Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Feeling Alone in the World: A Major Issue of Our Time

February 27th, 2023 · feeling alone in the world

Feeling alone in the world is a very common experience in these times. We’re surrounded by technologies that enable social connection, yet many feel very isolated.

PHOTO; Stock Photo Secrets

Why is it that so many are feeling alone in the world? There are many factors that contribute to this. One of the more recent and obvious contributors is the pandemic. In many ways, perhaps the worst of the pandemic is behind us, yet its social impact is immense. Certainly during the pandemic. research appearing in the Harvard Business Review strongly indicated that social connections had diminished. What’s more, there are strong indications that this reduced social interaction persists right into the present. However, that’s far from the only thing.

Social media are another factor. Touted as a source of connection with others, they do bring a certain form of social interaction. However, evidence suggests that they actually make us less socially connected.

Work and the North American corporate lifestyle also leave us more isolated. Work and commutes demand a great deal of our time and leave us with a very limited amount of time to connect with other people. In fact, overall, the truth is—as a society we don’t give priority to social connection.

The Essence of Feeling Alone in the World

However, there’s an even more fundamental issue. There is a big factor that limits our intimacy with others. Simply put, it’s that we’re not very intimate with ourselves. We simply don’t know what’s going on inside us, and that can keep us from having the capacity to relate to the inner life of others.

It’s possible to use interaction with other people as a distraction from our own sense of not being at home with ourselves. We can laugh and joke with others in superficial ways that don’t involve any intimacy or real connection. Certainly, this might distract us from our isolation and sense of inner lack, but it isn’t really healing our inner loneliness. It’s only when we’re willing to go deep within ourselves, find what we feel and share it, that we can start to replace our loneliness with genuine intimacy. It’s also then that we start to transform what is locked in anxiety and depression.

To encounter your own deep, genuine feelings gives you something valuable and meaningful to share with others. Of course, it may well also lead to an encounter with your own deeper self that may do a lot to alleviate the sense of inner emptiness.

This may all run counter to a certain way of looking at ourselves that our society fosters. Our society worships at the altar of individualism. Individualism exalts the ideas of independence and self-reliance, and can often de-emphasize the importance of intimacy and connection.

Individualism and Individuation are Not the Same Thing

We come from a culture that greatly values and exalts individualism. “The individual” is often viewed as something discrete and autonomous, that exists in its own right, independent of relationship and connection. It’s interesting that C.G. Jung is often seen as a champion of this view of the individual, but Jung actually had a rather different view of who we are.

“You cannot individuate on Everest”, Jung reminds us. The process of identifying what is unique in ourselves has an inherently social or relational dimension. The principle of relationship, eros, is one of the fundamental elements of the individuation process for Jung. He tells us that, “where love [eros] reigns, there is no will to power.” For Jung, relationship and connection is an inherent part of the individuation process. We need to relate in a truly conscious way to become our true individual selves, and conscious relationship is an essential part of that process.

To give oneself over in relationship to others, even consciously, may not fit very well with an absolutely “self reliant” individualism. Certainly, the impetus to genuinely connect in relationship comes from a place in our psyche deeper than the ego. It’s a fundamental human need, though. It’s essential for us to find a way to connect and be related.

Finding a Way to Authentic Connection

The path to authentic connection is a journey toward the other that is profoundly connected to the journey toward ourselves. It’s essential that we explore the path of relationship, if we’re to have the sense that we’re becoming who we most fundamentally really are. If we are feeling alone in the world, it may be a call from the deep self to move more in the direction of connection and relationship.

Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy can be of great help in moving our lives toward relationship. A connection with a supportive ally as we simultaneously explore the depths of the unconscious side of who we are, and the potential within us for connection. A supportive depth psychotherapy relationship can help us to move beyond lack of relatedness and fear, and more and more toward our capacity to stand as our unique selves in relationship to others, and to the whole of life.

With best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

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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The Unconscious Anxiety in the Background: A Very 2023 Issue

February 13th, 2023 · anxiety in the background

It might seem odd to think about partially or fully unconscious anxiety in the background of our lives and minds, but it’s definitely a real thing.

Anxiety in the Background (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Not surprisingly, we tend to think of anxiety as something conscious—something of which we’re just fully aware. Yet the fact is that we can have anxiety in the background of our psyches. It may be powerfully influencing us, and yet we may be partially or fully unaware of it. This seems counterintuitive! How can we have anxiety, and not know that it’s there? Nonetheless, our experience of the last three years has shown us in spades how anxiety powerfully affects us, even if we’re not aware of its presence.

Our experience in those years since the beginning of the pandemic is very instructive with respect to anxiety in the background. We need only think of some of the examples we see in public spaces to illustrate the ways in which people are carrying unconscious or semi-conscious anxiety. These days, if you sit in your local Tim Horton’s, Starbucks or other coffee place, it probably won’t take long to see several instances of people going off on the staff behind the counter, sometimes for the most irrational things. Not so long ago, it wasn’t like this. Public space has become much less courteous and people have become much more self protective.

As Globe and Mail writer Marcus Gee observes, since the beginning of the pandemic, peoples’ anxiety seems to be much more intense, and spills over in public places:

Cars and motorcycle race and weave around the streets of many cities, filling the night with the scream of their engines. Clashes among people over parking or driving seem angrier and more common. You took my spot! You cut me off!

Marcus Gee, Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 11/23

This trend in our public life, and the way we treat each other is deeply concerning. Hopefully our leaders and proactive individuals in our communities are going to take substantive steps to reverse this trend. However, I bring it up here primarily to point to another important reality that we all really need to notice. We are all subject to the spirit of the times. We all tend to carry our own background anxiety, and it can be very important for us to become aware of it, and how it affects us.

Becoming Aware of Our Anxiety in the Background

Unconscious anxiety in the background can have an enormous affect upon us. Certainly it’s true, as Freud asserted, that people with anxiety can live in a state of anxious expectation. Yet, even if you’re not aware of having social anxiety, or anxiety about driving, financial anxiety or any of the other big anxiety provokers, anxiety can still have a very big impact on your life.

Sometimes, we can experience anxiety as an ever-present, hard-to-pin-down sense of nervousness, that is a kind of stream that runs throughout your day. Or you may find yourself restless, tense, jumpy—even irritable at other people. Perhaps you find yourself unable to relax, or only able to relax if you distract yourself, perhaps through your cell phone or gaming online.

Anxiety? What Anxiety?

We tend to think of anxiety as a condition that involves a lot of conscious worrying. Something that involves clearly conscious thoughts about what could go wrong, that keep recurring. Viewed from that perspective, it may be easy to tell ourselves, “I don’t have any anxiety!” Yet, that may not be the entire story.

Anxiety in the background may show up in any of the following ways:

  • I’m having trouble paying attention, and I’m disorganized;
  • I have “brain fog” and/or trouble making decisions;
  • I get overwhelmed, and it shows up as frustrated, angry or tearful outbursts;
  • I have intrusive thoughts, or the same thoughts keep occurring over and over;
  • I struggle with perfectionism, or the need to get everything just right;
  • I feel like I always have to prepare for the worst; or,
  • I experience physical pains, insomnia, shortness of breath, or other physical manifestations of anxiety.

We may not have consciously anxious thoughts, and yet our anxiety may be having a substantial effect on our lives. Moreover, this anxiety may have a substantial unconscious dimension. It may be very important to become as conscious as we can of this anxiety in the background.

Our Background Anxiety Has Something to Give Us

If we find a way to pay attention, the anxiety in the background of our psyche has the potential to reveal a great deal about what we’re currently dealing with in our lives. It can show us a lot about our vulnerabilities and wounds, and also about our deepest needs and aspirations. We live in a time when unconscious anxiety is very widespread, and has deep effects on our collective social life.

A supportive and insightful Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist can be of great assistance as we seek to understand our anxiety, and the wounds, aspirations and deep yearnings that underlie it. As we work on our anxiety in the background, the result can often be a greater level of compassion for ourselves, a greater understanding of ourselves, and a greater sense of what is trying to emerge in our lives. How does your anxiety in the background manifest? What might it be indicating about what is of deep importance in your life?

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

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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“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”: Our Yearnings

February 6th, 2023 · I still haven't found what I'm looking for

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a pop song of enduring popularity. Released by U2 in 1987, it resonates powerfully, even now.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

The phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” seems to strike a chord with many people in our era. For many of us, there is a sense of feeling deeply unfulfilled, and of looking restlessly to find what can meet the need. There’s a strong sense that there’s something, right now outside of our reach, that we need to quench a kind of thirst in our soul.

In our culture, advertisers are constantly using our deepest yearnings to try to motivate us to purchase their wares. What lurks behind many advertisements is the subtly implied promise that the advertised product will bring us the kind of love that we really want and need. Other advertisers implicitly offer the sublime peak experiences we’ve been waiting for all of our lives. Yet others quietly offer us the sense of inclusion and belonging that we’ve always sought. The phantom offering of other products is just plain old ageless immortality!

However, make no mistake. All of these beckoning offers are playing deeply on the sense that some kind of fulfillment is missing, i.e., “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

What Exactly Are We Looking For?

One quick answer to that question is that we’re actually not all looking for the same thing. In fact the thing that we yearn for most deeply is probably highly individual. Also, a Jungian depth psychotherapy perspective suggests that there is also a large unconscious component to what we’re looking for. Our ego, what we normally think of as “I”, may not completely know what we’re really after. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not deeply yearning for something.

It may seem hard to get a fix on what we really yearn for. It may seem incredibly elusive. In the words of the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi,

Longing is the core of mystery.

It would seem that he’s right. And his insight complements that of Jung:

The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely [her or his] own.

C. G. Jung Man and His Symbols

The humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow states something very similar, in slightly more homey language:

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.

Our yearning is a mysterious and very individual thing. It moves us to discover and explore aspects of ourselves of which we were previously unaware. We need our yearning: it leads us into life.

Jung clearly asserted that yearning is what spurs the great artists of the world to make their monumental creations. He also saw yearning as enabling each of us to create the unique masterpiece that is our individual life.

What If We Ignore Our Yearnings?

Now, we don’t have to pay attention to our yearnings. We can often just ignore them. But what happens when we do?

We may be able to choose to simply focus on the needful things of every day life without awareness of any greater desire for fulfillment. We might even tell ourselves that it’s virtuous to ignore our “frivolous wishing”. That we should just get on with the business of humdrum life. Suppose we’re successful in completely repressing the sense that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What then?.

If we are successful in driving out our yearning and our spontaneity, we are probably also driving out our individuality. We are probably also courting depression and anxiety. Huston Smith, the famous scholar of comparative religion, put it this way:

With mind distracted, never thinking, “Death is coming.”To slave away on the pointless business of mundane life, And then to come out empty—it is a tragic error.

Huston Smith, trans. Robert Thurman

The weight of this tragedy may already be felt by the time we start to undergo the midlife transition.

We may not have found what we’re looking for, yet. But our yearning is one of the most profoundly human things about us.

The Unconscious Side of Our Yearnings

Much of our sense of yearning or lack of fulfillment may have to do with aspects of ourselves of which we are only partially conscious, or perhaps entirely unconscious. It may be important to explore that part of ourselves that feels that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” There may well be treasures of self-knowledge at the root of that yearning. There may be a source of deep meaning for our individual lives.

It may be of great importance to work with a supportive Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey.

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

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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