Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Hope and Trust, and Reclaiming the Future

October 19th, 2020 · adapting to change, hope and trust

In this post, I’m moving slightly away from my recent posts on “Emotions of the Pandemic”, to examine hope and trust.

Hope and trust might seem like they’re very important things in a major life transition such as this pandemic period, and of course they are. However, they’re equally important for any season in our lives. Many of the things that are true about hope during the pandemic are true, really, about a great many stages and points in our lives.

Hope is an essential part of human life. You may have heard some version of that old saying:

Humans can live about forty days without food, maybe three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only about one second without hope.

Yet what exactly is hope? How do we get it? As C.G. Jung tells us, it’s not just something that happens to us:

Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort [italics mine]. 

C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Jung ranks hope as one of the great accomplishments of the human spirit, and he recognizes that there’s more to it than might at first appear.

Hope and Trust: Not Exactly Emotions

Hope is not just a naive, feel-good emotion that carries us along. It’s a dynamic motivator that involves at least three of the four psychological functions: thinking, feeling and intuition. The emotional and feeling part of hope follows the thinking and intuitive part which generate motivating goals. There can be an inspirational aspect to hope, in that the things that really move us to persist and to strive can sometimes come in a full-blown way out of the unconscious.

Hope has an emotional part, a positive emotional charge that comes out of our capacity to imagine possibilities, and ways in which we might start to be able to realize them. It relates to our capacity to establish what psychologists like Prof. Charles Snyder call learning goals, which are goals that help us to aspire to improving our situation, and that of those we care about. This contrasts with those who lack hope, who tend to choose only mastery goals, which are easy goals that don’t require us to challenge ourselves, or do anything we haven’t tried before. These are goals that don’t aspire to anything better than the present situation. They are devoid of hope. Very often, they can be associated with high levels of depression and anxiety.

Where Can I Find Hope and Trust?

The road to hope starts with imagining possibility, ways in which things could be different and better than what we currently are experiencing. So there is definitely an element of imagination in hope.

Sometimes, our experience in life may prevent us from imagining possibilities that are different from the things we experience at present. This may be as a result of experience from even the early days of life, when perhaps the family dynamics, economic conditions or other factors led us to close the door on anything other than the particular situation in which we as children or young people found ourselves.

Or, it may be that, as a result of setbacks and issues that we face in the present that our capacity to imagine and take steps to move toward good things in the future has been damaged, or lost altogether. This situation is what we call “losing hope”. It can be caused by many types of life circumstances, but it’s an experience that a good number of people are encountering during this time of COVID-19 and lockdown.

We need to get back to our hope, and to trust in a future that can offer us good things.

Strength for Now and the Future

In order to move into a personal future that is worth having, we need to be able to envisage a better possibility for the future. We also need to have the motivation and resilience to pursue those possibilities, and we need to be able to see at least the outline of a way of getting to those goals. It can be a crucial and demanding piece of psychological work to move into a place of healing, from which hope is possible.

Working with a depth psychotherapist to develop the ability to imagine better future possibilities that can actually be achieved, and to find the inner motivation and resiliency to move toward them, can be a very important step towards recovering genuine hope and trust in our life journey.

Wishing you genuine and lasting hope and trust for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Photo by Justin Ried on Flickr.com (Creative Commons Licence)

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How to Deal with Change During Major Life Transitions

March 25th, 2019 · adapting to change, how to deal with change

We live in a time of rapid flux, but major life events, especially, can leave us wondering how to deal with change.

how to deal with change

We’re always dealing with rapid changes on an on-going basis in our time. But those changes can become particularly demanding when they’re part of a major life transition.
Just what are these “major life transitions” that we’re talking about? They can be a very wide range of things, good or bad. Here is a very partial list:
  • leaving school or university;
  • retirement;
  • marriage or divorce;
  • children leaving home;
  • changes in job or work environment; and,
  • many other types of major life change…

The Struggle with Uncertainty and Feeling Powerless

A key part of the difficulty that major life transitions create for us stems from the uncertainty they generate. When we go through a major life transition, we may well confront a situation where we can’t be fully sure what will happen.

We know that our mind may well fill in the uncertainty with a great deal of negative foreboding. Modern research has shown that the mind tends to intensely dislike uncertain situations. Evolution has taught us that uncertainty equals danger, and our biology is strongly motivated to avoid uncertain situations — the so called negativity bias identified by U. Penn. Prof. Paul Rozin and others.

Uncertainty biases the brain to expect the worst of possible outcomes. Therefore, anything we can do to build a sense of certainty and control in dealing with a major life transition enhances our sense of “being in the driver’s seat”. That reduces our inward predisposition to pessimism and impotence.

Yet, what about the situations in life where there is genuine uncertainty that simply can’t be managed or controlled away?

How to Manage Change — Accepting the Limits of Our Control

It can be very easy to tell ourselves that we have a major life transition under control, when we’re dealing with it. However, it can be vitally important to recognize when it’s not.

For instance, we may move toward parenthood, divorce or retirement feeling strongly that we have a plan, and that everything is under control. We work hard on carrying our plan out. Yet we may find that there are times when things just don’t follow the plan.

There may be a time when we have to admit that we can’t completely anticipate or control what is happening. To live in denial may ultimately make our situation worse, compounding anxiety and depression.

Being Grounded in What Really Matters

Often the uncertainty created by major life changes can be difficult and painful. Yet, as Jungian James Hollis reminds us, these crises take us into the unexplored parts of ourselves. Often they can lead us to the realization that we have outgrown our old view of ourselves, and the story that we have told ourselves about our lives. They can make us realize that we need a new and different understanding of who we are.

It’s essential to understand and be compassionate with ourselves as we seek to figure out how to deal with change. This is especially true when that change deals with something truly important in our lives, as is always the case with major life transitions.

Working with a depth psychotherapist can be an important way to increase a sense of compassion for yourself, and can also be a positive source of help in the midst of dealing with a major life transition. Depth psychotherapy can bring a renewed understanding of who we are, and can assist with new approaches to the challenges brought by major life changes.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Photo by Justin Ried on Flickr.com (Creative Commons Licence)

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Adapting to Change in Your LIfe, 2

September 1st, 2014 · adapting to change

In Part 1, we saw how adapting to change has become constant in the 21st century;  here we focus on the Self, and the nature of authentic change.

adapting to change

 

In some respects our culture seems addicted to very rapid change.  There’s a huge distinction to be made between the superficial churn that often characterizes our society, and deep changes or transitions in human life where something fundamental shifts.

Meaningful vs. Meaningless Change

Simply because our way of life is saturated with change doesn’t make all change meaningful or significant to the individual, or in line with the priorities of the self.  As a 21st century therapist, I’m well acquainted with clients in work situations who must deal with continual ever-churning change, and continual demands for adaptation — but where the required change in no way serves the individual’s true nature or need for growth.  Often, it doesn’t even enable them to better perform their work roles.  Change of this type is often a major source of burnout.

Yet, some change is meaningful.  It can help us to feel that we’re more aligned with our deepest selves, with who we really are, and that we are able to live in a way that honestly reflects our deepest values and yearnings.

As we move through the life cycle, it is this kind of change that we really need.  If we can’t find it, life tends to remain superficial , and we find ourselves increasingly alienated, and lost.  As C.G. Jung put it: Only what is really oneself has the power to heal”.

Change and Resilience

Many will tell you that change is good, if it is “more adaptive”.  But we have to be quite careful with this.  It depends what we mean by “more adaptive”.  Do we mean that the change in question allows the individual to express and live out more of themselves, more of who they are at the deepest level?  Then, from a depth psychotherapy point of view, that is genuinely good.  Such adaptation serves the person’s individuation, the on-going process of the individual becoming more and more who they truly are.

However, if “adaptive” change means that the individual merely alters themselves to survive under conditions hostile to their true identity, this clearly doesn’t serve individuation.  It would very likely not be a good thing for the soul to be “well-adjusted” in North Korea, or Nazi Germany.

adapting to change

 

There is a persistent self, or identity in the deep levels of the psyche, that each of  us possesses.  We ignore this reality at our peril.

The Self as Abiding

Our era perceives everything as being in continuous, relentless flux.   The human self is commonly seen as completely malleable, insubstantial and re-structurable.  Yet the self is a solid, persistent reality.  It is essential to our resilience in adapting to change that we experience that reality, often symbolized by an ancient tree, with deep, persistent roots:

adapting to change

 

or by mandalas:

adapting to change

A key part of depth psychotherapy for those undergoing major life transitions is enabling individuals who may be overwhelmed by the challenges of adapting to change, to realize that there is a persistent solid center to the self, on which they can rely.

In the next post on this subject, we’ll  look in more detail at just how this can occur,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Ocskay Bence | Dreamstime.com  ;  Morgan  modified ; Dave Conner modified ; Jennifer Woodard Maderazo modified
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Adapting to Change in Your Life, 1

August 24th, 2014 · adapting to change

Whether we like it or not, 21st century life has made adapting to change a constant feature of our lives.

adapting to change As depth psychotherapy well knows, it wasn’t always so for the human race!  If we look at our ancestors in the paleolithic age, we know that social and technological change was vastly slower.  It wasn’t much faster in ancient Egypt or China or the Middle Ages and was in fact a great deal slower right up until the 18th century, when the industrial revolution started to bring change at an ever more rapid pace.

Endless Change

The pace of change in human life is still increasing — the automobile age, the computer age, the internet age, the digital age — and on, into the future. Today, we’re thoroughly inundated with change, and must continuously adapt.  We’re also bombarded with the message of the necessity of adapting to change. In fact, there is a danger in our time that we might not properly distinguish between deep, personal change, and the continual background churn of modern daily existence. adapting to change How do we discern those changes in our lives which are truly fundamental, and adapt to them in a way that is authentic, and that furthers our individuation?

The Real Nature of Life Transitions

Some changes are far more profound than others in their implications. Change is so pervasive in our time, that we run the danger of what experts like Harvard’s John Kotter call “change fatigue”, which is a form of burnout that stems from endlessly needing to adapt to new circumstances. Yet we also need to be open and responsive to fundamental life transitions. We need to accept these changes, let their meaning permeate us, and deepen our understanding and feeling of our own individual lives. Such changes are related to the emergence of our deepest identity and true character. We know this type of changes by the way it involves our whole being. Such changes may be extremely difficult or joyous or profound.  They can involve such things as grief, loss, betrayal, guilt, genuine religious experience, existential crisis, profound shifts in our self understanding, disability, serious illness of a loved one, and loss — or discovery — of a passion, dream or ideal.

Common Stages in Change

Often, these changes at the deepest level are characterized by three elements.  The first may be characterized metaphorically or symbollically as a death to a certain identity or understanding of ourselves.  The third, symbolically is a rebirth to a new or different identity or experience of ourselves.  In between these two is what anthropologists such as van Gennep would call liminality, an in-between period where the old identity has been left behind, and the new has not yet emerged.  Often, depth psychotherapy can assist immensely in making the transitions between these phases, which, in the case of major life transitions, can often be no small thing.

Real vs. Inauthentic Change

adapting to change Genuine meaningful life change, while often associated with great upheaval, ultimately take us deeper into our true identity — into the Self, as Jungians would refer to it. This is fundamentally different from inauthentic superficial change, which often leads the individual into a more and more frantic spiral in the attempt to perpetuate to themselves and others the illusion of the false self. In the second part of this post, I’ll look more at the psychotherapy of authentic and inauthentic adapting to change, and the importance of an abiding sense of self in the midst of change.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Ocskay Bence | Dreamstime.com  ;  Morgan  modified ; Dave Conner modified ; Jennifer Woodard Maderazo modified
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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