Journeying Toward Wholeness

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The Meaning of Summer: Soul and the Solstice in 2020

June 22nd, 2020 · meaning of summer

As we pass the summer solstice on June 21, it’s important for us to reflect on the meaning of summer. This is particularly true, given the challenges we’ve faced in 2020.

Summer Solstice Sunset

The human race has celebrated the arrival of summer at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, since prehistory. At many sites around the world, elaborate structures have been built to capture the sunlight of that special moment when the sun is at its highest in the sky. Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Mexico, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK circa 1000 BC, and the “Scottish Stonehenge” at Callanish circa 3000 BC are all examples of humans building extraordinary structures to capture this unique moment of the beginning of summer.

The solstice issues in the extraordinary days of summer, with their heat. In temperate climates there is often the sense that the world has become fully alive. As the poet William Carlos Williams puts it,

In the summer, the song sings itself.

C. Day Lewis waxes in a similar vein:

Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon.

Summer has this sense about it of the wonderful fullness of life. Especially in the early days of summer, in late June, it’s easy to agree with sportscaster Al Bernstein:

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

Yet this time of the early days of summer in late June, just after the solstice has a dual character. After all, the solstice day is the longest day of the year. From now on, the days will start to shorten, at first imperceptably. Yet, gradually, we’ll head through the “dog days” of summer into the fall, and on toward the short, faintly lit days around the winter solstice in December.

What is the Meaning of Summer for Us?

Very often, these transitory warm days can make us feel that now is the time when we should live our lives to the full. We should be out doing things that are fun, travelling and seeing new places, having new adventures and connecting with the people who matter to us. The impulse is there to just generally live large, to relax and enjoy things and to “get while the getting’s good.”

For just this reason, the season of summer can generate anxiety, or even depression, for some people. It can often feel like there are all these wonderful opportunities out there at in these passing summer days, and that I should be out there enjoying them to the full. Yet, there can be fear that “I’m missing out”, or somehow not getting enough of the wonderful things that belong to this season, as it rushes by us all too quickly.

This Summer: A Particular Sense of Loss

In my opinion, this feeling of “missing out” on summer is something a great many people are particularly feeling at this time. We all feel that this is the season when we are wanting to get out into the world with our summer plans. Yet this year, much more than in the average year, many of us are intensely experiencing the sense that we may not get all the good things from summer–and ultimately from life–that we feel we want and need, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

We feel deprived, and very much as if something has been lost. This feeling may serve to bring some key questions into focus in our lives. What is it that we actually do want in our lives? And how do we go about getting it?

It’s would be easy to get lost in a sense of stuckness about all this. After several months of lockdown, which will still continue in some form or other for some time to come, we could easily be left with the feeling that the situation is too big. We might feel that it’s too overwhelming for us to do anything about it, and so we could end up feeling paralyzed. What can often happen to us in the face of something that feels overwhelming is that we can move into emotional denial that there is even any issue, and then just ignore it. Such denial would make it that much more difficult for us to get what we need from life at this point in our life journey.

Getting Unstuck, and Getting What We Need

The early days of summer are unfolding. As we simultaneously deal with the unusual constraints of lockdown, it can be particularly important not to succumb to a sense of powerlessness and stuckness. It’s important to identify what we really want from summer, and from life. Then, it’s important to think carefully and creatively about how to go about getting it. Travel and hotel accommodation might not be in the cards this summer, but are there other things, such as creative day trips, or experiences at home or nearby, that might bring vitality and enhance the meaning of summer in my life?

Working with a supportive depth psychotherapist can be an excellent way of exploring creative options that make the most of your summer, and that open creative and life-giving doors in your life as a whole.

With warm wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Major Life Transition: Envisioning the Future After COVID-19

June 15th, 2020 · future after COVID 19

We’re currently undergoing a collective major life transition, due to the impact of coronavirus. We’re all striving to envisage the future after COVID-19.

It’s a big occurence when an individual undergoes a major life transition. What does it mean for us all, when a great many individuals in a society undergo related major life transitions simultaneously?

C.G. Jung was very wary of about using statistics to describe the journey toward wholeness of individuals. Yet there can be a place for statistics in discerning the impact of major events on the lives of many people in a society. A study by Nanos Research for the Mental Health Commission of Canada has indicated that the number of Canadians feeling stressed regularly has increased dramatically in the COVID era. However, it also showed that many Canadians were experiencing a greater appreciation for friends and family, an interest in returning to a simpler life, and less interest in buying and owning material possessions.

In research for the Globe and Mail, Nanos found that most Canadians don’t think that we will simply revert to our prepandemic lifestyle. Also, a great many people feel that COVID has generated a greater appreciation for life, and what is really important in life. Nanos interprets this as a return to self-reflection and “soul searching”–akin perhaps to the experience of “soul making” that I referred to in my last blog post.

Possibility

One of the things that can be very difficult for individuals in dealing with a crisis such as COVID-19 is the sense that the future has been foreclosed. Living with the amount of uncertainty that we are experiencing in many cases, it can easily feel like the door to the future is shut, and that there are no good possibilities open to us. It is very easy to feel powerless, both as individuals, and as a society.

Yet, it’s very important for us to be clear on the difference between actual powerlessness, and a lack of ability to imagine possible directions in which things might move. And, we might add, it’s particularly important to think about what direction we might want things to go, for our personal lives, and for our collective life as a society.

How can we engage or connect with possibilities that we might be able to live out? We’ve been living with a set of assumptions about how our world works that we carry in both our conscious lives, and in our unconscious mind. They condition us, and lead us to feel that they represent “the way the world is” Yet, they actually may represent merely our projections, individual and collective, upon that world. Could a situation such as the one we’re confronting at present possibly change our perceptions–in useful and life-giving ways?

Soul and Envisaging the Future

It can take a considerable amount of courage and strength to envisage a future that could be good for us and that could be well-suited to who we are. It could also require us to know a great deal about ourselves, and what we really want and need–as opposed to what others expect of us.

It can be easy to let ourselves be driven and motivated by the expectations of others. However the net effect of this can be that we get driven further and further away from who we really are. We can end up getting caught in a rut of conformity that feels futile, and lacks meaning. At a time like the present, when the conventional world that we have known seem to be rapidly changing, that could be a recipe for despair.

Envisaging Your Future After COVID-19

To envisage meaningful future possibilities for ourselves, we have to know what we want. This is true whether we are considering our own individual future, or the broader future, that embraces the entire future of our society. This may require exploring parts of ourselves which are not that familiar, and attitudes and feelings that have been in the background for a long time, yet are only coming to the fore in the present. In a huge number of peoples’ dreams at the present time, there is a common theme: something new is breaking in. It’s essential for us to be attentive what that might embody.

In the present time time, we’re called to self-exploration and a self-compassionate acceptance of who we fundamentally are. These things are actually fundamental to a vision of a future after COVID-29. It can be of tremendous assistance in developing that self-knowledge and self-love to work with a Jungian depth psychotherapist, as an individual works toward a viable, meaningful way to move into the future.

Wishing you every good thing on your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Coping with Anger–in the Midst of COVID-19

June 8th, 2020 · coping with anger

Alongside anxiety, one of the feeling reactions that many people are experiencing in the midst of COVID-19 is anger.

We experience this in quite a number of different forms. In fact, along with anxiety, fear and confusion, many of us may experience anger of more than one type, as we’re dealing with the unusual and difficult aspects of the COVID-19 experience.

It’s important to emphasize that anger is perfectly normal. In many cases, it’s a perfectly understandable and justified feeling. Many people feel anger or irritability at situations in their lives, and, usually those feelings are not a problem for us.

Before we look at the specifics of COVID-19 and anger, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the types of life situations where we experience anger. Generally speaking, anger occurs to let us know that something is wrong. Anger can occur: when things feel out of our control; when we feel frustrated or thwarted in reaching a goal or obtaining something that we feel we need or want; or when we, or someone we care about, gets really hurt, disrespected or violated.

Healthy anger has an important part to play in our lives. However, if it comes up for us in ways that are more intense than we might expect, or occurs so frequently that we can’t enjoy our lives anymore, or occurs in ways that injure our health or connections with people whom we love or care about, then we need to take steps to take care of ourselves, or to get the help that we need.

Accepting the Reality of Our Anger

As mentioned above, anger is the emotion that lets us know that something is wrong. Well, for many of us, the COVID-19 situation and related lockdown makes us feel like there is a whole lot wrong.

Many people find themselves confined to home, and unable to go to their workplace. They also find they can’t go to a restaurant, or to any kind of social gathering. Many find themselves with kids at home, whose school year is in jeopardy, or they have elderly relatives whose health they worry about. There’s a whole range of ways in which COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make us feel a very substantial lack of control. This combines with a deep sense of frustration at not being able to achieve desired outcomes or goals, and deep concern about the potential for harm to people whom we care about.

Can We Listen to Our Anger?

Some people are very in touch with this anger. However, there are many people who find the anger very hard to acknowledge. Yet, there may be some real importance in feeling and coming to terms with the anger associated with this COVID-19 time. A part of the messaging in our culture is that “nice people don’t get angry.” “After all,” many of us might tell ourselves, “what’s the use of talking about all this, and getting angry? It’s just getting upset for no good reason.”

Yet, there actually is a very good reason for acknowledging our anger around COVID-19 and related matters. It would be naive to think that, just because we don’t acknowledge our anger, it somehow goes away forever. As depth psychotherapists well know, if we repress something, which means pushing it out of our conscious mind, it keeps on going in our unconscious mind. From there, it can have a whole range of effects on us, many of them negative.

For instance, we can find that our anger “comes out sideways”, meaning that we find ourselves erupting into anger at other people or other situations, where the anger is completely unjustified. Or, we can find that unacknowledged anger leads us to be generally emotionally suppressed or “shut down”, and perhaps even depressed. In addition, anger that goes completely unacknowledged can have serious effects on our health, manifesting in terms of stress-related issues, and also having a strong negative effect on our bodies in areas like our cardiovascular system, or or digestive tract.

As we explore our anger, we may also find that other feelings, such as grief, sorrow, and even fear, hide within it. Acknowledging these feelings, dialoguing with them, and allowing ourselves to hear what they have to say to us may be a very important part of coming to terms with our lives as we move towards the post-COVID-19 period.

Anger and Soul Amidst COVID-19

Jungian depth psychotherapists use the terms “soul” and “soul-making” to refer to experiences that make us deeper, and that give us an enhanced awareness of who we are. In that sense, acknowledging and exploring our anger in the midst of this COVID-19 time can be an experience of “soul-making”. It can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and of where we can find meaning and direction in our lives.

In a time like the present, we are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and difficulty in determining our future direction, both personally and collectively. It can be a matter of great importance to acknowledge the anger that we are experiencing, and to do so in a self-compassionate way.

In coming to terms with anger, the support of a relationship with a depth psychotherapist can be of great value. It can serve us by helping us to feel that we are not alone, that our feelings are legitimate, and that they are part of our overall journey towards wholeness.

Wishing you every good thing on the journey,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Understanding the Meaning of My Dreams During COVID-19

June 1st, 2020 · meaning of my dreams

One of the things that COVID-19 lockdown has led to is that people are dreaming more–and, often wondering “What is the meaning of my dreams?” Do they mean anything?

Surveys that have been done by authoritative sources indicate that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, we may be sleeping less well than we did, but we tend to be sleeping somewhat more. The result of this is that many people surveyed report that they remember more dreams than in pre-lockdown times. What’s more, these dreams tend not to be of the peaceful, relaxing variety.

Harvard psychologist Dierdre Barrett has conducted an international survey of dreams during COVID-19. She has found that numbers of dreams that we would classify as nightmares have increased dramatically. This is consistent with results found in previous times of trauma, disaster or dramatically heightened anxiety, such as in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

Around the time of 9-11, there was a dramatic increase in anxious dreams involving themes such as planes crashing into buildings or terrorist attacks. In the time of COVID-19, not surprisingly, dreams are featuring themes like masses of maggots, swarms of bugs and hoards of cockroaches or worms. As Barrett points out, in colloquial language we often refer to getting a virus as “catching a bug”, so such imagery would very aptly express our anxieties in the current coronavirus-obsessed world. It seems that we’re witnessing a new phenomenon: the pandemic dream.

Focusing on the Meaning of My Dreams in COVID-19 Times

It’s certainly true that many of the dreams that people are experiencing have strong roots in everyday experience. It’s not really surprising that dreams of “bugs” are appearing frequently at this time, when one of our biggest anxieties concerns “catching a bug”. It’s also clear that many of these pandemic dreams reflect our anxiety. However, I would suggest that this anxiety may be about considerably more than just the narrow anxiety around catching the virus.

This may take us back to a fundamental question: why does dreaming exist at all? There have always been those who view dreaming as “the rubbish dump of the brain”, or “the brain clearing its tapes”, but today, there are very many more people who feel that dreaming serves a valuable function for us as we seek to move forward in our lives. Why would we dream, if not to enable us to adapt better?

If we approach dreams symbolically, as depth psychotherapists do, we could see the appearance of bugs, roaches, worms etc. as themselves a symbolic representation of anxiety, or of gnawing thoughts. While it’s true that many people may be currently experiencing fear of the COVID “bug”, what might be less obvious but essential to recognize, is that there are a great many gnawing anxieties in the present situation: the disease itself, for sure; the economic situation; the impact the situation is having on our relationships and families, and many, many more important issues.

Why It’s Important to be Open to Dreams

This is why it may be very important to be attentive to the particulars of the dream. A dream may be pointing to a very great deal of anxiety, but its essential to get a sense of what the anxiety is actually about. Because dreams offer us the opportunity to gain a glimpse of what is happening within us on the unconscious level, they can give us an important “way in” to understand the nature of our anxiety. They may also offer us important clues as to how to move beyond the anxiety, and to enable us to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, meaning and direction in our lives.

This is why it’s so unfortunate if we don’t give our dreams and our unconscious personality the chance to be heard. If we miss out on taking our dreams seriously, we may well be missing our chance at connecting to resources that could actually help bring some sense of forward movement to us at times in our lives when we feel we are completely “stuck”.

In my opinion, the word “stuck” is very important here, given our current situation worldwide. The strong message that I’m hearing from very many people is that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, and all the restrictions, individuals are experiencing a strong sense of being “stuck”. We’re at a time of major life transition. For many people, both individually and collectively, there is a strong sense that things are not going to go back to the way that they were. For many of us, there is the sense that the future will look different, but its hard to get a clear sense of exactly how.

Paying attention to our dreams, and to what they tell us about our current life situation may be an important step in getting beyond our stuckness.

What Will You Do about Your Dreams?

Dreams can be an important source of self-understanding, and they can help us move forward in our lives. This is always true, but it’s especially true during this time of COVID-19.

I would strongly encourage anyone who remembers a dream to keep a record of it, and to reflect upon it, because there can be a wealth of understanding in dreams. It may also be valuable to consult with a therapist who is well-versed in dreams and dream symbolism, as Jungian depth psychotherapists are.

With every good wish that the meaning of your dreams will open itself to you, and grace your own personal direction in this challenging time,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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