Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Connectivity, Loss of Identity and Signs of Burnout

April 23rd, 2019 · burnout

There’s every indication that more and more people are showing signs of burnout related to our always-on world.

signs of burnout
Technology has had a big role in changing our relationship to work. That change is continuing at a very rapid rate in our time, perhaps even more rapidly that ever before. As a result, the signs of burnout that are associated with being connected 24/7 are more and more apparent in the lives of many business and professional people.
Though information technology seems to play a key role in the intensity, rapidity and depth of this type of issue, it shares the familiar characteristics of all burnout. While long hours are very often a precursor to burnout, the banner signs of burnout are well-known:
  • cynicism;
  • depression;
  • lethargy;
  • insomnia;
  • anxiety;
  • physical symptoms such as skin rash or hair loss; and,
  • lack of any feeling of achievement at work.
What is really at the root of this epidemic of burnout?

Connectivity and Distorted Identity

Very often social media and other forms of connectivity (text, email) act like office politics on steroids. We know from research that they can easily lead to endless struggles to find status and a sense of self-worth that comes through recognition by the peer group. Often this can mean finding false identity in endless work hours, or in markers of corporate or social status. Depending on the nature of the job, this can lead to a strong sense of being out of touch with who I really am, and of “the genuine me” not being valued. One key symptom of this may occur when an individual is never feeling ready to face the job or to face co-workers.

Yet, social science research shows what we might intuitively expect. Finding value in a work role doesn’t actually come from this kind of jostling for status and social position. As the research of a leading authority, Yale’s Prof. Amy Wrzesniewski has shown, the single biggest factor in finding value in work is finding work meaningful — the belief that my work somehow makes a real difference to people, or somehow makes the world a better place.

If my work doesn’t somehow give me this sense of meaningful contribution, the sense that I’m giving myself to some lasting meaning or value, it’s likely that I’m not going to feel any great sense of value in my work. If, on top of that, work makes all kinds of demands on me that are either over my boundaries, or, at odds with who I really am, there is then a very high likelihood that I’m going to start displaying the signs of burnout.

Toxic Work Persona?

As we face unprecedented levels of burnout, it’s important for each of us to ask ourselves whether our work is something that we find personally meaningful, and that we can see as an expression of who we really are. Because if who we really are isn’t acceptable in our workplace, we can pretty much take it as given that there will be pressure on us to adopt patterns of behaviour that are over our boundaries or that don’t line up with my real identity.

It’s not uncommon in many business cultures to glorify working hard, late at night or early in the morning. It can become a badge of honour to work longer and harder hours than your co-workers. Consider quotes like the following, which you can find all over social media:

“All the late nights and early mornings will pay off.”

“If you’re not going where you want to be in your life … consider what you’re doing between 7 p.m. and 12 a.m.”

These quotes embody common attitudes that lead to a person being attributed status or being seen as virtuous in many workplaces now. No one is saying that working hard is not a good thing. But depth psychotherapists know that working without limits or boundaries greatly increases the odds of damaging your physical or mental health.

If you’re working in an environment where what is exalted as “good work” is something that consistently takes you outside of your boundaries, two things are true. First, the persona or social presentation that the work environment expects of its workers may well be toxic for you. Second, if you persist in that environment, even though, at a deep level, you really know it’s wrong for you, then you may well be in denial, and you may well be hurting yourself.

Identity and Vocation

Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner [person]: [s]he is called.

~ C.G. Jung

We discussed above how it’s necessary to feel that our work is of benefit, or that it makes a positive contribution, in some way or other, if we are going to feel that it’s meaningful,. Jung would tell us that, the more we feel that our work is really a genuine expression of the person we most fundamentally are, the more we will find it of value, and the more likely we are to feel that it is bringing something of benefit.

This idea of work as an expression of who we most fundamentally are, is central to Jung’s concept of vocation. Certainly vocation is about more than just the work we do, but it certainly includes our work. The fundamental idea of Jungian vocation is living out who we most fundamentally are.

From Jung’s perspective, the way to best counteract or reverse the signs of burnout involves recovering, or just plain discovering our true identity, and understanding what really resonates with “the inner person”, as Jung might say, in terms of work.

Trying to recover this sense of what really resonates, and what makes us feel truly alive, is a journey toward wholeness that we can all embark on today. Working with a depth psychotherapist, and getting to know ourselves in much more intimate detail, can also be a tremendous benefit when we’re on the road to our truest vocation.

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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Heart: Carlos Castenada, Jung & Burnout Treatment

August 22nd, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

Is it a shocking thing to say that burnout treatment may have a very great deal to do with finding your heart?

burnout treatment

Clearly I’m not advocating an approach that narrowly emphasizes “rationality”!  But this truth finds its roots in the depth psychotherapy of CG Jung and the unique perspective of Carlos Castenada.


Dryness, Flatness and Burnout Treatment

Often burnout seems associated with a loss of hope or soul.

Frequently, burnout sufferers will describe a sense of “hollowness” or “emptiness”, as I noted in my initial post on burnout treatment.

If you welcome the fundamental symbol or metaphor of life as a journey, and if you come to the realization that the journey seems lifeless and meaningless — there’s a high probability that you’re on the wrong path, and that you need another.

burnout treatment

A Path with Heart

Castenada expresses this in a wonderfully direct way:

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you….   Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

~Carlos Castenada

Castenada reminds us that there are many paths.  But which path is mine?  His answer: the one which has “heart”.  By heart he means the path that engages our passion, or that is full of meaning, or that has an abiding sense of “rightness”.

burnout treatment

Is the path that I’m on the one that has heart in it?

The Voice of the Inner Person

The way that Castenada expresses himself accords well with Jung’s expression of a very similar view.  (Please excuse the male-centric language, —  the norm in an earlier time).

What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist?

It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths.…   Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called. 

There is a strong connection between what Jung refers to as the voice of the inner man, and what Castenada refers to as the path with heart.

Burnout Treatment as Walking Towards My Heart

The way through burnout is to open myself to my own deepest reality.  As psychiatrist R.D. Laing said, “The only person to whom we owe an absolute obligation to be honest is with ourselves.”  In burnout, the most honest truth about my inner reality may be that I experience a devastating sense of bleakness and barren-ness.  If so, it may be essential to ask some very fundamental questions about the nature of my path.

In depth psychotherapy, a container is created for deep level honesty with the self.  At its best, the process also cultivates our sensitivity to the voice of the inner person, and for identifying the path away from burnout — the path with heart.


PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved by MiguelVieira ; jeffhutchison ; © 1973 Ballantine Books 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)



3 Key Facts re: Summer, Burnout Treatment & Nature

July 26th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

Burnout isn’t confined to winter: summer encounters with burnout show us a lot about the kind of burnout treatment that we really need, and our relationship to inner and outer nature.

burnout treatment

Burnout and Outer Nature

Summer offers a chance to break with regular routines, and get closer to the natural world.  That closeness can have some profound effects on us.  Very often, when modern people do have the chance to come into contact with nature, there is an incredible feeling of “rightness” to it.  There is something in our psyche that is ready to respond to the natural world, to its rhythms, to acknowledge that we’re part of it. We feel the reality Jung points toward when he writes:

Natural life is the nourishing soil of the soul.  

Anyone who fails to go along with life remains suspended, stiff and rigid in midair.

-C.G. Jung, CW 8

Then when we leave nature, something in us can really feel the break.  For this reason,  for many people, returning to work may feel like a grief reaction, especially if we are confronting the emotional reality of burnout.

This is one way the summer / vacation season can bring us to realize our need for burnout treatment.  Summer can also find us confronting that reality in other ways.


Can Summer Itself Seduce Us Into Burnout?…

“…Surely not!” is our instant reaction — surely summer brings us the very opposite of burnout, doesn’t it?  Summer is associated with warm, relaxed times in the sun, far from work.  But other realities are also part of summer.

As Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy. D. has pointed out, 4 very significant factors, listed in the graphic below can drive burnout, and these can take on a formidable potency in summer:

burnout treatment

So, relative to the past, the summer experience of many middle class people have in our society is one of increased pressure.  The workplace demands more, and makes it less easy to take vacation time.  Technology keeps us continually looped in, thwarting escape from work and other demands.  The pressures of consumerism push us to entertain and have fun at ever more expensive levels, which further ups the stress ante.  And perfectionism in business, technology and professional people is continually pressuring us to do more, more, more.

Burnout and Inner Nature

The most fundamental types of burnout involve alienation from our own inner nature — from who we most basically are.  In a manner akin to alienation from outer nature, described above, we can find ourselves in a work role — or in roles of family or other responsibility — that have the character of burnout, and that requires burnout treatment in the broadest sense of the word.

burnout treatment

Burnout happens at any time of the year, occuring more frequently in summer than you might suppose.  Contact with nature in summer may make us aware of just how fundamentally we need to address burnout.  Depth psychotherapy is often important as a form of burnout treatment , as it brings us contact with our fundamental inner nature.


PHOTOS: © Teraberb ; Rido |  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved  ; USAG-Humphreys ;  
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Winter of Our Discontent: Winter & Burnout Treatment 2

January 29th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

In my first post on winter burnout treatment, I emphasized the possible connection between burnout and the experience of “winter blues”.

burnout treatment

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted?

In this post, I examine some of the energies within us that might move us beyond burnout, to a new stance in our lives.


Winter, Burnout Treatment, and the Restoration of Yearning

It’s true that burnout certainly does kill our passions.  And they are central to the feeling of being in our lives.

Dr. Herbert Freudenberger, originator of the term “burnout”, actually defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive [italics mine], especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”  So, the extinction of motivation where one has previously been devoted is a key aspect of burnout.

An important part of the restoration in burnout treatment will often be to find and connect to the individual’s real passion.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

In mid-winter, many people look to that staple remedy for mid-winter “blahs”, the winter vacation, as a cure for depression and uptightness — the kind of outlook you might find in a Jimmy Buffett song:

“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”

Sometimes yearning for sun in February just amounts to escapism, which isn’t necessarily  bad, but it won’t help the individual get beyond burnout in any fundamental way.  But it could be that this kind of yearning represents something at a much deeper level.  Perhaps our yearning is not so much for a “vacation” or a “trip”, as it is for a journey, which is something entirely different than mere escapism.

Symbolism of Journey

The archetypal theme of journey runs deep in the human psyche.  It’s closely related to another symbol / archetype, that of the path or the road, wonderfully evoked in Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Winter Road:

burnout treatment

The image of the journey is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to be human, and to live a human life.  To be on the journey is to be engaged, to face and move forward into what life brings.  It is the opposite of the stagnation and apathy that characterize the lack of motivation in burnout.  Could a yearning for “vacation”, at its deepest level, be a yearning for journey?

Burnout Treatment and Genuine Inner Journey

The journey most fundamental to burnout treatment is the journey of soul work.  It is the journey of taking the self and its needs seriously, and listening to the voice of the inner person, as we move along the path of life.

Can the process of rediscovering our passion through burnout treatment be a genuine journey into our inner life, through compassion for ourselves, and through living as if our selves and our inmost needs and yearnings are things of great worth?  It’s in accepting our value in this sense that burnout treatment offers the opportunity for inner journey, when viewed from the perspective of depth psychotherapy.


PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved pennuja  VIDEO:  Bradley Olson “Changes in Attitudes” © UMG Recordings Inc.
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Winter of Our Discontent: Winter & Burnout Treatment 1

January 13th, 2013 · burnout, burnout treatment

What we call “winter blahs” may be a seasonal reflection of burnout, and the need for burnout treatment.

burnout treatment

January and February are months when many are aware of experiences similar to burnout.  Often people can become fully aware of burnout-like symptoms that have been semi-conscious for a long time.

Burnout often relates to work, but can be much broader, often representing a whole disengaged and discouraged stance in life.

Emotional Exhaustion

Post holidays, it’s common enough for people to experience a sense of emotional exhaustion.  Leading burnout expert Dr. Christina Maslach defines this as physical and emotional depletion  resulting from excessive job and/or personal demands and continuous work related stress.

The intensity of the holiday lead up causes many to feel that they are depleted.  Personal and work demands can be just too much.

Often people anticipate the Christmas period with great enthusiasm as a respite from extremely demanding routines.  If for whatever reason the Christmas season isn’t able to fulfil those expectations, we may experience exhaustion and depletion.  Many find themselves lacking the necessary energy to engage the challenges of everyday living that return to confront us in January.

Reduced Sense of Personal Fulfillment

Often people experiencing burnout find that things which we hoped would be fulfilling, or that were fulfilling at a previous point in life, are not now.

They are either not able to reach things that would bring a sense of personal satisfaction, or else we have gotten to the point where those things seem like they just don’t matter

Feelings like these are a very common experience in the midlife transition , and, often throughout the second half of life, but can certainly occur at other points in life, too, and they point to the need for burnout treatment.

Struggling to Deal with My Life

Demands and commitments all come rushing back after the New Year.  I may find that I don’t have the energy or vitality to cope with everything on my plate.  It may be that everything just seems too overwhelming, or that I can’t find the motivation to take on all that lies in front of me  in the long march toward spring.  My struggles may stem from a deep level of emotional exhaustion, or from the awareness that my way of life or the values that I have lived for to this point are not serving me nearly as well now as they once did.

I’m not generally a fan of country music, but this song by Alabama is very eloquent:

“All I really gotta do is live and die” — and that’s the real art

How Can I Re-Engage?

If need burnout treatment, the first step in the process is to genuinely take self-care seriously, and to show myself genuine compassion.  It may well be that my burnout is telling me something essential about the fundamental attitudes in my life.  Burnout treatment in depth may entail a process of encounter with the undiscovered aspects of the self, and a discovery of the symbols and values that really matter to me at the present stage in my life.  This is the fundamental work of the depth psychotherapist.


PHOTO: © Astrid228 |  VIDEO: “I’m In A Hurry” © The Alabama Band and BMG Music, 1992

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Hope: Burnout Treatment During Midlife Transition

September 24th, 2012 · burnout, burnout treatment, Hope, midlife, midlife transition

Burnout treatment is a matter of real importance in our society as a whole, but for those undergoing midlife transition, it often takes on an even deeper significance.

burnout treatment

For many people, midlife transition is a time full of issues around career transition, social role, and at an even deeper level, questions of vocation.

Burnout is Incredibly Common During Midlife Transition

By the time of the midlife transition, most people have done a lot of living.  Many have quite a bit of experience with the work world, and often with a number of other social “worlds” in which they have been involved.  In fact, there may be a great deal of disillusionment and fatigue connected to living in work and other social roles and in meeting their expectations.

Sometimes, as a result of this experience, a profound weariness can descend upon individuals, and a deep inability to find motivation.  We call this burnout.

Burnout Treatment and the Death of Hope…

Often, in important ways, burnout treatment must address the death of a certain type of hope in the individual at midlife transition.  A way of looking at life, certain hopes and dreams, a certain way of being in the world, have all come to their end.  They have no more vitality, and, even though these attitudes may have served us well earlier in life, now they cannot avoid dying.

This may entail deep feelings of loss, genuine grief, a wide range of emotions, and a profound sense of disorientation.

…But Also, the Birth of Hope

This time may also herald the birth of a differing understanding of identity — and a different kind of hope.  A move away from hoping that the individual dreams of my youth will be fulfilled, to a hope that I can find meaning, hope and vitality in other places.  Another, different understanding of value and meaning in terms of my own truly deepest needs and yearnings, and what is really significant in my life.

Vocation as New and Deeper Identity

As I explore these elements of myself, even thought the process may be incredibly painful, I may be in the process of finding a new and deeper identity.  I may be moving beyond people pleasing and outer appearances, to satisfying the deepest yearnings within me, and the deepest movements of my soul.  Burnout treatment during midlife transition may mean the liberation of energy into a new kind of readiness and welcome for living.


PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by dno1967b



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Burnout Treatment : 4 Jungian Insights

June 12th, 2011 · burnout, burnout treatment, treatment for burnout

burnout treatment

What is the right kind of burnout treatment?  Burnout is the state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, often work related stress.  It often occurs when a person feels overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands, which can be from work, or sources such as long term caregiving, or heavy family demands.  Burnout leads to disengagement, emotional blunting or numbing, helplessness and hopelessness, loss of motivation, and detachment and depression.



  • Honestly Acknowledge Emptiness and Loss.

Often burnout sufferers have a great sense of hollowness or emptiness.  Only through acknowledging what has been lost can they move beyond this.  What do I hope will come back?  Do I remember times in the past that were full of vitality and joy?  It’s important to ask: what do I really yearn for, at this stage in my life?

  • Can You be with Yourself, Instead of Caught up in Doing?

Often those in burnout are so totally caught up in work or tasks that they have little time for themselves.  This is particularly so with recreational time, and also time with their own thoughts and feelings.   It may well be essential to take that time, even if you meet a lot of inner resistance and guilt feelings.  It can be especially important to spend time away from technology: laptops, cells, smartphones, and especially social media, so that you spend time talking to you, not others.

  • Who am I Now?

Work identity, or persona, is not the same as your real identity.  To try and understand who you are in yourself, outside of your work or other role can be key to recovering your lost vitality.  To truly sift reactions, thoughts and feelings, in order to distinguish between your roles, and your own deepest feeling self takes patience and effort, but can connect you again to your real life.

  • What does the Unconscious Say?

People are unaware of their unconscious self, and its reaction to events in their lives.  In burnout, much is going on in the unconscious levels of the self.  Often, this is reflected in the dreams of the burnout sufferer, and also in reactions to daily events that the sufferer may experience, without any clear idea of from where these feelings or thoughts might come.  Often the unconscious can shed a great of light on conflicts and the nature of the individual’s burnout reaction.

A therapist with depth psychotherapy expertise may help greatly in the healing process, and with bringing material to consciousness.

Have you experienced burnout?  If so, how did, or does, it affect you?  I would welcome your comments.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville and Mississauga Ontario



PHOTO: © Pumba1 |
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga )