Journeying Toward Wholeness

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“Where do I Belong?” is One of Life’s Key Questions

April 15th, 2019 · attachment issues in adults, where do i belong

“Where do I belong?” is a question that takes on immense importance for many individuals at different stages in their life journey.  

where do I belong
A Big Word
The issue of belonging changes its form, depending on our stage in life, our particular life circumstances, and whether we’re undergoing any major life transitions. It can come up for us in many ways, but it never loses its relevance and urgency.
From earliest days of life to the end of our life journey, we are confronted with the question of belonging — to our family, to communities, to ourselves, to a particular place, — and in the great scheme of things. It is one of the very fundamental aspects of what it is to be human.
This isn’t just an intellectual question. This is about something that is visceral, almost cellular, deeply rooted in our instinctual core. As the great John Bowlby established in his work on attachment, the sense of belonging is a fundamental part of human identity at all levels of development.

Our Psychological Need to Belong

People have a fundamental need to belong. Our connection to other people matters to us in some fundamental ways. Our self-esteem, and even our concept of ourselves remain partially rooted in the connection that we have with other people. Meaningful connection with others increases our resilience against stress, makes us subjectively feel happier, and leads to a more positive assessment of who we are..

Similarly, as work in the growing field of environmental psychology has shown, people also can have a very strong need to belong to a place. As researchers at the Université de La Réunion recently re-confirmed, connection or attachment to place has an important and fundamental connection with well-being. This may be a relatively new area of exploration for social science, but the Australian Aborigine cultures and other indigenous groups have known this truth, and emphasized its importance, for well over 40,000 years.

Here are two different but related kinds of belonging: belonging as human connection; and belonging as connection to place. In our era of rapid social and technological change, ceaseless mobility, and continual shifting of membership in social groups, many people find themselves asking “Where do I belong?”

How We Search for Belonging

We can spend a lot of time denying our need for belonging. This may be particularly true when we have not had the opportunity we needed in early life to bond with a mother figure. Or where a child didn’t feel themselves to be a genuinely loved and cherished member of a family unit, or where a family unit became disrupted, perhaps through divorce or the death of a parent. Something similar can happen where a child has a life of continual movement, so that they can never properly “put down roots” anywhere.

All of these situations may result in struggles with anxiety and/or depression, certainly. Yet the root issue may be attachment — not feeling a sense of belonging or security or “roots”.

When someone struggles with this kind of issue, they may not be easily able to say what is wrong, or else the issue is so painful that it is not easy to face head-on. So the individual avoids it. Such an issue around belonging can lead to all kinds of avoidant behaviour, such as struggles with addictions, and avoidance of commitment and connection with others.

Yet what we really need to continue our journey to wholeness is a sense of rootedness and connectedness to significant individuals in our lives, to social groups and to a place where we belong. Jungians would refer to all these things as being connected to the archetype of home.

Finding Healing Through Belonging

To begin to answer the question “Where do I belong?” may first of all involve facing the ways in which we feel disconnected, or feel that we don’t belong. For a good number of people, this can be quite painful. To look at this part of our lives can sometimes require quite a bit of courage.

Simultaneously, we might well need to acknowledge that we have a deep yearning to be connected, and to belong. Acknowledging the degree to which this is true can also be difficult.

These are areas that I can begin to look at on my own, and I can begin to move forward in terms of finding connection. Yet there may be immense benefit in engaging with a supportive therapeutic relationship, such as depth psychotherapy to assist in this process. Working with a therapist can be a supportive relationship that helps immensely in opening the sensitive and important aspects of the question, “Where do I belong?” — and that leads toward fulfilling answers.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: karludeman (Creative Commons Licence)

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“Why Can’t I be Happy?” — Is Happiness the Goal?

April 9th, 2019 · why can't I be happy

“Why can’t I be happy?” is such a dynamite question. The goal seems so simple — and yet it’s so elusive! What are we to make of it?

why can't i be happy
Do I have to do something EXOTIC to be happy?…
Poets, philosophers, theologians, statespersons — have all struggled with the question of abiding happiness. Yet the answer seems to be very difficult to find. Why do we find it so hard to be solidly, consistently happy? And what, if anything, can we do about it?

The Problem of Happiness

One of the basic problems that we face when it comes to happiness, is figuring out what it even is. Clearly, it can’t just mean being in a happy mood all the time. Human moods vary greatly, and no one can expect to be in a positive mood always

And yet, in our culture, we’re all continually bombarded with the message that that’s exactly what we should expect. Whether it’s advertising for automobiles, pizza, new homes or even toilet paper, the message is that we should just be happy all the time — and the implication is that buying XYZ product will help us get to that state of continual positive mood.

When we reflect on how realistic such implied messages are, we can’t help concluding that they don’t correspond to the realities of human life — we know that. Yet the continual bombardment by such messages has a subtly persuasive power. We can easily end up feeling that our lives ought to look like that, and that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t.

Chasing Phantom “Happiness”

People can and do devote themselves to chasing the endlessly elusive will o’ the wisp of being in a perpetually good mood. Sometimes this takes the form of unending pursuit of the right possessions, or the perfect travel experiences, or the “just perfect” home. There are billions and billions of dollars spent in the advertising industry to foster the desire for this eternally elusive goal, and to keep us pursuing it through getting the right product or right experience.

Over the years, I’ve had quite a number of people sit in my office, and earnestly ask themselves the exact question in the title of this post: “Why can’t I be happy?” And what they meant by that question was, why can’t I have that buoyant, wonderful, “feel good” moment — all the time? The tragic aspect of this is that we can spend our whole lives searching for this eternally elusive, ephemeral state — and miss out on things in life that are attainable, which do bring us genuinely good things, and we may end up mired in anxiety and depression.

Often people going through major life transitions find that this question of happiness takes on great importance. When we’re forced to look at the path of our lives in very significant ways, the question of what it’s all for can become crucial.

Lasting Value — What Really Matters

Fulfillment in life is not normally found in in chasing those eternally elusive “feel good” moments. It’s rooted in things that are deeper and more lasting, and that may take quite long time to cultivate.

C.G. Jung emphasized the importance of finding meaning in life over transitory happiness, as in his famous statement,

The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

~ C.G. Jung

Elsewhere, Jung wonders whether there is any objective thing that can be called happiness, or whether it is entirely subjective. On the other hand, the “positive psychologists” such as Martin Seligman stress that “happiness” doesn’t consist of simply having a positive mood, but rather that it is a state of well-being that encompasses a life of quality, where there is a strong sense of meaning, and of deep satisfactions. What is striking, though, is that you probably couldn’t find two more different psychologists than Jung and Seligman and yet they both stress this need to cultivate meaning and satisfactions that run deep in life.

Cultivating what is meaningful and full of satisfaction is an endeavour we can all embark on. Beginning to stop listening to the voices of others and the media that tell us what we “should” do, and beginning to find those satisfactions and meanings that matter specifically, uniquely to ourselves, is a wonderful place to start. The beginning of a meaningful answer to the question, “Why can’t I be happy?” will likely start with getting to know who I am, and what is meaningful to me, much, much better.

As you explore this vital area, you may find, as I did, that you need concrete help to find what you need on your journey to wholeness. This may well involve working with a depth psychotherapist who can help you explore yourself, in both your conscious and unconscious dimensions, enabling you to move toward clarity about what depth, satisfaction and meaning are for you.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: karludeman (Creative Commons Licence)

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Personality: How Jungian Typology Shapes Your Life – PART 2

April 1st, 2019 · Jungian typology

Jungian typology of personality — the basis of the Myers-Briggs personality test — helps us better understand our whole journey through life.

Jungian typology
As we began to examine in the first part of this series, if we’re willing to really reflect on the meaning of our personality type, it can tell us a great deal about where we’re likely going in our lives. It can also tell us a lot about what we need to find to feel more whole or complete.

Opposites: The Problem of Understanding Others

One powerful way in which we become aware of the impact of Jungian typology is in interacting with people whose personality type is different from our own. As we indicated in the last post, many of the attributes of personality type are true opposites. For instance, thinking and feeling, and introversion and extroversion are completely opposed pairs.

So, we begin to experience what it really means to be, for instance, a strong feeling type, when we encounter someone who is a strong thinking type. Such a person might well seem utterly different from myself. Where I might judge or evaluate everything by the way I react to it subjectively, this other person might evaluate things on whether they’re “logical” or whether they “make sense”. That might seem very cold to me! And, it might seem very strange!

If, on top of that, you had the added dimension of the other person being an introvert, where I am very strongly an extrovert, and it might seem almost incomprehensible! Sometimes, such an opposite person might seem almost repellant. On the other hand, there might be a strange, strong attraction. More than a few strong romantic connections can be explained by the old story that “opposites attract”!

But then, that leads us to another mystery: what is it in me that is attracted to the opposite thing in the other person?

Jungian typology
What???

The Problem of Understanding Ourselves

As we look more at others, we may find ourselves becoming more aware of the problem of understanding ourselves. For instance, I may find myself strongly attracted to, or admiring of people with a different personality type than mine. Yet I can be aware that I am completely different from these people, with different values. So, what is it in us that is attracted to their style of approaching social interactions and relating to themselves and the world?

Here is where the other can actually be a clear and powerful mirror of myself. For I may well find that there is something in the other person that I yearn to find in myself. In fact… it could well be that what the feeling type finds attractive in the thinking type is his or her own underdeveloped capacity for thinking, and vice versa!

Now, if I’m a feeling type, thinking type, or some other, I may well have powerful reactions to my psychological opposite. I may be fascinated by it, attracted to it — or, utterly revolted. But it can be very important for me to understand my own personality type, as well as its opposite, because I likely carry that opposite within me, in my unconscious.

We may find that, if we don’t acknowledge our own weak feeling, or weak thinking, it can emerge in surprising and unwelcome ways. The thinking type may find him- or herself subject to moods that he or she can’t explain or shake off. The feeling type may find her- or himself subject to obsessive thoughts that just won’t go away. We need to acknowledge these ignored and perhaps disrespected parts of ourselves, if we’re to continue our journey to wholeness.

Jungian Typology and The Undiscovered Self

So, exploring our Jungian typology and our personality type can lead us into new and unexpected kinds of self-understanding. It can help us get into relationship with what Jung called “the undiscovered Self”.

This exploration of personality type can be a very important part of the work of depth psychotherapy. Working in the supportive environment of Jungian therapy with a highly trained and supportive guide can be an excellent way to explore all the aspects of personality type including those parts that are less developed. It can be a great way to acknowledge and come to accept all the different parts of the greater Self.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: karludeman (Creative Commons Licence)

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