Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Analysis, the Psychotherapist & “Moving Stone”

September 6th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

A psychotherapist who is fully trained in Jungian analysis adopts a certain attitude to the work, as embodied in the quotation below:

psychotherapist

The Psychotherapist and Stones

The image of stones in the path of a person’s development is powerful. If the obstacles on the path are removed, the individual will travel his or her own path to wholeness.  Jungian analysis discerns an inner wisdom deep in each human being, a kind of self-healing element to the human personality.  If we clear its path correctly, it responds.

What obstacles keep a person from herself?  Frequently, they are forms of psychological complex that result from imbalances in development, and deep psychological wounding.  Becoming conscious of these knots of psychological energy that distort our thinking and feeling, withstanding them, and taking the power out of them, is a key way to “remove the stones”.

Don’t Indoctrinate!

Often, without necessarily being aware of it, the psychotherapist subtly or unsubtly injects his or her version of reality and reasonableness into the client.  Many implied “shoulds” and “oughts” lurk in the ways that psychotherapists respond to clients.

The psychotherapist shouldn’t allow individual therapy to degenerate into putting things into the patient, as if it was de-bugging software.  Psychotherapy is about genuine encounter between two people, in which the client learns more about her or his inner life, and experiences a deep level of acceptance.  That’s the only way the client can find his or her own truth.

Internal Authority, Not External

As stated above, this is a key matter in terms of the individual finding his or her own direction and freedom.  If the therapist’s idea of “the way it ought to be”, or of “normalcy” is injected, the client will stay stuck in an infantile position, depending on the psychotherapist to think and feel for him or her.  But what’s important, as Jung indicates, is what a person learns and acquires for him- or herself, through a process of discovery aided by the psychotherapist.

In our supposedly free and democratic world, much pressure is still placed on many individuals to comply, and to please others.  That’s why the next point is so important.

Taking Hold of Real Life

The goal of all good psychotherapy, including Jungian analysis, is for clients to firmly take hold of their own real lives, through:

  • acknowledging my own real thoughts & feelings, and distinguishing them from how others might want me to think & feel;
  • recognizing my own freedom to choose, and acting upon it; and,
  • acknowledging the parts of myself that I have hitherto been unable to acknowledge.
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Jungian Therapy & the Heart of Soul Work: A Quote

June 29th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, soul, soul work

jungian therapy

In the quote above, Jung tells us some very important things about the nature of Jungian therapy, and about soul work, or depth psychotherapy, at its very deepest.

It’s important to be clear here what Jung means by “soul”.  He is not concerned with the immortal, immaterial soul.  He is speaking to what it is that makes us the subtle, unique and staggeringly rich individual beings that we all are.

What does he tell us here about soul  and soul work?

1. The Soul is Complex; Souls are Diverse

Human beings embody overwhelming complexity.  However much one learns about another human being, there is more to learn.  And while we have much in common, each human being is incredibly diverse and different from the others, however much we try to hide that individuality.

2. We’re More Than Just Instinctive Reactions

There most certainly are a whole wide range of human instincts: this is something that evolutionary psychology and neuroscience are bringing home to us more and more.  Yet a human soul cannot be reduced to a bundle of instincts. We relate to our instincts differently than the rest of the animal kingdom.  Within us, the instincts are transmuted into another reality : the archetypal.

3. What Each Human Person Fundamentally is, is Beyond Imagining

We cannot take in the full reality of another human being.  Each is an incredible mystery.  We cannot be reduced to fully known or knowable quantities.

4. Each of us has Incredible Heights and Depths

There is a staggering range of possibilities that live within each one of us. There are within each of us incredible heights of nobility and wisdom to be discovered.  Simultaneously, there are incredible dark recesses: feelings and possibilities that we would just as soon not face.

This is the territory of Jungian therapy and of “soul work”.  To avoid turning the latter phrase into a glib slogan, we must take the soul, the inmost subjectivity of the individual in front of us, with utmost seriousness.  Each encounter in soul work, is true engagement with the psyche of another, a unique journey of discovery.

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Jungian Analysis , A Psychotherapist & The Worried Well

May 25th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

psychotherapist

Should a psychotherapist be working with the “worried well”, even if he or she practices Jungian analysis?  Who exactly are the “worried well”?  If you click on the link immediately below, you will see a splendid picture of a “Worried Well” as drawn by the subtly wise cartoonist WG on his site Reaction Formation:

“The Worried Well”

 

Who Are the “Worried Well”?

Semi-official medical lore has it that the worried well are people who have nothing medically wrong with them, but who visit doctors to gain re-assurance.  In a psychiatric context, it refers to those who do not have a psychiatric diagnosis, but who nonetheless seek to gain some reassurance from a psychotherapist.  On a narrowly medical model, only those with a psychiatric diagnosis should seek out a psychotherapist.  But from the perspective of depth psychotherapy and Jungian therapy, does this seems like an adequate understanding of the needs of those seeking counselling / therapy?

Is Psychological “Wellness” Really the Issue?

Do people go to a depth psychotherapist to “get cured”?  In my experience, the vast majority of people who come to see a psychotherapist in a practice like mine would not seem to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder, and they are not exactly looking for “the cure”.  They are, however, looking for something else.  What is it?

The Psychotherapist and the “Other Well”

I know it’s a bit of a play on words, but let’s look at the other meaning of the word “well.”  For the psychotherapist, wells have great significance in dreams, myth and fairytale.  A well is something made by humans, but it penetrates into the dark reality of the earth, and miraculously fills with water, the liquid so essential for life.  And that’s a powerful image for what we as individuals are seeking in the dark earth of the unconscious psyche.

jungian analysis

Water from the Depths

A symbol of the water of life from the depths.  In my opinion, this symbolizes very well the inner journey that many take through a depth psychotherapy, such as Jungian analysis.  From an arid landscape where there is no moisture, devoid perhaps of life and possibility, where the individual roams endlessly and finds nothing but dryness and dust, to a relationship with their own inner depths that brings fluidity, restoration, life.  In this sense, the well with its life-giving water from the depths can be a very apt symbol for the work of a depth psychotherapist or for Jungian analysis.

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 5: Freedom

April 9th, 2012 · freedom, Jungian, Jungian therapy, life, second half of life

jungian therapy

The word freedom often appears in discussions about the second half of life, but often the particular depth of understanding that Jungian therapy would attach to the word is lacking.

Not long ago, people talked about “Freedom 55”, the idea that one would be able to retire and leave work behind at age 55.  However, particularly since the economic contraction of 2008, this may seem much less possible.  Yet, this type of fantasy retains its power: we often hear phrases like “imagine the freedom” associated with, say, winning the lottery.

However, another concept much more closely associated with what used to be called spirituality may have more relevance in the second half of life.  Jungian analyst James Hillman once observed,

[W]e haven’t thought about… freedom enough. It needs to be internalized as an inner freedom from “demand” itself… that comes when you’re free from those compulsions to have and to own and to be someone…. [We need a concept] that broadens our current limited idea of freedom: that I can do any goddamn thing I want on my property; that I am my own boss and don’t want government interference; that I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and can’t do…

Externals and Freedom

We easily identify “externals” that keep us from being free, such as my boss, my job or my financial limitations.  It’s true: my external circumstances always limit my freedom – just as they also create my possibilities.  But in our time and culture, is being free from externals the freedom that we really most need?

Freedom from Inner Compulsion

Like Jungian therapy in general, Hillman suggests the greatest restrictions we face may actually be inner.  Yearning for more self esteem,  we may thirst for: respect and approval of others; ownership of house or car that says we’ve “made it”; or, status or qualifications that show that we “are somebody”.  Or we feed addictions, thus avoiding dealing with shame or anxiety.  Could release from inner compulsions make us free?

Free… For What?

We assume we need to be free “from” externals.  But Hillman and Jungian therapy bid us consider what our freedom is actually for.  What do we need to be free to find in the second half of life ?

Authenticity and Meaning

Jungian therapy emphasizes the self in the second half of life: what does freedom mean from this perspective?  Surely letting the self live freely, and finding one’s life purpose in doing so.  Perhaps the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis summed it up best in his epitaph:

“I expect nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free.”

 

 

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© 2012 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 4: Truth

March 26th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, truth

Jungian therapy

What can “truth” possibly have to do with Jungian therapy or the major life transitions in the second half of life?   “Truth” can seem very abstract.  Yet, in Jungian therapy, we become aware of the profound power of truth, not as something “flaky”, but as the numinous place where the individual encounters the realities of the deep self, or soul.  We’re talking existential truth.

When It Changes

In the second half of life, there are forks in the road, or turning points — “moments of truth”, some call them.   An individual may follow a certain path of life for all of adulthood, but then discover somewhere in the middle portion of life that this path won’t work anymore.  She simply cannot do the job, or stay in the relationship, or pretend to have a certain identity, any longer.  While it served well in the past, it will not any longer: the second half of life has caught up with her.

Truth and the Unavoidable

Some truths have an unavoidable character, and confrontation with the unavoidable often furthers the individuation process.  It can often be that attitudes or beliefs that we needed in the first half of life fall apart in the second half of life.

second half of life

Lasting Truth about Self and World

In the second half of life, we need to find some stable truth that is ours.  This is not a matter of adopting any old dogmatic belief willy-nilly, but rather finding the deep realizations that accord with the innermost self.  Sometimes this is called a  ” philosophy of life “, but is probably better called a “worldview”, because it has much profounder roots than the merely rational.

So what is my worldview, my deepest realization?  Some find this in organized religion, but today, many find that they need something beyond that, even though our deepest beliefs or sensibilities may well be felt to connect us with God, the ground of being or the universe.  Whatever this fundamental worldview is, it connects or resonates with who we most fundamentally are.

A Fundamental Integrity

This connection is what John Beebe calls integrity in depth.  Today, integrity is much maligned, often associated with conventional conformist “straight arrow” morality, of a puritanical nature.  But there is a way of living, a possibility of living, not rule-bound, that comes straight out of who one most fundamentally is.

The goal of Jungian therapy in the second half of life is to enable the individual to live out the truth that accords with his or her most fundamental nature.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson

 

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Jungan Analysis & Overcoming Internet Addiction: 4 Keys

March 19th, 2012 · addiction, internet addiction, Jungian, Jungian analysis, overcoming internet addiction

depth psychotherapy
Overcoming Internet addiction is now a very real concern for many people, and Jungian analysis brings a perspective to this problem that offers hope and the possibility of finding an underlying meaning.  “Hold on a minute”, I hear you saying, “I can understand overcoming Internet addiction, but how could Jungian analysis find meaning in this kind of compulsive activity?”

First: Yes, Internet Addiction Actually Exists

There are many seeking help overcoming Internet addiction who know this.   Especially in Canada, online gaming, online gambling, social media and email, or Internet pornography are taking up more and more room in these peoples’ lives, and they can’t find a way to slow down or stop.  For them, overcoming Internet addiction is a priority, because something not under conscious control is in the driver’s seat.

2.  Signs of Internet Addiction

A person may be wrestling with internet addiction if:

  • Net use dominates his or her life and/or thoughts;
  • Net use modifies his or her  mood, or creates a “buzz”;
  • increasing Net use is needed to stay feeling good;
  • refraining from Net use causes unpleasant feeling or physical effects; or,
  • Net use creates conflict with those they are close to, or with their everyday life.

overcoming internet addiction

3.  Overcoming Internet Addiction: Insights from Jungian Analysis

The key issue in overcoming Internet addiction is determining what the Net is really providing to the individual, that brings him or her benefit.  It is at this point that a perspective drawn from Jungian analysis brings real insight.

If we look at the compulsive Net user, we see a hunger and a yearning at the heart of his or her usage.  Jung, in his letter to Bill W., described this as “the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness.”  In our restless searching and exchanges on the Net, we yearn for something to bring us to a sense of being whole and complete.  We are only going to get past unending searching on the Net, if we find something real, that makes us feel alive — that moves us toward fulfillment, and away from anxiety.

4.  Jungian Analysis & Wholeness

For Jungian analysis, wholeness is not the same as perfection.  We can have experiences that make us feel fully aware and alive — whole.  How this happens for each of us is a very individual matter; often only the depth explorations of individual therapy will reveal what these unique, life-giving realities are for each of us.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 3: Time

March 14th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy, Time

Jungian therapy

Jungian therapy is shaped and informed by this awareness: no one can avoid the significance of time in the second half of life.  In my earlier posts in this series on the second half of life, I focussed on open-ness and desire.  For this post, I’d like to think about time, and its enormous impact on us

Our Finite Season

We become acutely aware that our time is limited in the second half of life, as Jungian therapy well knows.  This gives a certain type of urgency to living.  We have real choice about whether we will meet it with panic, denial and regret, or a sense of courage, self acceptance and engagement of creativity.

We are Creatures of Chronos

Many traditions have a time deity, to reflect its necessity, like Greek Chronos or Mithraic Aion.  Human consciousness needs duration to even be aware of itself.  We have to spend time to even feel that we are living.  So how will we spend it?

Time, Change, Age

Time, change and aging profoundly affect our relationships

We confront these three in our bodies.  We confront them in the self, as, in the second half of life, we become aware of possibilities that we have not lived out, and aspects of ourselves that we have not yet acknowledged — the unlived life.

However, there is also the possibility that, as we age, we may move towards a certain important kind of freedom.

Courage to “Waste Time”

Growing older, I may find that I am liberated from the tyranny of the expectations of others, and of the need to prove myself to others.  This can be one of the genuine gifts of maturation through midlife and the second half of life.  I may find that I need to have the courage to “waste time”, as the world might think of it, to remove myself from the busy-ness, and just to reflect on my life.

I will never forget a lawyer I know, who through Jungian therapy decided to leave the legal profession, after years of working incredibly gruelling hours.  He told me, “The single most important thing that this experience has taught me?  My time is the single most precious thing that I have.”

Learning how to live in the present, to be with yourself, to listen to yourself, and to foster soul.  These can be key elements of psychotherapy in the second half of life.

PHOTOS:  © Maria Paula Coelho | Dreamstime.com
© 2012 Brian Collinson

 

 

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 2: Desire

February 27th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

We tend to think that desire declines in the second half of life, but Jungian therapy challenges us as to whether that is really true.

Jungian therapy

As life goes on, there are actually some things that we yearn for with greater and greater intensity, and they may well have a profound importance for our psychic wholeness.

second half of life

Is Blake a bit extreme here?  Perhaps… but if we are talking about our heart’s real yearning, especially in the second half of life  — is he really wrong?

What We Fundamentally Desire Embodies Who We Are

What we most fundamentally yearn for hugely effects the forward movement of our lives.  Jungian therapy knows that our desires often comes from the deepest parts of the self, including the unconscious, in ways that we may not readily understand.  Our desire powerfully embodies the way we actually are in the world.

Wholeness, Yearning and Desire

In his Red Book,  Jung tells us that desire is “image and expression of the soul.”  (By “soul” he means the essence of who we are, or personality, rather than anything metaphysical.)  If desire is the expression of soul, and expresses our feeling, then it has immense importance for us during the midlife transition and the second half of life.  To explore fundamental desires, and to live them out, is connected with being who we are, in an essential way.

The Unexpected Attractor

The unexpected desire may be the most important.  Sometimes, in the second half of life, the individual finds him or herself attracted to things that seem completely unexpected, even inconsistent with desires at earlier life stages.  Yet, sifting through these “strange attractors” and unfamiliar desires, and possibly living them out, may be essential for the journey towards wholeness.

Hidden Desire and Imagination

Much art concerns yearning, often hidden desire and the ways in which it is fundamentally enfolded in imagination.  An important dimension of growth in the second half of life can be the process of letting desire speak through imagination, and realizing that imagination possesses a fundamental reality.  As Jung says:

 


Our desire is a powerful thing, and it matters to our lives.  Jungian therapy can be a key part of exploring desire, and entering into the fulness of who we are, and are meant to be, in the second half of life.

How have your deepest desires changed through the course of your life?

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 1: Openness

February 21st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

I’ve always wanted to do a series on how Jungian therapy approaches the second half of life.  This is the time in our life from the onset of psychological midlife on.  For the first post, I’ve chosen the challenge of openness.

Jungian therapy

Growing older can tempt us to close ourselves off from new kinds of awareness and new possibilities for living.  How do we avoid this, and stay open, alive and aware?

Below are four insights about openness and the second half of life.

Coping with the Current of Life

Sometimes the current gets rough.  I can easily be overwhelmed with all that life brings over the bow in the second stage of adulthood.  Kids facing the challenges of the teen years, and of moving out into the adult world, and then the reality of empty nest.  Ever-changing and less stable work life.  For many, the end of marriages and partnerships, sometimes of long standing.  Achievement of some dreams, and the recognition that others will never come about.  The feeling of passing time, and anxiety about life slipping away.

The Temptation to Disengagement

As we get older and confront these challenges, there can be a slow, subtle, almost unconscious temptation to pull back from the world.  Without even being aware we’re doing it, we can end up holding ourselves aloof from what is going on around us, sometimes feeling betrayal, disillusion or disgust.  It wouldn’t be “cool” to admit it to others, yet this can often occur.  Which is tragic, because we can miss the real substance of our lives.

Seductions of Rigidity

We can find ourselves slowly taking a more and more rigid stance in life, slowly falling victim to unbending opinions, unwillingness to really listen to others who differ from ourselves, and resisting coping with change and anything new.  This kind of psychological rigidity can amount to a kind of living death.

Open-ness and the Undiscovered Self

To stay vitally alive, I need to respond openly to others, to the outside world, and, above all, to the undiscovered and unacknowledged aspects of my self — the shadow.  Dream images often reflect how unacknowledged aspects of the self are trying to come into consciousness.  There are possibilities in each of us that strive to be lived out, and to bring us into an going affirmation of life.

second half of life

How do you keep yourself open in the second half of life?  I’d welcome your comments.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & the Overly Driven Person

January 26th, 2012 · Anxiety, driven person, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety

Jungian therapy

It’s actually painful to be an overly driven person, as both Jungian therapy and therapy for anxiety in general recognize.  When we allow ourselves to get caught in this way, we run a great risk of chronically devaluing our inner life, and our true worth.

The overly driven person :

1. Never Relaxes or Feels Secure

The overly driven person can’t afford to lower his or her level of alertness, or level of effort, for fear of being overtaken or overcome.  She lives by the old sports maxim: “You’re Only as Good as Your Last Game”.

For the overly driven person links self-worth and specific achievements.  Now, Jungian therapy would acknowledge that we should have particular achievements of which we are proud.  But if our sense of identity is built around socially recognized achievements, then we are on very shaky ground.

2.  Fears Chaos; Continually Struggles to Maintain Control

Often the driven person strives to fend off their greatest fear: the collapse of a situation into chaos.  Often that fear is rooted in experiences of chaos in their past at some point, or in a fear of chaos inherited from the family of origin.  Therapy for anxiety knows that the response to this threat is to strive for greater control — of others, of ourselves, of the environment.

3.  Thinks in Absolutes

In Steve Jobs’ biography, I was struck by the fact that he had only two attitudes to the work of others.  He would either say “This is excellent! Amazing!”, or else he would say, “This is s–t!”.  Excrement or excellence: no in-between.  Overly driven people are often locked into perfectionism in their demands and expectations of themselves and others.  So if a thing isn’t perfect, then it’s a complete miss and worthless.

4.  Pushed by Unconscious Factors

Jungian therapy would emphasize the unconscious forces at work in the overly driven person.  They may be rooted in past traumatic experience, past emotional dynamics in the family of origin, or overidentification with an archetype.  Often, if a person is to gain freedom from  driven-ness, she must become more conscious of what’s doing the driving.  Therapy for anxiety includes healing around basic issues of self acceptance, satisfaction in what has been accomplished, and security.

 “Is It Ever Gonna Be Enough?“…  Metric – Gold Guns Girls

Often depth psychotherapy can assist greatly in untangling the knot of drivenness.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved by ray_wilson_jr
VIDEO: © “Gold Guns Girls”  ©  2009 Metric
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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