Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Gift: Its Meaning in Life & Individual Therapy

December 23rd, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

In our culture, the Holidays are powerfully associated with receiving gifts: what does the experience of “gift” actually mean, in our lives — and in individual therapy?

individual therapy

You may be sceptical whether there is any significant link between receiving gifts and individual therapy: bear with me, reader, bear with me!  First, let’s ask: what do gifts mean in human life?

The Spiritual and Material Power of the Gift

Anthropology, the study of human roots, emphasizes that gift-giving is a near universal human characteristic, appearing among the vast majority of human cultures world-wide.  What is it that makes gift-giving so important, so special?

Marcel Mauss, the French anthropologist/sociologist observed that gifts are never truly free.  In the vast majority of cultural situations, giving of gifts is reciprocal.  Mauss became preoccupied with the question: “What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?” He concluded that the gift is more than it seems; that it is endowed with “spiritual mechanisms”, engaging the honour of both giver and receiver.

Gift-giving in most cultures is both a powerful spiritual and material act, because the giver does not merely give an object but also part of her- or himself.  As Mauss puts it “the objects are never completely separated from the persons who exchange them”, and the bond between giver and gift creates an obligation to reciprocate on part of the recipient. To not reciprocate means to lose honour and status, certainly, but in many cultures, failure to reciprocate would means to lose mana, one’s very spiritual power or essence.

individual therapy

In our own culture and time, we can see the enormous importance and power of reciprocal gift-giving — especially during the holiday season.

Great Gifts that Cannot be Reciprocated

But what do we do with those great gifts that are not given to us by another person, in any normal sense of that word?

The season that we know as Christmas has been associated since the stone age with the return of the sun after the winter solstice.  Today, we can explain the fact that the days start to get longer again as a result of the operation of the laws of physics.  That was not apparent to the primal human societies of the stone age.  It must have been an incredible experience of wonder to those people to see the days gradually grow longer, and to realize that the world was not going to be plunged into an ever greater abyss of endless darkness.  To see the sun return in winter — even though the weather itself would still grow colder for a season — must have been an incredible source of hope for our ancestors.

What does one do, in response to that kind of gift, to the things that life just gives, that cannot be reciprocated?

Individual Therapy, Life and the Gift

We know a whole lot more about physics and astronomy now, but the essential nature of human life has not changed.  Whether I’m explicitly religious or not, I still stand before the great mysteries of life, and the many things that are inexplicable.  Human life still has the same fundamental character of an enormous gift.  To have my life and to be consciously aware: these are realities that I did not create, and even today, it’s awe-inspiring to receive these incredible gifts.

individual therapy

How can I reciprocate?  How can I give back to Life, the Gods, the Universe, the Ground of Being — however I conceive it?  Only by truly receiving the gift, by living to the full, by becoming as conscious as I possibly can.  To both be, and to receive, the gift of myself, and my individual unique life: this is the journey of life, and the journey of individual therapy.


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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Psychotherapy & the Spiral Path

October 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Many people enter individual psychotherapy consciously or unconsciously expecting the process to be linear, rational and directly goal-oriented.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, people often find, as they start to tell their stories, that the real course of their lives is not nearly as straightforward, simple or consistent as they expected.  It often seems to have much more of a spiral or multi-spiral character.

People start to experience themselves as much more many-layered and subtle than they had initially supposed…

Stories and Apologies

In therapy sessions, as people talk about ordinary life, one of the commoner things that I hear them say is:  “I’m sorry that this is so convoluted”; or, “I’m sorry, I seem to have gotten way off track…”; or, even, “How did we end up talking about this?” individual psychotherapy

Then, very often, I try to connect what we are talking about to a theme from earlier in the session — the connection, for instance, between this week’s episode of Breaking Bad and their own father’s illness, that they hadn’t yet made consciously.  Such connections are often not just blatant, but they most often reflect the person’s inner reality. That unbelievably varied and multi-hued inner reality that we each are, which is not so easily encapsulated, explained or described.

Irreducible Me

We all have a story that we tell about ourselves.  But a key question is whether that story going to be the small story, or the big story. The small story is most often the one dictated by social convention. The big story might be seen as what Jung refers to as our personal myth; the deeper, more complete story, that takes in all the dimensions of who we are.

It matters which story we accept.  Are we going to let ourselves be reduced to what others say or know about us, or are we going to accept the full truth of all that we are?

Yet the Movement is Around a Centre

individual psychotherapy

Letting in that fuller experience of ourselves can seem disruptive and chaotic.  Over time, though, the apparently random and haphazard movement in inner life shows a very different character.  As Jung tells us:

The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere. The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals: the dream-motifs always return after certain intervals to definite forms, whose characteristic it is to define a centre. And as a matter of fact the whole process revolves about a central point or some arrangement round a centre…

~C.G. Jung

The Fundamental Reality of the Self

The central point to which Jung refers is the heart of our identity, the Self.  As Jung puts it elsewhere, the self is the sum total of our psychic wholeness, or, as Professor Samuels puts it, the “archetypal image of the unity of the personality as a whole.”

To enter into individual psychotherapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, is to enter into a deeper experience of the Self and its many dimensions.   As we experience this wider Self, we experience our own reality, solidity and uniqueness.


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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Therapy & Ordinary Life as Remarkable

August 9th, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Individual therapy is a contradiction: a simultaneous journey into life as both ordinary and miraculous.

individual therapy

Last week, I had the opportunity to again visit one of the world’s great art museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  While I was there, I spent a great deal of time with the paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Renoir and “Everyday Eternity”

As in his 1877 “Portrait of Eugène Murer”, shown above, there is a particular quality of immediacy and life to Renoir’s paintings.  There is something about the way he paints that imbues his paintings with an incredible vitality, lifelikeness and significance.  We care about the people he portrays, we’re fascinated by them, and we wish that we could talk to them, engage them — and, in a way, we find that we do, as we engage with his paintings.

Renoir actively sought to convey this quality of immediacy, life and deep significance in his painting.  As he said:

“I like painting best when it looks eternal without boasting about it: an everyday eternity, revealed on the street corner; a servant-girl pausing a moment as she scours a saucepan, and becoming a Juno on Olympus…”

individual therapy


Renoir’s art reveals the eternity in so-called ordinary life.

Everyday Eternity and the Art of Individual Therapy

In a surprising way, the search for the eternal in the ordinary, which is the heart of Renoir’s art, is not all that different from the quest that forms the basis of individual therapy and depth psychotherapy. Individual therapy is certainly an exploration of the validity, importance and plain reality of everyday, ordinary, individual life. Situations that we find ourselves in, that seem mundane and ordinary are often archetypal.  In the conflicts, transitions, losses and gains of our lives, we share in patterns that have characterized human life right from its distant beginnings. In moments of insight in individual therapy, we can experience both an awareness of our own unique individuality, and a deep sense of connection to the age old experience of the broader human race. individual therapy

Profound Ordinariness

It may sound trite, but sometimes the awareness that “I’m real; my life matters” can be a profound realization.  To feel my own uniqueness, and experience that I’m truly alive, that I truly exist — not as a matter of intellectual awareness, but genuinely to feel it —  can be a deeply changing awareness. Jung describes a particular experience of coming to self-awareness:

Suddenly for a single moment I had the overwhelming impression of having emerged from a dense cloud.  I knew all at once: now I am myself!  Previously I had existed, too, but everything had merely happened to me.  Now I happened to myself.  ~C.G. Jung  [italics mine]

To genuinely feel and accept my own uniqueness is to find myself in a singular experiment in the history of the universe — my own real life.

Eternity / You

The process of individual therapy is a journey into seeing the profundity and importance of my own everyday life.  To feel my own life — and its importance — is a key part of the journey to wholeness. [cta]

PAINTINGS: © Auguste Renoir, “Eugène Murer”; “By the Seashore”; “Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children”, all from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. 

© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


Individual Psychotherapy: Quit Living Provisionally! 1

July 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

In individual psychotherapy, a key issue for an individual can be finding a way to return to his or her own actual, immediate experience of life.

individual psychotherapy

As Jung  indicates in this quote, it is far too easy for us to live provisionally.  That is to say, to live our lives as if they don’t really matter or count.

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Still Not Taking This Life Seriously

For a very, very long time, Western culture  has conditioned us to treat the real happenings in our lives as not real — as if they don’t count.  Partly, this is due to a certain version of Christianity, which views this world as a veil of tears, and sees the sole purpose of this life as readying us for life after death in “a better place”.  The power of this worldview has diminished — although many are still under its sway — but there is a variation of it, still very potent, that goes back to Plato.  On this view, only thoughts, and particularly reason and logic, are truly important.    And, as a result, western civilization is very much stuck in its head.

individual psychotherapy

Virtually Alive (Sort Of)…

For many in our time, information technology has intensified the tendency to live in our heads, to live “virtually” or “in the cloud”.  There are many in our culture whose most intense experiences have involved video games, or role playing in online chatrooms.  From the perspective of individual psychotherapy, that is quite concerning.  Such “virtual worlds” are the latest, most technologically intense version of provisional life: spoon-fed generic experiences, rather than real, individual life.

As a culture, we are in continual avoidance of our own real lives.  We are too ready to float above the real joy and pain in our life, and call it living, when it is really only participation in the collective fantasies of mass entertainment and consumerism.

The Unconscious In the Immediate

Jung tells us, “our unconscious often tries to convince us of the importance of living here and now.”  I believe that this may be even more true in our time than his.  Our dreams may well reflect when we get too divorced from the immediacy of life.  Similarly, we may find that inexplicable slip-ups and errors in performing ordinary daily activities may be the way in which the unconscious draws our attention away from our ceaseless mental taskmaster, with his or her inflexible agendas and killer timelines.

Epidemics of events such as repeatedly losing our car keys as we are trying to get out of the door to go to work may reflect the attempts of the unconscious mind to bring us back to more natural rhythms, and a greater awareness of the immediate events in our lives.

individual psychotherapy

This, Now, COUNTS

This present abiding, right here, right now in the awareness of our actual this-moment experience, is what makes human.

Often individual psychotherapy, and particularly depth psychotherapy, brings us much closer to our feeling, sensing and overall experiencing of our own actual lives.

Next post in the series:  Why Living Now Matters


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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A Midlife Grad? Individual Therapy & Rites of Passage 1

July 2nd, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Doing individual therapy with many through their life journey often makes me wonder why society doesn’t have a proper graduation ceremony for people passing into midlife.

individual therapy


This might seem like a wonky idea — so let me make it even wonkier!  Shouldn’t our society have many more true rights of  passage for people moving from one life stage or situation to another?

At this time of year, high school, college and university grads celebrate their particular passages, leading all of us to reflect on the key passages in our own lives.

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Life is Many Passages

Many events in an individual’s life are really life passages.

Going through major life transitions actually changes our identity in fundamental ways.  We often feel that we are different, and experience life differently as a result.

Other cultures have often done a much better job of recognizing the psychological significance of such life transitions.  Indigenous peoples, for instance, often recognize major life transitions by giving the individual a new name.

A Death; A Transitional State; a Resurrection

The famous French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep identified three key stages in rites of passage:

individual therapy

1. Separation: Death to a Former State.  Clear recognition that a former way of life, or former status is now dead.  Often the rite involves mourning the death of the former individual, as in indigenous cultures, where, in the rite of passage to adulthood, the “death of the child” may be mourned.

2. Transition or “Liminal State”.  For a time, the individual lives between the old state and the new state, in transition.  It is of psychological importance for the individual to experience this state of “between-ness”.  Often this is a time when the individual undergoes trials or ordeals associated with the life transition.

3. Incorporation or Re-Birth.  In this third stage, the individual actively takes on the state of new life or identity.  As this National Geographic video clip shows, this might be recognized by the community, but fundamentally reflects a key transition within the individual.

We can see these stages in many contexts.   At midlife transition , for instance, individuals often experience the death of a more conventional identity; a time of disorientation and uncertainty; and, the gradual birth of a new, much more individual, path in the individual’s life.

Why the Passages Matter

Rites of passage are important for many reasons.  In particular, they provide:

1. A context for a major life transition, showing that the event is not chaotic or random, but is a common, natural part of human life; and,

2.  Meaning to the life change that is occurring.

If the rite of passage could speak, it might say:

“This is not an isolated event that occurs to you, in a random or haphazard manner.  This is a human thing.  A deeply significant thing.  Perhaps even, in the best sense of the word, a sacred thing.”

individual therapy

 Individual Therapy as Passage, & Aid to Passage

For many, individual therapy serves as an aid to major life transitions or passages.  It may even turn out to be a kind of rite of passage itself, as a part of the journey towards wholeness.


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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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4 Ways the Orphan Appears in Individual Psychotherapy

June 17th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

The experience of the orphan is surprisingly important for individual psychotherapy.  Why is this image so powerful for us?

individual psychotherapy

For those who come from stable family backgrounds, that might seem like an absurd thing to claim.  But let me try and show you what I mean.


To live as an orphan, is to feel completely alone in the world.  To feel that the world is not dependable or safe, and in particular, that there are few or no bonds with other people that can be depended on at any deep level.

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The true orphan is one prevented from forming and relying on the bonds to parents and family that are so crucial in early life.

To be an orphan is to experience radical aloneness.  It is to experience radical vulnerability.

There are many people who genuinely don’t have parents.  Some actually don’t have living parents.  Others, many more, live the wound of profound abandonment, due to parental apathy, abuse or fundamental rejection.

And, all of us, in the process of individuation, will at times partake of orphan reality — where we are left feeling profoundly isolated and abandoned, with no resources to rely upon but our very own.

Eric Clapton sings of many kinds of orphan state in the song Motherless Child:

Forever Taking Leave (Always on the Verge of Departing).

As John Bowlby showed, one of the characteristics of those who, like orphans, have had weak or broken attachment to others in early life is that, very often, they can be ready to cut their connections to other people, places or situations at the drop of a hat.

When I reflect on this, I’m reminded of some lines from an old pop song by the Eagles:

“I’ve got this peaceful, easy feeling / I know you won’t let me down / ‘Cause I’m already standing on the ground”

The orphan part of our psyche is always ready to pull away, because it never truly feels like it is at home, or that it really belongs.

individual psychotherapy

Yearning for Home

Yet orphans continually yearn for home.  Symbolically, home represents a place of true belonging, to which a person is fully, fundamentally and irrevocably connected.

This yearning is deeply embedded in human psychology and biology, through 200+  million years of mammalian evolution.  It expresses itself in a vast variety of ways in human art, literature, music, religious symbolism and philosophy — and also, I note with interest, in baseball!

individual psychotherapy

To Really Come Home

All human individuals can can experience this orphan dimension to human existence — can, at times, feel incredibly alone and without a true home.  One of the key benefits of in depth individual psychotherapy is to enable the individual to have the sense of being at home in her- or himself, in one’s true nature.  Just what that means for any given individual is apparent as he or she takes his or her own journey into the experience of the orphan, and into self-understanding, and self acceptance.


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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


4 Ways to Identify Good Individual Therapy

May 21st, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Individual therapy can potentially be one of the most important undertakings in an individual’s life; so, how can a person find good therapy?


Here are 4 good ways to tell whether individual therapy will offer what you really need.

1.  Relationship with the Therapist

The most important factor in ensuring good individual therapy is the quality of relationship with the therapist.

Do I feel a good level of comfort with the therapist?

Does the therapist seem genuinely interested in my life?  My story?  Are they on my side?

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2. Therapist Integrity

Integrity is fundamental in a therapist.  If the therapist isn’t honest or forthright, then the therapeutic relationship is not likely going to be very healing.

Here are some key ways to determine whether a therapist is acting with demonstrable integrity.

    • Can he or she admit when they don’t know something?  No one knows everything.  A responsible professional therapist will admit when they do not know or understand something.
    • Can he or she admit when they have made a mistake?  No one is perfect, as a therapist, or as a person.  A therapeutic relationship should be about enabling individuals to move beyond perfectionism to self-acceptance.  If a therapist cannot acknowledge mistakes, how can he or she create an appropriate climate for self-acceptance?
    • Does the therapist hide behind his or her authority?  A therapist should be an open and vulnerable person, rather than an inaccessible or closed-off authority figure.
    • Can the therapist confront you with hard truths?  Not everything in therapy is easy.  Sometimes a therapist has to say things the client doesn’t want to hear.  Does a potential therapist have the ability to do this?  That’s a key attribute.

3. Personal Work

Has the therapist done enough personal therapy to have a reasonable level of self-understanding?  Unless a therapist has insight into her- or himself, it’s less likely that they will have the capacity to have insight into you.

Theory-Driven, Or Person-Driven?

individual therapy

This matters a lot.  The key question here is whether the therapist can really take in who you are, as a unique individual, or is he or she desperately clinging to a theory, and feeling a compulsive need to shoehorn you into it?  As C.G. Jung puts it,

“The analyst will be assailed by secret doubts [if he is] confronting the human wholeness of the analysand with a theory or technique, instead of with his own living human wholeness.

It cannot be assumed that the analyst is a superman because he possesses a theory and a corresponding technique.  He can only imagine himself to be superior if he assumes that his theory and technique are absolute truths, capable of embracing the whole of the psyche.”

“The Problem of Types in Dream Interpretation”

Jung is asking therapists to take a truly scientific stance: to let in the full reality of the client, rather than viewing the person through dogmatic blinders.

This spirit of openness to the individual reality of the client is essential to good depth psychotherapy, and to good individual therapy in general.


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


4 Human Truths about DSM-5 & Individual Psychotherapy

May 14th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Since 1952, the APA’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual [DSM] has been key to psychiatry and psychology in North America, and has had a profound influence on much individual psychotherapy.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, with the upcoming release of version 5 [“DSM-5”] the validity and scientific authority of this mainstay is under intense scrutiny.  What does this mean for individual psychotherapy?

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1. NIMH: DSM Has Failed Patients

In recent days, Dr. Thomas Insel, the head of the NIMH, the largest funder of psychiatric research in the U. S., announced that NIMH would not fund research projects relying exclusively on DSM criteria, due to a lack of clarity and objectivity concerning the DSM’s categories.   Among other things, he stated that,

“Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. [italics mine]…

While DSM has been described as a ‘Bible’ for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each….

Patients with mental disorders deserve better.”

This is a very serious blow to the DSM-5, a mere 2 weeks before its release.

2. But Biological Psychiatry Isn’t A Total Solution

Dr. Insel and NIMH have concrete suggestions as to how to overcome the  lack of true scientific depth in the DSM:

“Mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, or behavior;…

Mapping the cognitive, circuit, and genetic aspects of mental disorders will yield new and better targets for treatment.”

While all would welcome advances in neuroscience, it seems that Dr. Insel sees all “mental disorders” as reducible to biological states of affairs that can be mapped and described.  If so, many in his and related professions would not entirely concur.

Are “mental disorders” simply biological states of affairs that can be fully understood and addressed on that level alone?

3. Still Something Missing

It would certainly seem that there’s more.  There is the whole vast area of the individual’s subjective experience.

Dr. Eric Maisel regards the upheaval around DSM-5 as “the beginning of a movement in the direction of a smarter and more truthful understanding of human distress”.  However, as he states, that happy outcome can only occur if the science of the psyche takes adequate account of the inner states of the individual — his or her inner life.

He goes on to state what should be obvious: the central fact of individual therapy is that a human being is involved here.

From a specifically Jungian place, we might wish to add that to address a specific human being is to address a unique phenomenon, whose essence will never be completely classifiable.

4. The Irreduceability of the Human Individual

Key to the healing of psyche is the individual human being, with his or her unique journey.  Empirical science will no doubt continue its inquiries, but as Eric Maisel reminds us, the factor that must never be lost sight of is the inner life of the individual human being.  This is the heart and soul of individual psychotherapy from a depth perspective.


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

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Individual Psychotherapy: A Golden Age of Workaholism 3

April 14th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

In individual psychotherapy for workaholism, it’s a matter of key importance to understand what it is in the person as a whole that underlies this dangerous and destructive pattern of behaviour.

individual psychotherapy

As with almost everything in psychotherapy, we can predict that this addictive pattern emerges in part from the individual’s story, and in part from the broader social and collective forces at work around the individual.

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The Golden Age: Our Culture Glorifies Workaholics

Without saying so in so many words, our culture glorifies a workaholic attitude.

individual psychotherapy

The people that inspire us as heroes in our culture are very often people we would characterize as “driven“: relentlessly single-minded in their pursuit of some goal, and as hard on others around them as they are on themselves.  Such larger-than-life figures, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, captivate us, and, with their laser-like focus, can attain an almost god-like status.

Pullitzer Prize winning social scientist Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death described this type of obsession with the heroics of achievement as “a blind drivenness that burns people up; in passionate people, a screaming for glory as uncritical and reflexive as the howling of a dog.”

When Working Is Easier Than Facing Myself

Our culture is full of exhortations to this kind of heroic/obsessive goal-directedness.  This drug is readily consumed: its fantasy dimension can take us away from hard-to-deal with aspects of our personal lives.  Individual psychotherapy often shows that the workaholic hamster wheel can be easier than facing feelings of conflict or emptiness in our closest personal relationships.  It can be easier to immerse ourselves in work than to face who we are and what we really want in life.

Workaholism: What are We Looking For?

What is it that we are really looking for, from our work?  Certainly, we need work that provides for our own needs and those of our families.  In a time of increased economic insecurity, that need can drive us excessively hard all on its own.  But when it gets mixed up with the heroic idealization of work, it can be easy for work to take over an inhumanly large part of our lives.  Yet the truths remain true:

  • Work is not going to meet my deepest social needs, nor my need for love;
  • Work, on its own, is not going to provide me with real meaning in my life;
  • Work cannot function as the root source of my self-esteem; and,
  • Work is not going to enable me to escape the necessity of being who I am, and living my own life.

Something Better

Self-acceptance is a key element in the process of moving beyond workaholism.  It is tied up fundamentally with the process of journeying towards a sense of wholeness and completeness in my life.  I am, at base, an ordinary human — but unique, and that’s what’s precious about me.

The exploration of the uniqueness that we each possess is the only solid basis for a life, and it is the heart of meaningful individual psychotherapy.


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

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4 Advantages of Individual Therapy Over Self Help Books

March 25th, 2013 · individual, individual therapy

Self-help books are unbelievably popular, but they don’t meet many of the needs that individual therapy can meet.

individual therapy

It’s not that self-help books aren’t good or useful.  But there are some key, bedrock things that we need in our lives that we can get from individual therapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, that we can’t get from books or videos.

Four key advantages of one-on-one therapy are …

1. An Empathic Witness

A very important thing about individual therapy: you’re not alone with whatever you’re carrying or trying to sort out

The reality is that many people in our world have never really been truly witnessed, or seen in their own right, as who they really are.  It can make a profound difference when, in individual therapy, a person actually gains consciousness of this.

To sit with a therapist committed to a non-judgmental, unconditionally accepting stance, who helps me to move towards full acceptance of who I am can be powerfully transforming. It can humanize my experience — help me to feel that, even the things that I have the greatest difficulty revealing or talking are all comprehensible and essentially human.

Hand in hand with this experience comes another…

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2. Recognition of Individuality

Through telling the story of my life with a truly listening witness, I become aware of the dimensions of my story that I share in common with others, but also of the ways my own story is unique to me and defines me as an individual.

Often only the acceptance of a non-judgmental other, who helps me discern the patterns in my life, can help me gain real understanding of my own character and unique identity.

3. Therapist’s Insight & Experience

A self-help book, published for the masses, will necessarily deals in generalities, and only speaks to my life insofar as I can extract meaning from its generalizations.

But an individual therapist can take in, and respond to my individual reality, providing meaningful insight and specific interpretations of my situation and what I’m going through.

Work with an individual therapist reveals aspects of my situation where I have “blind spots”, or where I don’t understand my own reactions, or make meaningful connections.

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4. Awareness of the Unconscious Personality

Depth psychotherapy , as defined by Eugen Bleuler, affirms the self healing nature of the psyche.

But unless a person understands how those dynamics are at work in their specific case, he or she will likely not be able to connect with and cooperate with that healing.  To do this may mean confronting the part of myself that I don’t know — what Freud, Jung, Adler and others call the unconscious.

To understand this, we generally need help to discern where the unacknowledged parts of ourselves are appearing: actions and motivations that we don’t understand; unique anxieties and obsessions; our dreams.

It’s nearly impossible to get this kind of deep insight in a way that is anything like specific enough from a book.  Such insights are key, valuable parts of the journey of individual therapy.


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