Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Hope and Trust, and Reclaiming the Future

October 19th, 2020 · adapting to change, hope and trust

In this post, I’m moving slightly away from my recent posts on “Emotions of the Pandemic”, to examine hope and trust.

Hope and trust might seem like they’re very important things in a major life transition such as this pandemic period, and of course they are. However, they’re equally important for any season in our lives. Many of the things that are true about hope during the pandemic are true, really, about a great many stages and points in our lives.

Hope is an essential part of human life. You may have heard some version of that old saying:

Humans can live about forty days without food, maybe three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only about one second without hope.

Yet what exactly is hope? How do we get it? As C.G. Jung tells us, it’s not just something that happens to us:

Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort [italics mine]. 

C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Jung ranks hope as one of the great accomplishments of the human spirit, and he recognizes that there’s more to it than might at first appear.

Hope and Trust: Not Exactly Emotions

Hope is not just a naive, feel-good emotion that carries us along. It’s a dynamic motivator that involves at least three of the four psychological functions: thinking, feeling and intuition. The emotional and feeling part of hope follows the thinking and intuitive part which generate motivating goals. There can be an inspirational aspect to hope, in that the things that really move us to persist and to strive can sometimes come in a full-blown way out of the unconscious.

Hope has an emotional part, a positive emotional charge that comes out of our capacity to imagine possibilities, and ways in which we might start to be able to realize them. It relates to our capacity to establish what psychologists like Prof. Charles Snyder call learning goals, which are goals that help us to aspire to improving our situation, and that of those we care about. This contrasts with those who lack hope, who tend to choose only mastery goals, which are easy goals that don’t require us to challenge ourselves, or do anything we haven’t tried before. These are goals that don’t aspire to anything better than the present situation. They are devoid of hope. Very often, they can be associated with high levels of depression and anxiety.

Where Can I Find Hope and Trust?

The road to hope starts with imagining possibility, ways in which things could be different and better than what we currently are experiencing. So there is definitely an element of imagination in hope.

Sometimes, our experience in life may prevent us from imagining possibilities that are different from the things we experience at present. This may be as a result of experience from even the early days of life, when perhaps the family dynamics, economic conditions or other factors led us to close the door on anything other than the particular situation in which we as children or young people found ourselves.

Or, it may be that, as a result of setbacks and issues that we face in the present that our capacity to imagine and take steps to move toward good things in the future has been damaged, or lost altogether. This situation is what we call “losing hope”. It can be caused by many types of life circumstances, but it’s an experience that a good number of people are encountering during this time of COVID-19 and lockdown.

We need to get back to our hope, and to trust in a future that can offer us good things.

Strength for Now and the Future

In order to move into a personal future that is worth having, we need to be able to envisage a better possibility for the future. We also need to have the motivation and resilience to pursue those possibilities, and we need to be able to see at least the outline of a way of getting to those goals. It can be a crucial and demanding piece of psychological work to move into a place of healing, from which hope is possible.

Working with a depth psychotherapist to develop the ability to imagine better future possibilities that can actually be achieved, and to find the inner motivation and resiliency to move toward them, can be a very important step towards recovering genuine hope and trust in our life journey.

Wishing you genuine and lasting hope and trust 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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Photo by Wicker Paradise on Flickr.com (Creative Commons Licence)

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COVID 19 and Boredom: Journeying Towards Meaning and Value

October 5th, 2020 · COVID-19 and boredom

You might not think of boredom as an emotion, but it is. In fact, it’s one of the most widely experienced “Emotions of the Pandemic”

Boredom is one definite aspect of what we’re experiencing in the pandemic. Certainly, this lockdown period is a time of stress, uncertainty and fear, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t often find ourselves succumbing to boredom. We might feel that we shouldn’t be bored at this demanding and unusual time, that life somehow demands more of us—but that doesn’t necessarily stop it from happening.

We might well feel, as Margaret Talbot writing in the New Yorker puts it, that

The… plot thickens by the hour. We need to be paying attention. But boredom, like many an inconvenient human sensation, can steal over a person at unseemly moments. And, in some ways, the psychic limbo of the pandemic has been a breeding ground for it—or at least for a restless, buzzing frustration that can feel a lot like it.

Talbot, Margaret, “What Does Boredom Do to Us—and for Us?”

Boom Times for Boredom?

This pandemic period has seen many people stuck for prolonged periods in their homes, either working from home, or, in a good many cases, unable to work. Social activities have been cut back dramatically, as has attending restaurants, theatres, sporting events, gyms, libraries and many of the other activities that form the social, cultural and recreational backbone of our society. The result has been that many people have experienced considerable amounts of boredom, which U. Illinois-Springfield Prof. Shahram Heshmat describes as

an unpleasant emotional state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity…. Boredom is such a motivating force that people do all kinds of things to ease the pain.

This description aptly describes a state that many people will clearly recognize as occurring frequently during the lockdown period.

There are a few typical “stepping stones” to boredom. If you’re experiencing these things, you’re very likely on your way to being bored:

  • Monotony occurs when tasks are too predictable and repetitive;
  • Lack of “Flow” happens when we can’t immerse ourselves in what we’re doing;
  • Need for Novelty comes about when there’s an absence of external stimulation;
  • Unengaged Attention strikes us when we just can’t concentrate on something;
  • Emotional Unconsciousness hits us when we’re unaware of our emotional states, and don’t really know what will make us happy;
  • Undeveloped Inner Resources may keep us always looking outwards, searching for stimulation and novelty; and,
  • Feeling Trapped occurs when we feel stuck or constrained—as many people do during the lockdown.

Many people have been aware of experiencing these things during the COVID 19 lockdown period.

COVID 19 and Boredom: Taking Hold

How do we deal with the boredom we may be experiencing now? One of the important challenges with respect to COVID 19 and boredom is admitting to ourselves that we’re in fact bored. We may find that we resist acknowledging our boredom. Why is that?

University of Calgary Classics Professor Peter Toohey, in his 2011 book Boredom: A Lively History describes the concept of acedia, an ancient Christian term which was applied to the boredom that hermits and monks experienced as a temptation to abandon their life of prayer and contemplation. As Margaret Talbot tells us, “Though boredom no longer strikes most people as a sin, as acedia was for medieval monks, a dusting of shame still clings to it, especially when it can’t be blamed on a job endured to pay the bills.”

Often we do associate a sense of shame or inadequacy with the idea of being bored, as if being bored was a personal or moral failure. But we need to approach our boredom from a place of self-compassion. What if our boredom is simply an emotional state, that puts us in contact with a deep need in our lives for things that are real, meaningful and full of vitality?

What’s Meaningful Now?

In our boredom, we can discern an emotional state that forces us to ask some deep questions about our lives. We can seek to avoid those inquiries by seeking for refuge in more and more entertainment and/or thrill-seeking behaviour, or through the experiences that are at the root of much addictive behaviour (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.). However, those types of experience are likely to leave us feeling that we are still lacking what we ultimately need.

The challenge in our experience of COVID 19 and boredom is to find the things in our lives that involve us and give us the sense that we are having real and substantial experience. This entails finding the experiences that connect us with soul. The search for what is ultimately meaningful in this way has particular importance for the midlife transition, but also comes into the foreground at times of major life transition, as we’re experiencing with pandemic and lockdown.

Depth psychotherapy can often be of tremendous help in identifying what is truly meaningful, by bringing us into intimate contact with the rich resources we have in our inner life and in the as-yet undiscovered self.. The most important answers to the questions posed by our experiences of boredom are grounded in our journey to wholeness, and in connecting with out authentic selves.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

PHOTOS:

Photo by Wicker Paradise on Flickr.com (Creative Commons Licence)

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