Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Here Comes Autumn: Coping with Life Changes in the Fall

September 19th, 2022 · coping with life changes

I write reasonably often on the subject of coping with life changes. In this blog, I’d like to focus on life changes associated with the Fall of the year.

coping with life changes
Coping with life changes (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

In North America, at least, Fall is a season when the issue of coping with life changes comes to the fore. In this season, a lot changes in many of our lives in quite a short span of time. Naturally we immediately think of children going back to school, and students returning to university, but the actual range of changes is a great deal wider than that. What is more, those changes are certainly not confined to the youngest among us. Those of any age can easily be subject to major change with the coming of autumn.

The coming of Fall makes us acutely aware of the passage of time. The rhythm of life changes for children and students, as they go back to their studies. Fall activities of many kinds resume, such as sports, book clubs, service clubs, yoga and mindfulness meditation classes, to name just a few.

Fall Changes and the Passage of Time

As we move into Fall in the mid-range northern latitudes where I live, changes in the natural world are very dramatic. Often almost overnight, the trees shift from the richness of lush green foliage, to brilliant yellows and oranges, and then those leaves fall and blow as dried husks across the land. It’s a remarkable change of state, and it presages changes in the minds of those who witness it. We become acutely aware of the passage of time, and not just in the abstract. We become aware of the passage of our own personal time.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

~Gilda Radner

Changes in nature are mirrored by equally striking changes in human affairs. The young mother watching young children going back to school remembers her own early school years. The middle aged father sees the practice of the high school football team, and remembers the feeling of the helmet and the ball. The grandparent follows the grandchild’s start at university, and remembers sitting in the big lecture hall, awaiting the first lecture of freshman year. There are connections, passages and patterns. Fall is a season that evokes deep feelings and reflections about our lives.

The Changes of Fall Echo Major Life Transitions

As we watch the events of the Fall, we may be brought back to major life transitions from our past. Or the unfolding of Fall may serve to make us more conscious of major life transitions that we are currently undergoing. For instance, it can be a very significant moment when the youngest child leaves for university, and a couple or a single parent is confronted with an empty nest and the the life questions that brings.

Similarly, a middle-aged person may confront poignant depression or anxiety at this time of year and may be confronted by the reality of mid life transition or later life transition. Really, anyone at any age may find that this time of year asks some very pointed questions. They may sound like: “My life is going by. Am I finding meaning and value in it? Time is precious. What do I need in my life now?

Coping with Life Changes and the Path to Wholeness

Fall brings deep changes in weather, light and vegetation. Combined with the whole shift in focus of our activities at this time of year, it also often brings the passage of time home to us in a very visceral way. Autumn can be a season that makes us profoundly aware of the reality of coping with life changes. These changes often affect us profoundly in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. It can be of the greatest importance for us to become aware of these movements and changes in our psyche, and to respond to them in ways that are life-giving.

Depth psychotherapy can often greatly assist the process of coping with life changes, and understanding their deeply personal significance. Jungian therapy has a particular focus on the meaning and importance of such changes, and work with a supportive analyst can often bring deep benefits.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Summer Can Open Us to Life Changing Experiences

July 25th, 2022 · life changing experiences

Here we are in the middle of summer 2022, and, naturally, many of us are looking for fun experiences. But summer can also bring us life changing experiences.

life changing experiences
PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

(Of course, fun experiences can be life changing! The two things are not mutually exclusive!) But, more generally, what kind of life changing experiences can summer bring? How do we recognize and welcome these experiences? How can we let them grow in our lives?

Often, we are so accustomed to experiencing life in a certain preset way, and so used to seeing things from a fixed perspective, that it can be difficult to let anything else really penetrate our awareness. We can have an experience of something that seems genuinely new and enlivening. The new thing may seem to change us for a week or two, but then we revert to our older habitual view of ourselves and our lives. After a while, the experience of anything other than “the same old same old” can start to seem far away,. It can feel that perhaps we only imagined it.

How can we retain our connection to experiences that seem genuinely life-changing, and life giving?

Summer Brings a Different Rhythm

For many of us, the summer period has a different rhythm than the rest of the year. With summer vacations and more recreational activities on the weekends, time may seem to slow down, in some ways. We’re able to be much more present to the moment, and perhaps much more aware of our thoughts, reactions and feelings.

It may be that, in the course of summer living, we have experiences that really wake us up. We may describe them as “feeling more alive”, or “feeling authentically ourselves”. They may take us beyond anxiety and into presence. Perhaps as we’re doing a recreational activity, or, as we’re pausing and doing nothing, just being here now, we reflect that “Yes, this, right now, is what I really want for myself”. Or, we have some compelling awareness of what we want in our lives, and we feel that there might just be a way to attain it. I don’t mean by this that we see a way to a new house, boat or swimming pool. I’m referring much more to having a sense of how we might be in our lives.

It may be that such an awareness comes in a precious moment where we are alone, but genuinely with ourselves. It may come from a special interaction with family or friends. Or, it might even come as a dream state. It was not by accident that WIlliam Shakespeare wrote a play entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“!

Letting In” Life Changing Experiences

The great challenge to new experiences or awarenesses is always our own resistance. The psyche is inherently conservative. If we have a mind-altering or perspective-changing experience, it can be all too easy for the ego to dismiss it as irrelevant, or of negligible importance. Lena M. Forsell of Lund University notes the

affective, cognitive, and behavioral components that create a psychological resistance to making a change in particular situations or overall changes in one’s life

Say we have an experience that seems to point to a fundamentally different way of being in our lives. We can count on the appearance of resistance to pressure us to return to “the way it’s always been”. We may especially note this tendency at times when we’re going through major life transitions.

If we let our resistance stay in the driver’s seat, we may find that something that could be a life changing experience gets turned into “an odd experience that I once had”. It then gets relegated to the dustbin of our lives, as an element of unlived life that never will be.

Letting Go of Past Constraints

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and openness to experiences that seem to offer a doorway to new possibility. We can become more aware of our resistances, to see them for what they are, as we develop our ability to put them aside and explore new possibilities. In this way, as Jung put it, we can work to go beyond the limitations of our ego, and explore the beckoning of our greater Self.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Life Changes: How Can We Face Major Life Transitions?

February 24th, 2020 · life changes

Life changes are growing in size and frequency in our lives, as we move further into the twenty-first century.

The question of how we will deal with these major life transitions is becoming more and more important for us as individuals as we each confront the challenges of our particular life journey. How will change come to you? And how will you cope with it? Perhaps the reality of big life changes is something you’re dealing with even now.

Traumatic Transition

Life changes can be raw, even violent events that strip away the certainties in our lives, leaving us without much defense against the impacts of life. The raw force of unmitigated change can be devastating.

Michael Enright, the host of the CBC radio program The Sunday Edition gave a powerful example of this on the show’s February 21 episode. In the feature item “Can Canada find a housing solution for its homeless?”, he quoted a shocking statistic: of the approximately 35,000 homeless people in Canada, between 3,000 and 5,000 are veterans of the Canadian military, many of them with operational experience in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the experience that a significant proportion of veterans have with return to civilian life is pretty emblematic of how not to deal with major life changes. Many are given very little preparation or assistance with the return to “civvy street”, and find themselves basically thrown into an environment that can seem very daunting and unfamiliar after living a military life for an extended period. As one veteran, Philip Kitchen, put it,

I love the military, the way it worked, the leadership, the opportunities. I was keen on my job…. The transition to civilian life is so hard, I can’t describe it. I had never been a civilian in adult life.

The consensus of a great many service and government agencies is that veterans are given very little preparation for undergoing the major life transition they will face.

Discharged veterans are a powerful example of what often happens around major life changes in our fast-paced, rapidly emerging society. Individuals are often ripped out of stable situations, and plunged into new, unfamiliar circumstances without any prior preparation or support. It can cost the individual a great deal, psychologically, to have to deal with change in this manner.

Beyond A Naive Approach to Life Changes

Many people in our time attempt a kind of “heroic” approach to life changes, whether it’s shifting careers, leaving a marriage, retiring, losing s spouse, re-marrying, moving to a new city, or any of a range of other major changes. In our era, people frequently just wade right in, often without really acknowledging what is involved emotionally in making a truly life-altering change. This can be very difficult and painful.

Our ancestors actually did a better job of this kind of thing than we do. Many indigenous cultures, and by no means least, Canada’s own First Nations, embody awareness of the need for processes of initiation when individuals went through major life changes.

If an individual in an indigenous culture was to go through a major life change, such as the transition from childhood to adulthood, his or her journey would likely be recognized through a rite of passage. Such a ceremonial process of initiation might span a considerable amount of time. In its complete form, as outlined by the famous scholar Arnold van Gennep, such a process of initiation would have three parts:

  • Separation, in which the individual goes through a withdrawal from his or her old status, and prepares to move to something new;
  • Transitional Phase, an ambiguous state, in which the individual has left the old identity behind, but has not yet taken on the new identity; and,
  • Incorporation of New Identity, in which the individual completes the rite, assumes his or her new identity, and moves forward into life with that new identity. This part of the rite is often symbolized by some sort of outward representation or recognition of adopting the new identity.

Once an individual passes early adulthood, our society doesn’t seem to do that well at providing rites of passage to acknowledge major life transitions. That may be part of the reason that there often seems to be so much anxiety and depression associated with life changes in the lives of individuals in our culture.

Life Changes and Rites of Passage

It’s essential that people give themselves compassion as they confront major life changes. It’s vital that they give themselves the psychological room to acknowledge everything that is happening to them — the losses, the disorientation, and the joys and pains of coming into a new lived reality and a new identity.

This acknowledgment can be a very demanding task in our fast-paced, impersonal, “aren’t-you-over-that-yet?” society. One important support and resource in doing this crucial work can be a solid alliance with a Jungian depth psychotherapist, as we move through all the life changes that are part of the journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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