Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Hope: Burnout Treatment During Midlife Transition

September 24th, 2012 · burnout, burnout treatment, Hope, midlife, midlife transition

Burnout treatment is a matter of real importance in our society as a whole, but for those undergoing midlife transition, it often takes on an even deeper significance.

burnout treatment

For many people, midlife transition is a time full of issues around career transition, social role, and at an even deeper level, questions of vocation.

Burnout is Incredibly Common During Midlife Transition

By the time of the midlife transition, most people have done a lot of living.  Many have quite a bit of experience with the work world, and often with a number of other social “worlds” in which they have been involved.  In fact, there may be a great deal of disillusionment and fatigue connected to living in work and other social roles and in meeting their expectations.

Sometimes, as a result of this experience, a profound weariness can descend upon individuals, and a deep inability to find motivation.  We call this burnout.

Burnout Treatment and the Death of Hope…

Often, in important ways, burnout treatment must address the death of a certain type of hope in the individual at midlife transition.  A way of looking at life, certain hopes and dreams, a certain way of being in the world, have all come to their end.  They have no more vitality, and, even though these attitudes may have served us well earlier in life, now they cannot avoid dying.

This may entail deep feelings of loss, genuine grief, a wide range of emotions, and a profound sense of disorientation.

…But Also, the Birth of Hope

This time may also herald the birth of a differing understanding of identity — and a different kind of hope.  A move away from hoping that the individual dreams of my youth will be fulfilled, to a hope that I can find meaning, hope and vitality in other places.  Another, different understanding of value and meaning in terms of my own truly deepest needs and yearnings, and what is really significant in my life.

Vocation as New and Deeper Identity

As I explore these elements of myself, even thought the process may be incredibly painful, I may be in the process of finding a new and deeper identity.  I may be moving beyond people pleasing and outer appearances, to satisfying the deepest yearnings within me, and the deepest movements of my soul.  Burnout treatment during midlife transition may mean the liberation of energy into a new kind of readiness and welcome for living.

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by dno1967b

 

 

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Dealing with Shame During Midlife Transition

September 17th, 2012 · dealing with shame, midlife, midlife transition, shame

Dealing with shame is one of the most demanding aspects of psychological work, and, in midlife transition, we can often face this struggle most acutely.

dealing with shame

Psychoanalyst Helen B. Lewis tells us, “The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation”.  In midlife transition, when people begin to seriously look back at their lives and review them, the experience of shame can become acute, even excruciating.

Taking Stock: A Conscious & Unconscious Process

Beginning with midlife transition, people often begin to take stock of their lives in new ways.  This is a tremendous opportunity to open up new possibilities, and find new paths, but it can also be very hard.  It’s not an uncommon thing to find that aspects of one’s life cause considerable shame.  Often, such a feeling can even seem unbearable.  Dealing with shame can become a real problem.

A Fundamental Problem with Who I Am

It’s one thing to feel that something I’ve done is unworthy, and feel full of guilt.  This can be an extremely painful, difficult experience.

However, another, even more devastating thing can be to confront the feeling that what I am is fundamentally unworthy, valueless, negligible — sometimes during midlife transition, it can seem like this.  This is not an experience that a person can just sit with, in a mellow way.  It demands some kind of resolution, a change in consciousness, if I am to continue the forward movement of my life journey.

Refusing to Apologize for My Self

We must come to accept and cherish our own unique being.  This is crucial psychological work, and a very demanding and important part of dealing with shame in psychotherapy.

As Marion Woodman once put it, in her uniquely powerful way, it’s essential for each of us to come to such self-acceptance, that we say,  “This is what I am.  You don’t like it?  Tough.  I refuse to perform for you anymore.”

Amour Fati

Jung spoke of amor fati, an ancient Latin phrase meaning “to love one’s fate”.  We need to find this place in our relationship with ourselves… a very deep form of compassion for who and what we are.  Jung also said, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”  In a profound sense he’s right.  We have to accept that we can never perform well enough to wipe out shame.  We can only accept and have compassion for ourselves.  That’s an important part of the journey of good psychotherapy.

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A Jungian Psychotherapist Respects Midlife Transition 1

July 30th, 2012 · midlife, midlife transition, transition

A good Jungian psychotherapist has great respect for the psychological processes that make up the midlife transition in most people

psychotherapist

This is because, for many, much of the course of life and of the value they assign to it will be determined during the period of midlife transition. Whether we’re aware or not, the middle of life is when we really work out, or determine what our attitude will be toward some key aspects of life.

These attitudes determine fundamentally how life gets lived out.

1. Have I Understood and Accepted My Identity?

It isn’t unusual for people to find that their understanding or sense of themselves starts to change with the midlife transition.  Oftentimes, this entails losing lots of illusions about our identity.  We start to understand that certain dreams and ambitions will never be fulfilled, while possibly other desires and ambitions that weren’t important earlier in our lives come to the fore.

This leads to a related subject…

2. My Attitude Towards the Shadow — the Parts of Myself That I Find Really Hard to Face

We all know that they’re there.  While we may have varying degrees of clarity about these aspects of ourselves that are painful or shameful to look at, they need our attention.  We need to face them as clearly as we can, and to assume responsibility for them.  The only way not to live life through the midlife transition as anything other than a bitter illusion is to let in those parts of ourselves which are exiled, yet contain our vitality.

 3. Open-ness

As life goes along, we can get more and more set into ruts we have travelled for so long. These may concern habitual concepts of ourselves, the rigid rightness of our own views, or the types of experiences to which we’re open.  A Jungian psychotherapist knows from training and experience that if we don’t find ways to stay open, and to experience new things during the midlife transition, we risk falling into greater and greater rigidity, and moving farther and farther from real life as we age.

 4. The Challenge of Accepting Life

In midlife, we face the challenge of moving into a creative acceptance of the totality of life.  This is no idle exercise: our ability or inability to do this may profoundly affect the whole remaining course of our lives.  The privilege and challenge of a creative psychotherapist is to work with the individual to bring a creatively receptive attitude into being.

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Individual Therapy & Dismantling the “Mid Life Crisis”

November 1st, 2011 · individual therapy, midlife, midlife crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life

individual therapy

Person overboard?

The term “mid life crisis” is a cliche in our society, which individual therapy must sometimes deconstruct.  Don’t get me wrong: a tremendous amount does happen to us at midlife.  But it isn’t usually the ridiculous caricature referred to in our society as a “mid life crisis.”

In that stereotype, the individual has a difficult period in the middle of life centering around regret for the passage of youth.  As a result, he or she goes “off the rails” for a time, possibly years, and then gradually “comes back to normal”, once again accepting his or her lot in life.

But is that actually how it goes for people?

A “Mid Life Crisis” Isn’t Necessarily a Crisis

It’s far better to refer to a midlife transition.  What the stereotype misses is that you don’t “come back to normal” from this process.  Something deep and profound starts at midlife, and then keeps going on through the entire second half of life.  And what starts might not be a crisis at all: it may just be a profound transformation, as an individual fundamentally re-evaluates his or her life.

Deconstructing the “Mid Life Crisis”

Articles abound now with titles like “10 Signs of a Mid Life Crisis”.  Such lists miss the point that mid life transition is very individual indeed.  There are no checklists that you can tick off to see if you “have it”, or “how you’re progressing”.  It’s a very personal and individual search for what will last in life as youth and even mature adulthood give way to the older years: an individual answer to the question, “What really matters — to me?”

Midlife Transition, and Beyond

As the life journey progresses, a person’s values may start to be less conventional.  While socially sanctioned goals for family, career and success may have held a lot of importance at earlier stages in life, the emphasis starts shifting to what it is that really matters to the individual.

Beyond the Security of False Identity

Conventional fixed, socially recognized identities seem to offer security.  An identity like “I’m an accountant”, or, “I’m an athletic parent” gives the sense of permanence, and stability.  But underneath, there is always the question, “Who am I, really?”,  and the sense that there is a great deal more of me that I need to get to know.  Often individual therapy is a key part of this journey, and this adventure, in the second half of life.

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

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Jungian Psychotherapy & Baby Boomer Midlife Transition

September 3rd, 2011 · baby boomer, boomer, Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, midlife, midlife transition, Psychotherapy


baby boomer midlife transition

The baby boomer generation is entering the later part of midlife transition.  Jungian psychotherapy has a lot to say about what happens at that time in life.  Much has happened during the course of the baby boomer generation.  Even more is happening at present, and will continue to occur.

This is true society-wide, and even more so on the level of the personal journey.  Reflecting on our journey at 45, 50 or 60, we are stunned at how different life is for us than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Life is Very Different

In our 20s, for many of us, the challenge was to move out on our own, complete our education, start a career, find a life partner, and have children.  Now, we’ve done most of those things.  So we ask, “What’s important and meaningful now in my life?”  Challenges may be much less clear cut than they were earlier in life.

The World is Very Different

Since our teens, and earlier adulthood, the world has changed tremendously, and we have been carried along with it.  The generation before the boomers had a whole set of established assumptions about the world; baby boomers have seen those assumptions fade with ever increasing rapidity.

I am Very Different

Clearly I am different now than I was in my 20s.  Challenges and things that motivated me then likely don’t motivate so much now.  Perhaps I’ve done many things in my life that I would never have believed that I could.  My body is not the same as it was.  Where what life wanted of me may have been clear at earlier points, it may well not be clear now.  It’s up to me to find what is meaningful to me at this stage in my life, and to devote myself to that.

The Symbol of the Night Sea Journey

The journey now may well not be laid out in advance: it is very individual.  It’s like the journey of a vessel on the sea at night.  I must find my own path, finding what is meaningful to me and living that out.  To do that, I must get to know myself in ways that I never have before.  I’m looking for something real and unique, that lasts, and Jungian psychotherapy may be key in helping me find what I need.

PHOTO: ©  All rights reserved Mirage a.k.a ĈħoCõħŏľíç
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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Jungian Psychotherapy for Midlife Issues

May 2nd, 2011 · help for midlife issues, midlife, midlife issues, psychotherapy for midlife issues

Of the available options for dealing with midlife issues, why choose Jungian psychotherapy?  The answer hinges on how we understand midlife, that period from the mid-/ later 30s, to the late 50s.

help for midlife issues

While the phrase “midlife crisis” is cliché, there is nonetheless a great deal of psychological change and adjustment that goes on in this part of life.  The individual can either deny this, in which case, life risks lapsing into sterility, or these changes can be confronted and embraced, and a new orientation discovered.

Here are some of the factors that make Jungian psychotherapy particularly appropriate for midlife issues.

  • Jung Stressed the Importance of Midlife

Jung paid enormous attention to the midlife period in human life.  Subsequent Jungians have followed in his footsteps.  Midlife was a vitally important period in Jung’s own life, and his psychology emphasizes the unique character of the changes at midlife.

  • Jungian Psychotherapy has an In-Depth Understanding of Midlife

A Jungian approach is extremely sensitive to developments in middle life.  It recognizes fully that values and priorities that have sustained the individual previously are undergoing renewal, and that a whole new approach to life may be emerging.

  • Jung’s Approach Emphasizes the Individual Journey

Jungian psychotherapy never loses sight of the importance of the unique journey of the individual.  A Jungian approach always looks for, emphasizes and honours the factors that make a person unique. It acknowledges that the dilemmas that an individual experiences are going to have to be met by an individual and unique solution — not “one size fits all”.

  • Jungian Psychotherapy Takes the Unconscious Seriously

In addition to the conscious parts of the human being, there is much that is going on in the unconscious.  Some of these things may emerge at midlife, in one form or another.  Understanding and coming to terms with these elements of the self is often essential for healing at midlife.

  • Depth Psychotherapy Affirms that Midlife is Meaningful

Often the struggles at midlife can make life seem like chaos.  A Jungian approach emphasizes that meaning is trying to emerge, and, if nurtured, will emerge, in the individual’s life. Thus, it offers concrete hope for the individual.

What is Trying to Emerge for You at Midlife?

If you are entering, in, or moving beyond midlife, what is trying to emerge in your journey at this time?  What are your individual concerns?  I would welcome your comments and questions.

Wishing you a vital and meaningful middle passage on your journey toward wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

To Main Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:  © Peter Chigmaroff | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 1

July 26th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, depth psychology, guilt, life passages, midlife, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, regret, soul, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

Regret is a power that can bring you to your knees.  A great many of us have experienced its power.  Sinatra may sing “Regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention.”  This sounds admirable and enviable, but over the course of a lifetime, most of us have to deal with some very powerful rendez-vous with the way it might have been.

Regret can be experienced at any point in life, but often at mid-life, regret can start to take on a particular intensity.  As we go through the journey of life, the awareness that we have only a finite amount of life left, a finite number of possibilities open to us, can lead us to an exquisite hyper-sensitivity to the regret we have for all the choices we could have made differently, roads we could have walked, ways that it might have turned out that it did not.  In other words, the life unlived.

How can we live with this awareness?  We may attempt to shrug it off, pretend it isn’t there.  But very often for us it is there, often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when all the spirits tend to come out.  Not a few of our addictive and compulsive behaviours — including workoholism — can stem from attempts to run away from regret.  But how can you or I run away from something so close to ourselves?

In my next few postings, I will be examining the phenomenon of regret, and the way it impacts us.  It can have a huge grip on us.  It can even imprison us, and embitter us beyond words.  But, let me ask a question that might seem strange:  Is there health in regret?  It’s clear how regret can be a poison, but, oftentimes, the cure for the poison is made from the poison itself.

Does regret play a part in your life?  Do you ever find the experience of regret both inescapable and painful?  I’d welcome any of your comments on this post.

My Next Post: Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 2: Understanding the Power of Regret

I wish you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety, Stress and Decisions

May 11th, 2010 · Anxiety, decision, Individuation, midlife, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, unconscious, wholeness

A great deal of stress and anxiety in peoples’ lives is associated with making major decisions that deeply effect personal life.  Very often, people come into therapy because they are hung on the horns of a major dilemma, with a decision to be made between two or more possible decisions or paths to take.

As we all know, making a life-changing decision can be a time of real struggle.  Often the choice may be of a kind from which there is no easy turning back.  In such a situation, if the stakes are high enough on each side, the dilemma can seem insoluble, and the situation can seem absolutely paralyzing.

This is in part because, there is often no easy, logical set of steps to take in making the fundamental decisions in life.  Decision-making is not nearly the logical, rational proposition that it is often portrayed to be, and that we would like to think that it is.  This is true whether we look at individual or group decisions.  I appreciated this article in the Financial Post newspaper of date, which concerned research into the psychological processes around decision-making demonstrates this:    //bit.ly/cd0whp

In the course of an ordinary human life, there will be decisions that will be true forks in the road.  These decisions will not be made easily, and making them may well have a very real personal cost.  As one enters mid-life, the frequency of these difficult, uncharted decisions tends to increase.  From the middle of life on, there will be more and more of an individual character to such major choices.  As one really confronts one’s own unique identity, and one’s own unique values and sources of meaning, conventional cookie-cutter answers to these dilemmas will be less and less readily apparent and less and less helpful.  If an individual is to find an authentic way to move forward at such a point, it will require genuine self exploration, and confrontation with the unconscious elements in him- or herself.

Coming to terms with the unconscious element of ourselves, and becoming aware of its presence and its effect on the direction of our lives is a transforming process.  The self that makes the decision and moves forward will necessarily be somewhat different from the self that originally confronted the dilemma.  Often it is the support provided by the container of depth psychotherapy that can make the difference between an end result that furthers a sense of despair and stagnation, and a resolution to the dilemma that provides a sense of greater unification and integrity of the self.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments on the decision process.  Have you confronted times in the recent past where making a major decision or decisions has been a source of great stress?  Have you ever had to confront decisions that had the feeling of being a genuine “fork in the road” or “crossing of the Rubicon” from which, once made, there was no turning back?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Main website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ffennema |Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Here in the Middle Years of Life: Is That All There Is?

February 28th, 2010 · Anxiety, depression, depth psychology, Hope, Identity, inner life, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, therapy

The great jazz artist Peggy Lee performed the following beautiful, highly disturbing yet haunting song in 1969, at midlife, in her 50th year:

I doubt that questions get much more real than those in this song.  And the question that Peggy Lee sings about here is of the type, that, for many people, can become achingly urgent at the middle of life. 

For many people, especially in our tumultuous times, the middle years of life can come to feel like an endless process of coping with chaos.  It can feel like life has become a time of just responding to one crisis after another: issues with maturing children, issues with the health of parents; job issues; issues of financial security.  At times, life can come to seem endlessly wearying, and very much as if there is nothing to it, but “just going through the motions”.  From such a place, for very many people, there can come a deep heartfelt cry: “Is this really all that there is to my life?  Is this all that I get?”

This moment, the moment of this question, is highly important in the life of the individual.  This is true, even especially true, if the time when this question arises is filled with depression, anxiety — even despair.

From experience with clients, I can almost guarantee that there will be no canned, pre-packaged answer to this question that will slake the desperate thirst of those who ask such a question. Only an answer rooted in the individual’s life will bring any peace, any hope, any meaning — any sense of value.

By an individual answer, I mean one that emerges from the very depths of the individual.  Not something that the individual’s intellect or conscious mind has cobbled together, but something that emerges from the very depths of the person, from what they most fundamentally are.  Something to which they can say “Yes!” with their whole being.

It is the task of good therapy (and of Jungian analysis) to assist the individual in finding the symbolic dimension that conveys meaning, to find the deep story or myth of an individual’s life.  There are many in suburban places like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga for whom the question “Is that all there is?” has become urgently real.  I invite you to enter into the therapeutic journey inward, to find your own inner treasure.

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections from readers.  Have you had the experience of wondering in this way “is that all there is”?  How has that question affected your life?  If you were willing to share this important and personal part of your life, I’d be deeply interested to dialogue with you.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

January 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, persona, puer aeternis, unlived life, wholeness, work

Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham

 

“Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

Up In the Air Official Website

Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

 

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