Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Creative in Life: Finding the Wellspring Within Ourselves

January 31st, 2022 · creative in life

How do we find and stay with that which is creative in life? Many times, it seems so easy for life to get submerged in routine and rote procedure. This can be true at any age, but people often feel it particularly acutely around the time of midlife transition, or later, at the time of late life transition.

Through Creative Writing, For Instance! (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

There’s a deep natural desire to express who we fundamentally are, in some way, shape or form. That desire to be creative in life is, as Jungians say, archetypal. Human beings inherently are creators.

In an earlier post, I discussed psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden’s insight that

To be alive (in more than an operational sense) is to be forever in the process of making things of one’s own

This is true, or, at least, it has the potential to be true. Every single act that we do has at least the potential to be creative, and this includes the most mundane and seemingly routine of activities—if they are infused with a conscious and creative awareness. This is what Ogden seems to mean when he references the idea of “making things of one’s own”.

Yet, what is it to “make things of one’s own”? You and I can probably think of times in our lives when we’ve done something creative, and there’s been a sense of beauty and meaning about it. What exactly goes on inside of us when we do something creative?

What is Creativity?

What exactly is it to be creative in life? When we’re creative, in the sense of genuinely making things of our own, there’s a sense of being fully involved and “expressing” ourselves—letting some part of ourselves go out into the world.

There is also often a sense of being fully alive. We can create in an incredible range of ways, whether it’s a watercolour painting, a poem, a beautiful garden or a visually beautiful and wonderfully flavoured meal. However we do it, there is also a sense of participating in something that is bigger or deeper than our everyday ego.

Jung calls this sense of connection “living a symbolic life”:

Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this… banal, grinding life in which they are “nothing but.” . . .

When Jung is using the word “soul” here, he is not using it in the religious sense of the word. Rather he is referring to connection with the life-giving and creative parts of ourselves deep within our unconscious.

if you doubt that there is a creative part of you in the unconscious, my strong recommendation would be to explore your dreams. Nor is it only Jungians who are aware of this. Consider these words from the rigorous and empiricist neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker, Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science, UC Berkeley:

From [the] dreaming process… have come some of the most revolutionary leaps forward in human progress… We also know of precious artistic gifts that have arisen from dreams. Consider Paul McCartney’s origination of the songs “Yesterday” and “Let it Be”. Both came to McCartney in his sleep…. The creative muse of dreaming has also sparked countless literary ideas and epics [including Mary Shelley]…. Then there is the French surrealist poet St. Paul Boux [who] before retiring every night… is said to have hung a sign on his bedroom door that read “DO NOT DISTURB: POET AT WORK.”.

I wonder what your dreams might be able to show you about the greater, creative part of yourself. What might want to be expressed?

If We Turn Away from Our Creative Self…

None of this is to say that dreams are the only source or wellspring of creativity in our lives. The unconscious dimension of who we are, and our connection with the broader archetypal unconscious, can appear creatively in many ways.

Yet, for all kinds of reasons, people choose to turn away from, or repress that inner creative impulse. So, what happens to us when we do that?

When we leave behind the creative in life, we’re left with just being alive “in an operational sense”, as Ogden puts it. People end up stuck in “the banal, grinding life in which they are ‘nothing but'”, as Jung phrases it. Nothing but the dull plodding part of themselves that meets the expectations of others. The socially conditioned part that ticks the boxes and pays the rent, without hope for anything of greater significance, or that has any magic.

There is no one way to express our creativity. But we need to find a creative dimension to our lives if we’re to gain a sense of meaning and value.

Our Power to be Creative in Life

There is great value in exploring the kind of creativity that wants to emerge from your own real life. There’s almost no limit on the form that might take. It could be quilting, stand-up comedy, cooking creatively, writing that novel, or creating that landscape painting. Or, any of an almost infinite list of other things that draw you or call to you, in your uniqueness. The important thing is that we start to listen to our own unique selves.

Sometimes when people are dealing with depression or anxiety it can be of great help to find a form of expression that brings out of us what’s going on inside. This might be drawing, painting, collage, working with clay—any of quite a number of things.

A supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of tremendous value when we are seeking to explore our creativity. Having the opportunity to open up the creative side of ourselves within the container of an affirming analytical relationship can be tremendously helpful and healing

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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)

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II

July 2nd, 2010 · creativity, Film, Identity, Individuation, inner life, popular culture, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, spontaneity, The Self, wholeness

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II, The Armoured Self, My Prison

In the course of thousands of years of mechanical development, the mechanistic concept, from generation to generation, has anchored itself deeply in man’s biological system.  In so doing, it actually has altered human functioning in the direction of the machine-like….   Man has become biologically rigid. He has armored himself against that which is natural and spontaneous within him, he has lost contact with the biological function of self-regulation and is filled with a strong fear of that which is alive and free.

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933)

 In Part I of “Anxiety Behind the Mask” I began to explore the meaning of the pop cultural figure of Iron Man.  As seen in recent movies, Iron Man is a symbol for the relationship in our culture between the social mask, known in Jungian terms as the “persona”, and the inner human.  The Iron Man myth represents the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable, beyond weakness, mistake and humiliation.   However, as we discovered, there is also great psychological danger in complete identification with such an impervious persona.

In this post, I’d like to open up that idea in a fuller way.  In fact, the social armour which protects us can also be a prison.  We can so easily develop a way of relating that is very smooth, glib, almost machine-like.  It can be so effective that it can give me the strong sense that nothing is ever going to hurt me.  It can lead me to “pat” answers and attitudes that accord with the standard views and attitudes in our social grouping(s), that completely avoid vital questions about how we feel and what we want.

Our armour can persuade others and even ourselves that we are sleek and slick, even sophisticated.  But I can only ensure that I’m on top of things by ensuring that nothing is ever going to reach me, that nothing will ever break my stride.  I need to keep whatever might disrupt my performance at a distance.

So we armour ourselves not only against others, but against ourselves.  We do this by repressing any inner acknowledgment of our own inferior, weak, morally suspect or socially unacceptable parts – and the shame that often goes with acknowledging them.  We eliminate our vulnerability, but at the price of our vitality and spontaneity.

I have heard innumerable people relate nightmares to me with themes that resemble the following:

I am in a labyrinth, or a dark, unknown place.  I am being pursued by robots.  They advance relentlessly, despite all my efforts to destroy them or fend them off.  No matter how many I disable, they just keep coming…  closer and closer and closer.  I wake up, filled with fear.

Potentially a very disturbing dream, that reflects a very important reality in the psyche, about which we genuinely should be disturbed.  In the words of Eric Fromm:

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.

In a certain important sense, this is also the danger of the present, as the dream above reflects.  My armour, my social mask, may become robotic, particularly if I let it get to be thicker than it needs to be, as a result of my over-identification with my social role or roles.  Then I may find myself cut off from the instinctual and spontaneous sources of life deep in the psyche, and may find myself overwhelmed by anxiety, depression or even psychosomatic illness.  All are dangerous signs that the connections with the deep inner life of the human being are in danger of being severed.

To be continued in “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

I’d welcome your reflections on the symbollic aspects of Iron Man and the trap of robotic social roles.   Do you ever see others trapped in their social roles?  Do you ever find that you are struggling to be your genuine self in situations?  In relationships?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst


PHOTO CREDITS: © Marvel Entertainment, LLC  These images are the property of Marvel comics and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson


The Creative Fire & Feelings of Guilt

June 20th, 2010 · creativity, depth psychology, guilt, inner life

We may seek to avoid feelings of guilt, but we will never really succeed.

As Jung frequently pointed out, the burden of guilt is the unavoidable accompaniment in any situation when we cross any of the taboos inherent in social structures and actively, creatively express ourselves and live our lives.  And while guilt feelings will occur, it’s important to emphasize that feeling guilty is not the same thing as actually being guilty.

Recently, Jungian analyst Larry Staples was interviewed in the Huffington Post.  Staples is the author of The Creative Soul, an examination of the psychology of creation from a Jungian point of view.  In the interview he makes the point that we experience feelings of guilt anytime we do things that go against authority — religious, secular or parental.

Somehow, if we are going to do that which really belongs to ourselves as opposed to the bidding of the internalized authorities in our lives, and live a life that is truly creative and authentic, we are going to find ourselves impelled to cross certain “inviolable” taboos.  As a result the hounds of guilt will pursue us.  And they can easily keep a person from embarking on creative pursuits — whether it’s writing, working with clay, dancing, dressing the way you really want or even speaking your own truth.

But as Staples acknowledges, if we can cross through that wasteland of inner resistance and taboo, and press into the inner realm of creativity that really does come from the inner impulse of the Self, often something powerful happens, and we are caught up in the intoxicating life of it.  At that point, creation can be something even rapturous, and we can feel that this, this very thing is what we were meant to do.

That’s how you know it involves the real you.

Depth therapy is one of the most powerful ways of addressing the crippling power of guilt in your life, and of accessing your own authentic creative power.

I’d welcome your reflections on the relationship between guilt and creation in your life.  Are they related?  Are there particular taboos that you have to move beyond to express your real self?


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

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