Journeying Toward Wholeness

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A New Direction for My Life, #1: What Matters Now?

May 31st, 2021 · a new direction

In my last post, I set out my goal of exploring what it would mean for us individually to find a new direction as we’re emerging from the pandemic.

a new direction
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There are times in life when we specifically need to search for a new direction for our lives. Often associated with major life transitions , these are times when we quite simply need to find something in our lives that works better for us than what we have been doing up to this point. These are the seasons in our life journey when life presents a different face to us than we’ve previously seen, and seems to expect a new and different response from us.

Often, these major life transitions can come to us because we have aged and matured and come to a new phase in our lives. The transitions into adulthood, through middle age, and into later life are three examples of such age-related transitions. On the other hand, some transitions occur because our individual circumstances have altered. Getting a new job, moving to a new city or having your first child would be examples of this kind.

Then again, some transitions that call us to go in a new direction come to us by means of a society-wide change or changes. This occurred in North America and Europe when World War 2 started, for example, and occurred again when the war ended, just as earlier it had occurred with the arrival of the Great Depression.

We’ve lived through the onset of the COVID-19 period, and its lengthy duration. Now, the end of this period is perhaps in sight, as nations like Canada and the US increasingly vaccinate their populations. As things gradually return to something more like—but not identical to—pre-pandemic normal, I would suggest that the transition we’re all going through is another one of these broad, society-wide transitions. It is likely that, in some respects, this transition will fundamentally alter the way that we relate to our environment, to others and to ourselves.

So, What Does All This Mean for Me?

You might be saying to yourself, “It’s all very well to go on about a ‘society-wide change’, but what does that actually mean for me?” And that is very much the key question!

There seems to be an emerging consensus among experts that society is going to look rather different in the post-COVID world, in ways that will make a difference to each of our individual lives. What follows is a list of some of the ways in which this is true.

Isolation vs. Community. For many of us, the COVID period has been about being isolated or “socially distanced” from others. This lack of interaction has been essential to prevent the spread of a very dangerous disease. Now though, there’s indication that the need for social distancing and the other health measures associated with COVID-19 is gradually going to disappear. So, in the near future, we’ll likely be able to start going to restaurants, or to have people other than family members in our homes. But, as the research of University of Georgia’s Prof. Richard Slatcher suggests, through the pandemic, many people have become more selective about who they choose to socialise with, as they replace casual social contact with stronger immediate family bonds and close friendships. Will this trend continue, post re-opening? No one is sure.

Changes to the World of Work. COVID has unquestionably altered the way that many people work. As indicated above, many people have moved into the mode of working primarily or exclusively from home. But that is not the only change that has occurred. As Linda Nazareth, a Senior Fellow of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa writes in a recent Globe & Mail article:

Is crisis mode our new normal in the work force? As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, it became clear that it was a case of “all hands on deck,” as everyone needed to step up to deal with a disruption the likes of which had not been seen before in our lifetimes. Workers were challenged to give their jobs their all, and many did just that. Now suddenly it is more than a year later, and for some it seems like the giving is never going to stop.
As the pandemic draws to a close, are things really going to go back to the old normal, or even to a new one where work-life balance is more than a phrase you see on communiqués from HR? Or will the reality be that the post-COVID-19 economy demands everyone keep going full-blast…?

Rich and Poor. The pandemic has had a double effect on the economy. There’s clear evidence that many people have been strongly negatively affected economically by the pandemic, while, for a segment of more affluent people has actually been saving more money than prior to the pandemic. Some people are going to be left worse off as a result of the pandemic, while some are actually doing better. What does this mean for our society, and for the individuals affected? As with the questions above, no one is sure.

What Changes? What Remains the Same?

There are clearly quite a number of areas where life is changing for many people. It’s clear that these changes affect different people in very different ways. We have experienced many changes, and we will continue to experience large impacts for quite some time. What will these things mean for our individual lives?

Part of the answer to this question is fixed. Social change, whether to our social interactions, the world of work or our economic situation will happen to us, and will have far-reaching impacts. Yet, there is the equally important question of how we will respond to these changes. Will we passively accept them, or will we make some concrete steps that affect the outcome for ourselves? This process of responding makes up a lot of what we mean when speak of finding a new direction for ourselves.

An important part of responding to change in our lives is, first of all to try and understand what the impact of external change upon us really is. These impacts will be both conscious and unconscious. They will involve concretely understanding what is that the change has brought into our lives. But then, and likely more importantly, we need to understand what the emotional impact of these changes upon us actually is. Are we feeling happiness, relief, sadness, anger or even grief over the things that are coming into being in our lives? To understand these feelings, we may well have to explore our own anxiety and depression, and the feelings that are associated with them. As a way of being compassionate to ourselves, it’s very important that we understand what the feelings are that we are carrying, both consciously and unconsciously about what has come to be in our individual lives.

My Own New Direction

When we really understand how the pandemic’s changes have impacted us, and take them in, we can begin to respond to them in a conscious way. This entails making choices in response to the changes that have occurred. For example, it may be that I recognize in myself a tendency to interact socially with others less, as a result of social distancing and lockdown. Yet if I become conscious of that tendency, I can ask myself, “Look, is this something that I want to occur?” If it is, then I can consciously embrace and accept it. If it isn’t, then I can take steps to counter the tendency, and to open myself up socially. The same is true of many, many different types of change that I might experience. As Jung would tell us, if we become conscious of what has happened to us, then we find new possibilities for responding to it, and for finding a new direction.

Jungian depth psychotherapy can be an excellent way to explore the implications and impacts of changes in our lives, and also of coming to understand the meaning of major life transitions that we are undergoing. It can be an excellent tool for becoming more conscious of the events in your life, and for understanding the meaning and unfolding of your own journey towards wholeness.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

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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Yearning for a New Direction

May 10th, 2021 · a new direction

This is a short post, exploring something of deep importance for us at this unique point in time, namely, the search for a new direction.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Psychologically speaking, the pandemic, the lockdown, and all the related issues have stirred things up pretty thoroughly for the vast majority of people. From a Jungian or depth psychotherapy perspective, we can say that most people are dealing with a strong intuition that whatever happens now, the future will not be like the past.

As has been the case since very ancient times, the anxiety of such times stirs up two conflicting archetypally based images or symbols in the minds of those living through them. These symbols have coloured the way humans have looked at change and the future for as long as there have been humans.

One is the archetype of the apocalypse. This is an image that certainly takes the reality of change seriously. If it could speak, it would say to us “Yes, things are changing dramatically! The whole world is going to hell in a handbasket! Everything good we’ve known is going down the toilet—forever!”

As in previous times of crisis or change, we can find that there are people who are gripped by this picture of total meltdown. In social media, we can certainly find the voices that say that we never will get out of the pandemic, or that, if we do, the world will be so hopelessly broken that it won’t be worth inhabiting. Sadly, many of the voices that are saying such things are young. Those of us who are older need to be particularly attuned to the voices of the young in our time, and we need to be prepared to do whatever we can to keep their hope alive.

While these apocalyptic ideas are circulating, it’s important for us to recognize that there’s a second archetypally based symbol that is stirring among us at this time, and that is the archetype of renewal through death and rebirth. There are very many people who recognize that things are not going to go back to exactly the way that they were before the pandemic. There has been change, and something—a certain way in which we lived and understood the world—has died and is gone forever.

Yet this imagery would emphasize that there is going to be rebirth on the other side of the pandemic. Something is dying, but something is also being born, and is bringing renewal and new life. People who discern this archetype are often very curious about the nature of the new direction in which we might be headed. “What is emerging? How will life call upon us to change and renew ourselves?”—these are questions most often associated with major life transitions of various types and forms.

In the coming weeks, I will be doing a series on the theme, “A New Direction”, asking what it looks like, what are the signs of it in our own lives, and how can we begin to respond to it meaningfully and creatively,

Wishing you every good thing on your 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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Improving Your Self Esteem, Right in the Middle of Lockdown

May 3rd, 2021 · improving your self esteem

“Improving your self esteem” is a subject that’s always important and relevant, but it takes on even greater meaning in the midst of situations like our current lockdown.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Self esteem is a complex thing, with many different dimensions. We all have a lot of different individual factors that influence whether we feel good about ourselves, or not. One thing we know for sure is that the isolation, anxiety and unique stresses of this lockdown period have challenged a lot of people’s self esteem and basic positive sense of themselves. As Prof. Thiago Matias and colleagues put it in their paper “Human needs in COVID-19 isolation”,

These are extraordinary times. Throughout history, there have been plenty of pandemics but the human response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is unprecedented. It is estimated that close to 4 billion people are living in social isolation during this mother of all pandemics…. The cumulative impacts of social distancing will be truly profound.

As these authors tell us, we know that connecting with others normally helps individuals to regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and remain resilient. Combined with other factors, the lack of these things could easily have a sharply negative impact on our self esteem. 

To Value Ourselves

But what is self-esteem really based on, anyway? What does genuine positive self-esteem look like?

Actually, we generally know healthy self-esteem when we see it. We can often feel it when we experience any of the following in another person—or in ourselves, s/he :

  • is able to set and keep boundaries;
  • is not afraid of feedback or conflict;
  • is assertive without being controlling;
  • doesn’t fear failure;
  • doesn’t need to people-please, or curry approval;
  • doesn’t have feelings of inferiority;
  • is not overly perfectionistic; and, above all,
  • accepts her- or himself.

A person with positive self-esteem might well acknowledge that regular contact with people can bring validation from others, and would accept that getting affirmative support from others is a good thing. Yet a person with positive self-esteem has a certain attitude toward validation that comes from others.

Validation from Others is Good, But…

A person with positive self-esteem may welcome the positive regard of others, but there’s something s/he won’t do. Individuals can feel they have positive self-esteem, and never realize that the only reason they feel that way is because others approve of them. In such people, the positive regard of others is acting like an air pump attached to a balloon with a hole in it. If we remove the air pump, the balloon will slowly deflate. Similarly, if a completely other-directed person loses the approval of others, what seemed like a solid personality will be filled with self-doubt and loss of direction.

Affirming and Respecting Our True Identity

True self-esteem welcomes the approval of others, but doesn’t depend on it. Rather, self-esteem depends on finding our most fundamental source of approval within ourselves. The renowned humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow asserted that, when our most fundamental needs are met, it becomes possible for us to strive for our individual sense of meaning and fulfillment. In Maslow’s view, the ultimate source of self-esteem comes from striving to be ourselves. As he stated, using the conventions of his day, “What a man [sic] can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.”. This is very like the statement of C.G. Jung that “The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization — absolute and unconditional— of its own particular law.”

What is your unique route to self-esteem? How can you begin, even during lockdown, to honour and respect your own unique being?

Many of us are currently going through a time that is very challenging in several different ways that intertwine. All of these different stressors and challenges may impact the ways in which we value who we fundamentally are, and our personal story. The importance of finding ways to be compassionate to ourselves, and to cultivate deep respect for our personal journey towards wholeness has never been greater.

Depth psychotherapy is a valuable tool for many who are striving for a deeper appreciation of who they are. A Jungian approach, which emphasizes the importance of seeing our own unique lives against the background of the universal themes of human life, and finding our own personal story or myth, has tremendous value in a time like the present, which asks us such deep questions about our personal journey.

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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