Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

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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Midlife in Suburbia: No Mere "Sportscar Phase"

June 15th, 2008 · Individuation, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia

Red_convert_for_blog_15_jun_08 There is a theme or motif that I see repeated with great frequency among my client group.  There are always profound individual variations and unique aspects, but there are common central kinds of experience.

© Hanhanpeggy |

A great many of the individuals I am thinking of here would be between their mid-30s and mid- 50s.  Often, although not always, they are people who have lived somewhere in the suburbs for a long time.  Perhaps they have even lived here since early childhood.  Frequently, they are people who in many ways have lived out the suburban ideal as I described it in my May 31/08 post, "Patterns of Suburban Life."  Yet they have reached a point in their lives where, for one reason or another, conventional suburban values are no longer working for them, no longer offering explanation or meaning for what they are experiencing.

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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 |

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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 |

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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The Symbolic Power of Home

June 4th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia, symbolism

Toy_houses_for_blog Suburbia is fundamentally linked with the symbolism of “home”.  And the symbolic reality of Home runs incredibly deep in the human psyche.

In the western world, one of the greatest and most profound tributes to the depth and power of this symbolism is found in Homer’s Odyssey.  In that great poem, the hero Odysseus struggles through overwhelming difficulties and trials, motivated above all else by his desire to return to his home, Ithaca, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus.  The wily and resourceful hero succeeds in his quest, only after many years, and much loss and sorrow, and returns home, where he finally encounters his wife again.

Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land, and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her two fair arms from about his neck.  [Homer, trans. Samuel Butler, The Odyssey, Book XXIII]

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Deep Patterns in Suburban Life

May 31st, 2008 · Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia, Television

Autumn_suburbia_possible_blog_banne Underpinning the whole of life in the suburbs, in fact, the whole reason for the existence of the suburbs, is a particular vision of "the ideal life".  This ideal is incredibly pervasive.  Just as fish who swim in the ocean or an aquarium may have no particular awareness of water as such, so it can be that we who live in suburbia may not be aware of the omnipresence of this ideal in our lives.  Nonetheless, when we see it in explicit terms in front of us, it may seem very familiar.

This ideal can be best expressed in terms of a story, a narrative.  It would run something like the following. 

A man and a woman love each other.  They decide to get married.  They want to have children, but they don’t want them to grow up in the city proper because of the crowding, because of the anonymity, or because they simply feel that the city is not a very wholesome or healthy environment for children to grow up.  So they decide to buy a house and move to the suburbs, where there is more space, where the neighbors are friendly, and where kids can just be kids in a safe, hospitable environment.  In this ideal vision, the husband has a career, at which he works very hard.  At the end of the day, he comes home to his loving wife and they share an evening of warm family time with the children.  The wife is a devoted mother and devoted to making the family home all that it can be, and in the updated version of this ideal, she also has a valued and meaningful career, which she somehow advances by working extremely hard while simultaneously carrying out the child rearing and homemaking functions.

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Spring Time for My Blog!

May 27th, 2008 · Lifestyle, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia

Spring_tree_for_blog Well, this is the first new post for me on this blog for a very long time.  Thanks to a tremendous amount of help from the people at Six Apart, my blog is now re-vitalized, with a whole new look, and very many new features.  A warm "thank you" to them for all the many ways in which they’ve helped to make the blog come alive!

In re-vitalizing the blog, I’ve been doing a lot of careful thinking about what it is that I really want to DO with it.  The brief answer is that I hope to use it, as a therapist, both to reflect on life in suburbia and exurbia and to gain insight from the experience of others who live "here".  According to the statistics, this is where most of us who inhabit North America actually live.  But there has been a lack of reflection on what it really means to live in "edge cities", as suburbia and exurbia are sometimes called.  At the very least, this is certainly true when it comes to thinking about what is unique to the suburban psyche, and about what it means to connect with soul in these environments, which are so often characterized in the media and academic and popular culture as shallow pre-fab places where people "live on the surface".

I am interested in these questions from the point of view of Jungian "depth psychology", with its concern with myth, symbol and image, and also with the Jungian concern with "individuation".  I hope to explore more in future postings just what I mean by this language, and some of the directions in which this perspective takes us when we look at our suburban lives. 

I look forward to your enlivening comments and dialogue!

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