Journeying Toward Wholeness

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A New Direction for My Life, #3: Is Now The Right Moment?

June 21st, 2021 · a new direction

If we look around at the situation now with respect to the pandemic, the moment seems unique. We feel a sense of possibility, and maybe even new direction.

a new direction
PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Our inner cynic might ask, So, what’s really so special about this moment?” Well, throughout this series on finding a new direction for my life, we’ve noted the strong sense with which we’ve all been living that we are hemmed in by limitations that we can’t do much to control. Yet now, there seems to be a different feeling, a changed atmosphere. Some might say that it’s the result of the arrival of the season of nice weather, with people who’ve had too much “cabin fever” desperate to be out and about. Is that all it is?

It might seem that way. It’s certainly true, at least in my part of the world that people are out and about, in very large numbers. As restrictions lift, the highways are crowded, and the stores are packed, and there’s a tremendous sense of energy, bound up for too long. It strongly seems like this energy wants to flow out into the world. That surge in all of us may not know exactly where it really wants to go, or what it wants to do there, but it’s a reality in our collective social lives. It as if the life is starting to flow back into our common life, rather like the blood flowing back into an arm or leg that has “gone to sleep”.

However, saying this is not the same thing as saying that “everything is coming up roses”. While many people are coming back into the public sphere in ways we haven’t seen for quite some time, this is not true of everyone. Just as happens with a limb that has gone to sleep, when the life flows back into it, the sensations at first may not be all that pleasant. There are many people, for instance, who are experiencing a deep genuine reluctance to leave their homes and venture back into anything resembling public space. For people in this position, the anxiety or fear associated with yet “another transition” may be disempowering and overwhelming.

What are we to make of this moment in our lives? What are we supposed to do with it?

What Do You Want Now?

This moment that we’re experiencing may well have some unique characteristics. There’s a strong sense shared by many, whether expert social commentators and academics, or ordinary people, that this is a moment when things are in a highly unusual state of flux. Some, such as Harvard Professor and former U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicolas Burns, have said that the situation is comparable to what has occurred when the world has gone through a world war. Whether that is exactly correct or not, it’s clear that the world has been through, and is going through a lot—and so are individual people.

We have all faced some very unusual, demanding and stressful times. Yet now it seems that things may be making a shift, and that the world, or at least our part of the world, may be moving back toward something that in many ways looks a lot more like pre-pandemic normal. Yet we would be wise to look at the ways in which our current situation isn’t exactly normal.

For instance, if we think about the economic impact of the pandemic, some surprising facts come to light. When the pandemic began, many—rightly—feared its potential economic impact. And for many, there has been a very significant downside in lost jobs, or reduced compensation or benefits. Yet, paradoxically, as a recent CBC article underscored,

Canadians have saved a record amount during the pandemic, resulting from the combined impact of reduced spending and collecting more money from government support programs.

CBC “Average Canadian Saved More in the Pandemic”, 21 June / 21

Similarly, there is apparently strong evidence to indicate that Canadian workers, who have been working virtually throught the pandemic, are not necessarily all that eager to return to working full-time 9 to 5 at the office. A recent study by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies has shown that fully 80% of Canadians have found working from home to be partially or fully positive, and only 20% are looking forward to returning to the office full-time. There is a strong indication that employers may have difficulty finding employees who want full-time in the office, and that employers may be offering a variety of options for work in order to retain and attract the employees that they want.

So, in the near future, many people may be confronted with opportunities to move in some new directions. THe option may be there to reshape their work life, together with the question of what they really want to do with their money to create new value in their lives. In short, we may be in a moment when many people will be confronted with possibilities that might not have seemed viable prior to the pandemic. What will we choose? How will we live our lives?

Visualizing What Could Be

Archetypal psychologist C.G. Jung often used a word that he borrowed from the ancient Greeks: kairos. In ancient Greek, this word means “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” Could this moment of the end of the pandemic be a kairos moment for many of us? A moment when there might be an opportunity for choice that moves our lives in the direction of what we really value? It might be important for us to consider this possibility.

If that is a genuine possibility, this may be a time when it’s essential to approach our lives with some real clear-sightedness. I would suggest that this clear-sightedness might need to take two forms.

First, we need to be as clear-sighted as possible about our outer reality. We need to see clearly what we are up against in terms of our outer situation. What really is going on in terms of our work life or our home life or our social life? And can we get past our prejudice or our habitual ways of thinking a perceiving, and possibly be open to some new options for our lives, options that this kairos moment may have brought to us. Examining some of these options might really increase our anxiety level, initially, but there may be options for our lives and work that we might not have previously considered.

The second form of clear-sightedness is an inner form that stems from our inmost yearnings. Do we have the capacity to visualize what we really want, what we really yearn for? In this culture, it can be easy for us to let advertising and the media dictate to us what it is that we want. If we do, it’s possible that we might end up with a very conventional, rather shallow set of hopes and aspirations for ourselves that doesn’t really reflect our inner uniqueness—the core of who we are. We need to be conscious of the things that attract us deeply, even if the rest of the world is prepared to dismiss them as silly, trivial or impractical. In your heart of hearts, what is it that you really want for your life?

A New Direction for My Life

Life may be calling us to use this unique moment of life transition to move our lives in the direction of our deepest hopes and aspirations. If so, life may be offering us quite an adventure and a challenge!

To move our lives towards our deepest aspirations requires that we know ourselves to an increasing degree. Not only that, it requires that we accept ourselves, and value ourselves—love ourselves, in fact. This requires a dedication of time and energy to observing ourselves, wondering about ourselves, expressing ourselves and exploring our own nature. From this place, we can then make changes in our outer reality, to bring it more into accord with our inner reality and the objects and yearnings that are really the most important to us.

A genuinely open and supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can often be of great healing benefit on this personal odyssey.

Wishing you every good thing for 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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A New Direction for My Life, #2: Resilience Amidst Change

June 7th, 2021 · a new direction

This is the third blog in my series on “finding a new direction” as we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic and from lockdown. In this post we look at the importance of resilience as we go through this process of change.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

As with several of the themes in this series, resilience is a matter of great importance at many points in our life journey, but is particularly relevant when we go through major life transitions. Change asks a great deal of us, especially when it’s the kind of change that we don’t initiate, but that originates in the external world, to which we must adapt. For our purposes we can define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress. It matters a great deal to be able to find resilience at challenging times like the present moment.

Whenever in life the situation is constantly changing, it’s easy to feel battered, and like we’re continually on the run. We’re all used to the message now that change is good, that it’s the new normal and that we should embrace it, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. As humans and as mammals, our biology and our psychology are strongly oriented to having some fixed stable things in our environment that we can depend on. When some of those things are called into question by external situations where there’s a lot of rapid change and uncertainty, it can be hard for us to keep our perspective, and to keep moving toward the things that we really value in our lives.

Resilience, the process of adapting well in the face of adversity may well be needed when we face family or relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace stressors or financial strains. All of these things are often part of the regular fabric of life, and if the people I interact with are at all typical, such issues have only intensified as a result of people’s COVID experiences. So life is calling us to find our resilience.

But What Actually Is Resilience?

We gave a working definition of resilience above, but what is resilience, actually? What does it actually look like?

It’s very important to clearly state that resilience is not something extraordinary or heroic. It’s not the few who are capable of being resilient. A person’s capacity for resilience is capable of development, and we see that very many people do develop it, as when people rebuild their lives after a major setback or tragedy. We see this when we see people re-orienting and rebuilding their lives after events like 9/11, or after a flood or a major disaster like the 2016 wildfire in Fort MacMurray, (widely regarded as one of the most extensive disasters in Canadian history). We probably know people who have been able to demonstrate resilience in the aftermath of grave personal setbacks like illness, accident or job loss.

In the course of meeting the many challenges of a lifetime, we probably will all be called upon to find our inner capacity for resilience. For many, as we move forward from COVID-19, that moment might be now.

Running on Empty

Yet, a lot of us don’t feel like we have much resilience at the present moment. For many people in the health care professions, in education, in the performing arts, in the hospitality field, in areas like business to business sales and in many other fields and individual cases, this last year and a half has been an extremely demanding time. People have felt like they’ve had to draw on extraordinary resources to get through.

Consequently, many people are feeling shell-shocked. They feel pummeled, like they’re taken blow after blow. And in many cases, peoples’ anxiety is making them feel like the present situation will just keep going on and on and on—with no end in sight.

The Process of Resilience

It may be our perception that we’re deeply stuck in something that we can’t escape, but that doesn’t mean that our perception is accurate! We can do things to actively enhance our resilience, to increase our capacity to deal with the change and uncertainty, and to “get through”.

One thing we can do is believe in, affirm and use our own power and agency. Resilient people are people who know that their own actions and their own choices have a profound effect on outcomes. They are also aware that we can create or exaggerate stressors in our own minds, if we focus on those stressors, rather than on the places in our situation where we can use our ability to influence outcomes.

The opus consists of three parts: insight, endurance and action.

C.G. Jung, Letters, vol. 1

Another thing that we can do is to strive to appreciate and affirm our own personal worth, while striving to be more in touch with our personal values and the core things that have meaning in our lives. Our ultimate direction in life and our focus, is always home, towards the things that we cherish and value most deeply, and towards the things that make our lives more meaningful. Rather than being completely overwhelmed by the present situation, there is always a sense that we are moving more and more toward what has meaning. This may well involve our highest spiritual, religious, philosophical and/or aesthetic values.

We also need to emphasize being adaptable and pragmatic. It’s important to be able to be flexible and responsive in our approach to things, rather than getting locked into black and white thinking. It’s also important for us to focus on the things that we can concretely change and the problems that we can solve, rather than the things we can’t.

A final and particularly vital attribute of resilient people is that they’re able to extend compassion to themselves. They are kind with themselves when they make mistakes and errors, and they work on avoiding self-critical inner dialogue. They are realistic and practical about their expectations of themselves, and they recognize and give themselves the things that they need.

Resilience and a New Direction

These attributes of resilience are key to having the endurance to find and move in a new direction in a time like ours. We need the flexibility, the personal power and the compassion to move beyond a victim role into the possibilities of the future. One of the best ways of cultivating these personal qualities is through work in a secure trusting, supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist.

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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