Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Counselling for Anxiety: the Deep Story, 1

January 12th, 2014 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety

Counselling for anxiety is a matter of vital importance for a people who live in anxious times, but anxiety mustn’t be approached superficially.

counselling for anxiety

Certainly, in our era, we live in the midst of a wide range of anxiety-provoking factors.  There are economic issues, environmental issues, educational issues, social and technological change, issues concerning health — a multitude.  Yet the profoundest forms of anxiety are connected with our sense of our selves.


A Depth Approach to Counselling for Anxiety

We will never escape anxiety entirely.  It will always be a part of life.  But to the degree that we are connected to the depths of our personality, and aware and accepting of who we are in depth, to that degree the factors that cause anxiety in our outer lives become more bearable, and manageable.

As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us;

The willingness to open to depth is the chief way in which dignity and purpose return to life.

The Top Priority of the Ego is Security

The ego, that part of our personality that is aware and conscious, is involved in a continual search for certainty and security.  The ego has a story it tells itself about its own life, and about the world, a way that it puts things together.  The ego, which is to say, that part of you or I that is conscious, tends to be highly invested in believing this story. But what if, as is very often the case, the story that the ego tells itself, is either incomplete, or simply not accurate?  What if my “certainties” aren’t really as certain as the ego would like them to be?

Doubt as Threat and Liberator

An example.  Take the case of someone who in early life is given the message by those who are closest that other people — maybe all other people — are fundamentally unworthy of trust, even though there is no evidence of such general unreliability that the young individual can themselves see.  Nonetheless the parental figures to whom the child is attached continue to deliver this delusory message that is contrary to the child’s own experience.  What may well happen is that the child could absorb the message that, because Mom and Dad  believe that such a  thing is true, even though the child sees no evidence of it, it must be that the child cannot trust his or her own judgment or powers of observation.

This lack of trust in the self may abide in the adult self.  The individual may carry a fundamental attitude of mistrust both toward the world, and toward his or her own judgment — even though such mistrust is actually completely unwarranted.  Jungian psychotherapy recognizes that it is only when the individual can come to the place of “saying no” to such an attitude, imparted quite possibly in early childhood, that any kind of real change can occur.

Return to Instinct

counselling for anxiety

Initially, it might not be very easy to tolerate such “rebellious” thoughts — thoughts that are contrary to patterns developed over a lifetime.  Yet such “doubts” can often be an  essential gift.  They can be essentially related to restoring the individual’s connection to his or her deep, instinctual self, and to the primary things which that instinct knows about the world.

 Counselling for anxiety using the approach of depth psychotherapy is often about the process of connection in a new way to the deep, often instinctual, levels of the self.


PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike  Some rights reserved by Leo Hidalgo ; Jean-François Chénier ;  mootown
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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4 Healing Truths About Loss & Bereavement Counselling

August 16th, 2013 · bereavement, bereavement counselling, counselling

The experience of deep loss is more common than we often realize; the need for bereavement counselling is greater than we often suppose.

bereavement counselling

Often, bereavement counselling issues arise in depth psychotherapy that was begun for other purposes.

Loss is Very Individual

Everyone grieves differently.  Differences in personality type, culture, life experience, and many other factors all directly bear on how an individual grieves.

Every relationship that an individual has with another is a unique combination, and this uniqueness also colours the character of each grief.

Grief and Bereavement: a Journey

Grieving individuals often fear that they will be “stuck” in bereavement forever — that the pain will never diminish.  Certainly, loss is permanent, and the sense of loss of a loved one is always in a person’s life.  But the acute pain of an initial grief reaction is something that, in his or her own time, and in his or her own way, the individual’s unconscious transforms into another way of holding the person who has passed.

Grief has a course in our lives.  Although Kubler-Ross was right about the range of  emotional states and stages that a person can experience in grief — Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance — it appears that the order and intensity of these stages can vary, and not all of them are necessarily experienced by every grieving person.  The path of grief is indeed a journey, as individual as each of the people who travel it.

bereavement counselling

Grief, Emotion and the Unconscious

Grief goes on in both the conscious and the unconscious minds, and is reflected in the meaning of dreams.  Jungian Mary Mattoon tells of a middle-aged woman who dreamt of visiting her deceased mother, who was unaccountably “crabby and inhospitable” in the dream.  In therapy, she began to realize that she had been quite depressed for many days leading up to the dream.  It turned out that the dream occurred almost exactly on the first anniversary of her mother’s death.  Due to the very serious illness of a child, the woman had been unable to be psychologically present to her loss.  The unconscious mind summoned her back to do her own grief work.

Grief, Healing and Individuation

I believe it is the master work of human life to be able to look  at grief and death, and to say: soul is here; meaning is here.

Grief makes us acutely aware of the human condition.  With its keen pain, it sharpens our awareness of the way in which human life is finite, bounded by the mystery of death. Yet, it simultaneously makes us powerfully, achingly aware of the miracle that is life — our own personal, individual life — and the imperative need within each of us to live and become the one we carry within us, as much as we possibly can.  Mark Knopfler expresses these realities powerfully in his fine song, Haul Away  (video by  ThePhil909 ):


Bereavement counselling from a depth psychology perspective is about accepting, ultimately making peace with, and finding meaning in, loss.


PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved  by familymwr ; Nicholas_T   VIDEO: “Haul Away” Musical copyright Will D. Side Limited under exclusive licence to Mercury Records 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)



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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 2: Flow

May 15th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety

Counselling for anxiety shows us that anxiety pulls us out of the flow of life, and depth psychotherapy can show us how and why this occurs.  How can we avoid this hijack, and push through our anxiousness to live life in our natural rhythm?

Anxiety Rips Us Out of the Present

Our own experience of anxiety shows that we’re not really in the present when gripped by an anxious state.  Psychologically, that state pulls us into the past or the future — and possibly both.  Counselling for anxiety shows that our struggle with anxiousness will either maroon us in the past, in past failures struggles or conflicts, or in the future, paralyzed by fear around future outcomes.

It All Relates to the Self

Anxious states pose big questions for us about either our own security or capability — or both.  The questions most often associated with anxiety refer to oneself, such as,  “Am I going to be alright?” or “Am I going to be able to do or accomplish XYZ?”  In one way or another, our anxious unease poses questions to us about the well-being and preservation of the self, and/or about personal identity.

Anxious States are Rooted in Our Complexes

From a Jungian perspective, anxious states are rooted in persistent mental objects called complexes.  These are knots or clusters of emotional energy that gather around a certain stimulus.  When a complex is activated, we are drawn back into old emotions and feelings, which keep us disconnected from the present situation.  Often, because of the way that the brain works, when we are caught up in the intense emotion produced by a complex, we do not think clearly, and we do not have a good sense of ourselves, and of our boundaries.  We get tangled up, and are unable to move through the challenge of the situation with any sort of natural flow.

Acting From Ourselves in the Now

In the process of counselling for anxiety, the primary question faced is a question that is also found in depth psychotherapy.  Put basically, that question might be stated as “How can I truly be myself in this situation, with confidence in who I am?”  A creative answer to that question can only be found when we understand in ourselves the emotional obstacles that stop us from “flowing” in the present – the complexes.  Untangling these knots, and getting to their sources, is a key goal in depth psychotherapy work.


PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Yogendra174



Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 1: Roots

April 30th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxietyCounselling for anxiety involves the client growing to understand the roots of anxiousness, and depth psychotherapy gives us insight into unconscious factors that lie behind our being consciously anxious.

Yearning for Return

Depth psychotherapy reminds us of that part of our psyche which yearns for a return to somewhere warm, safe and non-threatening — the womb.  Yet, here in our real lives, we’re alone, isolated, and trying to cope with challenges we all face.  With these many challenges in our individual lives, we enter anxious states.  A depth psychotherapy perspective on counselling for anxiety /  therapy for anxiety affirms that.  The question is, how can we best respond to these states?

Counselling for Anxiety and the Self

Jungian analyst James Hollis sees counselling for anxiety as engaging with

“… a free-floating disease which may be activated by nearly anything, which may light for a while on something specific, but which usually originates from the general insecurity one feels in one’s life.  The level of that insecurity… is partly a function of one’s particular history.  The more troubled one’s environment, family of origin and cultural setting, the more free-floating anxiety will be generated.”

Being anxious is also connected to situations.  Sudden shifts in realities that we have taken as certainties, for instance, can greatly increase our anxiousness.  In the film Jerry McGuire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) has the rug pulled from under his professional life, and responds with a classic film portrayal of a hyper anxious state:

Energy and Avoidance

Using Jung’s characteristic metaphor of emotion or affect as energy, we could see anxiety as energy that doesn’t know where to go, or how to flow.  It can often lead to us avoiding the situations where we’re anxious, or else, we can find ourselves “getting anxious about becoming anxious”.  But can counselling for anxiety use it as a guide for finding what is stable and lasting in the self?

Potential Benefit in Anxiety?

“How could depth psychotherapy possibly find any good in this?” a severely anxious person might wonder.  Yet, often, getting to the root of anxious states takes us to places in ourselves where we are wounded, or in conflict, where our spontaneity and energy is bound into knots, called complexes, that need to go free.  A depth psychotherapy approach to counselling for anxiety is fundamentally about getting an ally to help in understanding, accepting and having compassion for ourselves at the deepest levels, and in moving into basic trust.


PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Sodanie Chea ; VIDEO: © TriStar Pictures
© 2012 Brian Collinson




Jungian Therapy and Divorce Counselling, Pt. 1: Loss

January 20th, 2012 · counselling, divorce, divorce counselling, Jungian, Jungian therapy

Jungian therapy

For Jungian therapy a key focus in divorce counselling is to look at what is trying to emerge in the life of the individual as relationship ends.  But before that aspect of Jungian therapy can begin, there is often important, although difficult, work to be done in the ashes and shards of the dying relationship.


Of all the emotions experienced at the end of a relationship, variants of anger and rage are among the most potent.  Whether directed at the spouse, a third party or some circumstance involved in the demise of the marriage, these emotions powerfully impact the individual as he or she is trying to find a way through and beyond the end of the relationship.  Unless acknowledged and experienced, they can continue to control the individual and cloud judgment indefinitely.

Grief & Sorrow

Grief and sorrow are almost always associated with divorce counselling, at least as practiced in a Jungian therapy context.   For men in particular, it may be much more difficult to get in touch with these feelings than with feelings of anger and rage.  Also, one of the paradoxes of this emotional passage is that one may even feel a sense of gladness or relief at the end of a relationship — and simultaneously feel a sense of grief at the loss of this part of one’s feeling life, and of the hopes that go with it.

Guilt & Shadow

We also find ourselves in the grip of feelings of guilt and regret over our actions at the time of divorce.  As I look at my own role in the decay and eventual death of the relationship, I inevitably come up against shadow — those parts of myself that I cannot or will not acknowledge.  To confront our own role in the failure of a relationship can be a very difficult thing, but it may contribute immensely to self knowledge and personal growth.


There is a danger of being caught or fixated by divorce, never getting over it, or through it.  We’ve probably all met people who are stuck here.  Often this occurs when there are feelings of betrayal, or in situations where the relationship to children is lost.  It can also be associated with an undying need to be right, and my inability to acknowledge the difficult-to-acknowledge shadow parts of myself.

Susanna – Don’t Come Around Here No More

Please watch for part 2 of this series on divorce, “Renewal” — coming soon.


PHOTO: © Luchelle12 |

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Jungian Counselling & Self Awareness on the Holidays

December 27th, 2011 · counselling, Jungian, Jungian counselling, Self, self awareness, The Holidays

Jungian counselling

Yule Log with Snow by Midge Frazel

My Jungian counselling experience has shown me that, once the lead-up to the Holidays is over, there is often a quieter period in which people often come to new kinds of self awareness.  This can often lead to new paths on a personal journey towards wholeness, if individuals are willing to walk them.

From a Jungian counselling perspective, there are at least four striking opportunities for self awareness that people might encounter during the Holidays

  • A Break From the Regular Pattern of Life

The Holidays often offer the opportunity to get outside of the patterns of life that we all find so consuming, just for a while.  As we take things at a more leisurely pace, perhaps we begin to examine aspects of our lives, and to ask some really basic questions.  The frenetic pace of work, kids’ activities, sports involvements, and so on gives way to a time when we can look at the pattern of our lives, and just be aware.

  • Connecting with My Earlier Selves

The Holidays can further self-awareness by putting us in mind of our selves at earlier points in our journey.  Childhood Christmases, full perhaps of great joy, or, in some cases, great pain and disappointment.  Adult Christmases with a new love.  “White knuckle Christmases” on your own, perhaps in a strange new city, or possibly after a divorce.  All are versions of myself: what do they show me about who I am, right here and right now?

  • Connecting with Where I am Now

And Jungian counselling is certainly concerned with where I am right at this present, and what the issues are that are coming up for me.  What is it right now about myself that is hard for me to look at about myself?  What does this have to do with my values, goals, morality, spirituality — yearnings?

  • The New Year is Coming

The New Year is many things, psychologically, but one of the key dimensions, from a Jungian counselling perspective, is as an opportunity for renewal.  Life extends on the other side of the gate to the New Year.  Whatever has gone by this year, we have the opportunity in the coming year to live in deeper self awareness, and in our own inner truth, on the singular road of our own journey towards wholeness.

With very best wishes for the holidays, and the coming New Year,


PHOTO: © Some rights reserved by midgefrazel
VIDEO: “The Road Less Travelled”, by 
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)



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Grief Counselling, Bereavement & Jack Layton

August 27th, 2011 · bereavement, counselling, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

The sad early passing of beloved Canadian political leader Jack Layton teaches us much about bereavement and grief counselling as archetypal experience.   Millions felt personally connected to Jack.  His warmth, deep personal conviction and love of Canadians made him a beloved figure on our political landscape.

We feel deep sadness and personal loss at his sudden decline and passing.  As a nation, we have experienced some of the key characteristics of grief reactions.

1) Even if Foreseen, Grief is an Incredible Shock

We saw Jack Layton on TV when he stepped aside in July.  We must have been aware that he did not look like his former self, and was obviously a very sick man.  We really knew he would not turn over the reins of the NDP without an extremely good reason.  Yet we experience deep shock upon his passing.

This is characteristic when people lose a loved one.  When the reality finally hits, we are absolutely stunned.  It’s incredibly hard to accept that the loved one is actually gone.  We find ourselves saying, “You know, I just keep expecting him/her to come through that door at any moment.”

2) We’re Outraged by Death

We feel outrage in the face of death, when someone passes at an age that seems far too young, as with Jack Layton, aged 61.  On a level that I believe is archetypal, we have a sense of what is a complete or full life.  When someone dies before that time, we feel that it is bitterly wrong.  It should somehow have been different.

3) We Want to Do Something — but We Don’t Know What

The death of a loved one fills us with a sense of powerlessness, even despair.  We’re overwhelmed with the desire to do something to make it better, to remove the sense of loss.  But there seems so little that concretely can be done. The loved one’s absence is so formidible and so unavoidable.

4) Finding Meaning in the Life of the Loved One — and Our Own

With time, we begin to find ongoing value and meaning in the life of the lost loved one.  We realize the ways in which we still carry the loved one within us, and how that brings meaning.  Through recall and ritual, we find ways to keep the person’s memory alive.

So it will be for us, remembering, celebrating and living out the spirit of Jack Layton, a man who, now forever, is “Le Bon Jack“.

PHOTO: ©  All rights reserved by thankyougravity
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)



Jungian psychotherapy as therapy for anxiety

May 27th, 2011 · Anxiety, counselling, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, therapy for anxiety

therapy for anxiety

Finding an effective therapy for anxiety is greatly important in our time.  Auden labelled our era “The Age of Anxiety”, and for good reason.  Many certainties — economic, political, moral, work, religious — have now evaporated.  In many situations, people find themselves not knowing what to expect next.  Anxious states are the normal outcome of this kind of life situation.

We have to confront a number of plain facts.

  • Anxiety is an Unavoidable Part of Life

Therapy will never completely eliminate it.  If it did, we would soon be dead.  The experience of a certain anxiousness is what keeps us alert and engaged with life.  What we need is the ability to deal with it so that it stays within sustainable bounds, and doesn’t overwhelm our lives.

  • Normal Anxious States and Crippling Anxiety are Different

Experiences of manageable anxiousness differ greatly from experiences likeo panic attacks and social anxiety, which can completely disrupt life.  While everyone experiences some anxius feelings moving through life, a person with crippling anxiety may be unable to move through life, or may confront grave obstacles to truly living.

  • Our Experience of the General Insecurity of Life Makes Us Anxious

There are many things for which there are no guarantees in life.  The more uncontrollable the situation, and the bigger the stakes, the more anxiety we confront.  This uncontrollability and the perceived size of the risk are very subjective factors.  A person can be held hostage by anxiety about a risk that seems very real to them, but not to others.  To truly deal with anxiety involves taking our own subjective states very seriously

  • The Only Way to Really Deal with Anxiety is to Get to its Source.  That Takes Courage and Hard Work.

Anxious affect often comes into our lives because it is protecting us from feeling or experiencing something else.  An anxious state may also represent our bottled-up energy or potentiality.  As Jungian analyst James Hollis puts it, “What I can make conscious, face directly, and deal with as an adult, frees me from unconscious bondage to the past…. We gain when we are able to move from the anxiety, which, like a fog, obscures the forward path.”

Anxious experience is rooted in the depths of the psyche.  Only through experiencing our own depths can we begin to move beyond it.

How have you experienced anxiety, in yourself or others?  I welcome your comments.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Main Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice



PHOTO:  NoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by theloushe
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga )

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