Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Therapy, the Self & the Christmas Tree

December 20th, 2011 · christmas tree, Jungian, Jungian therapy, The Self, therapy

Who would think that the familiar Christmas tree is an ancient symbol of the Self, in the way that Jungian therapy uses that term?  Yet the evidence shows that Jungian therapy is correct about this.

The symbol of the Christmas tree is quite unusual.  For one thing, it’s quite unclear how it fits with traditional Christian narrative about Christmas.

Jung on the Christmas Tree

Jung whets our appetite with some striking commentary:

…Everyone decorates Christmas trees or hides Easter eggs without ever knowing what these customs mean.  The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean….  What the Christmas-tree might be, our forefathers knew even less than ourselves, and it is only quite recently that we have bothered to find out at all.  The archetype…causes man to utter words and perform actions whose meaning is unconscious…

 C.G. Jung, Collected Works, v.v. 8 & 9.1,

Christmas Tree as World Trees,

The unusual tree in our living rooms at Christmas actually represents the “World Tree”, the tree containing the universe in many mythological traditions.  In particular, this tree is really the Yggdrasil from Nordic mythology of the pre-Christian era.  In Nordic myth, the universe is formed of nine independent worlds, each part of the great Yggdrasil — a vast “Forest Ash”  or yew tree, growing in Ginnungagap (“the great emptiness”).

Roots: the 3 Legged Christmas Tree Stand

Traditional Christmas tree stands had 3 legs.  This isn’t accidental: in Nordic myth, the Yggdrasil tree had 3 roots, associated with the three Norns, the Nordic goddesses of fate, and with past, present and future.  The threefold Christmas tree stand symbolizes the rootedness of the World Tree.

Jungian therapy

Who knew?

Tree Symbolizes the Self in Jungian Therapy

Jung thoroughly studied the tree as a symbol of the Self, which is to say, the whole of the personality.  With roots in matter, in the earth, and branches in the sky, gaily coloured ball decorations which symbolize stars and planets, shiny tinsel garlands that represent the rainbows that connect together all the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, it is a marvellous symbol of the wholeness of psyche.  As the poet Walt Whitman says, for all of us, “I am large, I contain worlds”  And so each of us does in Jungian therapy.

Very best wishes for the holidays,

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by Forest Eyes
VIDEO: “Worlds’ Largest Tree”, by cannibal17
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Jungian Therapy, Individuation & Dealing with Feeling

November 24th, 2011 · Feeling, Individuation, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy

Jungian therapy

In Jungian therapy, discovering feeling is often a key to individuation, the discovery of our individual identity.  What we feel is part of what makes us human; discovering our own unique feeling is often an important path to ourselves.

Feeling gets a bad rap in our culture.  We see reason as more dependable, consistent, even, dispassionate.  But without this dimension, would we even be human?

What is feeling, really?

  • A Unique Way of Taking in Reality

For Jungian therapy, one of the basic ways that we take in both internal and external reality is through what we feel.  We often devalue it.  Nonetheless it is real, and impacts our lives at a very deep level.  Some of the most powerful things that can happen to a person happen through what is felt.

  • As Important and Real as Thinking

Feeling and thinking are both fundamental ways in which we take in, and interact with, the world.  Thinking evaluates things rationally, or logically.  Feeling evaluates things in terms of our judgement of “how we feel” about things, whether we are positively or negatively disposed toward them, and why.

  •  Broader than Just Emotion

However, what we feel is not identical with affect or emotion.  We can feel something without having an emotion, although emotion itself contains feeling.

  • Non-Rational

That which is felt is not irrational, as if it were an illogical argument.  You cannot evaluate it using thinking, or vice versa.  For Jungian therapy, feeling brings a whole different type of understanding into the picture than does thinking and rationality — a whole new colour.

William Blake (1757 – 1827) was a profound poet and artist of imagination and depth.  His poem “And did Those Feet in Ancient Time” proclaims feeling and soul in the midst of the British industrial revolution, a time that,  like ours, denied the value of what we feel and exclusively exalted reason.  When he writes of England’s “dark satanic mills”, he is not referring to manufacturing, but to the inhuman character of reason cut off from felt reality — a real and present danger in our own time.  Blake yearns to be in touch with its power and reality:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

 

May we live in the reality of feeling and of our own “arrows of desire”, on our personal journey towards individuation.

PHOTO: © Senai Aksoy | Dreamstime.com
MUSIC: “Blake’s Jerusalem”, Billy Bragg © 2006  Outside Music  All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

 

 

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Jungian Therapy, Stress Reduction & Perfectionism

November 17th, 2011 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, perfectionism, stress, stress reduction

stress reduction

There is a clear link between stress reduction and perfectionism, when these two things are viewed from the perspective of Jungian therapy.

Roots of Perfectionistic Stress

Often perfectionism and much associated stress are rooted in complexes, those “knots” or “eddies” of feeling toned energy in our minds, that often have their roots in traumatic occurrences.

 Never Enough

Often, the negative side of the father, mother or family complexes can lead to a continual sense that whatever we do or produce is not enough.  Another factor in the continual striving to make what we do better can be the shadow, which is the sum total of all those aspects of ourselves that we don’t wish to acknowledge.  Our anxiety about these unacknowledged aspects of ourselves can drive us to strive ever more relentlessly to try to cover our weakness and imperfection.

Unrealistic expectations for ourselves are rooted in a lack of willingness to accept our own fundamental nature, with its particular strengths and weaknesses. This is a kind of pride.

The Sisyphus Agenda

In Greek myth, because of his pride, Sisyphus is eternally condemned to push a heavy rock up to the top of a mountain.  He never can finish the task, and the rock continually rolls back downhill, and must be raised again. The eternal exhaustion and frustration of Sisyphus are an apt image for the struggle and stress of perfectionism.

Often, our own perfectionism can have this feeling of an endlessly wearing, endlessly frustrating ordeal.  I know I have rolled the rock of perfectionism up the endlessly defeating hill more than a time or two in the past!

Accepting Ourselves and the World

Recently, a Facebook friend, Paulette Turcotte, posted “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen on her wall.  The song is a remarkable commentary on perfectionism, and on our need to accept the shadowy and broken dimensions of life.

Cohen’s lyrics are profoundly expressive:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything…

That’s how the light gets in, that’s how the light gets in

We don’t get perfection in this life, either inside of ourselves, or outside.  If we can accept this, and have some compassion for ourselves, then perhaps we can make some peace with the demands that we make on ourselves, and equally importantly, set appropriate boundaries for the demands that others make on us.

PHOTO:  © All rights reserved by New Visions2010
VIDEO:  “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen © 2011 Sony Music Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

 

© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

 

 

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Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & Times of Crisis: 5 Truths

August 14th, 2011 · crisis, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety, times of crisis

therapy for anxiety

In times of crisis like these, with financial panic and other factors, some important truths emerge from the practice of Jungian therapy, depth psychotherapy, and therapy for anxiety.   Here are some key learnings important for resilience — and for getting through — in times like these.

1.  Acknowledge Your Emotions

This is key to consciousness of ourselves, in Jungian therapy terms.  Also, attempting to deny feelings and be stoic in demanding times only increases anxiety and stress loading.  Much better to be forthright with yourself about what you’re feeling.  Psychotherapy can provide a supportive container for this.

2.  Current Crises Activate Old Feelings

Going through instability and volatility in the present, we may vividly re-experience old memories and feelings of difficult or crisis times undergone in the past.  It is important to realize that much anxiety and emotion may stem from the ways in which the situation “hooks” our memories of earlier situations (e.g., 9/11 , 2008 crisis , personal crises).

3.  Limit Exposure to Anxiety Provokers

In crisis situations we seek reassurance.  We may seek out modern media as information sources to get it, but then find that, by their nature, the media do the opposite, and elevate our anxiety.  It may make sense to limit your exposure to news media or other anxiety amplifiers, if you possibly can.

4.  In Crises, the Archetypal Often Emerges

Often, in times of high stress and emotion, the unconscious becomes particularly active.  This may be an important time to be aware of dreams and other content from the unconscious.  It may shed a significantly different perspective on what is going on than your everyday conscious awareness.  Depth psychotherapy like Jungian therapy may well help in integrating this material into your life.

5.  Hang onto Your Individuality

In times of crisis it’s easy for strong feeling or affect  to make people lose their individuality, and be overcome by a herd mentality.  Just this week, we have seen the panic in financial markets and the London riots.  But it’s essential both for our own well-being and conscious awareness of ourselves as individuals that we hold onto ourselves, and avoid merging with the herd.  That’s the way we stay human.
My best wishes to you for resilience, as we all live and move through and beyond these challenging times.

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by chee_hian/
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Jungian Therapy Looks Under the Surface of Suburbia

August 20th, 2010 · Jungian therapy, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, suburbia / exurbia, therapy

Under the surface of suburbia, life is the same here as it is anywhere else.  The endless communities of single family dwellings stretch out and stretch out, beyond where the eye can see.  Everyone, so the story goes, is sharing the same life, wanting the same things, holding the same shared values.  And everyone is at pains to seem happy and healthy, like their neighbours.  Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington, Waterdown, Dundas… the list of communities goes on and on.

Yet beneath the appearances, there are a myriad of individual lives.  People are moving through life towards their individual destinies, with happiness or with discontent, with sorrow or exultation, with unresolved pain and grief, or with yearning.

Each seeks something.  He or she may have a name for what he or she seeks, or an image, or perhaps just an inchoate ache and a yearning.  Some, perhaps slumber, not wishing to be reminded of life’s strong feelings, and what they evoke.

Each has an individual story, and, Jung tells us, a personal mythology, waiting to be uncovered.  Each is unique, a bundle of subjective awarenesses that will never repeat itself in any place or time.

Under the surface of suburbia, we each seek to become the one whom we know we are destined to be.  We wrestle with accepting what we are, and with the life-long project of finding others to accept and love us for who we are.  We look with awe at the vastness of the universe, and recognize that we are small as dust.  Yet somehow we know that what we are, and even that we are, is miraculous.

Some say the story is settled and known, and that the story is the same for everybody, and that it only needs to be told and told again, in the same old form, for every person in every town.  But some say that the story is new, and needs to be written in flesh and blood in each individual life, and that each and every human has a particular part of the story that only they can write.

Some people say that each of us is a story, and each of us is a journey, and that the only real freedom is in finding our own true nature.  Carl Gustav Jung said this, and stressed that the invitation to embark upon the journey of our own real lives is always there, ready to be accepted.

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the whole subject of finding your own individuality in suburban life.

Wishing you every good thing on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Jeff Whyte | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Surface Tension: Jungian Therapy, Persona & Suburbia

June 7th, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Jungian therapy, Lifestyle, persona, suburbia

Blog_surface_tension_lily © Stuart Corlett | Dreamstime.com

Viewed from the point of view of Jungian therapy, suburbia can seem like it is entirely about persona, just living on the surface of life, never penetrating into its true depths.

The suburban experience can sometimes be very caught up with appearances.  We are continually bombarded with an enormous number of messages that tell us that we are how we look, and that our image is everything .  Consequently the house we live in and the car we drive can seem like true determinants of our identity.  Our furniture and our landscaping can be seen as indicators of our worth as human beings — to others, yes, but, even more devastatingly, to ourselves.

The way in which we express our individual selves through our homes and gardens may be true expressions of our individual selves.  In that sense, they have the potential to be true manifestations of soul.  But there is a real danger that we will identify ourselves by means of these things, rather than doing the hard work of turning into ourselves to see who we most fundamentally are.  Thus we lapse into identifying ourselves with what C.G. Jung called the persona, the outward social “mask” that we develop and use to enable us to interact with the outer world.

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