Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

What Helps Depression During Major Life Transitions? 1

June 18th, 2012 · depression, life transitions, major life transitions, what helps depression

what helps depression

Do we really know what helps depression during major life transitions?  The surprising answer is yes. It has a lot to do with giving attention to what the particular depression may be trying to tell us.

It may seem surprising to many to think of depression as even occurring at the time of major life transitions.  But, in fact, major life transitions often have a lot to do with its onset and, also with what helps depressed states.

What are Major Life Transitions?

A major life transition, simply put, is any event or series of events that substantially and durably changes a person’s subjective experience of his or her life.  It is any of those experiences in life that entail moving from one way of life or means of life to another.  Examples include, but aren’t confined to:

  • job loss or change of job (or these days, fundamental changes in the nature of a job);
  • marriage; divorce or marital breakdown;
  • migration to a new country, or, in a huge country like Canada, migration from one region to another;
  • midlife transition, which is often caricatured as “mid-life crisis”;
  • major illness;
  • loss or death of a loved one; or,
  • retirement.

Primal societies so respected major life transitions that they often changed an individual’s name when one occurred, as in the Bible (e.g., Jacob to Israel; Saul to Paul).

What Does Depression have to do with it?

Often the changes that occur in a major life transition can seem to consume us.  They can feel like they become the sole object of our attention.  We may find ourselves unable to escape extreme sadness, lack of motivation, or listlessness.  Or we just may not know how to respond.

What Goes on in Depression, from a Depth Psychotherapy Perspective?

One way to think of it is as Jung did: the withdrawal of “psychic energy” from the external world into the inner life, and, particularly, the unconscious.  When this occurs, the unconscious mind is seeking to come to terms with the new situation, and to find a new attitude and response to what is happening in life.  When this can occur, life can move again, and flow.

OK, but What Helps Depression?

If depression is associated with a major life transition, it’s essential to get to the heart of the depression — its very nature.  It’s often only when a person understands how depressed mood may relate to a major life transition that he or she can understand what helps depression in his or her particular circumstance.

PHOTO:  AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike    Some rights reserved by Make Some Noise

 

 

→ 3 Comments

Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 2

February 6th, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy
My first post on “A Dangerous Method” looked into the depths of the film to see what it could teach us both about the nature of individual therapy and the psychological character of major life transitions.  This post looks at two other insights that the film offers about major life transitions and the nature of the individuation process.  Both are in the latter part of the film, where, for a time, Jung the healer becomes one who is himself in need of healing.

Here are two further important aspects of Jung’s psychological development portrayed in the film.

3.  Often Growth is Preceded by Depression

At the end of the film, in his last encounter with Sabina Spielrein, we become aware that Jung is suffering from acute depression.  What the film only explores in a cursory way, though, is the way in which this experience of depression and going into the depths of the “night sea journey” eventually leads Jung to a closer and different relationship to himself, the discovery of hitherto unknown parts of his psyche, and eventually to the development of what we know today as his unique psychological perspective.

Jung’s experience highlights an important truth.  Depression involves a submergence of the person into his or her unconscious depths.  But if we can have the courage to go into our depression as Jung did, we often find that it contains within it the very things that the soul needs for its renewal.

4. Everyone Needs an Individual Way Forward

The film ends at the very beginning of a vital stage in Jung’s personal journey.  He has broken with Freud, and ended the relationship with Spielrein.  Implied, but not stated, is that the next few years of Jung’s life will involve an inward journey of the most profound kind, that will ultimately be chronicled in his great Red Book, and, later in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

individual therapy

 

This aspect of Jung’s journey sheds much light on each of our individual journeys.  For when we are confronted with the profoundest types of crisis in our lives, only an individual answer will suffice, as Jung came to know well.  There is a definite type of crisis that is only resolved by a very individual encounter with the unconscious, and within it, the as yet undiscovered aspects of the self.

Wishing you every good thing on your own individual journey to wholeness,

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011

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

→ 2 Comments

Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 1

February 2nd, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy

The relationship between Freud, Jung and Sabina Spielrein portrayed in the film “A Dangerous Method” provides great insights into effective individual therapy and the psychological impact of major life transitions.  But, both in the media and in the film, these insights are often eclipsed behind the drama of the relationship between Spielrein and Jung.

The film faces a big challenge to convey the nature of the break between Jung and his older mentor/colleague Freud, together with the relationship with Spielrein, a brilliant, forceful and complex personality in her own right.  The film also seeks to convey the immense struggles and conflicts undergone by Jung at this time.

In my next two blog posts, I want to look briefly at 4 major insights into individual therapy and major life transitions portrayed by “A Dangerous Method”.

1.  The Power of Acceptance and Listening

Spielrein came to the Burgholzli, where Jung was a psychiatrist, in grave crisis.   As the film portrays, she may not have been psychotic, but she wasn’t far off.  In using Freud’s novel “talking cure”, Jung took Spielrein seriously as an individual person and engaged with her in a very accepting and affirming way, even affirming her desire to be a medical doctor.  Whatever the weaknesses of Freud’s method, one key aspect of “the talking cure”, embodied in Jung’s deep acceptance of Spielrein — listening, engaging her and entering into her experience — had a profoundly positive effect on her life.  This is essential in good individual therapy to this day.

individual therapy

2.  Even Brilliant People Hit Impasses During Major Life Transitions

This movie is set prior to the beginning of the single greatest crisis in Jung’s life.  This took place in 1913 – 1918.  Looking forward, we know that he will emerge from this time transformed, and with his own developed psychology.  However, just at the time of this movie, Jung is really struggling.  It is characteristic of major life transitions, and especially those that come near midlife, that they can make incredible demands on people, and can often only be resolved by a fundamental change in outlook, and encounter with the hitherto undiscovered parts of the self.

This is not pathology. People with real difficulties at these points in life are not mentally ill.  These are the kinds of challenges that people — even brilliant, very successful people — often experience at times of major life transition.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at insights from the film pertaining to growth, depression and individuality.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

→ No Comments

Individuation, Our 40s & 50s, & Major Life Transitions

December 2nd, 2011 · Individuation, life transitions, major life transitions

major life transitions
At a time in our culture when people are focussed on the individuation process, in their 40s and 50s, major life transitions seem to now be occurring with ever greater frequency.  How can we cope?

At a stage in life that once would have been a time of consolidation and reflection — the essence of individuation — people are encountering circumstances that are impinging on their lives.  Workplaces are nowhere near as stable as they were even 30 years ago.  Neither are family units.  Major life transitions are often making people less willing to connect, and much more isolated and alone than in previous times.

Stress from Imposed Change and Demands

Greatly increased levels of stress are the result.  People are often feeling trapped in their situations.  For instance, they feel work related stress resulting from needing to continuously adapt to change.  They often feel, overall, that they are facing their lives with too few resources, and considerable economic uncertainty.

It’s Different than it was Even 20 Years Ago

The rapid pace of change in our lives means that many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have no effective role model or mentor for a phase in their lives that is often of great importance for individuation.  Individuals often feel that they are dealing with situations for which they have no effective roadmap.   They feel that they confront more and more that is uncontrollable and unpredictable, and this can easily result in individuals making their lives smaller and smaller .

It’s the Same as it was 100,000 Years Ago

Yet for all of us, there are certain common elements to the human journey.  As for our distant ancestors, there is a need deep in us for meaning, and for a stable sense of self.  There is an overwhelming need for a sense of being rooted in the cosmos, and for a sense that the journey each of us is on in our lives is one that truly matters to us personally.  In our time, the search for this kind of meaning, the process of individuation, involves encounter with the depths of the self.

Often the best way to further that process is through entering into depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis.  The resilience needed to survive creatively through the major life transitions of our time stems from the awareness of the solidity and rootedness of the self, grounded in the truth and hope of our own personal myth.

PHOTO: © Alon Othnay | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

→ No Comments

Jungian Psychotherapy & Major Life Transitions: 4 Truths

June 19th, 2011 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, life transitions, major life transitions

major life transitions

Major life transitions are a primary concern of Jungian psychotherapy and depth psychotherapy, because they matter so much to human beings.  Such transitions include: movement from one stage of life to another; major illnesses or injuries (great piece from Globe & Mail on this) ; career change or job loss; and, changes in key relationships.

There’s much to be learned about transitions from the archetypally based initiation rituals of aboriginal peoples.  From that perspective:

  • Life Transitions are Journeys

Life is a journey, composed of a series of journeys.  The journey is a fundamental human metaphor, but  life transitions have a particular character.  As in initiation rituals, there is a phase of disorientation, what anthropologists call the liminal phase.  In this stage, we don’t see the way forward, and we have to rely on something we don’t understand to pull us through.

  • Life Transitions Involve a Death

In a key transition in our lives, something must die.  Our old relationship to ourselves and the world must pass away, to make room for something new.  This is the pain in major transitions: something within us screams in protest that this can’t happen, that our old way of viewing our lives is the way.  We may deeply grieve its loss, yet the old way must and does die.

  • Something is Trying to be Born

In every life transition, no matter how painful, something is trying to be born in our consciousness.  There is a different understanding of life, self and others that is pressing forward.  It may be something we are extremely reluctant to let be born, yet it is pressing forward, wanting to exist in us.

  • Receiving A New Name

In initiation ceremonies among aboriginal peoples, the initiate will often receive a new name upon completing the transition of initiation.  This reflects what has occurred: the person who was has died; in his or her place, someone new exists.  So it is in our transitions: we are no longer who we were.  We have a new consciousness and new relationships.  We move forward into a new, unfamiliar world, with a new awareness.

One of my most profound transitions resulted from the birth of a child who was deaf.  It has taken me a very long time to understand how this has changed my whole approach to being myself and being alive.

What have been the profound transitions in your life?  I’d welcome your comments or emails.

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: © Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario

 

→ No Comments