Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How to Know What You Want, 3: Integrity & Holding Opposites

June 6th, 2022 · how to know what you want

In Parts 1 & 2 of “How to Know What You Want”, we’ve looked at a lot of the intricacies of genuinely understanding our desires. So, now what?

So, now what????!!!!

We know now that, to get to “How to Know What You Want”, there are a lot of different parts of ourselves, both conscious and unconscious, that we have to take into account. How exactly can we do that? How do we ever get to a genuine knowledge of our real desires? As we discussed in the last post, we’re likely not going to do it by creating a ledger sheet!

We are complex and intricate beings. Depth Psychotherapy asserts that we have many different aspects to our personalities, both conscious and unconscious. How do we find our way through all of this complexity and get to what it is that we really want?

To find this, we have to approach the question of what we want with integrity.

Integrity

Now, as soon as you use a word like “integrity”, it can conjure up some pretty unhelpful misconceptions. When many people hear that word, what arises for them is the idea of someone who has a very conventional, probably old-fashioned morality, and who follows moral rules in a completely unbending way. However, in his book Integrity in Depth, Jungian psychoanalyst John Beebe invites us to see the word “integrity” in a different way. He quotes American author Robert Grudin, who in part defines integrity as

…an inner psychological harmony and wholeness…. a conformity of personal expression with psychological reality….

Now this is a significantly different understanding of integrity. For Beebe, it’s clear that integrity has to do with taking all that we are into account. If we are to have an integrity-based approach to the question of how to know what you want, there has to be a harmony and wholeness between our inner and outer reality. Also our “personal expression”, or everything that we do in the outer world has to conform with our complete psychological reality. It has to take into account all that we’re thinking and feeling.

Holding the Opposites

To have this kind of “psychological harmony and wholeness” means to bring together what the ego wants, with what the shadow wants. As we’ve discussed before in this blog, the shadow was defined by C.G. Jung as “the thing a person has no wish to be”. To put it another way, the shadow is composed of everything that the conscious personality experiences as negative. Just what exactly is in the shadow differs greatly from individual to individual. The shadow of a Mafia Don is likely to look very different from the shadow of the Pope. Yet we can be sure that the ego doesn’t like whatever it is!

Part of what is in the shadow are wants and desires. Often, these can be desires that are completely unacceptable to the ego—so much so, that the ego may not even acknowledge their existence. Nonetheless, they are part of our actual desires.

The task of getting down to our real wants can take some real fortitude and courage. We may have to be prepared to really look at the shadow and recognize what it wants. Then, we need to hold that in tension with the more acceptable desires of the ego. If we can do this, then, over time, what it is that we “really want” will gradually emerge from the tension.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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

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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How To Know What You Want, Part 2

May 30th, 2022 · how to know what you want

In the first part of this series, we opened up the large and important question of “how to know what you want”. It’s often a tough question, that masquerades as something simple.

How do I know what I want?

As Steve Jobs asserted in the passage quoted in the first post in this series, knowing what it is that we want is often not a matter of logical or rational certainty. It is more often a matter of intuition, especially when we’re dealing with really major life choices.

In our business-oriented world, decision-making is often portrayed as a very rational straightforward thing. You can often find that the decision-making process described as something much like a balance or a ledger sheet. Should I do X? Well, let’s write down a list of all the pros to doing X on one side of the page. Then let’s write down all the cons to doing it on the other side of the page. Then we just assign a weighting to each thing that’s for X, and to each thing that’s against X, add up the totals at the bottom of the page, and voila, instant major life decision! It seems very straightforward, doesn’t it?

But the trouble is, this isn’t how human beings actually make decisions. Study after study has shown that the actual human decision making process is much less rational than this, and that it involves a lot of intuitive factors, and also that a lot goes on in the unconscious mind when we make a decision. When you add to the complexity and importance of the decision, the process becomes even more involved.

Demanding Major Life Choices

Often the challenge of “how to know what you want” is felt most acutely when we face major life choices. These are the kind of choices that are going to make a big difference in our lives for a long time. It’s quite common for these types of choices to arise when we’re about to undergo, or are already undergoing, a major life transition. Here are some examples of choices that individuals might face that are connected with major life transitions:

  • Should I stay in my marriage, or should I leave it?
  • Should I have a second child?
  • Should I retire?
  • Do I reconcile with my brother (or sister, mother, father, etc.)?
  • Do I seek another career?

When facing these kinds of choices, the decision-making processes can be very involved and complex. They may be so involved that it’s impossible to list all the factors that go into them, let alone to weigh up each one in a completely rational manner. How can we possibly know what we want, and choose it?

Telling Ourselves We Know What We Want

The anxiety associated with major life choices can be overwhelming. The individual can be aware of how much is at stake, and can find him- or herself flooded by angst. It can be all too easy for the ego to simply disconnect, because there are too many options, or because the merits and demerits of each option are so hard to process. As Swathmore College Psychology Prof. Barry Schwartz puts it,

If we’re rational, [social scientists] tell us, added options can only make us better off…. This view is logically compelling, but empirically it isn’t true.

When it comes to a very important major life choice, it can be easy for the ego to tell itself that it has everything under control. We can find it easy to believe that we have the choice in hand, that we know what we want and that we’re moving ahead in a way that accords with our deepest wishes. Sadly, sometimes nothing could be further from the truth. We can end up making choices that we later realize weren’t really reflective of who we are—or of what we really want.

Knowing in Depth What We Want

There is an ages-old folk wisdom that urges us, before we make an important decision, to “sleep on it”. There is a profundity to this. It’s often easy for our conscious mind to feel that it knows exactly what we want, and that it knows the very best route to pursue to get it. But it’s important to recognize that our conscious mind is only a part of what we are. When it comes to making a very important decision, and to addressing how to know what you want concerning the things that are most important and all-encompassing in life, it’s important that as much of who we are as possible is engaged. That certainly includes the vast part of ourselves that is in the unconscious. When we “sleep on” a decision, we let the unconscious mind work on it.

When it comes to how to know what you really want, it’s essential to engage the unconscious. We have to hear from the unconscious parts of ourselves that are so easily missed and forgotten. In Jungian analysis or Jungian depth psychotherapy, we explore the reaction of the unconscious to our everyday lives, and to the big issues and decisions that we face in the course of our journey to wholeness. A supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of immense value in solving the question of “how do I know what I really want?”

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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

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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How To Know What You Want: Is It Even Possible?

May 15th, 2022 · how to know what you want

“How to know what you want.” It sounds so deceptively simple doesn’t it? Yet, getting in contact with what we really want in many situations can be difficult.

Figuring out how to know what you want. (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Part of the trouble with “how to know what you want” may be that we don’t just want one thing. Or maybe we just don’t know what it is we want at all. Or we want something, and for all kinds of reasons, we find it hard to admit to ourselves that that is what we really want.

The importance of knowing what you want has been highlighted by astute observers, practically since the beginning of time. It was critic and author Arthur D. Hlavaty who observed that:

The secret to getting what you want is knowing what you want [italics mine].

And it was Steve Jobs who uttered the following words, which many people in our culture have found stirring:

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Certainly these are inspirational words. Yet an honest response to this exhortation on the soul level might well be: that’s great, I love it—but how do I do that stuff?

Jobs’ remarks are not really very different from the attitude that C.G. Jung and modern depth psychotherapists might have to the question of how to know what you want. Yet many people, when confronted in their own real lives with this type of question can find themselves lacking clarity, and swamped with anxiety and indecision. How can we actually, pragmatically, find the way to what it is that we really want—and bring it into our actual lives?

In my next post, we’ll be exploring in a self-compassionate way how to know what you want. We’ll be looking concretely at where to find the signs and traces that help us to actualize this most important aspect of our individuation process.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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

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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