Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Relations

December 3rd, 2012 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Every year, I post something on individual psychotherapy and holiday stress.

individual psychotherapy

My intent in doing this is not to be a “downer”, but rather to plead with all of us to be real at this time of year.

Interacting with certain relatives in holiday situations can be a debilitating stressor.  Individual psychotherapy knows, that if there is any time of the year when we really need to “hang onto ourselves”, this is it.

Interacting with Some Relations is a Major Holiday Stress

Of the several issues that make the holidays difficult for my clients, the number one factor cited is encounters with relatives.

These can include encounters with just about any type of relative.  The biggest single factor that seems to contribute to anxiety, depression and overall discomfort is the prospect of spending extended time in the presence of a toxic relative — and feeling aversion, powerlessness or even complete defeat.

Why is Interacting with Toxic Relations So Difficult?

The reasons that certain relatives can be so problematic are very diverse, and depend on the individual’s situation.

The most extreme factors are situations of abuse.  Such abuse can be verbal, physical or sexual.  Here, the individual may risk re-traumatization by even seeing the person, or being in their presence.  Such trauma situations must be approached with extreme caution.

Some relatives endlessly inflict shame. This may be connected with overt verbal abuse, or it may not.  A related experience may be that a relative makes me feel negligible or inferior.

Often, any or all of the above may relate to the inability of a given relative to let me be who I am in my own right — even a little.  This can be painful in the extreme, and it may lead to feelings of deep misgiving and foreboding as Christmas approaches.

Is There Any Chance for Healing?

In individual psychotherapy people often find themselves asking if there is any chance for repair of such a relationship.  It is not uncommon to find oneself oscillating between optimism and pessimism on this point.

Sometimes such repair may be a possibility.  Or, it may be that healing in the relationship with this relative simply isn’t an option.  In such cases, it may well be that the healing that has to go on in this situation is something that must go on inside of me, where I find ways to maintain my own boundaries, and keep valuing myself and living my life — the archetype of individuation.

Living in My Own Story

Whether I go into situations involving a toxic relative, or I don’t, there are some truths that I need to keep in mind.

The first of these is that my life is my own.  I belong to myself.  The perception of even the closest relative does not define who I am.  I have a right to live my life in a manner that respects who I am, and respects my needs.

Living in my own story — even amidst holiday stress — is a key part of the journey of individual psychotherapy.


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Individual Psychotherapy & Hope: 4 Jungian Truths

November 10th, 2011 · Hope, individual, individual psychotherapy, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy

individual psychotherapy
Hope is key to individual psychotherapy — especially for the Jungian therapist.  It is always true that the hope of the client is going to be essential to the healing process of the psyche.  But, especially in an age like ours, with the continual struggle that many face to keep hope alive, hope becomes even more crucial.

1)  Hope from Within, Not Without

We tend to look outward for hope, to external realities.  However, the truth is, that we will not be able to experience a sense of hope from outer events, unless we first experience hope within ourselves, in the form of some new possibility for being.  If we can meet possibilities in ourselves — for real feeling, for love, for a deepened sense of self-esteem, for living some hitherto unlived form of life — then we can begin to trust and hope outwardly.

2)  I have a Unique Individual Identity; Others See That I’m Real

One of the deep changes that can come through individual psychotherapy can come from the reality of feeling listened to, and truly “seen” as we are.  As we experience ourselves through the other, we can come to realize that what we are is unique and unrepeatable.  I realize that “I” exist: that there is a wholeness, a reality and a persistence to me.

3)  The Self is Greater than the Ego

Not only is there a reality, a substantiality to me, I am also greater than I know.  I am greater than my idea of myself.  Outside of my conscious self  is the vastness of the unconscious self, full of aspects of my being that are yet to be explored, the realm of dream, myth and symbol.  When I can enter a dialogue with this vast inner sea, and discover how it responds to, and is connected with, my conscious self, there is a sense that, as Walt Whitman put it, “I am large; I contain worlds.”

individual psychotherapy

4) The Psyche Has the Inner Wisdom to Heal Itself

The vast reality of psyche is revealed in dreams and other manifestations.  In ways often unknown to me, psyche is striving to solve its own dilemmas, and to heal itself.  Part of me, hidden from consciousness, knows how to begin to heal itself, and knows where it is going.  The challenge of individual psychotherapy is to unlock that inner wisdom of the self, and to move in harmony with it.


PHOTO:  © All rights reserved by mosaicmuse(Valerie)
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga




Individual Psychotherapy for Relationships… Say, What?

October 14th, 2011 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Relationships

individual psychotherapy

Getting individual psychotherapy often can be the best thing for the relationships in your life, and especially for relationships with lovers and spouses.

But isn’t getting individual therapy for yourself and hoping for improvement in key relationships a little bit like, well… “Dancing with Myself”?

Billy Idol humour aside… there’s truth here.  Learning to “dance with yourself”, and learning to dance with others are intimately related.  Jungian psychotherapy stresses that our individual “stuff” can profoundly affect intimate relationships — and vice versa.  Here are 4 important ways that can occur:

1) Identifying Projections

Projection occurs when I unconsciously see people through the lens of my past experience, and when “difficult emotions and unacceptable parts of the personality are located in a person different from the subject” (Samuels).  So, for instance, I may perceive my partner as being controlling when I’m the one being controlling in the relationship — but it would distress me greatly to acknowledge that.  Individual therapy work can help me to take back projections, and to have a more accurate picture of what is going on in the relationship.

2) Others’ Projections onto Me

Also, people close to me may put their projections on me.  They may unwittingly perceive me in ways related to their own history that really have nothing to do with who I actually am.  If I’m not conscious of how this is occurring, it may distort communication and relationship.  Or I may even act in ways that resemble the other person’s projections — what is known as projective identification.

3) Recognizing Shadow – the Unacknowledged Self

Individual therapy often reveals the ways in which the shadow, the unacknowledged aspects of ourselves, affects a relationship.  Shadow may be very active.  For instance, we may feel that striving for power in a love relationship is the last thing we would do — until we recognize ourselves doing it in the mirror held up by individual psychotherapy.

4) The Contrasexual

This is the inner image and form of the opposite sex that we carry within us, referred to by Jungians as either the anima or animus.  That particular entity strongly influences our feelings about the ideal mate, and more especially in the inner story that we tell ourselves about “how guys / women are.”  If we are unconscious of our anima or animus in our relationship, we probably have a tiger by the tail.


PHOTO:  Copyright All rights reserved by diogoflopes
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)


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Jungian Psychotherapy & Personal Growth

July 15th, 2011 · growth, individual psychotherapy, Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, personal growth, Psychotherapy

personal growth

Personal growth isn’t something you hear Jungian psychotherapy speak about very much.  I got to really wondering, “Why not?  You hear it all the time from self-help gurus, etc.”  That got me thinking.  It’s not that depth psychotherapy opposes personal growth — far from it.  I think that the real reason is that what personal growth means from this perspective is very different from what lots of other people mean when they use the term.

“Personal growth” now has quite a conventional meaning — but the reality may be something rather different.

  • Real Personal Growth Isn’t What Everyone Expects

Often, when people talk about “personal growth”, you sense  that they have a very definite idea of what everyone has to do.  A definite roadmap that everybody has to follow.  Actually, growth is much more individual than that.  Each person has a unique path that they have to uncover and follow.  It’s not “what everyone expects“: it’s a very individual discovery.

  • True Growth is Not Ego Centred

Depth psychotherapists are wary of the “PG” phrase, fearing that people will think they refer to something that just involves the conscious mind and ego.  But real personal change involves more than an ego project, like “I will conquer my shyness and become a top salesperson”, or, “I will quit smoking”.  Real growth involves encountering parts of ourselves which we don’t acknowledge — and letting them change our self-perceptions, and our actions.

  • Personal Growth Involves Major Psychological Change

When people talk about “PG”, it often sounds like the change involved is measured and incremental.  But depth work can result in a major change of perspective, and a different relationship to the fundamental things in your life.

  • Personal Growth May Mean Never “Having It All Together”, but it Will Mean, Well… Growing!

In much self-help literature, you get the sense that, even though the author may not explicitly say so, there is a bright line distinction between those who have “arrived” at the new understanding / condition / awareness, and others.  Actually, it’s not that way.  There may be a distinction between those who are growing, and those who are not, but there is no “arrival”.  So long as we’re alive, we’re on a personal journey.

What does personal growth really mean to you? I’d welcome your comments.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga Ontario



PHOTO: © Yuri Arcurs |
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Individual Psychotherapy & Stress Reduction: 4 Basics

June 26th, 2011 · individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress, stress reduction

stress reduction

Individual psychotherapy can enhance mental resilience and stress reduction.  Increasing our capacity to cope with stress is a vital concern.  A recent StatsCan study shows large recent increases in the number of Canadians over 15 who report that most days are extremely or quite stressful.  Reducing stress matters a lot in a time like ours.

Since the great Dr. Hans Selye of the University of Montreal coined the term “stress” in 1950, our understanding has grown immensely.  Selye and his colleagues have shown us very important things about this important psychological state:

  • It Can Cripple

Selye pioneered the connection between mental stress and its physical manifestations in coronary disease, ulcers and many other  illnesses.  In its physical manifestations, stress can rob us of our health, or sometimes even our life.  Stress can also cripple us psychologically, taking our enjoyment of life, and, sometimes preventing us from carrying out even rudimentary tasks.

  • Personal Factors Can Increase Its Severity

Personal psychological factors can directly affect the way an individual handles stressful situations.  A powerful example of this would be when an individual has experienced post traumatic stress disorder through physical abuse in childhood, violent crime or accident, exposure to combat, or similar factors.   Other kinds of of psychological wounding also greatly increase the difficulty of dealing with stress.

  • Problem or Symptom?

All too often in therapy, symptoms are treated, and we think that eliminates the issue.  But depth psychotherapy knows that just treating stress may leave big underlying emotional issues untouched.  There is a great deal more to us than initially meets the eye.  Stress is often fundamentally connected to how we relate to ourselves and our lives.

  • Is Your Stress Related to Your Life Journey?

Stressful states can be related to what is going on in the deepest levels of the conscious and unconscious self.  To put it in Jungian terms, if the way of life of a person is fundamentally at odds with the true nature, or the unlived life of that individual, this is an enormous stressor.  This can especially be true at midlife.  On the other hand, a better connection with his or her own real identity may often bring a dramatic reduction in an individual’s level of stress.

Personal stressors may be an urgent invitation from body and mind to embark on a personal journey of discovery of the true self.

What do you think about stress in our age? I’d welcome your comments or emails.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga Ontario



PHOTO: © Picstudio |
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario  (near Mississauga)


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