Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Middle Aged Person Traumatized by Financial Losses…

January 14th, 2009 · Current Affairs, depression, depth psychology, dreams, life passages, midlife, panic, Trauma, Wellness

Maybe you know this person, or maybe it's you.  When it comes right down to it …  who DIDN't lose a lot of money in the Fall of 2008?

Financial Trauma for Vibrant Jung Blog

However, the person we're describing thought that everything was going great financially, and that they were in investments that were "safe as houses" — until last Fall.  Then things suddenly and unexpectedly went south in the stock market, or in the housing market, and all of sudden there were losses — big time.  Right out of the blue things began to feel really insecure and unpredictable.  Hopes, dreams and plans that people had for themselves, or for their families suddenly began to seem threatened.

And the feeling overall was a feeling of being overwhelmed, and just plain helpless as things spiraled out of control.  Perhaps things started to seem very fearful, and completely out of control.  And the effect was so dramatic that our person was shaken shaken right to the core.  And it may well be that he or she (or you or I) realize that things just haven't felt the same since.

I'm seeing people in my practice who have been through just this kind of experience, and who are strongly feeling the need to find their footing again.  And I'm convinced that there are a lot more people out there who have had just this kind of experience who really need to be talking to someone and getting this kind of help.Financial Trauma 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

As you might be aware, usually, when professionals refer to people who have been through trauma, they think in terms of specifically life-threatening events.  Things like life-threatening incidents in wars, or terrorist attacks, or very serious car accidents, or violent crimes, where the individual specifically feels that they are in actual, physical danger of losing their lives, or are subject to watching others lose their lives, or get maimed, or something of that sort.  But this is too narrow: experiences of serious financial loss that are experienced as threatening the well-being or economic survival of an individual or of those close to that individual have a traumatic character.

If you have experienced any of the following, you should be seeking out help from a skilled, compassionate professional:

  • Feelings of Being Overwhelmed – THis may be something you even experience physically, i.e., "limbs turn to jelly";
  • Flashbacks or Intrusive Recollections - A flashback is a memory that is so intrusive that it feels like the event is happening all over again; an intrusive recollection is less intense, but is a memory that can set off a whole chain of traumatic recollections;
  • Sleep Disturbances – Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, or sleep restlessly and cry out in your sleep?
  • Nightmares – Do you have dreams that involve re-living the circumstances of your financial loss, or that have horrific content?
  • Bad Temper and Lack of Concentration – Do you find yourself becoming negative, argumentative, or easily irritated in ways that you were not before the experience of financial loss? 
  • Intrusive Thoughts – Do you find that your thoughts about the financial loss will simply not leave you alone?
  • Exaggerated Startle Response and/or Panic Attacks – Do you startle more easily now than you did before the loss?  Does the reaction stay with you for a log time?  Do you have panic attacks now, with sudden shortness of breath, severe chest pains or feelings of dizziness or faintness?
  • Avoidance Behaviour, Emotional Numbness or Difficulty with Intimacy – Are you avoiding people, feeling "shut down" emotionally or finding intimacy difficult, emotionally or sexually?
  • Increased Use of Alcohol, Drug Use or Comfort Eating – Are you using any of these things to block out painful reactions to what happened?
  • Depression or Traumatic Grief – If you find yourself sleeping or wanting to just do nothing, or confronting feelings of unbearable sadness since the financial losses, you may be dealing with depression or grief.
  • Guilt or Self-Blame – Do you blame yourself for the financial losses, or find yourself thinking "If only I had done things differently"?
  • Decreased Self-Esteem and Loss of Confidence – If you are confronting feelings of lack of confidence in your abilities, or of hopelessness, then it may be that the financial losses have impacted your self-esteem.

If you are experiencing these reactions now, and you have recently sustained serious financial losses, it would be a very good idea to speak to a qualified professional, as your losses may have triggered a traumatic response.  Please remember: the sooner you address the signs of trauma, the easier it is to deal with them.  You do not have to live with these responses: there are concrete things that can be done.

All the best,

Brian Collinson, www.briancollinson.ca

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Anxiety and the Downturn

November 30th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, panic, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

Stone Age Temple for Vibrant Jung Blog

The present economic conditions are deeply challenging to the ways that we all think about ourselves and our lives.  It takes a toll on all of us to be constantly bombarded with negative economic news that often seems only to get worse with each passing day.

It's evident to me from my practice how much anxiety is being created in each of us, and what a heavy burden a lot of people are having to carry in the present situation.  At the tail end of last week, there were numerous people who came through my office who were profoundly anxious and deeply scared at the things that they were seeing in their personal and working lives as we undergo the current economic crisis.

© William Attard Mccarthy | Dreamstime.com

How can we avoid being crippled by the anxiety and the fear?  There are a number of things to keep in focus.

First, the economic conditions that we are confronting are governed by the psychology of the crowd.  Modern communication technology only enhances and deepens this effect.  Crowd psychology is prone to irrational excitements and manias when things are good, and is equally prone to mass panics when they are bad.  In the short run, it can likely be expected that panic will actually worsen economic conditions, and we have to be prepared to weather that.

Second, we must fully expect that this mass panic is going to "hook" and activate all of our deepest fears.  Money is a very emotional matter for the vast majority of human beings.  It symbolizes our life-energy, which we have put into our work, through our sweat and sacrifice.  We can expect that, when we receive the kind of ominous news that has been about, we are going to initially respond with fear and anxiety — maybe even with terror.

Third, it is important to "hang onto ourselves" by not giving way to this fear and panic.  On balance, weighing decisions carefully at this time, and realizing that we are being infected, so to speak, by the panic of the crowd, and taking action in a way that really is in line with our own true feelings and emotions will lead us to courses of action that will serve us better.  Also, we need to hang on to the recognition that this crisis will not last forever.

Fourth, find your basic trust in life again, and act from that.  This is the time to draw on your deepest philosophical and religious convictions.  What do you really believe is important in life?  Do you believe that life is a meaningful journey, which is unfolding in a way that makes your life and the lives of the people close to you valuable?  If so, now is the time to put that belief in front of you, and to remind yourself of it constantly.

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In Suburbia At Age Forty-Five

November 2nd, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, wholeness

 One of the larger age groups that come to me for therapy are people who are at or right around the age of 45.

Age 45 man for vibrant jung thing blog © Aleksandar Nikolov Dreamstime.com

This is not entirely surprising to me.  For many people at this age, there is a tremendous amount going on in their lives.  As life unfolds for many people, this is an point in life where the individual is confronted with fundamental changes in his or her life.  These may not be obvious to outsiders, especially given the suburban lifestyle with its unique pressures.  Nonetheless, sometimes what is going on for people on the psychological level is enormous.

Does this mean that these people are mentally ill, or somehow suffering from "psychological disorders"?  Of course not.  But it does mean that these people are confronting some of the most fundamental psychological or existential issues in human life. 

For many of these people, the question of meaning is becoming a matter of increasing urgency.  In a lot of cases, the people who come to me are people who are very accomplished, and who have achieved a lot in their lives.  They have done what society has asked of them, in that they have moved out from the family of origin, gotten the necessary education, gotten into good careers, and often gotten married and raised families.  They are exemplary "good members of the community".  However, for many of them, there is a need for something more, now.  They are seeking for a life that is fulfilling for them.  They are seeking for a life that has value for themselves, individually.

Many such people are struggling with relationship issues.  There can be a strong feeling that the relationship that they are in is simply not currently meeting their needs.  Or else, they may have a strong feeling that their partner, who is often dealing with some pretty fundamental issues in his or her own life is no longer as fulfilled by the relationship as they once were.

Often these people are in the midst of deep changes in their lives.  Often they are unsure "which way is up", and they are asking questions about where lasting value is in their lives, and what they can hold onto that will give them a sense of orientation.  They are asking these questions in a deeply personal way: no "ready made, off the shelf" answer is going to work for them.  They are asking about who they really are, and they are asking what in their lives has lasting, incorruptible value.

These are the questions at the heart of what Carl Jung called the individuation process.  For many people in the age bracket anywhere from later 30s through the 50s. these questions can take on a tremendous urgency.

Who, most fundamentally, are you? 

What is most meaningful to you, personally, in your life? 

How will you live in the light of what is most important to you? 

These are not questions that stem from some sort of psychological disorder.  Rather they are questions that sane, healthy people naturally confront as they move through the journey of their lives.  Nonetheless, finding the answers that we need may be tied very strongly to incorporating new insights that emerge from the deepest parts of ourselves, and from the collective unconscious.  Often people need help to orient themselves in this unfamiliar territory, and to wrestle with their own depths.  I firmly believe that this is something that working with a compassionate therapist with deep experience with this type of issue and with the unconscious can provide.

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Under Milk Wood: Our Dreaming and Waking Selves

August 7th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, theatre, wholeness

Over the weekend my wife and I had the chance to see the Soulpepper Theatre production of Under Milk Wood, the Dylan Thomas work originally performed as a one-person monologue by the Welsh poet himself.  Many other versions of Under Milk Wood have used a large cast, with different actors playing the various characters, but in this version director Ted Dykstra and actor Kenneth Welsh go back to Thomas’ Boathouse_dylan_thomas_boathouse original idea of a monologue.  It’s an extremely energetic and demanding 85 minute performance for Welsh, but the result is an entrancing immersion in a small Welsh town and a deeply empathic, frank and often humorous engagement with the unique character of each of the inhabitants.  I found myself completely enthralled and drawn in by Mr. Welsh’s performance as this version of Under Milk Wood unfolded.

Laugharne Boathouse in Wales where Dylan Thomas spent many years and where he wrote some of his best poems.     © Hans Klamm | Dreamstime.com

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Desert: Depression and Suburban Life

July 29th, 2008 · depression, depth psychology, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, soul, suburbia / exurbia, Wellness

1_saharadune1 "Depression" and "suburbia" are two words that you don’t usually see in the same sentence.  Those who promote suburbia tend to want to portray it as a place where happiness and fulfillment abound.  However, as any therapist or counsellor can tell you, depression and anxiety are widespread in the ‘burbs, just as they are in the rest of our society.  It’s not that depression is more widespread in the suburbs and exurbs than elsewhere in our society.  It’s just that, contrary to the suburban myth of joyful care-free family life, many ordinary, normal people in suburbia are dealing with depression.

Depression is a fairly common occurrence.  How frequent it actually is depends a lot upon the level ofDepression_2 severity of depression that we’re looking at.  Depression is sufficiently common that it can probably be said that most people have been subject to some level of depression at some time in their lives.  That being said, it’s essential to not underestimate its potential for disrupting and impacting an individual’s life.  If you are suffering from depression, it’s important to take steps to deal with it, rather than just hoping it will go away.

Recently, a client said something to me that I think is very true.  Speaking about his own experience of seeking help for depression, he said, "I think that they were all focussed on treating the symptoms of the depression — but they really didn’t get at what it was about."

What is depression all about? Clearly it is important to take with all due seriousness the science of depression, which understands depression in terms of serotonin levels and all its other physiological and neurological dimensions.  But it is equally important to see depression as something human, with a human meaning for individuals like you and me.

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Is My Life Meaningful — for Me?

July 21st, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, Wellness

One of the most fundamental questions a person can Dancing_woman_for_meaningask  is whether his or her life, taken as a whole, is meaningful to her or him.  This is different from an abstract question about "The Meaning of Life".  There is no abstract universal answer to the yearning that each of us has for a meaningful life.  Every "answer" that an individual finds in terms of meaning in his or her life is an individual answer, an answer that emerges from the very fabric of his or her unique life.  On this level the question is as important as it is urgent: Does your life or my life have meaning– not in the abstract, but to us personally? 

image: Arjan Hamberg //12186.openphoto.net

Meaning is to be found in the value that we place on our experience and our involvements.  It does not reduce to simply "just being happy": it is something more and deeper than that, something that is not incompatible with happiness, but that can abide through the difficult times and struggles of life.

Meaning_11

What gives meaning can vary greatly from person to person.  Sometimes it is found in our relationship to other people.  Sometimes it is in our vocation, if our work is meaningful or satisfying, or in our avocation — what we do with our time and our life outside of work.  Sometimes meaning is found when we can relate symbols intimately to our lives, whether those symbols are found in the arts, in organized religion, or in symbols that have emerged for us as individuals on a deeply personal level — symbols from the depth of psyche.

image: Christof Wittwer //7740.openphoto.net

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Into the Wild

July 15th, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Individuation, Jungian analysis, life passages, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Ontario, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, puer aeternis, soul, suburbia / exurbia

Itw_wallpaper_04_800x600 If you haven’t seen it, "Into the Wild" is a 2007 film written and directed by Sean Penn, and starring Emile Hirsh.  It is based on the true life story of Christopher McCandless, originally recounted by John Krakauer in his 1992 book of the same name.  It’s a remarkable film, in many ways, and not least of all because of the different and sometimes conflicting emotions it stirs up in the viewer.  It touches on deep issues that underlie this suburban life that we share, issues of destiny and what is fundamentally important in our living.

The protagonist, Christopher McCandless, is a young man of 23 who has been raised in a middle class suburban home, who rejects all the trappings of this life for a life on the road, which ultimately takesItw_wallpaper_07_800x600_2   Itw_icon_3 him to the wilds of Alaska.  He attends a good university, and gets his degree, and then, for complex reasons tied up with his experiences of loneliness, alienation and superficiality in his family of origin, he decides to embark on a life that is radically at odds with the generally accepted values of our culture.  He burns the last of his money, and heads for a life of wandering.

Images: Paramount Vantage

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Individual Identity in a Big Box World

June 20th, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, life passages, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia

Big_box_blog "Say No to Big Box Schools" is a message on signs recently posted around my neighbourhood in Oakville.  The local school board has announced plans to consolidate a number of schools, in some cases closing smaller schools that have been part of communities for a very long time.  This has produced quite a strong reaction in the community, not surprisingly.  I believe that this is for many reasons, but not least of all, because of the feeling that children who attend these larger schools may be severed from their rooting in a local environment that allows their individuality and uniqueness to come out and be appreciated.  The fear is that children will become lost in anonymous and faceless institutions.

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Individu- What???

June 11th, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, midlife, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy

I’m enjoying the process of writing this blog on a regular basis, and having the chance to communicate with all of you about different aspects of what it is to be a therapist and a Jungian in Halton and Peel Regions in this continually surprising "place" that we call suburbia.  I’m really open to any of your comments, either privately via email, or in the comment sections on the blog.

Solitary_pathway_for_blog_2 Carl Jung developed the idea of "individuation" to describe the individual journey that human beings undertake in their lives.  I believe that this is a very useful way of looking at things, and that it helps people to answer the question "What is it that is happening to me in my life?"

Jung’s idea is that the journey of our lives takes us on a more and more individual path.  That we are in the process of becoming more and more uniquely ourselves.  Jung often used the analogy of an acorn and an oak tree, saying that the potential to be an huge oak tree is latent in the acorn, waiting to expand and to become.

© Micheal Armstrong | Dreamstime.com

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