Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Resilience and Meaning

February 11th, 2019 · resilience and meaning

Resilience and meaning have a lot to do with each other. Much more than we might at first think.

resilience and meaning
In a way, this post is almost “Part 2” to last week’s post, Anxiety and Dealing with Uncertainty in Life. We’re likely much more aware of the linkage between resilience and anxiety, and to realize that building up your capacities and challenging yourself can help you deal much better with anxiety-creating events in life. But how could meaning be connected to this?

It’s striking when we see research of to-day that validates the powerful insights of an earlier time. Dutch psychologists and trauma experts including Prof. Rolf Kleber of Utrecht University conducted research on veterans of wartime and peacekeeping service. Their work revealed that, after military service, those veterans who were better able to process and find meaning in their military experience had higher levels of resilience. This included a greater capacity for personal change and lower levels of distrust of other people, within a general climate of valuing of the self, a broad optimism and a sense of control.

These findings seem very similar to the observation of existential psychologist Viktor Frankl, who saw that, even in the extreme environment of a Nazi concentration camp, individuals who could find meaning or hope stood a better chance of survival than those who lacked these things. Similarly, C.G. Jung emphasized the key importance of meaning in one of his most famous statements:

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

Resilience and Meaning in My Life

In fact, much of Jung’s work as a psychologist centers around the great importance of people finding sustaining meaning in their lives. As Jungian Andrew Samuels tells us,

The question of meaning was central to Jung and to all that he undertook as person, doctor, therapist

Samuels, Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

Jung makes it clear, though, that each individual has to find what it is in life that is particularly meaningful to him or her, and that this differs a great deal from individual to individual. It could be found in religious or philosophical or ethical values — or in the particular hobby that suits me best. But it’s only this individual sense of meaning that will add resilience and a sense of value to my life

Masquerading as Meaning

We can sometimes get misled by things that seem like they carry real meaning for us, when they actually don’t. The current of popular fads, fashions and trends can often seem seductive, and like they carry us toward deep and real meaning. Yet if, in the end of the day, they have nothing to say to me about the value and direction of my own unique life, then what will last through the most difficult parts of life? These are questions about what really deeplyhttps://www.briancollinson.ca/index.php/about-psychotherapy-counselling-services/midlife-transition matters when we go through loss, grief, major life transitions and midlife transition — things that require great resilience.

On The Quest for Individual Meaning

What kind of meaning will last through life? Often, it is the most difficult times in life that make us ask that question at its most profound level. Individual meaning, things that are invaluable to me as an individual. The symbollic

Resilience and meaning go hand in hand. To find a sense of individual meaning is to gain the sense that my individual, particular way of being myself in the world matters, makes some difference, counts.

To find what is meaningful, and to align myself with it, to live in accord with it, is one of the most important pieces of work that a individual will do in the course of life. It is also, often, one of the most sustaining, because of the intimate link between resilience and meaning. In the normal course, it becomes one of the most important aspects of an individual’s work in depth psychotherapy.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2019 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Anxiety and Dealing with Uncertainty in Life

February 4th, 2019 · uncertainty in life

Dealing with uncertainty in life is one of our greatest challenges. We live in a time when people are dealing with it as never before.

The ways in which we experience uncertainty in life are very individual. The uncertainty that is of greatest concern to each of us is usually associated with our greatest anxiety. What are the forms of uncertainty that concern you most?

Ambiguity, and Not Knowing What Will Happen

I can’t speak for you, but, in my experience, situations where there’s a lot at stake, but the outcome is highly uncertain, can be very painful.  We are creatures whose brains are designed to help us maximize a sense of certainty and control. When that sense is not there, and the situation is one we care about a lot, we can feel extreme discomfort.

In our time, there are many sources of uncertainty and hard-to-predict outcomes.  Issues with work and employment, health, children’s future and well-being, aging parents, social and political uncertainty — all these and more.

In addition, we face all the questions about how to live with uncertainty and ambiguity. How can we tolerate situations where we just don’t know the outcome?

The Head Game of False Certainty

One possible response to uncertainty in life is to simply pretend that it doesn’t exist. Sometimes people try to do this consciously, but more often, its a matter of unconscious denial.

At a deep level we humans need to see ourselves and our world as solid, stable, and lasting. When we experience things that threaten that view of the world, it can be intensely anxiety-provoking and disorienting. So as a result, we can often perceive things as more stable and lasting than they are. It can be reassuring to let ourselves be lulled into seeing things as stable and lasting.

But what about the times when we really do have to face the facts, and accept that our world — and our lives — are changing? Sometimes we really do have to find a way to do this, even though we might find it so much easier to believe that the “same old same old” is occurring?

Such uncertainty can occur in the midst of major life transitions, and during midlife transition. The individual may want to believe that all is going on in life as it always has, but in reality, life is moving in different directions, and some of them might be very difficult to accept.

How can we deal with all the uncertainty in life that comes our way?

Accepting Uncertainty and Moving Toward Trust

We are never going to eliminate the uncertainty from our lives. How can we live with the unexpected?

Part of the answer can be learning techniques and approaches that help to reduce our anxiety. There are good things that we could and should do to reduce the anxiety that we experience from the uncertainty in life.

Yet, in addition to that, there is importance in finding connection to something greater than ourselves, that persists unchanging through the course of human life. It is essential for each of us to find a sense of meaning for ourselves that goes beyond the endless chances, changes and uncertainties of our life. C.G. Jung tells us that the coping issues that we each confront

must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning.

The process of finding the deeper sense of meaning and security in our lives, and moving toward trust is a life-long project. The journey to this sense of security can be aided a great deal through exploring and accepting the uncertainties in our lives. which is a key part of the work of effective depth psychotherapy.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS: hectorbuelta (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2019 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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