Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 2: Where is Home?

June 10th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Halton Region, Home, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology and Suburban Life, Relationships, The Self, therapy, wholeness

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how the experience of connection to a specific place that is home can be powerful and profound. However, there are also many people for whom there is no connection to a sense of home.  And, for any of us, there can be many times–perhaps long periods–when we feel that we have lost anything that resembles that connection.

There are many real people for whom the experience of not having a place where they belong is overwhelmingly powerful and poignant.  We may not be that sort of person, may not feel that way.  And yet, very often, there is something in the experience of these people that can profoundly resonate with us.

OK, I admit it: I am really dating myself with the video below.  It’s from 1970, but, nonetheless, I’ve decided to include it, because I think that it represents a remarkable musical expression.  The group is Canned Heat, a blues-rock band from California, and the singer/blues harmonica/group leader is a young man named Alan Wilson.  In my opinion, Wilson’s singing here, in his inimitable blues manner profoundly touches on the experience of what it is to feel without a home.  By today’s standards, the video is very rudimentary, and the band seems far from polished in its stage presence.  However, as you watch and listen to Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sing and play “blues harp”, it is hard to avoid the feeling that he is putting the whole of himself, the whole of the pain in his life, into those lyrics of endless wandering, “on the road again”.

“The first time I travelled on, in the rain and snow / I didn’t have no fare, not even no place to go…”

“My dear mother left me, when I was quite young / She said, Lord have mercy, on my wicked son…”

This is really an aspect of all of us.  It’s an archetypal theme.  Homer’s Ulysses on his seemingly endless 10 year struggle — and all he wants to do is get back home to Ithaca.  Aeneas, in Virgil’s Aeneid, sole Trojan survivor and refugee from the sack of Troy, for whom there is no home to which he can go back–he must just keep on moving, that’s all there is.

As good as the human experience of home may be, there are those voices that would remind us that the welcome is never quite complete and total enough.  In the words of the German writer and poet Hermann Hesse, “One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”  But there is always a sense in which we are journeying onward.

The truth seems to be that our deepest yearning for home is something that cannot be fully met by an outer place, however wonderful. We may feel deeply connected to the place of our birth or family life, for instance, and yet something is missing, something for which we yearn.  This is because home, the real home we are seeking is something within ourselves and our own being.  Symbollically, it is the center of the mandala.  Home is connection with the centre of our own being; it is to be accepting of and at home with the deepest part of the self.  But to find that, we must undertake an inner journey.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you yearned for a feeling of security and rootedness?  Do you know what it is to be “on the road”?

Are there people who make you feel at home with their warmth and acceptance, as Hesse suggests?

Have you had the experience of feeling at home in yourself, of accepting who and what you are, and accepting your life?

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on the archetypes of home and homelessness.  What would it mean in your life in your life for you to truly “come home”?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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VIDEO CREDIT:

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anger: Everybody Has It, So What Do We Do With It?

December 9th, 2008 · anger, collective consciousness, depression, depth psychology, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

Anger for Vibrant Jung Blog There is no easy way with anger.  It can be one of the most powerful psychological forces that we experience.  As an old song once said, "anger is an energy" — and it can be a force for growth in a person's life, or a source of misery and destruction.

At this time, the problem of dealing with anger is more on our minds in this society than it has surely ever been.  As a society, we really don't know what to do with it.  It is simply symptomatic of our confusion and uncertainty that a major fast food chain has created a major campaign centered around a hamburger called the "Angry Whopper"!

For many people, anger is the unacceptable "taboo" emotion, the one that has no real place in our lives, the one that "decent" or "reasonable" people avoid.  This is a lesson that many of us learned deep in the womb of the family.  When I think of my own upbringing, it is absolutely clear to me that most emotion was suspect, but anger in particular was completely anathema. Anger 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

There is a trend in modern thinking to isolate anger, to treat it as some intruder in the human psyche or soul.  There is a tendency in much of modern psychology to want to wall anger off and treat it as a specific discreet problem that has only limited connection to the whole of a person's personality.  So we hear a lot about anger management and rage addiction.  This type of term that ignores the fact that a person's anger stems from real issues in the whole of that person's personality.

But those who have to deal with their anger or rage as personal problem know that such emotions are anything but discreet.  When they are in full force, they can often seem to take complete control of the personality, and to be completely in the driver's seat.

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Anxiety and the Downturn

November 30th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, panic, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

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The present economic conditions are deeply challenging to the ways that we all think about ourselves and our lives.  It takes a toll on all of us to be constantly bombarded with negative economic news that often seems only to get worse with each passing day.

It's evident to me from my practice how much anxiety is being created in each of us, and what a heavy burden a lot of people are having to carry in the present situation.  At the tail end of last week, there were numerous people who came through my office who were profoundly anxious and deeply scared at the things that they were seeing in their personal and working lives as we undergo the current economic crisis.

© William Attard Mccarthy | Dreamstime.com

How can we avoid being crippled by the anxiety and the fear?  There are a number of things to keep in focus.

First, the economic conditions that we are confronting are governed by the psychology of the crowd.  Modern communication technology only enhances and deepens this effect.  Crowd psychology is prone to irrational excitements and manias when things are good, and is equally prone to mass panics when they are bad.  In the short run, it can likely be expected that panic will actually worsen economic conditions, and we have to be prepared to weather that.

Second, we must fully expect that this mass panic is going to "hook" and activate all of our deepest fears.  Money is a very emotional matter for the vast majority of human beings.  It symbolizes our life-energy, which we have put into our work, through our sweat and sacrifice.  We can expect that, when we receive the kind of ominous news that has been about, we are going to initially respond with fear and anxiety — maybe even with terror.

Third, it is important to "hang onto ourselves" by not giving way to this fear and panic.  On balance, weighing decisions carefully at this time, and realizing that we are being infected, so to speak, by the panic of the crowd, and taking action in a way that really is in line with our own true feelings and emotions will lead us to courses of action that will serve us better.  Also, we need to hang on to the recognition that this crisis will not last forever.

Fourth, find your basic trust in life again, and act from that.  This is the time to draw on your deepest philosophical and religious convictions.  What do you really believe is important in life?  Do you believe that life is a meaningful journey, which is unfolding in a way that makes your life and the lives of the people close to you valuable?  If so, now is the time to put that belief in front of you, and to remind yourself of it constantly.

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It's Been a While Since I've Posted

November 16th, 2008 · depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, Wellness, wholeness

…because it's been an extremely busy time for me, professionally and personally!

  I haven't given up on this blog, though.  I'm still enjoying it and I still want to keep sending out thoughts and reflections, and welcoming dialogue with all of you.

If I can just paddle my canoe past the end of November, I should be back to my usual blogging frequency.

Canoe Paddle for Vibrant Jung Thing 

© Jabiru| Dreamstime.com

Looking forward to more Vibrant Jung Thing, and wishing you all every good thing,

Brian

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In Suburbia At Age Forty-Five

November 2nd, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, wholeness

 One of the larger age groups that come to me for therapy are people who are at or right around the age of 45.

Age 45 man for vibrant jung thing blog © Aleksandar Nikolov Dreamstime.com

This is not entirely surprising to me.  For many people at this age, there is a tremendous amount going on in their lives.  As life unfolds for many people, this is an point in life where the individual is confronted with fundamental changes in his or her life.  These may not be obvious to outsiders, especially given the suburban lifestyle with its unique pressures.  Nonetheless, sometimes what is going on for people on the psychological level is enormous.

Does this mean that these people are mentally ill, or somehow suffering from "psychological disorders"?  Of course not.  But it does mean that these people are confronting some of the most fundamental psychological or existential issues in human life. 

For many of these people, the question of meaning is becoming a matter of increasing urgency.  In a lot of cases, the people who come to me are people who are very accomplished, and who have achieved a lot in their lives.  They have done what society has asked of them, in that they have moved out from the family of origin, gotten the necessary education, gotten into good careers, and often gotten married and raised families.  They are exemplary "good members of the community".  However, for many of them, there is a need for something more, now.  They are seeking for a life that is fulfilling for them.  They are seeking for a life that has value for themselves, individually.

Many such people are struggling with relationship issues.  There can be a strong feeling that the relationship that they are in is simply not currently meeting their needs.  Or else, they may have a strong feeling that their partner, who is often dealing with some pretty fundamental issues in his or her own life is no longer as fulfilled by the relationship as they once were.

Often these people are in the midst of deep changes in their lives.  Often they are unsure "which way is up", and they are asking questions about where lasting value is in their lives, and what they can hold onto that will give them a sense of orientation.  They are asking these questions in a deeply personal way: no "ready made, off the shelf" answer is going to work for them.  They are asking about who they really are, and they are asking what in their lives has lasting, incorruptible value.

These are the questions at the heart of what Carl Jung called the individuation process.  For many people in the age bracket anywhere from later 30s through the 50s. these questions can take on a tremendous urgency.

Who, most fundamentally, are you? 

What is most meaningful to you, personally, in your life? 

How will you live in the light of what is most important to you? 

These are not questions that stem from some sort of psychological disorder.  Rather they are questions that sane, healthy people naturally confront as they move through the journey of their lives.  Nonetheless, finding the answers that we need may be tied very strongly to incorporating new insights that emerge from the deepest parts of ourselves, and from the collective unconscious.  Often people need help to orient themselves in this unfamiliar territory, and to wrestle with their own depths.  I firmly believe that this is something that working with a compassionate therapist with deep experience with this type of issue and with the unconscious can provide.

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Keeping Your Soul in Times of Economic Anxiety

October 2nd, 2008 · collective consciousness, compulsion, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Oakville, panic, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self

These are anxious days in suburbia, and in fact throughout North America and the rest of the developed world.

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As I write, the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States has mushroomed into a full-blown crisis.  Many of my American readers live in areas like Los Angeles County, where fully one third of house sales are now foreclosures, and there is fear that number is only going to escalate.  Having absorbed the news that, incredibly, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused to pass the $700 billion Bush-Bernanke-Paulson bailout legislation for financial institutions, the world waits, holding its breath, to see if the bill can somehow be amended into a form that the House will accept.  There is a perception on the part of many that, without some legislation of this kind of magnitude to shore up the financial sector, a disaster could ensue that would result in a credit freeze, strangling business and the economy.

Image: © Badboo | Dreamstime.com

Things which a little while ago appeared so solid have seemingly come apart very quickly.  A survey of Anxious Investor for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog the media reveals that there is an atmosphere of panic or desperation that is just underneath the surface of daily affairs at the present time.  Fear is rampant.

I have no credentials as a commentator on the economy or the financial sector, and I could add nothing to the discussion of these issues from that point of view.  However, there are observations that I would like to make about the psychology of a time like this.

© Wolfgang Amri|Dreamstime.com

 

The first of these concerns the power of mass psychology and the psychology of crowds.  Jung was very concerned lest people abdicate their individuality and be swept along by mass attitudes in times when strong emotions flow through societies — times like the present.  He warns of the dangers of this in “On the Nature of the Psyche”, CW 8 para 425:

 

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In Your Dreams

August 23rd, 2008 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, dreams, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, symbolism, wholeness

Night_dreams_vibrant_jung_thing_b_3 Looking at dreams is often a part of Jungian analysis.  Jungian analysis, along with other forms of depth psychology, maintains that dreams are meaningful, and that the dreams a person has are directly connected to what is going on in his or her life, both right at the present time, and over much longer periods of time.

Shtirlitz | Dreamstime.com

Sometimes people are afraid of looking at their dreams, or sometimes they feel gullible or silly for looking at them, as if this wasn’t "practical", or "down to earth" in some sense.  However, it is interesting to note that this attitude toward dreams in our culture is at odds with the views of most other cultures, and even with our own culture in earlier periods of time. 

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews certainly believed that their dreams were meaningful, and this attitude prevailed in the West throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and even up to andDream_sleep_vibrant_jung_thing_3   including the Enlightenment.  It is only with the rise of "hard core" empiricism and materialism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that our Victorian forebears began to be sceptical about dreams, a trend reversed by that very hard-nosed and commonsensical empiricist and rationalist, Sigmund Freud. 

                                                                                                                                                                            © Dewayne Flowers | Dreamstime.com

Unlike Freud, who saw dreams as a mechanism for preserving sleep by keeping repressed thoughts and Dream_sleep_2_vibrant_jung_thing impulses from emerging during sleep, Jung believed that dreams represent an on-going commentary by the unconscious on the conscious position and attitudes of the individual.  For Jung, the unconscious is composed of so much more than just repressed contents, and it has its own wisdom, which can sometimes greatly surpass the understanding of the conscious mind.  If that is true, then we can expect to glean many important insights from understanding the contents of our dreams.

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Chicago: An Enormous, Diverse, Extroverted, Friendly American City…

August 16th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul

Chicago_for_jung_blog

© Bonnie Pignatiello Leer | Dreamstime.com

I’ve just gotten back today from a trip to Chicago, and I apologize to my readers for the lack of posts over the last little while.  I plan to write about my trip, and to reflect on different psychological and soul aspects of my trip to that great city.

It was a wonderful trip!  Chicago is such a vital place! 

I couldn’t help drawing a lot of comparisons with Toronto as we explored different dimensions of the city.  There are certain similarities — large cities each located on the shores of the Great Lakes.  However, beyond these surface characteristics, the two cities are very different in very many ways.

Most fundamentally, I think , there is a difference in what Jung would call weltanschauung, or world view.  Perhaps to, say, Europeans, or Asians, the inhabitants of Chicago and Toronto would seem very similar.  However, I think that there are some fascinating differences in fundamental attitudes.  It’s hard to put this into words, except to say that, even in the midst of the current economic uncertainties, there is an extraordinary confidence that Chicago exudes.  Perhaps it’s a bit cliche, now, but I could hear the poetry of Carl Sandburg ringing in my ears as we travelled through the city.

It’s not a question of one collective outlook being either wrong or right, of course, but I’m intrigued with the differences in what seems to me to be each city’s collective perception of the world.  I hope to write more about this in subsequent posts.

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Desert: Depression and Suburban Life

July 29th, 2008 · depression, depth psychology, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, soul, suburbia / exurbia, Wellness

1_saharadune1 "Depression" and "suburbia" are two words that you don’t usually see in the same sentence.  Those who promote suburbia tend to want to portray it as a place where happiness and fulfillment abound.  However, as any therapist or counsellor can tell you, depression and anxiety are widespread in the ‘burbs, just as they are in the rest of our society.  It’s not that depression is more widespread in the suburbs and exurbs than elsewhere in our society.  It’s just that, contrary to the suburban myth of joyful care-free family life, many ordinary, normal people in suburbia are dealing with depression.

Depression is a fairly common occurrence.  How frequent it actually is depends a lot upon the level ofDepression_2 severity of depression that we’re looking at.  Depression is sufficiently common that it can probably be said that most people have been subject to some level of depression at some time in their lives.  That being said, it’s essential to not underestimate its potential for disrupting and impacting an individual’s life.  If you are suffering from depression, it’s important to take steps to deal with it, rather than just hoping it will go away.

Recently, a client said something to me that I think is very true.  Speaking about his own experience of seeking help for depression, he said, "I think that they were all focussed on treating the symptoms of the depression — but they really didn’t get at what it was about."

What is depression all about? Clearly it is important to take with all due seriousness the science of depression, which understands depression in terms of serotonin levels and all its other physiological and neurological dimensions.  But it is equally important to see depression as something human, with a human meaning for individuals like you and me.

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Rages: When Shadow Puts the Pedal to the Metal

July 11th, 2008 · anger, compulsion, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Milton, Psychotherapy, rages, road rage

There is no manifestation in our modern lives of what Jungians call “the shadow” that is more dramatic or potentially more deadly than road rages.  In its Wednesday July 9/08 edition, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on a particularly tragic and deadly incident which occurred in the town of Milton, here in Halton Region.

Dashboard1_for_blog Apparently, two vehicles raced each other on the James Snow Parkway in order to be first onto the access to the eastbound 401, a major highway in our area.  After a struggle, one of the vehicles suceeded in getting ahead of the other, and it appears that the enraged driver then put on his brakes extremely hard.  The other vehicle swerved to avoid rear-ending his car, and ended up crashing into the highway median and rolling three times, with a tragically fatal outcome.  So a few moments of uncontrolled rage has led to the death of one man, and to terrible legal and personal consequences for the other.

I cannot be sure, but I would bet that, if we knew all the details, we would find that the two main players in this incident were decent, ordinary citizens.  How did they end up here, with this incredibly sad outcome?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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