Journeying Toward Wholeness

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A Coronation, A King and Symbols of the Self

April 30th, 2023 · symbols of the Self

For Jungians, there are a number of key symbols of the Self, and the King, Queen, monarch or head of state is prominent among them. Given that the coronation of King Charles is about to occur on May 6, it’s worth considering this symbolism, and its role in our psyche.

Symbols of the Self: Crown on Buckingham Palace gates (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

The whole subject of the monarchy, whether we are discussing its symbols or not, can tend to stir up strong feelings in people. Some folks passionately favour our constitutional monarchy, and regard it as a fundamental part of our way of life. Others are just as passionately convinced that the monarchy has no place in our nation or our collective lives. Yet regardless of where you are on the spectrum of feeling about the monarchy, there is real value in recognizing the prominence of the monarchy among the symbols of the Self.

In a few days, King Charles will travel to Westminster Abbey, and there he will be the center of ceremonies, anointing and the actual coronation itself. All of these rituals are intended to convey to all that, as King, there is a significance to his person that goes beyond that which he share with everyone else. In a similar way, when the figure of the monarch appears in our dreams, or in fairy tales or myth, it has a particular significance.

The Ego and Symbols of the Self

The crown, anointing and special rituals indicate that a King or Queen has a dimension and importance beyond his or her day-to-day life for his subjects and for others. The royal person represents the whole of the kingdom. In a similar way, as symbols, the king and the crown are symbols of the Self. Our ego is that aspect of ourselves that, in day to day life, connects an individual with the outer world and handles the business of dealing with outer reality.

While the ego can often believe that it is the sum total of who we are, symbols of the Self, like the King or Queen, serve to remind us that our personality is much more than the ego. These symbols affirm that there is something greater within us that has a larger awareness and wisdom, and that is striving for a unified wholeness of the personality, and for a rooting in a deeper meaning.

Why Symbols of the Self Matter

It is very easy, especially in our contemporary time, to feel that there is nothing more to who we are than the ego. Life can easily seem to be an endless succession of problems or difficulties that we must finagle or negotiate. We can strongly get the feeling that our lives are nothing more than the sum total of all the “fixes” the ego has created and all the exertions we have made. And it can feel that, if the ego stopped with its endless efforts and exertions, there really wouldn’t be anyone there—we’d be nothing.

This ego focused attitude is reflected in the slogans of the contemporary business world. Consider the tagline of McKinsey, one of the world’s most prominent consulting firms: “Driving impact. Shaping the future”, or of one of its competitors, Deloitte: “Making an impact that matters.” Similarly in the IT world, Intel’s tagline is: “Leap ahead.” Impact, leaping ahead, shaping the future: we can easily feel that it’s all up to the ego and its exertions. If that’s true, what a recipe for anxiety and depression that would be!

King and the Other Symbols of the Self

The King and other symbols of the Self point to a bigger and more comprehensive reality in the human psyche than is carried by the ego. IN the outer world, the monarch in the outer world receives a crown, and becomes representative of the greater reality of the nation. Similarly, the symbol of the King when it appears in dream, myth or fairy tale represents the greater broader reality of the personality. In the midst of all of the confusion and off-centeredness of the ego, there is something greater within us that knows what it is doing. That is the reality of the Self.

The self is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.

~ C.G. Jung

In the lead up to the coronation, I have had many clients who have told me that they have had dreams involving the figure of a king. Often this king is just coming onto the throne. Sometimes he is replacing another old and tired monarch. These are the symbols of renewal appearing in our dream life. Often, for us, there is a monarch waiting to be crowned, to be acknowledged in our lives, who represents a figure of revitalization and renewal.

Wishing you every good thing or your personal journey,

© 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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If I Have the Symptoms of a Burnout, What Should I Do?

April 17th, 2023 · symptoms of a burnout

Our society seems to value work above all else. That makes it very important to be able to identify the symptoms of a burnout, and to respond appropriately.

Regardless of age, you can encounter symptoms of a burnout (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

As someone whose focus is Jungian depth psychotherapy, I will be emphasizing an inner perspective on burnout. What goes on inside of us, consciously and unconsciously, when we have the symptoms of a burnout?

It’s common to approach burnout by looking at the external factors, and scrutinizing the workplace environment of an individual who is experiencing burnout, and that ‘s perfectly valid. However, it’s also important to take seriously what is going on inside an individual and what is unfolding in their personal life, as a very important perspective on the story of burnout.

The Symptoms of a Burnout

The Mayo Clinic provides a good summary of the actual symptoms of a burnout:

  • Increased cynicism or criticality at work;
  • Increased difficulty getting to work and/or getting started working;
  • Irritability or impatience with co-workers, customers or clients;
  • Sense of lacking the energy to be consistently productive;
  • Difficulty in concentrating;
  • Lack of satisfaction from achievements;
  • Sense of disillusionment about your job;
  • Use of food, drugs or alcohol to self-medicate; or,
  • Changes in sleep habits.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, they may indicate that you are suffering from a burnout (or, also that you might be suffering from depression). However, if you are suffering from burnout, the question still remains to be answered: why?

Inner Causes of Burnout

As I mentioned above, there are a wealth of sources addressing the external factors that might cause a burnout. As a primarily extroverted society with a “fix it” mindset, there’s a strong tendency for us to approach the symptoms of a burnout in this particular way. We find it easy to look at management, workflow, relationships with co-workers commute times and many other external factors as giving the key to understanding burnout. Not that looking at these factors is wrong! An individual may need to change elements in their work life or workplace, or, indeed change workplaces to address their burnout. Yet, it can be very important to realize that this is often not the whole story.

So, what is the “inner” story of burnout? If we look at this issue from an internal, more psychological perspective, the root causes of burnout may be seen to vary greatly from individual to individual. They are associated with a wealth of important questions that require individual answers. To list just a few:

  • Does the type of work I’m doing fit with my personality type?
  • How much space should work occupy in my individual waking life?
  • What are the things I want in my life besides work?
  • What is really important to me? What things in life carry real meaning for me?
  • Do I have an addiction to self-abusive overwork?
  • Has my family and life experience taught me to neglect myself?
  • What aspects of myself are trying to emerge and be acknowledged by my conscious mind? How do those aspects relate to my work life?
  • And last, but certainly not least: Who am I, really?

If an individual doesn’t explore these inner factors related to symptoms of a burnout, it will tend to make him or her focus solely on external solutions. He or she may well miss important dimensions of his or her life journey that are trying to come into focus, and that underlie “the symptoms of a burnout”.

What Burnout May be Asking of Us

It’s very important to consider that, in addition to external factors that need an external fix, the symptoms of a burnout may be a manifestation of something that is trying to emerge in our lives. This may be something that has the potential to contribute greatly to our overall consciousness of ourselves and our journey towards wholeness.

In the midst of burnout, there may be great value in working with a supportive and insightful Jungian depth psychotherapist. It can be essential to look at what is emerging for us at a time like this, on both the conscious and unconscious levels, and to hear the voice of the greater Self in the midst of our particular struggles.

With best wishes for your personal journey,

© 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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When You Don’t Know What to do Next…

April 3rd, 2023 · what to do next

When people are facing crises or major life transitions, it’s not uncommon for them to feel that they “don’t know what to do next”.

Sometimes, you just don’t know… (PHOTO:Stock Photo Secrets)

When we’re dealing with complex unfamiliar situations in our lives, it’s very easy to feel that we don’t know what to do next. To feel that we can’t evaluate and make decisions about the various options before us. Or else, that we can’t even identify an option that seems workable or viable. Sometimes we can feel that we are completely in the dark.

It’s not uncommon for people to find that their life situation is comfortable and well-adapted, and then suddenly to find themselves in very unfamiliar territory. For instance, someone may be in a work environment that seems familiar and predictable for a long time, and then may suddenly find that their work environment changes dramatically and in unexpected ways. Or, an individual may go along in a particular mode of life or lifestyle for a long period of time, and then, relatively suddenly find that they can no longer take for granted assumptions that they have long held about their lives. This is often the case in midlife transitions or other life transitions.

When life leads us in an unanticipated direction, it’s important, first of all, to accept the reality of the change. This can be a very demanding step, when something unexpected and deeply unwelcome has come into our lives. The process of coming to terms with a new situation, or an old situation seen in a new light can be formidable. Certainly, it can require us to treat ourselves with deep compassion.

A Changed Perspective

Going through a major change in life can create a very strong sense of disorientation. Sometimes, when we have taken something as a certainty in our life, and that fact or state of affairs disappears, it can seem like life has been completely turned upside down.

Consider an individual whose long-term marriage has come to an abrupt and unexpected end. Such a person may have a deep feeling of familiar patterns in his or her life that seem like “just the way it is”. The same may be true of a person who has worked for the same organization, or in the same job for many years, and has their employment come to an end. Such situations often produce feelings of enormous loss and confusion.

It’s not only changes in the external world that can have this kind of effect. Sometimes our inner world can be profoundly shaken up by new realizations and deepening insights into our lives. I have worked with many individuals who came to an insight, sometimes suddenly, that they could not continue “doing the same old same old” in some important area of their lives. This could involve their profession, their primary relationships, living in a certain cultural milieu, or many other areas of life. It can be a very arresting thing to come up against a part of oneself that is suddenly aware that “I can’t do this anymore!”

When I Just Can’t Face It

One possible response, when we’re confronted with a dramatic change in perspective, is denial. We can simply act as if the new and possibly unwelcome thing that is impinging on our awareness just doesn’t exist. This may be a partially conscious decision, or it may be something that we do more or less unconsciously. We can carry on acting and reacting as if the new state of affairs didn’t exist at all. When that happens, it doesn’t seem very difficult to know what to do next; it seems natural to do what it is that we have always done.

The only trouble is that, as the saying goes, facts are stubborn things. New realities in our lives will not disappear simply because we don’t choose to acknowledge them. We can keep acting as if the new reality doesn’t exist, but it does, and on some level, we probably actually know that. Try as we might, we can probably only fool ourselves for so long, and give ourselves the message that nothing has changed. Whether it is a reality in the outer world, or the inner world, the disorienting change is likely going to make its presence felt.

The other alternative is that we may actually succeed in fooling ourselves for a very long time. It would be a very sobering awareness to realize that we had deluded ourselves, in the very autumn of our lives.

We cannot change anything until we accept it.

~C.G. Jung

The Mystery of What to do Next

Let’s suppose that we accept that we’re in a complex new situation in our lives, that our perspective has changed, and that we’re deeply disoriented. It can be very hard for us if we realize that we just don’t know what to do next. What can we do in such a situation?

The most important thing we can do is to try and sit with the new situation and to look at it without flinching. In many cases, this may involve an element of grieving. Having patience for ourselves, and giving ourselves time and space to allow an answer to emerge from the depths of our unconscious mind, may be fundamental to getting to the place where we know what to do next. Connection with a supportive and insightful Jungian depth psychotherapist may be of great assistance in allowing the answer to emerge fro deep within us.

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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