Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How Does Your Personality Type Affect Your Life? PART ONE

March 18th, 2019 · Jungian personality type, Personality type

Understanding your personality type can have an enormous impact on the way you live your life.

The Many Shades of Personality!
Many people have encountered the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology through work or schooling. They often don’t realize that it’s based on the ground-breaking work that C.G. Jung did around personality type as far back as the 1920s. They also often don’t realize how revolutionary and transformative Jung’s understanding of personality type truly is.
This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring the deeper meaning of personality type and how it profoundly impacts the entire way that each of us inhabits our lives.

Fundamentally Different Approaches to the World

People of different personality types take in the world in different ways. Jung’s theory of personality types seeks to help us distinguish the different fundamental components of our consciousness.

If we start with the two attitudes, introversion and extroversion, they represent two fundamentally different ways of being. As Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels tells us, if you’re an introvert, you’re someone who is stimulated and energized by the internal world. If you’re an extrovert, you’re stimulated and energized by the external world. These are two utterly different things, and you could expect the life journey of a strong extrovert to look very different than that of a strong introvert.

In the Jungian personality typology, each individual also has a primary function, which is one of sensation, thinking, feeling or intuition. As Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp indicates,

Thinking refers to the process of cognitive thought, sensation is perception by means of the physical sense organs, feeling is the function of subjective judgment or valuation, and….through intuition we have a sense of [a thing’s] possibilities.

Daryl Sharp, C.G. Jung Lexicon

If a person’s primary function is one of these four, his fundamental way of taking in the world will differ dramatically from an individual of the other three types.

Personality Type: A Dance of Opposites

Aspects of personality type aren’t just different. Many of them are actually fundamentally opposed to each other. This means that it may be very difficult for me to understand an introvert, if I’m an extrovert — or vice versa. Or, it may be very hard to relate to a person whose “superior” (i.e., most developed) function is feeling, if my superior function is thinking.

Yet, there may be a great deal of value in trying to understand personality types that are very different than our own, just as there is great value in really seeking to understand our own personality. Often, we can feel a strong attraction to personalities that are very different from our own, because on some deep, probably largely unconscious level we are drawn to those who have the characteristics we most lack. Thus the age-old saying that, in romantic relationships, opposites attract! Depth psychotherapists are very aware of how true this can be, and are aware of the opportunities — and complexities — that this can bring to relationships.

Personality Type and Self-Acceptance

Awareness of our personality type can be very important in enabling our acceptance of ourselves. In each culture, there are particular aspects of personality that are prized, and which are given particular emphasis and importance.

In Canada, for instance, extroversion has tended to be prized and valued over introversion. This is even more true among our neighbours to the south in the United States! This can often mean that introverted people in such a culture can end up feeling that there is something basically wrong with them, that they are somehow “odd” or “off” or “weird”. It can be a tremendously liberating thing to have an explanation for why we are the way we are, and to realize that that way of being has unique strengths.

Understanding, accepting and cherishing our personality type can be a very important part of understanding and welcoming all that we are. While we can learn a great deal about our personality type on our own there can be immense value and immense assistance on our journey toward wholeness through work with a Jungian depth psychotherapist.

With every good wish for your journey!

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: thedalogs (Creative Commons Licence)

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What is A Midlife Crisis? What is a Transition to Later Life?

March 11th, 2019 · Psychology and Suburban Life

Well, what is a midlife crisis? Could you possibly be having one now? Or, is something else important unfolding in your life?

Image: “Mid Life Crisis 2” by Steve A. Johnson
The standard image of a midlife crisis has certainly made its way into the media and the popular psyche. It’s a pretty stereotypical, almost cartoon-ish image! It has a lot to do with middle-aged males leaving their wives for much younger women, and zipping around town in newly purchased flashy red sports cars. Some people do have midlife experiences of this type. Yet, it’s important to cast our net much more widely if we want to understand the kinds of transitions that people undergo at midlife — and later in the second half of life.
Firstly, it’s not just males who go through major life transitions in the middle of life. Far from it! Females are just as likely to enter a period of real questioning and soul-searching as a part of midlife transition. Males and females alike often fully realize in midlife that life doesn’t last forever, and feel that that puts particular emphasis on what each of us chooses to do with the rest of life.
What’s more, the particular challenges of the middle of life, and the second half of life have a way of being very individual. We can see the first half of life for many people as very much being about living in a way that meets the broad expectations of family, peer groups, or society as a whole. The second half of life is very much about finding things in life that hold value specifically for me. So, the particular way that these issues come up for each person in a “midlife crisis” or midlife transition vary so enormously that we always have to ask, “What kind of a ‘midlife crisis’ is this individual having?

What is a Midlife Crisis — for Me?

Each of us has to ask ourselves how the previously unacknowledged parts of ourselves are confronting us as we move into, or through, the second half of life.

One person may find that issues around career are bringing up deep questions about what is meaningful or worth doing in life. Another may find him- or herself asking important questions about key relationships with a partner or a spouse. Someone else may find that they are going through significant changes in their ethical, spiritual or religious orientation. Others may find that they are strongly attracted to some new interest that seems even “out of character” with the way that they have thought of themselves to this point in their lives.

In my own case, at one point in my midlife journey, it was pretty much a blend of “all of the above.” Your experience will differ — as it does from individual to individual. As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us,

When one has let go of that great hidden agenda that drives humanity and its varied histories, then one can begin to encounter the immensity of one’s own soul.

James Hollis, The Eden Project

It’s important to recognize that any and all of these experiences may also be accompanied by the experience of anxiety and/or depression. The presence of anxiety or depression may well be one of the things that alerts us to the fact that we are going through the transition into the second half of life.

Business as Usual? — Probably Not An Option

There’s a psychological liability in trying to ignore the inner voices that may come up in the middle of life. It can be very tempting to simply pretend that everything in our lives is just as it always was — even though at the deepest level, we know that it isn’t. Hollis speaks of this inertia in us in the context of spirituality:

In moments of spiritual crisis we naturally fall back upon what worked for us, or seemed to work, heretofore. Sometimes this shows up through the reassertion of our old values in belligerent, testy ways. Regression of any kind is just such a return…

James Hollis, What Matters Most

Often we can try to simply ignore the reality of what is happening in mid-life. However, it’s not likely that we’ll be able to feel that life is flowing for us, and moving beyond stagnation, unless we take changing realities seriously.

Your Unique Journey

The process of uncovering the personal meaning of these changes will involve creative disruption. Moving in the direction of living out our own uniqueness is the only life-giving way through these challenges. Hollis puts it in perspective for us:

We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide [examples] for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.

Hollis, What Matters Most

It’s only when we’re on the road to our own individual selves, our own particular, unique sense of what is meaningful in our lives, that we can find any lasting sense of value in our lives. It’s essential to commit ourselves to trying to understand ourselves as we emerge, and to discern what begins to call to us, as we journey into the second half of our lives. Jungian depth psychotherapy may well prove to be an invaluable aid on this journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: thedalogs (Creative Commons Licence)

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I Don’t Want to Feel Ashamed… How Can I Find Freedom?

March 4th, 2019 · to feel ashamed

To feel ashamed is to experience a primary form of human emotion — which is also one of the most difficult experiences in human life.

Shame is universal; all humans experience it.
Shame is a hard emotion to talk about, because, as many experts have noted, shame is highly motivated to hide itself: it doesn’t want to be seen. We should never underestimate the power of the connection between shame and anxiety. Shame has a very big role in our lives, even though we may keep the particular moments when we’ve experienced shame hidden, even from ourselves. In fact, we often particularly keep them hidden from ourselves. That’s how negatively potent shame can be.

What Feeling Ashamed Does to Us

Shame is a powerful emotion throughout our lives, but never more than when we are very young — such as in the second year of our life. This is the time when we first begin to encounter demands on ourselves related to bodily processes and toilet training.

If we get positive messages about the body and what it produces from parental figures, it’s going to enable us to feel competent and to value ourselves. However, if we get messages of shame, not measuring up, and generally devaluation of ourselves, we come to dislike ourselves and to not even see ourselves as autonomous — as able to do things for ourselves. Psychologist Erik Erikson labelled this the life stage of autonomy versus shame and doubt.

Experiences of shame can really corrode our sense of self, not only at this early life stage, but throughout our lives. Experiences of destructive shame can easily keep us from having any clear sense of ourselves and our own ability to take steps to get the things we want and need in life, especially in the course of major life transitions.

As family therapists Fossom and Mason put it, toxic shame is connected with the “violation and dimunition of personhood”. Genuinely shaming experiences stay with a person, often burned in memory. They can have a profound impact on us many years and decades after the original shaming experience. What is more, shame is associated with that part of ourselves that Jung referred to as the shadow.

To Feel Ashamed… of Our Shadow

Jung’s very concise definition of the shadow was “the thing a person has no wish to be”. He demonstrates that it contains, in Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels’ words,

the negative side of the personality, the sum of the unpleasant qualities one wants to hide, the inferior… and primitive side of man’s nature, the other person in one, one’s own dark side.

Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

The shadow has a very important connection with the shame we feel in our lives, for, as Jung also notes,

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it… But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected, and is liable to burst forth suddenly in a moment of unawareness, At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.

Collected Works, vol. 11

In our shadow, then, is basically everything about ourselves of which we are ashamed, and which we would rather not acknowledge.

Practically speaking, we can run from the shadow, but we can’t really hide. We encounter the shadow in those areas of our life in which we feel:

  • a sense of inadequacy or inferiority;
  • contact with parts of ourselves where we are less moral than we would like to appear;
  • awareness of those very things of which we feel most ashamed.

These things are the essence of shadow. We may live in denial about these things, and stay disconnected from our shame much of the time. Yet, ultimately we know it’s there, and we know that living in denial will only make things feel worse.

Real shame is often connected with intense pain. Is there any way to find some freedom from it?

Freedom Through Acceptance

Shame is something that all human beings experience. It’s in the nature of shame to make us feel that we are somehow separate or different from the rest of the human race. Yet, the experience of shame is a universal human thing. As many observers have pointed out, it’s easy to “feel ashamed of being ashamed”, but actually, every human being goes through the agony of feeling ashamed. That you and I experience shame shows that we are human.

If we can accept that we aren’t alone in our experience of shame, that it’s a human thing, then maybe we can stop defending ourselves so hard from our shame, and just be able to encounter the shadow, and begin to accept these aspects of ourselves. And the key lies in compassionate acceptance of the suffering being that feels compelled to feel ashamed — ourselves.

We can do this to some extent on our own, but a depth psychotherapy relationship where we can truly find acceptance can be of immense importance. Gradually being able to accept ourselves and release our shame in the context of a healing therapy relationship can be a key part of the journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Fr James Bradley (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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