Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Analysis, Analytical Psychology & Staying Real

September 8th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian, Jungian analysis

analytical psychologyCG  Jung invented the method of Jungian analysis and founded the school of psychology known as analytical psychology.  He was brilliant; many would say a genius.  That doesn’t mean that he didn’t make some mistakes, or leave a lot for others to discover, as time would tell.

However, there’s vitality in Jungian analysis as an approach to psychotherapy.  It profoundly affected people in his time, as it still does.  The unique strength of Jung’s approach is best lived out when we can stay grounded in the real wisdom that he brought to psychotherapy work, while keeping open to the best of other influences.

Some Jungians want to assert that Jung had it all sewn up, that you don’t need to go beyond what he said.  But Jung himself was surprisingly open, always sat loose to his theories, and welcomed new insights, sometimes from surprising sources.

This single-minded approach was Jung’s greatest contribution, and is the most important emphasis in Jungian analysis to this day.  His ability to sit with people, and to make them feel that they were heard, and that their lives were unique and important, was legendary.

  • Jung Emphasized the Vitality of the Unconscious

Similarly, Jung saw the unconscious as a living reality, not full of only repressed materials, but also of elements that are seeking to help us to come to a more complete and fulfilling understanding of our lives.  This remains a formidible and lasting contribution to psychotherapy.

  • Keeping the Unconscious Connected to Real Life

Whatever your psychological theory is, it’s not enough if it doesn’t meet people where they live, and if it doesn’t make a concrete difference to the story of their lives.  Modern neuroscience has only served to confirm the reality of the unconscious, and modern Jungian psychotherapists like Michael Fordham, Mario Jacoby, Donald Kalsched, and Andrew Samuels have helped to further develop a Jungian understanding of personal and social life that keeps things real.

  • Connected, Growing and Knowing

A Jungian or “analytical psychology” approach has a lot to offer 21st century people.  But those of us who practice this type of psychotherapy need to have the knowledge to be open to the perspectives of others, and to keep analytical psychology a growing, vital discipline.  It’s also essential that we stay connected to the lived reality of people in 21st century North America.

Here’s hoping that your journey toward wholeness will bring you something living, unique and real.

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PHOTO: © Boris Zatserkovnyy | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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Jungian Psychotherapy, and Our “Typical”, Atypical Self

March 13th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, journey, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life

Jungian psychotherapy tends not to talk much about “the typical person”.  However, someone I respect a lot recently sent me a link to a very clever video on what humans have and do not have in common.  It’s produced by the National Geographic Society, and entitled “7 Billion: Are You Typical?”  It’s a very well put-together, engaging video about “the world’s most typical person”:

Typical

The concept of “the world’s most typical person” invites some really careful thinking.  All of us seem inclined to compare ourselves to the “typical person”.  It seems to me that there are some interesting ways in which we do this.  I think we both look for the ways in which we are like such a typical person, and the ways in which we are unlike him or her.  We often do want to establish what we have in common with such a person.  We want to feel some bond of shared humanity.  But we also want to find ways in which we are individuals.

How Do You Compare?

How do you compare to the “most typical person” in this video?  He is a 28 year old Han Chinese male.  Perhaps you feel, as I do, that “The most typical person in the world is not like me, in many respects.”  But are there some deeper ways in which you and this “typical person” are alike?  Put more basically, what is it that gives you your particular identity?  What makes any of us unique individuals?  I think it’s something beyond whatever categories or traits are compared.  There’s a kind of mystery in that.

It’s All There, In Us

What makes us “atypical”, or unique?  There are many, many things, when we reflect.

It would be a big mistake to see the 9 million “most typical” humans referred to in the film as all “the same”.  Every one of them will have a myriad of unique personal factors.  For instance: different family of origin; different socio-economic background; different genetic make-up; and, different life history.  These are just four of a huge array of factors that make a person the complex, unrepeatable event that they are.

Questions for You, as a “Typical Atypical” Individual

What makes you the unique human that you are?

What do you feel are the key things about you that shape your particular identity?

What are the groups of people with whom you feel a common human link?

Are there things that you feel you have in common with all human beings?

What are the mysteries that you experience in yourself?  The things that form part of your identity that you maybe can’t fully understand or explain?

Beyond Categories, There is the Mystery That We Are

This last thing, the exploration of the mystery of the self, is the special realm of psychotherapy and depth psychology.  For many, opening up the unexplored territory in the self, and living it out, is essential to having a meaningful life.  For many, as life progresses, this journey takes on more and more importance.  For such individuals, entering something like Jungian analysis may be essential.

May your journey to wholeness connect you meaningfully to others, but above all, to your unique self,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT: © Constantin Opris | Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT: © 2011 National Geographic Society

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Shadow Identity: Inside You Someone Waits to Emerge

February 4th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian analysis, Self, self-knowledge, Shadow

The shadow is the unacknowledged part of ourselves.  Inside you, that shadow someone has been waiting to emerge for a very long time, like a butterfly from a cocoon.  You may well encounter that someone, or aspects of her or him, in your dreams.  That person may be an elusive stranger, or someone who urgently cries out to you to open your doors to her…or him.  The shadow can be many things.

The shadow someone who waits to emerge may contain elements of you which have been forgotten or even repressed since childhood.  Or, that “someone” may appear with elements that have never before been in your conscious mind.  He or she may represent something new in you, a reality about you held in the depths of your unconscious, waiting until now to emerge and encounter you in your conscious identity.  You may well find that you are not always entirely comfortable with this one who wishes to emerge!

Depth Psychology and Emergence of the Shadow

The calling of the depth psychotherapist is to assist in the encounter of the one who wishes to emerge with the already established identity of the person who starts to hear the call of their inner self, in whatever form that call takes.  The depth psychotherapist recognizes that these are elements of one and the same person. and that,  for a person to love, accept and acknowledge him or herself, the known self and the undiscovered or emerging self must embrace each other. Then the person will live in the awareness of his or her true self, and her or his own real life.

Yearning for Transformation

Something inside of us yearns for this. Something in us may also be aware that such a transformation takes effort, and is only acheived if we devote ourselves to the goal, and move past that part of ourselves that would tell us that everything is OK the way it is, and there is no need for us to change or grow.  The part of us that is caught up with inertia, that would tell us that even though things don’t seem the best, and that life is less than satisfying— or even less real — than we had hoped, it is better to let sleeping dogs lie…or sleeping aspects of the self.

Awakening

Depth psychotherapy, especially Jungian analysis, is all about the process of awakening sleeping shadow aspects of the self.  It is opening gates within you, and allowing exiled aspects of your being to walk through those gates.

What will that someone who emerges be like?  The answer to that question will be as unique as you are.  But the encounter with the undiscovered self will ultimately be a homecoming.

Who is Waiting to Appear?

As you read this, there are aspects of who you are of which you’re aware, and aspects that are in the unconscious.  Who is it who is waiting to appear in you?  What is there that is part of your nature that is yearning to reveal itself in you?  What kind of healing would those parts of you bring?

Have you ever had the experience of encountering an aspect of yourself of which you had previously been unaware?  Such experiences can sometimes be profoundly transformative.  If you were willing to share about such an experience either in a comment or vie email, I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you and your emerging self every good thing as you travel on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Psychotherapy, Self and a Snow Day

February 2nd, 2011 · analytical psychology, Anxiety, depression, inner life, life journey, Lifestyle, Meaning, Oakville, Peel Region, personal story, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, reflection, Self, soul, The Self, therapy

Why am I writing about psychotherapy, snow days and the self today?  Because, if Environment Canada and the other weather folks are right, today will shape up to be the most significant “snow day” we’ve experienced in this part of Canada for a number of years.  And even if the weather folks are wrong, there’s a huge number of school and other closures, and people just staying home in anticipation of a huge dump of snow, whether it actually comes or not.  Psychotherapy would say that the snow day is a psychological and social reality, even if it turns out not to be a meteorological one.

So what do psychotherapy, psychology and the self, etc. have to do with a snow day?  I think it’s this.

Normal Expectations — Shut Down!

With a snow day, suddenly all of our normal expectations for the day just get shut down.  Normal routines and expectations of the day are put on hold.  There’s no taking the kids to school, and maybe no commute and time in the office.  Where we had expected an ordinary working day, filled with the usual frenetic busy-ness, we often get a much quieter day.  A day with unexpected elements of “down time” and maybe with significant blocks of empty space.

What do I Notice?

What do I notice in the middle of the unexpected emptiness of a snow day?  Potentially, many things.  One of them may be a lot of anxiety.  The sudden lack of agenda may lead us to feel an unexpected void.  Alternately, we might find ourselves feeling a bit “down”.  For some people, there may have been a feeling of anticipation of the snow day — “Oh, good, no work!” — which is gradually replaced by a feeling of listlessness that seems to creep in as they are confronted with inactivity.  And then, for some folks, there will be a genuine feeling of relief to just have some let up from the pressure of the daily routine in this unexpected way.

Opportunity

Whatever feelings you may confront, they bring an opportunity.  In this open space of time, you have the opportunity to learn something about yourself, about relationship, and about your feelings about your own real life.  This day, seeming empty, may prove to be a doorway, if you take the opportunity it provides to look within.

Three Psychological Questions to Ask Yourself Today

1.  What do I really feel today?  Please note: this is not the same question as “What do I think?” or “What do I think I ought to feel?” It’s a question that I ask myself when I’m trying to be as honest as I can about parts of myself to which I may not usually pay attention.

2. What do I really want today?  Again, this is not the same as, “What do I think I ought to want?”  Without censoring myself, can I be honest about what I’d really like in my life?

3. Is the Life I’m Leading Meeting the Needs of My Inmost Self?  If the answer to this question is “No”, or “I’m not sure”, this might be the moment to seek out the help of an experienced and qualified psychotherapist to do some in-depth self-exploration.

More than just “down time”, the open-ness of a snow day can be an opportunity to move into depth.

Wishing you a meaningful snow day — and a genuine encounter with your own dear self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Life Crisis, Meaning and Psychotherapy

December 9th, 2010 · analytical psychology, crisis, depression, depth psychology, Existential crisis, Individuation, spiritual crisis

When a psychotherapist, and especially a Jungian analyst uses the expressions “life crisis” and “meaning” today, he or she means something specific.  It’s something different from a “major crisis“, which might be some major change and disruption in a person’s life due to changes in external events or relationships.  A life crisis is a crisis about the roots of a person’s life.  Some people might call it a spiritual crisis or crisis of meaning, and others, an “existential” crisis.  The things that characterize such an event are often deep emotional distress accompanied by persistent questioning about whether life is meaningful.  A person may, at times, even look at his or her life and ask her- or himself questions like, “Is it worth it?  or “What’s the point?”  As such, it’s something very fundamental in a person’s life, and something that she or he simply cannot ignore.

A Life Crisis is About Meaning

It’s very easy for helping professionals to look at someone suffering from this kind of crisis, and to simply conclude that the individual is suffering from some variant of depression, or possibly that he or she is having a grief reaction.  And what makes it complex is that there may well be depression that the person is experiencing.  Or else, it may well be that the person’s life crisis has been triggered by a major grief event of one kind or another.  However, if the person is simply treated for the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root causes, it will not lead to a complete resolution.  Putting an individual who is suffering from this kind of life crisis on anti-depressants, for instance, might “take the bottom out” of the depression, so that the individual won’t feel quite as low.  But if the individual is not helped in a very personal way to find what is meaningful in his or her life, nothing fundamental will have changed.

Life Crises are Very Individual

People who are confronted with life crises have to be helped in a very individual way to discover meaning and value to their lives.  This can only someone who has the necessary skills and depth to help the suffering person find the very personal, individual resources within her- or himself to move back into a place where he or she can gratefully and passionately embrace his or own particular, individual life.  This is the particular kind of thing that a therapist with extensive training and personal experience in depth psychology and Jungian analysis can provide.

Have You Ever Experinced a Life Crisis?  Are You Facing One Now?

Although “life crisis” moments can often come at the middle of life or later, they can come at any point in life?  Have you ever had a crisis of meaning, when it “just didn’t feel worth it”?  It’s amazing how many famous and very gifted or capable people have been through this kind of experience.  If you’ve had a similar experience, and you were willing to talk or write about it, I’d welcome the chance to hear from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Wishing you meaning and vibrant inner life on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Jungian Psychology Looks at Leslie Nielsen

December 2nd, 2010 · analytical psychology, Current Affairs, Jungian, persona, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, Shadow, unconscious

“Surely you can’t be serious!”

“I am serious.  And don’t call  me Shirley.”

On Sunday last, comic actor Leslie Nielsen died at age 84.  Like many Canadians I felt a special tie to Nielsen, because he was “one of us”.  I especially enjoyed him in his comedy roles in Airplane and Naked Gun.  From the point of view of Jungian psychotherapy, Nielsen’s characters played in some hilarious ways with what Jungians call persona and shadow.

Serious… but Absurd

It’s as the character of police Lt. Frank Drebin that most people will remember Nielsen.  Drebin always presented with absolute deadpan seriousness, completely the stereotypical image of a serious policeman while surrounded by situation after situation of the most gobstopping absurdity.  His good looks and serious, professional demeanour enabled him to pull this off, at least until we are caught right up in the situation — and then the clown comes out.

Roger Ebert called Nielsen “the Olivier of spoofs” and said of his deadpan antics, “You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing.”  That was always my experience of Nielsen, too.  I found myself laughing almost in spite of myself during his movies, but also, as in all great comedy, finding something in him that was familiar, something that made me feel “at home”.

The Inner Frank Drebin

I know Frank Drebin.  Part of me feels that I know him very well.  I know that there’s a Frank Drebin in me.  It’s that part of me that stays invested in my outer social role, even when the whole situation is falling apart.  That part of me that continues to desperately try to believe in fictions when everything shows me that my fiction is not the case. That part of each of us that wants to look oh-so-competent when there’s actually a 3 ring circus going on around us — and it turns out that we are in the spotlight at center ring!  We all have that part in ourselves that so desperately wants to “believe our own propaganda” about being totally good and competent and in control– and somehow deep down, knows it’s not true, and is damned if it will admit it.

Surprised by the Shadow

There are all kinds of parts of us that go into making up our shadow, as Jungians call it.  That’s the entire dimension of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge exists.  Part of that is the morally unacceptable parts of ourselves and part of it is those weaker, inferior or just less socially desirable aspects of ourselves that cause us to feel vulnerable or ashamed or just plain clown-like.  But they are all aspects of us, and we need to accept and acknowledge them.

That’s where the Leslie Nielsens — and the Charlie Chaplins, Laurel and Hardys, Roberto Benignis, Robin Williams, John Candys and Jack Blacks — all come in.  They help us to accept and even be kind to those parts of ourselves that we have trouble acknowledging.

Poor Old Persona

Sometimes our poor old persona goes on bravely, day after day, waving its flag that tells everyone that we are doing fine, and that everything’s under control — even when that’s sometimes the very last thing we feel, if we are honest with ourselves.  Rest in peace, Leslie Neilsen, and thank you for helping us to laugh at our pretensions and our obliviousness, and to be kinder to our struggling selves.  Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Nielsen — and we love you for being anything but.

Caught in Our Own Schtick?

Have you ever one of those “Frank Drebin” moments?  When all your seriousness and self-importance just comes apart?  I remember once having to give a talk at a hospital.  I bent down to pick up my projector, and –with a big audible rip! — the entire seam in the middle of the back of my pants split, from top to bottom!  Shadow time!  If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d welcome hearing from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT: © David Fowler | Dreamstime.com

TRAILER CREDIT:  © 1988 Paramount Pictures .  The Naked Gun series is the property of Paramount Pictures  and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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A Jungian Psychotherapist’s Symbol Book

November 11th, 2010 · analytical psychology, Carl Jung, dreams, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, symbol

I’ve decided to do an ongoing  series of posts on this blog that discuss particular symbols, and their significance for analytical psychology and psychotherapy.  I want to do something that gives a sense of some key symbols that might appear in dreams, art and elsewhere in our lives, as perhaps Carl Jung would identify them.  WHY do I want to do this?

Simply put, because symbols are very important in human life, and have an enormous capacity to enrich human life.  They are also often poorly understood.  For one thing, a symbol is not the same as a sign.  To see what I mean, consider the following.

If you encounter this critter when you’re driving your car, there is really no mystery about it.  The meaning that this thing is intended to convey could be put into one or two sentences, the chief of which would be, “When your vehicle gets to this point, come to a complete stop, and then proceed when it is safe to do so.”  Or words to that effect.  No mystery there.

A Sign Can be  a Symbol

But let’s say that you encounter a vivid image of a stop sign in a dream.  Its meaning in that context may be nowhere near as apparent or as cut and dried as it is when one encounters STOP as a road sign.  Its meaning might well be a whole lot deeper, and it may carry a great deal more emotion — if for instance it is occurring in a dream that is about a key love relationship, or about a career that one has pursued for a long time, that is now threatening your health.

My example is a rather simple one, but I think that you’ll see my point.  A symbol is not at all the same thing as a sign.

Definition of a Symbol?

What, really is a symbol?  In my opinion, that’s a whopper of a question.  I think that people have some sense of it, but it is extremely hard to put into words.  Here is one definition, by Jungian analyst June Singer:

“the images which people create or discover as expressions of the not-yet-known”

Singer, June, Boundaries of the Soul, (New York: Anchor Books, 1994) p. xxxvii

This is not a perfect definition — it definitely has some holes in it.  Yet I think its heart is in the right place, and it points us in the right direction.

Symbols Have Emotional Power

Symbols can have tremendous emotional power.  When they resonate with us, they can affect us right down to our very core.  And sometimes, after we really encounter them, they can even change us, right down at the center of who we are.

I hope to have some fun opening up for you some of the key symbols, from a Jungian perspective.  My approach is probably not going to be systematic or comprehensive, but I hope that you’ll find value in the symbols that I bring to your attention.

Are You Concerned with Symbols?

Are symbols something that concern you, even if you don’t usually refer to them using that term?  For instance, do you ever find yourself  puzzling or turning over an image in a dream, and wondering  “What the heck does that mean?”?  I would be extremely interested to hear how symbols engage you. If you have a story or a reflection you’d like to share, let me know via  a comment or through a confidential email.  I’d like to keep this relevant, by discussing the things that matter to you.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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