Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Parental Stress & Anxiety During the Pandemic

August 31st, 2020 · anger management, anger management therapy, parental stress

Parental stress and anxiety are very often high in September, but this year it’s higher than ever for many parents.

Father in a state of stress with playing children. Home stress concept with cartoon characters. Vector illuctration of parent and children at living room modern interior.

This year, as we all know, it’s not just a matter of the regular parenting stress and anxiety associated with the start of the school year, which can be quite high enough. In addition, parents are dealing with all the uncertainties and pressures from COVID-19 that schools and other institutions are seeking to address with the measures they are taking to attempt to create a safe, non-contagious environment for students and staff.

As is natural and normal for human beings, when we’re stressed and dealing with uncertainty, we seek re-assurance, and we try to look for ways to make the situation more controllable and certain. That’s exactly how many who are parenting now are responding, seeking to learn as much as they can, and arrange things as well as they can, to maximize a sense of stability and control. Yet the decisions that have to be made now, around education, social connection and maintaining health can certainly be challenging. What is more, it’s hard to see any “perfect” solutions. Many parents are feeling forced into difficult choices, trade-offs and compromises.

The Vulnerability of Parenthood–Especially Now

I have no pretensions to being any wiser than anyone else about what the right course of action is for parents who are seeking to do the best thing possible for their children. I know that many parents are weighing big choices, such as whether to send their children back to the classroom with whatever element of risk that entails, or to keep their kids at home for “virtual school” or homeschooling, with all the social, educational and occupational challenges that each choice would imply.

It can feel like there is a very great deal at stake, both for the well-being of children and the peace of mind of parents. How can parents find their way through this exceptionally demanding time, and both look after those whom they love, and simultaneously avoid being overcome by parental stress and anxiety?

At this time, many parents are deeply feeling the vulnerability inherent in being a parent. That vulnerability is always there, because, try as we might, parents can’t control all the ways in which life might impact our children negatively. We’re always trying to make our children secure, and to find paths through life that will enable them to grow as human beings and to have rich and meaningful lives. At some particular times, however, we feel the insecurity and anxiety of this more than at other times. This is particularly true in this time of pandemic, and now of needing to face choices around education in the midst of it.

Smiling Through?

The response of some people to this kind of situation is denial. They just go on as if everything is fine and seamless. They try to convey to everyone that they are motoring along, and coping without any parental stress. They especially try to convey to their children the message that there is no need to worry, and that everything is under control.

Unfortunately, however, it may become readily apparent at some point that everything is not under control, and that these kinds of decisions are hard. If we try too hard to give the sense that we’ve “got it all under control”, things have a way of showing us that they’re not. Things can backfire disastrously upon us when we don’t acknowledge the “shadow” of things, as Jungians say. And what may be in the shadow—and what we may not admit, even to ourselves—is our awareness that all is not under control, that the education options are imperfect, or even, at points, just plain wrong for the situation. And that we as parents are uncertain, scared and unable to make it all alright.

Self-Care and Meaning

An important form of self-compassion is involved in admitting to ourselves that we can’t possibly control all the variables in this situation to guarantee that things will turn out perfectly. This doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us human parents who are dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of a rapidly changing world.

It’s a matter of key importance that we don’t hide this human and vulnerable side of ourselves from our children, as we confront the major life transition of kids returning to school in the midst of the pandemic. While it may not be appropriate to make them party to all of our doubts and fears, it is essential that children get the message that we don’t know it all when it comes to making the choices around going back to school, that we love them, and we’re striving to do our very best to make wise choices.

Given the significance of the choices involved, it’s extremely important to involve children of whatever age in the decision-making process to at least some degree, so that they feel certain that their needs and wants are being taken seriously.

As I mentioned above, confrontation with the vulnerability we face as parents around back-to-school decisions in this pandemic time may well be part of a major life transition that we are undergoing at this time. This whole pandemic situation may well be part of a changing understanding of our place in life and our identity, and our key values and priorities that very many people are experiencing at this time.

It may be of key importance to gain the benefit of good therapy in confronting the parental and other challenges of this time. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in that it is concerned with finding deep meaning in our life situations, combined with a deep level of acceptance of ourselves, in all our strengths, weaknesses and complexities.

With very best wishes for your continuing journey towards wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Why Go On a Journey of Self Discovery? Why Now?

August 24th, 2020 · a journey of self discovery

The phrase “a journey of self discovery” may seem a little over-used and cliche, but the symbol of human life as a journey is as archetypal as it gets.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

The idea that humans need to go on a journey where the destination is self-knowledge is also very ancient. Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle all urged their followers to “Know thyself”. The impulse to know and understand ourselves was actually already very old even in their time. What is it about understanding ourselves that is so important?

Well, Jung helps us to understand that self-knowledge is connected to wholeness. Knowing ourselves, being connected to the various parts of ourselves, and fundamentally accepting ourselves, in Jung’s conception are key to having a meaningful life. It’s only when we can start to see all the various parts of ourselves, and meet all those parts with kindness, that we can begin to experience a sense of who we are as individuals, and to live that out in a meaningful way.

The Call of the Moment

Many people are finding that the issue of self-knowledge has become important at this particular time. This is occurring as people encounter various issues and situations in their lives, a good number of which have been intensified by the pandemic. While in some cases the pandemic created these situations, it seems, more often, that people are finding that issues and questions that they have been living with for a long time have been brought into clearer focus by these unusual times.

Here are some examples of situations where people have been finding that the issue of self-knowledge has come into focus.

  • An individual has been confined to home by the pandemic with their spouse, and questions about what he or she wants from the marriage, and from life, have come into the foreground,
  • Pandemic conditions have changed peoples’ work situations in some very big ways, and individuals are asking themselves pressing questions about their work, and even more broadly about their overall sense of vocation, meaning or purpose in life.
  • With the lockdown, people have been spending more time inside, and on their own, and often find themselves thinking about issues from their past, or thinking about previously unexplored aspects of themselves, or about regrets or aspirations.

These are all issues that many people had somewhere in their minds prior to the advent of COVID and the lockdown. Yet, it seems that, for many in this time, the questions and issues have become much more urgent.

But Don’t I Know Myself Already?

Now, many people feel that they know themselves well already, and have no real need to put effort into understanding themselves. They feel quite confident that they see and understand themselves as they really are. Yet there may be some indications that their self-understanding is not as great as they might think.

Often, an individual might be surprised at what others who know them well might be able to tell them about themself, that the person either doesn’t know, or has only dimly suspected to be true about themselves. Jung is far from the only psychologist to note that other people know things about us of which we may still be unaware.

This is because a substantial part of the human mind, and of our personhood, is unconscious. The unconscious mind, and the portions of the brain where it functions, are vast, indeed. A great portion of the operations of the brain occur in the unconscious. While Sigmund Freud was one of the first to refer to the unconscious mind, he tended to associate it with repressed content related to the sexual and aggressive drives. Today, the modern understanding of the unconscious mind has moved beyond this, and researchers such as Prof. Ap Dijksterhuis of Radboud University have shown that much feeling and emotion and much of the intuition and creative activity of human beings is grounded in the unconscious.

It can be of great importance to become acquainted with the unconscious parts of ourselves, for our happiness and sense of meaning and fulfillment. Making a connection with the parts of ourselves that we know less well can lead to an increase in our sense of overall vitality, and our feeling of being genuinely connected to our own unique lives.

Meeting the Undiscovered Self

The journey of self discovery is an on-going process. It unfolds as we meet new stages of our experience in life, and we may particularly gain awareness when we go through major life transitions, such as the midlife transition, or the transition into retired life.

A journey of self discovery can often be enhanced by working with the right type of psychotherapy. Most often, for dealing with issues of meaning, fulfillment or integration of conscious and unconscious elements of the personality, working with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of great benefit.

With very best wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Lockdown, Soul and Marking The Passage of Time

August 17th, 2020 · passage of time

Marking the passage of time in important ways is a quintessentially human activity. However in these COVID times, it’s become a great deal more difficult to do.

I don’t mean that we can’t tell what time it is: of course, the clocks still work! But that’s something different from being aware of the passage of time in a psychological sense.

Yes, you can still watch the hands of the clock go around during the time of COVID. But the problem for many people is the endless sameness of each day, when work occurs in the same space as homelife and relaxation, when there are limited destinations outside of the house, and when few people can gather at any one time and place.

Our human life depends greatly on indicators that map out the passage of time as we experience it subjectively. A great deal of research in modern neuroscience has emphasized that there are strong linkages between our emotional state, and the ways in which we subjectively experience the passage of time. Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to use the term “flow” for the way time passes when we’re caught up in pleasurable, engaging experiences where all distractions are shut out. In recent years, research has also done much to confirm and explain our felt sense that time passes quicker as we age as individuals.

The marking of personal time, of the passage of seasons and the occurrence of significant events and major life transitions in our lives is a matter of the greatest importance for meaningful human life. It’s not overstating things to say that it is key to having the sense of being truly alive.

Loss of Soul

Loss of awareness and failure to observe the special, meaningful character of time is strongly connected with the loss of awareness of key aspects of our inner life, sometimes referred to as “loss of soul” by depth psychotherapists. This is something we can experience powerfully during times of lockdown. The days drift into one another, when weekdays can seem just the same as weekends, when cherished regular activities have been put on hold, and when even family routines have been disrupted (e.g., taking the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house).

As a result of this “flattening out”, our lives can begin to lose the dimension of soul, as Jungians and other depth psychotherapists would say. The deep human significance of human events gets lost. We see this loss at its most extreme, when we see what happens with some of the turning points or very special major life transitions during the lockdown. One hears of couples getting married, and of almost all the guests only being able to attend virtually. The same has been experienced by a substantial number of people around funerals of family members. And the most extreme example has occurred when people who are fatally ill with COVID have been forced to leave this life without being able to see any family members. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how dreadful such an experience would be.

Flattening Out, Dampening Down

Denial of the need to acknowledge the special moments in our human life results in a loss of our connection to meaning and to what has lasting importance—a loss of connection to the archetypal dimensions of human life, as Jungians refer to it. As Jung and Viktor Frankl and many existentialist and humanistic psychologists have pointed out, one of the key things that human beings need to survive and thrive is a sense of meaning. We strongly need to feel that there is a significance to our lives, to feel that what happens to us matters.

The purpose of ritual, celebration and commemoration in human life is to make us conscious of the connection between what we’re doing or living and some bigger, more fundamental story. Whatever form it takes, we need this connection back to the meaning of the passage of time—in order to stay human.

Creativity and the Passage of Time

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel to the City of Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is famous for the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest Shakespearean festival. This year, because of COVID-19, the regular season of plays, all held in indoor venues, had to be cancelled. To its credit, though, the City didn’t respond to these events by lapsing into despair or passivity.

When you walk on the streets in Stratford this summer, you get the sense of a great deal of life! A large number of the restaurants in the central part of the city have created patios, so that, even if people cannot be in the restaurants for dinner, they can be out enjoying meals on the streets, which are full of life and pedestrian traffic. None of the Festival’s plays can currently be performed indoors, but various theatre groups have created plays that you can watch out of doors—or seated in your car, as if for a drive-in movie. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, they’ve created a marvelous little music barge with a good sound system, which enables some fine musical artists to perform out-of-doors while travelling up and down the Avon river, which runs through the centre of town. It’s all quite impressive!

It seems to me that Stratford has done something that we all need to do in the face of the sense of shut-down and restriction that we have faced as a result of COVID-19. The CIty has found ways to acknowledge and show that this summer period is something special, even if people can’t do the “normally special” things that are usually associated with Stratford in the summer. The people and organizations of Stratford have used their various creative abilities to mark the passage of this summer season in some valuable, meaningful ways.

I believe that essentially all of us are called by the Self to use our own individual creativity to achieve similar kinds of result, which acknowledge the passage of time in meaningful ways during this time of COVID. It’s very important that each of us find good, personally fulfilling ways to acknowledge important events in our own lives, and to understand the movement occurring in our own lives and of those who are close to us.

An important part of the work of depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis is to find connection with the deep meaning and significance of the events of our own lives, and to identify ways to honour the meaning we find in our own journey. This is always important, but in this time of COVID-19, it takes on an even greater value and meaning.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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