Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Fear and Anxiety and Our Changing Perceptions

September 27th, 2021 · changing perceptions, fear and anxiety

The COVID period has been long. It’s worthwhile reflecting on what’s happening to our changing perceptions now, at this point in our huge shared major life transition.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

We tend to think of ourselves basically hunkering down and enduring the whole COVID crisis, but we are actually changing as a result of our experiences in this time. None of us will emerge from this as quite the same person we were when we went into it. So, how are our perceptions altering? What is happening to us through all of this? Is there anything potentially good in all this?

Two of the key characteristics of this period have been uncertainty and anxiety. While for people in Ontario, there may be the feeling recently of a more optimistic trend, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the current circumstances. This is associated with anxiety and even fear that seems to sit just beneath the surface, present but not quite acknowledged.

All of this experience is changing us. It is certainly altering our outlook, the way we are experiencing the world and the ways in which we will move into the future. The key question will be exactly how it affects us. One possibility is that we could let it pull us into defensive and negative postures that lead us to permanently keep the world at arm’s length. Yet, we find ourselves asking: might there be any other possibilities?

Crisis and Personal Change

When human beings go through periods of crisis, or great and rapid change, it is common to experience uncertainty, disorientation, fear and anxiety and rapidly changing perceptions. This is part of the human condition. Author Guy Vanderhaeghe, OC, SOM in his recent novel August into Winter describes the descent into the crisis of the Second World War in a small Saskatchewan town. He writes of its effect on the consciousness of all those impacted,

You carried the past into the future on your back, its knees and arms hugging you tighter with every step.

So it is in a crisis. We struggle to come to terms with the new reality, to take it in, to see what it means. Perhaps many times we fall victim to misperception or misinformation. And all the while the past clings to us and doesn’t want to let us go. It cleaves to us, and as Vanderhaeghe so eloquently describes, demands to somehow be carried into the future. Throughout that process we struggle for new understanding that somehow combines what was, and what is. Clearly, the potential for anxiety in the midst of this is great indeed.

We’re Changing Whether We Acknowledge It or Not

We’re undoubtedly changing as we live through a changed world. As human beings, we need to make meaning of what is happening in our lives. We do this through the story that we tell ourselves about our lives. The question is whether that story we tell ourselves is one that genuinely affirms all of who we are, and that looks with honest and open eyes at the world as it is. The alternative is to tell ourselves a defensive story that may keep us from experiencing pain in the short run, but that isn’t truthful about either ourselves or the world. As Jungian analyst James Hollis asserts,

It is disturbing to think that rather than we living our stories, our stories might be living us.

Unfortunately, it’s common throughout our current time and through history for people to tell themselves stories about their lives that are self-deluding. Often these stories are driven by unconscious parts of the individual’s personality that are defending against trauma, shame and fear of many different kinds.

Changing Perceptions & The Undiscovered Self

Our changing perceptions are actually a doorway to the undiscovered parts of the self. As we live with and come to terms with our perception that the world has changed, we come to terms with what Jung called the undiscovered self. Our reactions to, and experience of, the world coming into being, and our sense of loss attached to the past that is gone, show us different parts of who we are. They are trying to come into our conscious awareness, and to be accepted with compassion.

Work with a compassionate and supportive depth psychotherapist can help immensely in dealing with our changing perceptions. It can also assist in bringing a deep sense of compassion for ourselves, and for others, in this turbulent time.

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)

→ No Comments

These Tough Times Show Us the Need for Roots

September 20th, 2021 · the need for roots

When we human beings face situations that are chaotic, unpredictable and full of anxiety, we often become aware of “the need for roots”. On some intuitive level, there is the sense that “strong roots” keep us from being haphazardly blown around by the storms of life.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Human roots are not the same as tree roots, naturally. Yet, there is a psychological power in the symbolic image of being rooted like a tree. A tree’s roots supply it with nutrients and keep it anchored in storms that would otherwise blow the tree around and catastrophically damage it. Is there an equivalent to tree roots that can provide solidity and support for people?…..

To see how desperately strong the need for roots is, we need look no further than examples of toxic religion and online cults. We have all heard the stories of the overwhelming hold that groups like NXIVM or QAnon have over their adherents. Individuals will sacrifice huge amounts of their personal property or treasure, their time, their privacy and autonomy and even their fundamental human dignity when cultic groups or their leaders demand.

What motivates individuals to give themselves in such an uncritical and wholesale way to serve cults? Simply put, it’s often the need to belong, to feel a sense of connection and rootedness in the world. Studies have shown that many adherents of QAnon are individuals who were previously deeply immersed in fundamentalist religious groups. They somehow have become alienated from those groups, yet are still motivated by powerful needs for connection and belonging. In its own demanding and exclusive way, this is exactly what a group like QAnon provides. Such groups are often full of tragic stories related to cynical manipulation of people’s need for solidity, connection and belonging.

Cults often perversely exploit the human need for roots. Where might we find a genuine and life-giving sense of rootedness? Well, there are quite a number of different kinds of possible “roots”.

The Roots of Personal Connection

Personal connection, by which we mean connection with people, is one very valuable way to meet the need for roots.

Connection with a loved one, or with family are common places where individuals experience at least some sense of rootedness. In fact, it’s the most common form of a sense of rootedness. This starts right with the infant’s connection with the mother. In fact, the child’s capacity for connection and relatedness is largely formed through the maternal bond.

Later in life, this bond with the mother has the potential to grow into our sense of connection and rootedness in the immediate and extended family. It also comes to include our sense of home, those with whom we enter into bonds of romantic love, and to family units that we create with them. It may also include extended family, and a sense of rootedness in a family extending back through generations, to a sense of belonging to a community and or a nation, and much, much more.

All of this may have a great deal of validity for us. Yet, we may find ourselves experiencing a need for rootedness that extends even beyond this. We may have a deep yearning for even more.

Rooted in the Body

It may seem surprising to put it this way, but we have an essential need to be rooted in our bodies! So often, because of our experiences in life, we may not be very aware of, or very connected to, our bodies at all. As a result, we may be living in a disconnected state, or even a state of what is known as derealization, where everything seems dreamlike, and almost as if it was happening to someone else, and we are just observers.

To live in a state of psychological rootedness and security, we have a deep need for awareness that our being in the world is rooted in the body in a solid way. As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman puts it, “Healing comes through embodiment of the soul.”

The Need for Roots in the Ground of Being

Often an individual will experience a need for roots that expresses itself through the sense of being rooted in a story that imparts meaning to their individual life. This may fall within the bounds of what we would traditionally call religion or spirituality. It might also be another form of explanation or story about human life that enables the individual to feel that the life that he or she is living has meaning or purpose. The need to feel that in some vital way, the life journey that we are on matters is fundamental to human living, as Viktor Frankl asserts. CG Jung described this kind of rootedness as “the need for a personal myth”.

In order to have a genuine, deep connection with this part of ourselves, Jung stressed that we need to be in touch with the unconscious parts of ourselves that are continually responding to our lived experience, and, in many situations actually influencing the way we perceive and live out our lives, often outside of our conscious awareness, and many times with dramatic effect. To be connected with this unconscious aspect of ourselves is another form of connection with a sense of rootedness.

Satisfying the Need for Roots

In difficult times like the present, when we are all dealing with a great amount of anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity, it’s essential that we find ways to firmly plant our lives in things that can satisfy our need for roots. We need to be connected to things that remain solid and sure in our lives when much is changing. Our yearning for roots is part of our yearning to be connected with who we fundamentally are, and with the connections and values that finally matter.

One powerful way to explore the connection to roots can be to do inner work in a trusting relationship with a depth psychotherapist. To search for and find what it is that genuinely makes me feel secure and connected within a safe and supportive therapeutic environment can bring a great deal of benefit, allowing us to choose and live out more of the life that we want.

Wishing you all the best on 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)

→ No Comments

In This Moment: Dealing with Uncertainty & Finding Security

September 13th, 2021 · dealing with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty and managing anxiety have been topics previously in this blog. Yet right now, many of us are dealing with things that make this a very important topic.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

At this point in the pandemic, things continue to be in a great deal of flux. In some respects we seem to be making some good progress. Here in Canada, an increasing number of people are getting vaccinated, which probably bodes well for the future. Yet what will happen in this major life transition even in the short run remains very hard to predict. We are living with a very changeable, fluid situation. The level of uncertainty is very high, in many different areas of our lives.

This uncertainty manifests in ways we may well not expect. As a recent article by Deja Leonard in the Globe and Mail newspaper pointed out, we may be moving back into situations that seem very familiar, and that were very familiar prior to the pandemic, but which have changed in unexpected ways. The article is entitled “Your colleagues may have changed more than you think – here’s how to reintroduce yourself”, and it deals with the uncertainties that can occur when people are called to return physically to the workplace. As Leonard puts it,

So you think you know your co-workers?…

[T]he last two years have changed a lot about who we are, sometimes at a fundamental level…. [C]hild care challenges, health and mental health issues, social unrest and more are affecting the way people will show up when they head back into the office…. [I]nstead of expecting people to follow the same patterns or routines as they did before—be open to the idea that their priorities may have changed [Italics mine].

So here we have an example of a setting that may have been stressful for individuals—the workplace—but where we may have felt that there were certain things, or certain relationships that we could count on to show up in a certain way. Leonard is suggesting that we can’t take that for granted at all, which introduces a whole new level of uncertainty into many peoples’ lives. This is only one example among many where the level of uncertainty is heightened by present conditions.

The Challenge of Uncertainty

It was true before the pandemic that we were living with much uncertainty. What is abundantly clear is that many are living with even more uncertainty since this pandemic began. What is also abundantly clear is that uncertainty is hard to live with. In many ways the human brain is designed to seek maximum security and predictability. In many situations in our world, our brains are having to cope with much less security and predictability than they would like.

One response to these people—and to ourselves—might be, “You don’t have enough certainty in your life? Too bad. Suck it up, buttercup, that’s just how the world is. Forget about it and just keep moving on with your life.” Unfortunately, though, high uncertainty is very often associated with high anxiety.

The answer to this is not urging people in a simplistic way to just “be more comfortable with your uncertainty”. I have heard this pronouncement made by psychologically aware individuals, whom many would rightly look to for leadership in times like these, but it doesn’t really help. The key question is, how can I be more comfortable with my uncertainty?

You Can Never Be Certain Enough

How do you live with uncertainty? The answer is, not very well, if you stay focused on it. In my practice, I have seen many people who are quite capable of understanding that the odds of a bad outcome in a situation were very low, “one in a million”, as they say, and that, rationally, the probability of “the bad thing” occurring was very low. That very reasonable awareness did not keep them from having high anxiety about a negative outcome.

When you’re dealing with raw anxiety, and the brain will not let go of it, it can be almost impossible to get the brain to “turn the anxiety off” by being rational and reasonable about things. This is because the anxiety is centered in parts of the brain and the psyche that are largely beyond the reach of reason, and the ego’s control. There must be some other focus, to help me be free, and to get through my life journey.

Finding Security

How can I find security and freedom from anxiety in the midst of uncertainty? Only by finding something to focus on other than the anxiety and the uncertainty. The individual must find things that are so compelling to him or her that those passions fill his or her life. In many cases the anxiety that the individual experiences is an energy, that really wants to flow into other areas of the individual’s life and to create, to love, to experience and to contemplate. Finding the path to this passion or energy is a very individual journey that may also involve other elements like the release of traumatic experience.

The process of getting to the guiding passion in an individual’s life and freeing the energy associated with it con often be greatly assisted through work with a trusted depth psychotherapist. For many, this uncertain and anxious time may be a call to embark upon that soul work.

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)

→ No Comments