting over-involved in work in unhealthy ways.  As I learned in my days in the legal world, two inter-related ways in which this can happen are workaholism and perfectionism.

Simply put, a workaholic is someone who is addicted to work.  Often workaholics enjoy their work, but sometimes they simply feel a compulsion to work overly hard.  A workaholic tends to neglect family and other social relationships and often loses track of time at work.  Psychotherapists know that workaholics are often perfectionistic people, for whom what they have done is never good enough.  The intense preoccupation with work often hides anxiety, low self-esteem, and intimacy problems.

Where the Workaholism Treadmill Can Lead

Workaholism isn’t benign in its effects.  Often, people are in denial about being workaholics, but if they just continue on the workaholic treadmill, with the compulsion to work becoming ever stronger, it can create devastating situations in the life of the individual.

The longer an individual continues on the treadmill of workaholism, putting in longer and longer hours, the more his or her productivity usually declines until they may not be able to produce in an 80 hour week what they could formerly have produced in 50 hours.

It is not at all uncommon for workaholics to experience deteriorating relationships as they go farther and farther down the path of workaholism, the whole time being in denial about the impact of their addiction to endless work hours.  This is one way in which workaholism resembles other types of addiction.

Workaholics may also come to the place where they experience profoundly debilitating burnout, where they have little alternative but to at least temporarily cease working.  Or, as the Japanese recognize, individuals may even suffer premature death as the result of overwork, referred to as karoshi.  This happened to the 31 year old Japanese reporter, who after doing 159 hours overtime in a single month, passed away with her cell phone clutched in her hand.

And we haven’t even begun to describe the agonies that a person struggling with workaholism can experience in connection with the major life transition to retirement.

Meaningful Life, Meaningful Work

Depth psychotherapy recognizes that the journey away from workholism has a lot to do with finding self-esteem, connection and relatedness to others, and meaningful in life, an important part of which is meaningful work.  An important part of this journey is finding our identity, distinct from our work identity or work persona.

The journey to uncovering our true identity hinges on accepting and valuing who we most fundamentally are.  The discovery that “I am bigger than my work”, and the process of moving towards a compassionate acceptance and valuing of the whole of who I am, can be a transformative adventure of which meaningful depth psychotherapy can be a vital and highly supportive part.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: rene.schlaefer (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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