Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Soul Work: Picking Up the Pieces of My Whole Self, with Love

April 18th, 2022 · my whole self

Here is a deceptively simple phrase: “my whole self”! We often feel like we know all of ourselves, yet there’s more to each of us than we suspect.

My conscious ego is only one slice of a very large pie: my whole self! (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Human beings have a strong bias toward assuming that my whole self” is that part of myself of which I’m conscious. Yet the reality is that the whole of myself is a much vaster thing. For each of us there is a very great part of ourselves of which we’re unaware—unconscious. This unconscious includes, but is not limited to:

  • traumatic material from which our conscious mind has become dissociated;
  • memories which we have forgotten;
  • memories which have been repressed because their contents are unacceptable or threatening to the ego;
  • memories or feelings which are not socially acceptable , and would be socially condemned;
  • feeling toned complexes which tend to lie dormant in the unconscious until some stimulus triggers them, and we react—perhaps strongly—to them;
  • the contents of the collective unconscious, which consists of the archetypes and related materials, which we and the whole of the human race share; and,
  • a range of other things!

What this means for our personal journey to wholeness is well summarized by prominent Jungian analyst Murray Stein:

We leave parts of our self out of consciousness in order to adapt to social conditions and to find a place in our surrounding social context. Then at a later stage of life we have to go back and retrieve what has been left out or what has not been accessible so far. We have to bring ourselves along toward psychological wholeness, making the self as conscious as possible. [italics mine] Ultimately the symbol of maximum achieved potential is the mandala, the circle.”

Murray Stein, Four Pillars of Jungian Psychoanalysis

Being Kind to Our Adaptive Self

You might find that you’re realizing just how much of the whole of who you are has been left out of the picture by your conscious ego. Please be aware that you’re in good company. We all do it!

Please also approach your conscious ego with kindness. It’s true that you may have left a lot of things behind on the journey to where you find yourself in your life. Yet, it may be important to remember in a compassionate way just how much your ego has had to deal with, to bring you to this point! As Stein reminds us, C.G.Jung referred to our journey through the first half of life as “the hero journey”. Particularly when we’re thinking about our youngest selves, it’s important to remember that many of us have had to heroically overcome a range of threats and challenges in young life to survive and stay sane.

One author who recognized this without flinching was the Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller. She frequently powerfully reminds us that childhood experience is often no paradise or bed of roses. As she tells us,

The more we idealize the past and refuse to acknowledge our childhood sufferings, the more we pass them on unconsciously to the next generation.

That’s a sobering thought. Jung says very much the same thing about our “unlived life”.

Being Kind to Our Shadow and Undiscovered Self

In addition, there are elements of my whole self that manifest in different ways. We may also need to be kind or compassionate to them in very different ways.

For instance, Jung defined the shadow as “that which we do not wish to be”. This specifically pertains to the parts of ourselves that the ego wishes weren’t part of us. We may experience guilt, shame or revulsion when these parts start to rise up in our conscious minds, or when we experience them in dreams, or in other ways. Yet it can be very important for our personal journey to acknowledge these parts with compassion. Sometimes this acknowledgement can bring remarkable gifts. As Rilke writes,

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

If we can find a way to acknowledge and welcome the unacceptable parts of ourselves, we may find that aspects of ourselves that we never even imagined were there start to appear.

My Whole Self: Ongoing Work of a Lifetime

What are the parts of you, waiting in the wings, looking for their cue to come onstage? What parts of your early life need to be met with a great deal of compassion for yourself? What parts of yourself come towards you, bearing great psychic energy, and needing to be met with openness and curiosity? As Jung told us when he discussed “the Undiscovered Self”, there are always more aspects of us that are waiting to to come into consciousness.

Often we have a vital need to bring certain aspects of our psyche into our awareness. This is true in many life situations. The individual who continually sabotages him- or herself, or is locked into cycles of self condemnation, or that grapples with chronic imposter syndrome—such folks need a greater experience of who they are. The individual in the midst of a major life transition, perhaps at midlife, or later life is probably also struggling to find a deeper or fuller understanding of who they are. In many and varied situations, my real need, what I’m really searching for, is greater experience of “my whole self”.

The experience of Jungian depth psychotherapy, with a supportive and empathetic analyst can often be a highly effective way to gain a greater experience of the whole Self. It can also be an experience that genuinely heightens the compassion and respect we have for our true selves, and our own real lives

Wishing you every good thing 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)

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Jungian Psychotherapy and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

April 4th, 2022 · emotionally healthy spirituality

Just what is “emotionally healthy spirituality”? Is “spirituality” important? How does it contribute to emotional well-being and to psychological growth?

Emotionally healthy spirituality can take many forms (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

As I’ve indicated in some prior posts, the word “spirituality” is not my favourite word. It can easily suggest a sense of otherworldliness and disembodied “spirits”. This may be the nature of some peoples’ spirituality, but “spirituality” can often be something very different from that. The full sense of the word “spirituality” refers to something broader and deeper. Spirituality connotes the things connected with our very deepest yearnings, the things we value the very most, and the things that carry the deepest meaning in our lives.

I wish we had another better word than “spirituality”! Still, it’s hard to find a word in English that better expresses this broad reality.

So, how can spirituality, in the broad sense, help us toward emotional health and psychic growth? And when does it get in our way, or even actually hurt us?

Jungians are deeply interested in spirituality, it connects deeply to the unconscious aspects of human life.

Where Does Spirituality Start?

Genuine spirituality often starts with the things in life that we really yearn for the most, and that carry the greatest value. This can be a much wider range of things than we often think of as “spiritual”. The things that really engage a person at their core are often matters of spirituality.

Recently, I watched a CBC documentary on Randy Bachman, the Canadian rock musician who was the guiding light of the rock groups Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive. In it, another performer comments that, “it may sound blasphemous to say, but it seems that if Randy has any spirituality—it’s playing the guitar.” Yet, why is this blasphemous? if we understand spirituality as connecting with what has the deepest value and meaning in a person, this performer’s comment makes perfect sense! Someone’s “spirituality” might be grounded in their experience of playing music, or writing, painting, hiking, travelling or many other activities that engage the person in depth, but that aren’t “religious” in any traditional way.

Jungians hold that spirituality has very deep roots in the psyche. In fact, it’s rooted in the deepest parts of the human mind, which Jungians call the collective unconscious. It’s rooted in the archetypal dimension of the psyche. As Andrew Samuels et al. tell us, this is the inherited part of the psyche, where there are structuring patterns of psychological response to life that are related to instinct. It’s from these fundamental roots of the human psyche that true spirituality arises.

When Is It NOT Emotionally Healthy Spirituality?

True spirituality takes many different forms, but it is something that arises from the deepest layers of the individual. As Jung tells us,

From a psychological point of view, the phenomenon of spirit… appears as an intention of the unconscious superior to, or at least on a par with, intentions of the ego.

C.G.Jung, CW 8

This sense that spirituality involves some kind of a connection with something “greater than” the ego or individual personality is a key part of its value for the individual. As A. Bozek et al. assert, at its best, spirituality can have powerful positive effects on the individual, including the following:

  • positive assessments of yourself and your previous life history;
  • continued development as a person;
  • the belief that your individual life is purposeful and meaningful; and,
  • a sense that you can determine your own direction in life.

These are the characteristics of emotionally healthy spirituality. Yet, it’s important to remember that it’s quite possible for spirituality to be emotionally unhealthy. Certain kinds of spirituality can leave the individual feeling trapped in shame and guilt, feeling that the individual’s life is stunted and essentially meaningless, and that the individual is essentially powerless. As I’ve previously discussed, certain types of spirituality can ultimately lead to the individual feeling a profound sense of betrayal and/or a sense of religious trauma.

It can be extremely difficult when an individual is immersed in an unheathly form of spirituality, and is unaware of it. People can find themselves in a places of shame, guilt and fear, and have no sense that this is anything other than being “righteous”, or “following the spiritual path”. For people in that position, questioning a spirituality that is shame or trauma-based may seem to sinful and/or blasphemous temptation. Yet, to enable the individual to unfold and become who it is that they truly are, questioning crippling spirituality may be an essential part of the journey to wholeness.

In addition, there is the phenomenon that Buddhist psychotherapist John Welwood first referred to as “spiritual bypassing”. In his words, spiritual bypassing refers to the tendency

“to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”

John Welwood, “Human nature, Buddha nature. An interview with John Welwood” in Tricycle

As Welwood wisely points out, we can sometimes use spiritual and religious practices to shield us from psychological work that we need to do to move towards becoming who we’re truly meant to be.

Meaning and True Identity

This whole question of our true identity is deeply interwoven with the nature of emotionally healthy spirituality. In my opinion, it’s a psychological truth that we need some form of spirituality as a part of our journey to wholeness, though our particular spiritual needs are very individual and vary widely. Humans have a deep need to find lasting meaning in human existence. This was the consistent message of Jung, shared by existential psychotherapists such as Victor Frankl. Yet, it’s essential that this sense of meaning be compatible with, and emerge from, our own unique selfhood and journey to wholeness.

Finding an emotionally healthy spirituality that meets our individual needs is often one of the most important parts of our journey to wholeness. Many people experience it as a deep and abiding need. At many different points in life, it may emerge as a very high priority.

The process of working with a supportive and attuned Jungian analyst or psychotherapist can be a key part of developing a life affirming personal spirituality. In analytic work, we seek to integrate issues that emerge from a person’s daily life with the large scale themes that emerge in the course of a whole life journey. To have genuine support in such a crucial process can be vitally important, especially during major life transitions.

Wishing you every good thing 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)

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