Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Psychotherapy, and Our “Typical”, Atypical Self

March 13th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, journey, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life

Jungian psychotherapy tends not to talk much about “the typical person”.  However, someone I respect a lot recently sent me a link to a very clever video on what humans have and do not have in common.  It’s produced by the National Geographic Society, and entitled “7 Billion: Are You Typical?”  It’s a very well put-together, engaging video about “the world’s most typical person”:

Typical

The concept of “the world’s most typical person” invites some really careful thinking.  All of us seem inclined to compare ourselves to the “typical person”.  It seems to me that there are some interesting ways in which we do this.  I think we both look for the ways in which we are like such a typical person, and the ways in which we are unlike him or her.  We often do want to establish what we have in common with such a person.  We want to feel some bond of shared humanity.  But we also want to find ways in which we are individuals.

How Do You Compare?

How do you compare to the “most typical person” in this video?  He is a 28 year old Han Chinese male.  Perhaps you feel, as I do, that “The most typical person in the world is not like me, in many respects.”  But are there some deeper ways in which you and this “typical person” are alike?  Put more basically, what is it that gives you your particular identity?  What makes any of us unique individuals?  I think it’s something beyond whatever categories or traits are compared.  There’s a kind of mystery in that.

It’s All There, In Us

What makes us “atypical”, or unique?  There are many, many things, when we reflect.

It would be a big mistake to see the 9 million “most typical” humans referred to in the film as all “the same”.  Every one of them will have a myriad of unique personal factors.  For instance: different family of origin; different socio-economic background; different genetic make-up; and, different life history.  These are just four of a huge array of factors that make a person the complex, unrepeatable event that they are.

Questions for You, as a “Typical Atypical” Individual

What makes you the unique human that you are?

What do you feel are the key things about you that shape your particular identity?

What are the groups of people with whom you feel a common human link?

Are there things that you feel you have in common with all human beings?

What are the mysteries that you experience in yourself?  The things that form part of your identity that you maybe can’t fully understand or explain?

Beyond Categories, There is the Mystery That We Are

This last thing, the exploration of the mystery of the self, is the special realm of psychotherapy and depth psychology.  For many, opening up the unexplored territory in the self, and living it out, is essential to having a meaningful life.  For many, as life progresses, this journey takes on more and more importance.  For such individuals, entering something like Jungian analysis may be essential.

May your journey to wholeness connect you meaningfully to others, but above all, to your unique self,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT: © Constantin Opris | Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT: © 2011 National Geographic Society

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock

December 22nd, 2010 · dreams, inner life, journey, Jungian, Jungian analysis, life journey, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, persona, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unconscious, wholeness

I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”.  Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in psychotherapy, in one form or another.  It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients.  In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.

A Dream Motif

The dreamer is trying to get somewhere.  Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot.  However, there is some obstacle.  She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road.  Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill.   However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens.  Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. 
In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.

The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure.  However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian psychotherapy could say about its meaning.

1.  The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction

Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward.  There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome.  The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work.  The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path.  No matter: the import of the dream is the same.  You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.

2.  To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality

However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past.  He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps.   There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood.  The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either.  The person can’t do what he or she used to do.  Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price.  What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment.  What is the individual to do?

3.  Something New is Needed

A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma.  Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach.  This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”.  The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped.  From the perspective of Jungian psychotherapy, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.

Is There Anything Across Your Path?

Have you ever encountered a dream of this type?  Have you possibly had such a dream recently?  As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon.  With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation.  If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.

Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:      Some rights reserved by lumaxart under a Creative Commons license

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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Jungian Psychotherapy Symbol Book: A Personal Journey

November 23rd, 2010 · journey

The other night I watched the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” again.  It’s one of my great favourites, for any number of reasons: it’s the directors, the Coen Brothers, at their finest; I think it’s as funny as can be; the music is wonderful; the cast is as talented as it gets; and, it’s — loosely — based on one of the greatest works of the human poetic imagination, Homer’s Odyssey.  But the number one reason I appreciate this movie is that it’s based upon the symbol and myth of the journey, which is one of the greatest of all human archetypal patterns, and one that is of great importance for psychotherapy.

The Journey Symbol

Artistic and religious symbolism worldwide reflects the archetype of the journey.  It’s one of the most universal expressions of the human condition and development of the course of human life.  It is central to the Hebrew Bible (Exodus), the Christian Bible (journeys of St. Paul), Islam (the Haj) and countless other religious traditions.  A vast amount of literature, poety and art reflects this theme.  Jung himself, when he sought to characterize the two great movements in human life, referred to them, by using this symbol, as “the hero journey” and “the night sea journey”.

Destination

The whole point of a journey is that it has a destination.  In both the Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou? , the whole process may seem chaotic, but the process is actually moving somewhere, toward a specific end — imaged as the journey home.  That is what the journey symbol conveys to us: if life is imaged as a journey, it is going somewhere.  It has a specific end.  Our lives are capable of having a meaningful direction, even if the present circumstances are completely disorienting.  This is a constant theme in human myth, and it embodies a psychological truth.  There is something in us that knows the way, even when our conscious ego does not.

This can be a very important thing to know in therapy, and in human life in general.  But it must be something other than a glib platitude.  Vague assurances that “it’s going to be OK” will acheive very little for suffering, struggling people.  What people need is assurance, as they struggle, often with very deep, dark things that may have surfaced in their lives.  They need to know that, out of real chaos, something meaningful and healing can emerge.  The real therapist is someone who can go with the client on her or his journey, who can be right with the client, because the therapist knows, in some way that is deeper than merely intellectual, that this process has an inner meaning in the end.

Just for fun, here’s the official trailer from O Brother, Where Art Thou?:

What About Your Journey?

Do you ever think about your life in terms of it being a journey?  Are there times when you’ve been particularly aware that it is a journey?  Have there been times when it really feels as if you’ve lost the way?  If you have, or you are, I would welcome hearing from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © Holger Karius | Dreamstime.com

TRAILER CREDIT:  © 2000 Touchstone Pictures and Universal Studios.  This trailer is the property of Touchstone Pictures and Universal Studios and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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