Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What Does It Really Mean to Live Your Own Life?

September 26th, 2022 · live your own life

“You’ve gotta live your own life” is a trope that might remind you of the 1960s! Yet, there’s profound truth embedded in what might seem like a mere slogan.

What would it mean for you to live your own life? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

We can feel this impetus to “live your own life”, and the ways it has embedded itself in popular culture. For instance, through the time of the pandemic, and now in its aftermath, we have been hearing about “the Great Resignation”. Through the pandemic, many people have been actively leaving jobs where they faced burnout in precarious or stressful work environments. They have simply made the move, and gone on to other things. The popular imagination has been captured by the image of large numbers of people suddenly moving in the direction of what they want in life. As we have gone through this major life transition, it has evoked the question of “how do I go after what I really want?”

The inner urge to “live your own life” can powerfully capture our imagination. We can imagine going with our deepest inclinations, and being captivated by them, finding our lives suffused with meaning and value. There may be part of you that hears that persistent call to “live your own life”. But how do you actually do it?

“‘Live Your Own Life’? Well, Maybe If I Won the Lotto…

In fact, the stock and trade of companies that run lotteries are fantasies that riff on the theme of “live your own life”. In the fantasy space of lottery advertising, people cavort unencumbered by financial and other restrictions, apparently waking up every day to live out whatever whim comes to mind. But is that really what it means to “live your own life”?

For most of us, living our own lives would need to be something more than random cavorting. Questions of meaning and purpose or value are fundamentally connected to what it means to live your own life. What is it that you ultimately value the most, or that has the most significance for you? It might take some genuine inner search, to find the value or meaning that would be central to the feeling that “I’m living my own life.”

What kind of things carry the greatest meaning and value for you? When do you feel that you’re most yourself?

Listening to Your Own Life

If you’re like most people, it may take some genuine effort to properly answer the question of what really carries meaning and value for you. Most of us are so bombarded by the busyness of our culture and the constant din of advertising that we find it hard to get to what really matters to us in a personal way. C.G. Jung writes of how he went through a prolonged period in the middle of his life where he was trying to get down to the depths of himself. My experience working with individuals in midlife transition suggests that many people have an experience that is not all that different.

Part of what makes this process more involved is that each of us has an unconscious aspect of our personality. This is not something broken or pathological; it is part of the overall richness and wonder of who we are. But it does mean that we have to try to understand and explore our unconscious selves, if we are to be genuinely able to truly live our own particular unique life.

Quite often, people will carry awareness of themselves in their unconscious mind that is partially or fully unknown to their conscious personalities. It is only when we start to listen to the voice of the unconscious, in our dreams, in our emotional reactions to others, and by finding ways to express our inner life that we can really begin to meet the challenge to “live your own life”.

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

To live and to live out who we really are is our unique privilege. Seeking to compassionately understand ourselves and to live in accord with what has the deepest meaning for ourselves is one of the most important and valuable things that we can do. It can be of immense benefit to work with a supportive depth psychotherapist on the great journey of “living your own life”.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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

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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Here Comes Autumn: Coping with Life Changes in the Fall

September 19th, 2022 · coping with life changes

I write reasonably often on the subject of coping with life changes. In this blog, I’d like to focus on life changes associated with the Fall of the year.

Travelling Fall Roads (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

In North America, at least, Fall is a season when the issue of coping with life changes comes to the fore. In this season, a lot changes in many of our lives in quite a short span of time. Naturally we immediately think of children going back to school, and students returning to university, but the actual range of changes is a great deal wider than that. What is more, those changes are certainly not confined to the youngest among us. Those of any age can easily be subject to major change with the coming of autumn.

The coming of Fall makes us acutely aware of the passage of time. The rhythm of life changes for children and students, as they go back to their studies. Fall activities of many kinds resume, such as sports, book clubs, service clubs, yoga and mindfulness meditation classes, to name just a few.

Fall Changes and the Passage of Time

As we move into Fall in the mid-range northern latitudes where I live, changes in the natural world are very dramatic. Often almost overnight, the trees shift from the richness of lush green foliage, to brilliant yellows and oranges, and then those leaves fall and blow as dried husks across the land. It’s a remarkable change of state, and it presages changes in the minds of those who witness it. We become acutely aware of the passage of time, and not just in the abstract. We become aware of the passage of our own personal time.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

~Gilda Radner

Changes in nature are mirrored by equally striking changes in human affairs. The young mother watching young children going back to school remembers her own early school years. The middle aged father sees the practice of the high school football team, and remembers the feeling of the helmet and the ball. The grandparent follows the grandchild’s start at university, and remembers sitting in the big lecture hall, awaiting the first lecture of freshman year. There are connections, passages and patterns. Fall is a season that evokes deep feelings and reflections about our lives.

The Changes of Fall Echo Major Life Transitions

As we watch the events of the Fall, we may be brought back to major life transitions from our past. Or the unfolding of Fall may serve to make us more conscious of major life transitions that we are currently undergoing. For instance, it can be a very significant moment when the youngest child leaves for university, and a couple or a single parent is confronted with an empty nest and the the life questions that brings.

Similarly, a middle-aged person may confront poignant depression or anxiety at this time of year and may be confronted by the reality of mid life transition or later life transition. Really, anyone at any age may find that this time of year asks some very pointed questions. They may sound like: “My life is going by. Am I finding meaning and value in it? Time is precious. What do I need in my life now?

Coping with Life Changes and the Path to Wholeness

Fall brings deep changes in weather, light and vegetation. Combined with the whole shift in focus of our activities at this time of year, it also often brings the passage of time home to us in a very visceral way. Autumn can be a season that makes us profoundly aware of the reality of coping with life changes. These changes often affect us profoundly in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. It can be of the greatest importance for us to become aware of these movements and changes in our psyche, and to respond to them in ways that are life-giving.

Depth psychotherapy can often greatly assist the process of coping with life changes, and understanding their deeply personal significance. Jungian therapy has a particular focus on the meaning and importance of such changes, and work with a supportive analyst can often bring deep benefits.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

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

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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Queen Elizabeth II as Matriarch and Symbol

September 12th, 2022 · Queen Elizabeth II

In the world at large, the great news this week has been of the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Why is this a matter of such importance to us all?

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence in our world for the entire seventy years of her reign. Perhaps we are only now becoming conscious of that reality as we face the final end of all the different forms of her presence. For those of us who live in Canada, or other Commonwealth countries or of course in Great Britain she has been a quiet but continual presence on all our money, our postage stamps, her various addresses and visits in connection with Parliament and our armed forces and in so many other aspects of our public life.

Whether you’re an ardent monarchist or the most fervent republican who ever walked the face of the earth, it’s hard to deny just how much influence Queen Elizabeth II has had as a public figure. As Great Britain, the Commonwealth and the world gets ready to mark her passing, it’s important to make ourselves aware of the remarkable symbolic power she has exerted. In addition to her remarkable personal life, Queen Elizabeth II, as sovereign, participates in what Jungians would call archetypal reality. As a female sovereign, she resonates with deep unconscious aspects of our human experience.

A Stable Presence

Queen Elizabeth II has been an ongoing presence in the fabric of our lives for over seventy years. Through all the enormous life changes which we have all experienced during that time, the Queen has been a stable, positive voice. Regardless of the ups and downs of our collective life, many found the Queen to be a reliable, strong female leader, which is still not a very common experience, even in our “woke” 2020’s era.

The Queen constantly displayed those stable characteristics throughout a great many struggles and vicissitudes in her personal life, something admired by very many people. Queen Elizabeth II had an incredibly strong sense of commitment to her role, which was a very reassuring presence to many throughout her reign. This was embodied in her phenomenal sense of discretion. As Tina Brown wrote in the New York Times,

How we will miss not knowing what she thought! In a time when everyone has opinions, the queen adhered to the discipline of never revealing hers.

Taken in combination with all the symbolism associated with the monarchy, this sense of permanence and stability takes very deep root in our psyche. The Crown jewels, with their abundance of diamonds, those nearly indestructible gems, and all the ancient ceremony associated with rulers from the distant past is meant to connect us to the reality that the monarch is part of something that is an ongoing, timeless reality.

The Impact of the Death of the Monarch

Given this strong sense of permanence and stability, and the impressive way that Queen Elizabeth II embodied this as she carried the Crown, what is the impact when such a monarch dies? Not surprisingly, there is a very deep sense of loss.

For many, the news of the death of the Queen has a deep sense of unreality. Most of us currently alive have never known any other monarch than the Queen. How can someone who has such a presence in our world suddenly be gone? It takes our psyche some time to let in this reality.

When we do begin to let it in, perhaps we find ourselves confronting a deep sense of grief and loss. There is an absence where there once was a vibrant presence. We may resist this reality, and we may even deny that it is a loss or that it has an emotional impact. Yet it affects us both consciously and unconsciously.

Loss, Change, Transition

In our society’s reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we find some of the key characteristics of how we experience grief and loss, change, and the process of transitioning to new realities. There are deep psychic processes involved when we face the loss of something that has seemed to us to be permanent, even—or perhaps especially—if we have never realized that we felt that they were something permanent in our lives.

The process of grieving the loss of those we love or processing change to things that we feel are deeply important in our lives, is a fundamental part of our journey as human beings. Very often, it plays a key role in the process of depth psychotherapy, especially in a Jungian context. When processed in a self-compassionate way that is aware of the deep psychological forces involved, in the company of a supportive analyst, it can lead us to a deeper sense of what is permanent and reliable in our lives.

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)

CBC Gem has a documentary on the symbolism of the Crown jewels and the ceremony of the Queen’s coronation that is very revealing as to the use of precious jewels

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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