Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Saying Yes to Everything Means Saying NO to Being Myself

September 16th, 2019 · saying yes to everything, saying yes to everything

Saying yes to everything that other people want can be a very powerful pattern, into which we can very easily fall. It can also be very costly.

saying yes to everything
If we’re honest, we have to admit that constantly saying yes can become a kind of comfortable routine. After all, humans are social animals. We strongly want to get feedback from others that we’re liked, that we’re seen as valuable and competent, that we’re a valued member of the team. It’s easy when we’re tired or wanting positive feedback from others or feeling low on self-esteem, to just go with the flow and say yes. If we’re dealing with some measure of anxiety or depression, it can be even easier.

The Yes Trap

So why is saying yes to everything a problem? The simple answer is that what we want and really need may not be what others want us to do. If we don’t listen to our own inner voices about what we want and need, we can get badly lost and confused. We might well end up feeling violated, or, even worse, might lose our ability to know what we really think and feel at all.

That’s why modern depth psychotherapists emphasize the necessity of maintaining healthy boundaries — of being very aware of where other people end, and where I begin. Being aware of our own needs, and our own boundaries, is essential.

Some people might object, and say that focusing on our own needs and wants rather than the needs of others is a route to becoming narcissistic and self-preoccupied. However, I think that social scientist Brene Brown has it right when she states that self-affirming people

…say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment [italics mine].

Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Any route to compassion for others must begin with compassion for ourselves. That will entail saying yes to our inner voices, and sometimes saying “no” to the wishes of others.

The High Price of Saying Yes to Everything

Saying “no”, particularly in situations where there’s a lot at stake, can seem like a very costly thing to do. The temptation can be there to simply agree with others, and go the accepted way — because it’s a whole lot easier.

Sometimes we can end up just going along with what other people want us to do because it’s too scary or feels to costly to even think about the alternative. It’s a common enough experience to have someone sitting in my office who has:

  • stayed in a job, despite knowing it was wrong for them;
  • put up with aspects of a marriage relationship for decades, rather than challenging their partner;
  • despite being an adult, has accepted a mentally or verbally abusive relationship with a sibling or a parent; or,
  • a host of other circumstances where the individual has ignored their inner promptings, and just done what the other wanted.

When we do such things, consciously or unconsciously, we will often start to carry the gradually accumulating weight of our unlived lives. In a variety of ways, we start to find ourselves confronted with the need for transformation in our lives. That usually means saying “No” a lot more to other peoples’ expectations, and may entail looking at ourselves and our lives in a new way. Jungian analyst James Hollis writes:

Transformation often comes to us in symbolic form. We have a dream image that perplexes, a symptom that will not go away, a relational pattern that continues to fester — each of these is a summons to ask: What does the soul want of me? …. [T]his transformation has little if anything to do with … the approval of others.

James Hollis, What Really Matters

The Individuation Journey: Saying “Yes” to My Unique Individual Life

When we stop “saying yes to everything”, and start asking ourselves “Yes… but what does the deepest part of myself want and need?”, we begin to walk on the path toward our own individuation. Which is another way of saying we start to discover what it means to be uniquely ourselves.

Listening to the voices in myself and giving them flesh is essential for the journey of wholeness or individuation. We really need to clearing away enough of the external “noise” to be able to hear voices in ourselves that can be quite quiet, and hard to discern. So many things in our society work against us paying attention to our own inwardness. Yet one of the most formidable is the constant, subtle, often unconscious pressure from others to be who they want us to be, and to do what they want us to do.

At key points in our personal journey, there will be a very strong need for us to say “No” to the expectations, assumptions and pressure of others., and yes to something else — the true self. Finding that true self, listening to it and defending it — these are some of the most important tasks in our lives.

One of the great benefits of depth psychotherapy is that it creates a safe, protected place, with a supportive observer and witness, for us to hear our inner voices. that represent who we really are, and to let them emerge. This can be a vital part of our journey to wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: Damian Gadal (Creative Commons Licence)

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Are You Facing “Autumn Anxiety”?

September 9th, 2019 · Anxiety, autumn anxiety

autumn anxiety

Autumn anxiety is very common. As we know, the autumn season often involves major life transitions.

Young people go back to school or post-secondary education, fall activities re-commence, and the days grow shorter, while we feel the approach of winter. All of these things can make autumn anxiety a profound reality. As Westchester Medical Center psychiatist Stephen Ferrando this can be an agitated and anxious depressive state.
There are very specific things that individuals can do for such anxiety. For instance, children or young adults experiencing anxiety around return to classes can learn various breathing and relaxation techniques, which can be tremendously helpful. If the shortening days trigger depression/anxiety, often there can be great benefit from properly using tools like light boxes, which expose the individual to very bright light for specific daily periods.
Yet, beyond these types of experience, adults may experience other kinds of autumn anxiety, which are very specific to the adult journey.

Passing Time, and the Unlived Life

With shortening days, the sun lower in the sky and falling temperatures, autumn reminds us powerfully of the approach of winter. It can be a very powerful symbol of the passage of time in the individual’s life, and it can lead us to ask some very searching questions.

The whole autumn season gives us the message that we should be getting ready, making preparations, doing more. Sometimes that can resonate with a powerful feeling that I’ve somehow missed out on my life or that I’m somehow not on the right track. These can be intensely disturbing, extremely anxiety provoking feelings.

We may need to really focus in our lives and identify where such feelings come from. We may also need to grieve lost opportunities, but also seek for ways in which the deepest yearnings within us can find some way to come to life, and to be made realities in our present lives.

Ignoring Our Inner Voices

We can keep trying what we’ve already been doing, and hope for a different, better outcome. Yet it’s likely that ignoring the pressing questions that life asks us about our success, our failure, our dreams and aspirations and about getting older, will just make the questions get louder.

Sometimes our autumn anxiety can be rooted in a deep anxiety about ourselves, and about intuitions that whisper to us that life has more for us than what we’ve experienced. Yet such intuitions can be deeply unsettling and anxiety-provoking. They may require us to move away from our preconceptions of who we are, so that we can let in the reality of who we are, and how we most deeply feel about our lives.

What About You?

Some people might tell you that it’s selfish or narcissistic to look at questions about meaning, about what I value or about living out the creative purpose of my life. Yet, it’s a psychological truth that, unless I can value who I really am, and listen to my own deepest self, my capacity to give to others is likely to be very limited. Compassion for others starts with self compassion, and as Jung would tell us, self-compassion starts with accepting who we really are.

So who am I, really? Who are you? What are the desires and abilities that have been locked up inside of you, never acknowledged or expressed, or perhaps just forgotten? Finding these things is all part of our journey towards wholeness.

Depth psychotherapy can help us to answer fundamental questions like these. It can be of tremendous value to sit with someone positive and non-judgmental, who can help to find self-acceptance, self-knowledge and the deep places within ourselves that carry the precious awareness of who we really are, and what we really desire for genuine fulfillment.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS: Damian Gadal (Creative Commons Licence)

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