Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy 4: Freedom

June 25th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, freedom, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety
Freedom is a word often heard in counselling for anxiety; it’s also a key concept in depth psychotherapy.  People who are really gripped by anxiety want nothing more than to be free of it.  We all deeply yearn for freedom; but can we really tolerate having it?

What kind of freedom would really help us deal with anxiety?

Freedom to Acknowledge Who We Are

The inability to accept our own deepest reactions, feelings and thoughts, and to give ourselves the freedom to experience them can be a major source of anxiety.  Often it stems from a deep fear that who and what we are is fundamentally unacceptable.  In the face of such fear, it often takes real courage to face and accept who we are, and what we think and feel.

As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman puts it in  The Pregnant Virgin :

Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather, and listening.  Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions.  It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now, that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.

False Self and Taboos

We may experience taboos against acknowledging our real feelings and thoughts, and even accepting who we are.  We may well find elements of ourselves (“complexes”) that deflect us powerfully from being fully honest with ourselves.  As we get closer to penetrating this layer, we may find that the very anxiety we are seeking to get rid of flares up, as a layer of defense against the truth of who and what we are.

The Freedom of Acceptance

If we can accept our deepest selves, this acceptance is often accompanied by an immense sense of freedom and relief.  As I described in my earlier post, when counselling for anxiety has brought us to the place where we feel that we are “enough’, in this way, it has largely accomplished its task.

Choice

To be free is to have real choice.  It entails awareness that I’m free to choose to be and to live in accordance with my real nature, rather than shackled by external expectations and my own inner rejection of who I really am. The heart of the work of depth psychotherapy is to get us to this place of acceptance and genuine free choice.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by mattwi1s0n

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 5: Freedom

April 9th, 2012 · freedom, Jungian, Jungian therapy, life, second half of life

jungian therapy

The word freedom often appears in discussions about the second half of life, but often the particular depth of understanding that Jungian therapy would attach to the word is lacking.

Not long ago, people talked about “Freedom 55”, the idea that one would be able to retire and leave work behind at age 55.  However, particularly since the economic contraction of 2008, this may seem much less possible.  Yet, this type of fantasy retains its power: we often hear phrases like “imagine the freedom” associated with, say, winning the lottery.

However, another concept much more closely associated with what used to be called spirituality may have more relevance in the second half of life.  Jungian analyst James Hillman once observed,

[W]e haven’t thought about… freedom enough. It needs to be internalized as an inner freedom from “demand” itself… that comes when you’re free from those compulsions to have and to own and to be someone…. [We need a concept] that broadens our current limited idea of freedom: that I can do any goddamn thing I want on my property; that I am my own boss and don’t want government interference; that I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and can’t do…

Externals and Freedom

We easily identify “externals” that keep us from being free, such as my boss, my job or my financial limitations.  It’s true: my external circumstances always limit my freedom – just as they also create my possibilities.  But in our time and culture, is being free from externals the freedom that we really most need?

Freedom from Inner Compulsion

Like Jungian therapy in general, Hillman suggests the greatest restrictions we face may actually be inner.  Yearning for more self esteem,  we may thirst for: respect and approval of others; ownership of house or car that says we’ve “made it”; or, status or qualifications that show that we “are somebody”.  Or we feed addictions, thus avoiding dealing with shame or anxiety.  Could release from inner compulsions make us free?

Free… For What?

We assume we need to be free “from” externals.  But Hillman and Jungian therapy bid us consider what our freedom is actually for.  What do we need to be free to find in the second half of life ?

Authenticity and Meaning

Jungian therapy emphasizes the self in the second half of life: what does freedom mean from this perspective?  Surely letting the self live freely, and finding one’s life purpose in doing so.  Perhaps the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis summed it up best in his epitaph:

“I expect nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free.”

 

 

PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Guilliame Paumier  VIDEO: © 20th Century Fox
© 2012 Brian Collinson

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“They Want Google to Tell Them What They Should be Doing”

September 6th, 2010 · Carl Jung, decision, freedom, Individuation, Psychology and Suburban Life, Self

Eric Schmidt, the Chairman of Google in a recent interview  said the following:

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. 

They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

Renowned science fiction writer William Gibson has tried to explore this idea in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, “Google’s Earth”.  Gibson takes a good hard look at the role that Google has assumed in our lives, and asks some tough questions about the implications for who we are becoming as people, at this point in time. 

In discussing the growing capacity of Google to assist, or even replace human decision-making, Gibson observes:

“We never imagined that artificial intelligence would be like this. We imagined discrete entities. Genies….  Cyberspace, not so long ago, was a specific elsewhere, one we visited periodically, peering into it from the familiar physical world. Now cyberspace has everted. Turned itself inside out. Colonized the physical. Making Google a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world. This is the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before. But empires and nation-states weren’t organs of global human perception. They had their many eyes, certainly, but they didn’t constitute a single multiplex eye for the entire human species.”

So Google is pervading more and more aspects of our lives.  But do we actually want Google to tell us what to do?  To take our previous behaviour, and to extrapolate from that, and so to indicate to us, on the basis of artificial intelligence and algorithms, what it is that we should do next, according to Google?

It seems apparent that the technology to do this is going to be more and more within reach for Google in the not-too-distant future.  Is it what we really want?

Perhaps we do want Google to make some choices for us.  For instance, Google might greatly assist me if it would simplify certain types of choices about acquiring consumer goods — the best new smartphone for me to acquire, perhaps.  But do we want Google to tell us what we should be doing when it comes to the fundamental choices of our lives?  Who we love, for instance?  Or what we really value and strive for in our lives?

How do we know that the choices which I have made in the past are really my authentic choices?  Perhaps the choice which is authentically mine — this time, now — is quite different from and quite inconsistent with the choices I might have made in the past?

This whole discussion is much bigger, really, than Google.  It takes us right into questions about what it is that makes us fundamentally human.  And into the question of whether, in the process of our making choices, there is something indefinable and indescribable that is fundamental to our unique identity.  Jung held that there was such a mystery at the heart of our human uniqueness, and that is the reality that he called the Self.  It is the process of coming into contact with that reality that forms the basis of Jungian analysis, and of any psychotherapy that is founded on principles of depth psychology.

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the importance of the subjective experience of free decision-making in relation to our identity.  Do you feel that it matters, is fundamental to your identity as a unique human, or not?

My best wishes for your unique personal journey towards wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

 

PHOTO CREDIT: © Aleksandar Nikolov | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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