Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Psychotherapy & Major Life Transitions: 4 Truths

June 19th, 2011 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, life transitions, major life transitions

major life transitions

Major life transitions are a primary concern of Jungian psychotherapy and depth psychotherapy, because they matter so much to human beings.  Such transitions include: movement from one stage of life to another; major illnesses or injuries (great piece from Globe & Mail on this) ; career change or job loss; and, changes in key relationships.

There’s much to be learned about transitions from the archetypally based initiation rituals of aboriginal peoples.  From that perspective:

  • Life Transitions are Journeys

Life is a journey, composed of a series of journeys.  The journey is a fundamental human metaphor, but  life transitions have a particular character.  As in initiation rituals, there is a phase of disorientation, what anthropologists call the liminal phase.  In this stage, we don’t see the way forward, and we have to rely on something we don’t understand to pull us through.

  • Life Transitions Involve a Death

In a key transition in our lives, something must die.  Our old relationship to ourselves and the world must pass away, to make room for something new.  This is the pain in major transitions: something within us screams in protest that this can’t happen, that our old way of viewing our lives is the way.  We may deeply grieve its loss, yet the old way must and does die.

  • Something is Trying to be Born

In every life transition, no matter how painful, something is trying to be born in our consciousness.  There is a different understanding of life, self and others that is pressing forward.  It may be something we are extremely reluctant to let be born, yet it is pressing forward, wanting to exist in us.

  • Receiving A New Name

In initiation ceremonies among aboriginal peoples, the initiate will often receive a new name upon completing the transition of initiation.  This reflects what has occurred: the person who was has died; in his or her place, someone new exists.  So it is in our transitions: we are no longer who we were.  We have a new consciousness and new relationships.  We move forward into a new, unfamiliar world, with a new awareness.

One of my most profound transitions resulted from the birth of a child who was deaf.  It has taken me a very long time to understand how this has changed my whole approach to being myself and being alive.

What have been the profound transitions in your life?  I’d welcome your comments or emails.

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



PHOTO: © Pavel Losevsky |
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario


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Jungian psychotherapy as therapy for anxiety

May 27th, 2011 · Anxiety, counselling, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, therapy for anxiety

therapy for anxiety

Finding an effective therapy for anxiety is greatly important in our time.  Auden labelled our era “The Age of Anxiety”, and for good reason.  Many certainties — economic, political, moral, work, religious — have now evaporated.  In many situations, people find themselves not knowing what to expect next.  Anxious states are the normal outcome of this kind of life situation.

We have to confront a number of plain facts.

  • Anxiety is an Unavoidable Part of Life

Therapy will never completely eliminate it.  If it did, we would soon be dead.  The experience of a certain anxiousness is what keeps us alert and engaged with life.  What we need is the ability to deal with it so that it stays within sustainable bounds, and doesn’t overwhelm our lives.

  • Normal Anxious States and Crippling Anxiety are Different

Experiences of manageable anxiousness differ greatly from experiences likeo panic attacks and social anxiety, which can completely disrupt life.  While everyone experiences some anxius feelings moving through life, a person with crippling anxiety may be unable to move through life, or may confront grave obstacles to truly living.

  • Our Experience of the General Insecurity of Life Makes Us Anxious

There are many things for which there are no guarantees in life.  The more uncontrollable the situation, and the bigger the stakes, the more anxiety we confront.  This uncontrollability and the perceived size of the risk are very subjective factors.  A person can be held hostage by anxiety about a risk that seems very real to them, but not to others.  To truly deal with anxiety involves taking our own subjective states very seriously

  • The Only Way to Really Deal with Anxiety is to Get to its Source.  That Takes Courage and Hard Work.

Anxious affect often comes into our lives because it is protecting us from feeling or experiencing something else.  An anxious state may also represent our bottled-up energy or potentiality.  As Jungian analyst James Hollis puts it, “What I can make conscious, face directly, and deal with as an adult, frees me from unconscious bondage to the past…. We gain when we are able to move from the anxiety, which, like a fog, obscures the forward path.”

Anxious experience is rooted in the depths of the psyche.  Only through experiencing our own depths can we begin to move beyond it.

How have you experienced anxiety, in yourself or others?  I welcome your comments.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Main Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice



PHOTO:  NoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by theloushe
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga )

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Jungian Psychotherapy with Older Adults : 6 Lessons Learned

May 15th, 2011 · Jungian psychotherapy, later adulthood, psychotherapy with older adults


Psychotherapy with older adults raises many unique issues.  Jungian psychotherapy actually developed first as a form of psychotherapy with older adults, and embodies very important learnings about the second half of life.


  • Simple but True: It’s Different When You’re Older

Living is simply not the same in the 40s, 50s and 60s as it was in earlier stages of life.  Often changes are starting to occur as children are getting older.  The priorities that have governed peoples’ lives in the first part of their adulthood are shifting — often substantially and permanently.  The things people need to find meaningful life at this stage are fundamentally different than the concerns of people in their 20s.

  • You Know You Don’t Have All the Answers

By mid life, many people are acutely aware of many unanswered questions in life, which are not going to be easily answered.  They realize they aren’t going  to “figure it all out” in a neat and tidy way.  They need orientation and solid grounding to help deal with the mysteries of life.

  • What You Decide Counts

Individuals at this stage also realize that decisions and directions taken on the journey now really count.  In an earlier stage it might be possible to make and revise key decisions.  This gets less and less easy as life goes on.  What we decide is fateful.  It’s essential to make the right choices for ourselves.

  • Letting Go of the Superficial

This is linked with identifying and staying with the things that really matter to us.  Much in later life can feel distracting and irrelevant, with not enough time for the things of greatest value.  It’s important to focus in on what really matters to ourselves personally.

  • The Undiscovered Self

But to know what really matters to us requires that we know who we are.  Our perception of who we are may very well start to change as we move through middle into later life.  It’s essential that we connect with our hitherto undiscovered self, if we wish to have the feeling of being grounded in our lives.

  • Finding What’s Individually Yours

All of this points to a deep need to be aware of who we uniquely are.  As we face the challenges of the second half of life, we need to be grounded in that identity.  Jungian psychotherapy is especially well-equipped to enable that journey.

What are your key learnings and questions as you move through the second half of your life?  I’d love to hear.


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


Jungian Psychotherapy and Listening

February 23rd, 2011 · depth psychology, Jungian psychotherapy, listening, Psychotherapy, therapy

This is a brief post on a psychotherapy quotation on listening that I tweeted recently. It’s such a powerful statement, though, that I think it deserves its own blog post.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.

The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us,

Makes us unfold and expand.”

-Karl A. Menninger

Menninger was not a Jungian, but he was a very wise, astute therapist.  He knew the power of someone really genuinely listening, really genuinely getting what it is that we’re saying, taking it into the heart of who they are.  Listening is fundamental to all good therapy.  Really, it’s the key thing in meaningful human interaction of all kinds.

Listening represents the power of someone else taking our story seriously.  This can have particular power at the times when when we might find it extremely hard to give ourselves that gift of taking our own experience with the deepest seriousness.  This is profoundly true for people who have continually received the message in life that who they are in their individuality really is unimportant or negligible.

True, attentive listening amounts to someone’s acknowledgement of who we most fundamentally are.  It amounts to someone creating space in themselves for us to come in and occupy.  That can feel incredibly powerful, validating, healing.

How will we know genuine listening when we come across it?  How can we tell whether someone listening to us, or our own listening to someone else, has the characteristics of the real, powerful listening that makes a difference in peoples’ lives?

I think that an important element of the answer is found in the following quotation from C.G. Jung:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933

When we are genuinely in interaction with another human being, we know it.  There is an aliveness, and a spontaneity.  Something is going on in the two people involved that comes from their depths — and both of them are being changed.  As Jung notes, this is true in any human interaction, including psychotherapy.  The idea of a therapist who is an immobile block of wood, who goes through the interaction with his or her client without that interaction having any effect on them — this is inhuman.  A real interaction with a therapist at a depth level is something that feels vital and alive.

Are You in Dialogue? Are You Getting Heard?

How is it in your life?   Are there relationships where you feel that you are genuinely heard, or is this something that you deeply crave in your life?

Do you believe that genuinely being listened to, and being heard can make a deep difference in an individual’s life?  Is this something that you have experienced yourself?  Sometimes psychotherapy is the first place in the life of an individual where he or she feels genuinely taken in, listened to — real.  Sometimes it can come as a real surprise to the individual to encounter this.

May your personal journey to wholeness be one in which you are listened to, and genuinely taken in, in a deeply human way,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     © Pavel Losevsky |

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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


Jungian Psychotherapy & Setting Boundaries at Work

August 18th, 2009 · Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

setting boundaries at work This week I spoke with a very large number of people who are confronting serious issues around setting boundaries at work.  I don’t mean facing boundaries issues like sexual harassment, or things like that — although that’s common enough, unfortunately.  I mean situations where people are being asked, or more often told, to put up with working arrangements that take working life right inside their private lives.

Often these situations have to do with expectations around availability that completely obliterate the distinction between personal and private life. For instance, it seems that more and more people are expected to carry Blackberrys or pagers and to keep them on 24 / 7.

If you look on the web amongst thinkers who are identified as “advanced thinkers” or “those ahead of the curve”, you may find justifications being put forward for this kind of thing.  You can find people saying that the division between personal and work life is obsolete.  That in the new era, people don’t need to make that kind of a distinction anymore.

Maybe that explains the man I saw today on a hiking trail.  He was talking animatedly on his cell phone, and completely ignoring his wife and children.  The wife and kids didn’t look too happy about it, but he didn’t even seem to notice.

The plain fact of the matter is that work is a fluid, like a gas.  It will expand to fill the space you give it.  If you don’t want it to take everything — including your soul — you have to establish boundaries.  If you don’t have boundaries around your working life, you either are — or are in great danger of — becoming a workaholic.

You cannot possibly find your own individual path if you don’t spend some time with yourself, alone, exploring yourself.  That’s the only way to really, truly see yourself.  If a person keeps letting work have more and more of themselves, they run the risk that soon there won’t be anything left inside of them but work.

Here are some very concrete actions that you might think about to establish your boundaries in the workplace:

1.  Cut the Electronic Tentacles

Think carefully about how you might keep some of yourself and your privacy free from electronic intrusion.  You might want to cut out answering your cell phone or Blackberry during meals. Maybe you need to free up specific blocks of “me” on the weekends when you’re “electronically unavailable”.  Consider keeping computers laptops and Blackberrys out of your bedroom, the family room and the dining room.

2.  Priorize…For Real! 

This can be a very important skill: developing the ability to decide what’s most important — and just accepting that there is less time than tasks that demand to be done.

3.  Get Real About Your To-Do List — And Make Sure that Your Needs Are On It

The endless to-do list isn’t an efficiency tool — it’s a tyrant.  Decide on a small, reasonable number of things to put on the list.  Make sure that your own needs for growth and for fun don’t get left off the list.

 4.  Take a Very Hard Look at Your Own Motivations 

It’s easy to blame an employer for letting work take over my life.  Oftentimes, employers do overload their employees, particularly in hard economic times.  However, there may be motivations that I have, and parts of my personality that help ensure that I’m continually behind the 8 ball.  Do I have an identity other than my role at work?  Do I use work to avoid facing things and relationships in my life?  Do I face overwhelming anxiety when I don’t work?  Do I regard my over-busyness as a badge of status? It may be very important to address these kinds of issue with a therapist, and as soon as possible.

 I’d be interested in your comments about the challenges you face in keeping boundaries intact in your life — and the solutions that you may have worked out.  

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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© 2009 Brian Collinson    



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