Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Psychotherapy Oakville: 4 Insights into Natural Life

June 24th, 2013 · Oakville, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy Oakville

To practice depth psychotherapy in Oakville is to be aware of many key symbols in peoples’ lives, including “naturalness” or “the natural life”.

psychotherapy Oakville

This symbol has become of more and more importance to dwellers in affluent suburban communities like Oakville, especially in the last 15-20 years.  It seems clear that it resonates with the increasing divorce from nature that we have experienced in an advanced technological mass society.

What makes this symbol so potent for us?

Nature as Symbol

If you study the history of suburban life, you discover that, at its roots.  it’s really about return to, and increased contact with, nature.

The idea of suburbia springs from the awareness in late 18th and 19th century cities that life was increasingly divorced from meaningful connection with the natural environment.

So, as long as there have been communities like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga, their inhabitants have yearned for connection with the natural world.

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Outer Nature

Connection with outer nature concerns 21st century North Americans more and more.  You can see it reflected in a a vast variety of ways in popular culture, and in economic life.

Many of us feel acutely that our lives are more and more confined to artificially constructed environments.  Often that awareness brings a sense of claustrophobia.

psychotherapy Oakville

We want natural everything:  exposure to the outdoors; natural fabrics in our clothes; natural cleaning materials; and perhaps especially, natural foods and medications, due to our fear that ingesting man-made chemicals or GMOs may lead to grave illness.

In many areas, people flock to cottages at this time of year, often to experience less complicated living that seems closer to the natural environment.

Our yearning for closeness to nature — at least nature in its outward manifestations — seems boundless.

Inner Nature

What we may be less aware of is our need for a return to inner naturalness.  There is real danger that we can become over-civilized, over-technologized, and over-rationalized, thereby losing contact with who we most fundamentally are.

In particular, we can lose contact with those aspects of our own nature that don’t fit the mode and expectations of our society, or our idealized self-image, or fit the way we present ourselves — what Jungians call the persona or social mask.

Rediscovery of our connection with our most fundamental nature, with who and what we really are, may be experienced as a genuine liberation, accompanied by a deep sense of being wholly, and integrally, ourselves.

This is the deepest, and most profound, sense of contact with nature.

Psychotherapy Oakville: the Journey to My Own Nature

psychotherapy Oakville

One of the most painful things can be to discover that I am at odds with my deepest nature, with my most fundamental self.  This awareness can manifest in a profound yearning for authenticity and wholeness.  In this fundamental sense, the journey of individual therapy can be a journey toward natural life — life in connection with the whole of the instinctual and spontaneous Self.

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Issues for a Psychotherapist in Mississauga or Oakville

June 2nd, 2011 · Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, psychotherapist in Mississauga

psychotherapist in Mississauga

A psychotherapist in Mississauga or Oakville or surrounding areas faces some key issues that recur frequently.  Therapists in urban or rural areas face them, too, but they take on very specific forms in suburbia.

  • Isolation and Connection

It may not be apparent, but many people in suburban communities have to wrestle with loneliness, despite all the messages of family and togetherness.  The struggle that many people face is to find some meaningful connection with others.  No one wants to find themselves totally isolated, whether through geography, lack of time to make connections, or inability to find people with whom they have anything in common.

  • What is Persona: False Self, Real Self, Identity

We all need to wear social masks, but in suburban communities, those social masks can be particularly thick.  We may even have a lot of trouble distinguishing between our “social mask” — and who we really are.  Beyond the mask, what is really my own?  What do I really think and feel? What do I really want for myself?

  • Wealth: Too Much, Too Little

We pretend money is very rational, but wealth is actually a particularly emotional subject.  That is certainly true in suburban communities, where peoples’ identity very often hinges on their wealth and possessions.  People wrestle with how much is enough and whether they have to sacrifice who they are to make enough wealth for their needs.  This can be a real source of pain.

  • Hidden Pain

In communities like ours, we often subtly and unknowingly put pressure on people to look good.  And very often people do look good, and hide away the pain and difficulty in their lives, and then feel even lonelier.  People need some place where someone will listen to their story, and really witness and accept what they are going through in their lives.

  • Don’t Get Old!

How does one age with dignity and grace in communities that are all oriented to youth, family and children?  In our current, aging population, people are often made to feel that getting older is failure.  Couple that with the present environment where getting a job past age 55 is greatly more difficult, and getting older starts to feel like almost a crime.  We’ve lost the sense of wisdom and completion that goes with getting older in many cultures.

These issues call for psychotherapy that will bring healing, connection, meaning, and a resilient sense of personal identity.  Depth psychotherapy, such as Jungian analysis can bring this, by grounding us in our own deepest selves.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Main Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice

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

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Psychotherapy, Self and a Snow Day

February 2nd, 2011 · analytical psychology, Anxiety, depression, inner life, life journey, Lifestyle, Meaning, Oakville, Peel Region, personal story, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, reflection, Self, soul, The Self, therapy

Why am I writing about psychotherapy, snow days and the self today?  Because, if Environment Canada and the other weather folks are right, today will shape up to be the most significant “snow day” we’ve experienced in this part of Canada for a number of years.  And even if the weather folks are wrong, there’s a huge number of school and other closures, and people just staying home in anticipation of a huge dump of snow, whether it actually comes or not.  Psychotherapy would say that the snow day is a psychological and social reality, even if it turns out not to be a meteorological one.

So what do psychotherapy, psychology and the self, etc. have to do with a snow day?  I think it’s this.

Normal Expectations — Shut Down!

With a snow day, suddenly all of our normal expectations for the day just get shut down.  Normal routines and expectations of the day are put on hold.  There’s no taking the kids to school, and maybe no commute and time in the office.  Where we had expected an ordinary working day, filled with the usual frenetic busy-ness, we often get a much quieter day.  A day with unexpected elements of “down time” and maybe with significant blocks of empty space.

What do I Notice?

What do I notice in the middle of the unexpected emptiness of a snow day?  Potentially, many things.  One of them may be a lot of anxiety.  The sudden lack of agenda may lead us to feel an unexpected void.  Alternately, we might find ourselves feeling a bit “down”.  For some people, there may have been a feeling of anticipation of the snow day — “Oh, good, no work!” — which is gradually replaced by a feeling of listlessness that seems to creep in as they are confronted with inactivity.  And then, for some folks, there will be a genuine feeling of relief to just have some let up from the pressure of the daily routine in this unexpected way.

Opportunity

Whatever feelings you may confront, they bring an opportunity.  In this open space of time, you have the opportunity to learn something about yourself, about relationship, and about your feelings about your own real life.  This day, seeming empty, may prove to be a doorway, if you take the opportunity it provides to look within.

Three Psychological Questions to Ask Yourself Today

1.  What do I really feel today?  Please note: this is not the same question as “What do I think?” or “What do I think I ought to feel?” It’s a question that I ask myself when I’m trying to be as honest as I can about parts of myself to which I may not usually pay attention.

2. What do I really want today?  Again, this is not the same as, “What do I think I ought to want?”  Without censoring myself, can I be honest about what I’d really like in my life?

3. Is the Life I’m Leading Meeting the Needs of My Inmost Self?  If the answer to this question is “No”, or “I’m not sure”, this might be the moment to seek out the help of an experienced and qualified psychotherapist to do some in-depth self-exploration.

More than just “down time”, the open-ness of a snow day can be an opportunity to move into depth.

Wishing you a meaningful snow day — and a genuine encounter with your own dear self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock

December 22nd, 2010 · dreams, inner life, journey, Jungian, Jungian analysis, life journey, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, persona, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unconscious, wholeness

I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”.  Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in psychotherapy, in one form or another.  It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients.  In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.

A Dream Motif

The dreamer is trying to get somewhere.  Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot.  However, there is some obstacle.  She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road.  Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill.   However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens.  Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. 
In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.

The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure.  However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian psychotherapy could say about its meaning.

1.  The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction

Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward.  There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome.  The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work.  The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path.  No matter: the import of the dream is the same.  You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.

2.  To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality

However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past.  He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps.   There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood.  The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either.  The person can’t do what he or she used to do.  Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price.  What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment.  What is the individual to do?

3.  Something New is Needed

A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma.  Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach.  This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”.  The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped.  From the perspective of Jungian psychotherapy, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.

Is There Anything Across Your Path?

Have you ever encountered a dream of this type?  Have you possibly had such a dream recently?  As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon.  With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation.  If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.

Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 1

October 10th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, depth psychology, Hope, Meaning, mythology, Oakville, power, Psychology and Suburban Life, resilience, stress, trust, work

Some of the greatest stressors that people experience in the second decade of the 21st century stem from the things which people feel powerless to control.  At times, individuals can feel like life is a dice-roll.

I think that’s why a lot of people in Oakville are so happy about the cancellation of the Oakville Power plant.  Here in Oakville, the mood almost borders on euphoria.  It seems that the feelings are associated with a sense of release, though.  I think that this may be due to the fact that many in Oakville felt that the Power Plant was something close to an an inevitability because of the array of formidable powers (Ford, Trans-Canada and the Premier and Provincial Government) that apparently wanted to see it come to completion.  Fortunately, there were many in Oakville, in organizations like Citizens for Clean Air, who kept up a formidible fight.  And they succeeded, to their very great credit!

There are many things in the 2010s that can easily make people feel powerless.  Many of those things have to do with economics.  It is not that long since the 2008 market meltdown and the Great Recession which followed it, and the recovery which is underway can certainly seem precarious.  Many people have had to contend with job loss, and many more feel that their jobs–and the lives that they have built around those jobs–are precariously balanced.  To a lot of people, dreams that seemed readily attainable for their parents’ generation do not seem at all easily attainable for them.  And many worry about their children’s education and future — and their own later life.

In addition, the majority of us struggle, or have had to struggle with our own inner wounds.  For many people, there can be a strong sense that their experience growing up has not equipped them to feel strong and confident in meeting the challenges that they are facing in their lives.  It can be very hard to the people who feel that “something fundamental  was missing” in the kind of love and affirmation that they received from those who were supposed to love them.  For others, it can feel that events in their lives — loss of love, marital breakup, personal tragedy, trauma — have deprived them of the wherewithal to meet the challenges that life is putting in front of them.

What we each need to meet our lives is what psychologists increasingly refer to as resilience.  Simply put, resilience is the power to “roll with the punches” that life throws at us, and to “have the stamina to go the distance” in our lives, and to “hang in”.

What psychologists and sociologists have noticed in their study of the coping patterns of people, even people dealing with some of the most difficult situations imaginable, is that there are huge differences in how people respond, and whether they are able to cope and endure.  Even in appalling situations, there are some people who have the capacity to overcome their circumstances, and to find the courage to live meaningful and courageous lives.  Resiliency has been defined by psychiatrist Steven Wolin as:

the capacity to rise above adversity—sometimes the terrible adversity of outright violence, molestation or war—and forge lasting strengths in the struggle.

Clearly, we all need resilience.  But we have to be careful that the resilience that we seek is the real thing, not the fake kind.  I think most of us have had some experience with this less-than-authentic resilience.  The fake kind is kind found in the “you can do anything, rise above anything” variety of pep talk, that unfortunately is often found in self help literature.  Regrettably, it is also espoused by some psychologists and therapists.  This heroic version tends (consciously or unconsciously) to over-emphasize will power, and it papers over the cracks and the pain that often run unbelievably deeply in peoples’ lives.  This emphasis on “where there’s a will there’s a way” (a phrase Carl Jung hated) will not sustain when the chips are really down in life.

Mark Bolan’s Cosmic Dancer , which many of you may know from the movie Billy Elliot, itself an incredible celebration of resilience, uses the metaphor of dancing for resilience — “I was dancing when I was 12 / I danced myself right out of the womb / I danced my way into the tomb” :

So, how do we get to the real thing — to a resilience that is rooted in our own real lives?  This is a subject I’ll be pursuing in the next part of this series on “Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth”.

What are your “impressions” on the whole subject of resilience?  What is it for you?  What is it rooted in?  I’d welcome any of your reflections.

I wish you every good thing as you make your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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MUSIC CREDIT: Mark Bolan and T Rex performing “Cosmic Dancer” from the album “Electric Warrior” © 1971 Warner  This music is the property of Warner and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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What Do You Think About Therapy?

September 27th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, therapy

What is your attitude towards doing therapy?  Is it something that you would ever consider?  Is it something only for severely damaged people, or “sick” people?  Or is it something that may be of importance for ordinary, everyday people?  In recent years, many peoples’ attitudes have changed — a lot!

There was a time, not so many years ago, when going to a psychotherapist would have been a major stigma.  If people knew that someone was going to see a “shrink”, to use that term, there would have been an attitude toward the individual which would have been positively demeaning.  There would have been a whole series of conclusions drawn — many of them not very savoury — about the individual’s competency, maturity, “well-adjustedness”, and possibly even his or her sanity.

But now times have changed, and attitudes have changed with them.  While you can certainly still find many people whose attitudes towards those who go to therapy would be miscoloured by prejudices and stereotypes, for most this is not the case.  A lot of people are coming to realize that therapy — of the right type — can lead to a much more complete and fulfilling life, for people in general who are struggling with some of the normal processes of what Jungians call individuation, or the journey to wholeness.

I believe that this is particularly true of that form of therapy known as Jungian analysis.  One of the characteristics of Jungian analysis is a fundamental affirmation of the uniqueness of each individual, in combination with the belief that each individual is on a unique journey to become the whole person that they carry as a latent potential within themselves.  From a Jungian perspective, a great many people, perhaps the majority, could benefit from a thorough experience in therapy to help them clear away the roadblocks to becoming, and also to get a much clearer sense of who it is that they are, at the most fundamental level.

Certainly people come into Jungian analysis, often, because they have certain specific issues with which they want to deal.  It is characteristically true that every human will encounter situations of wounding or conflict or loss of direction or orientation.  That is simply part of the human condition. But what emerges in therapy, what constitutes the healing factor in it, is a growing awareness of the individual’s fundamental make-up, and of the journey upon which they have been embarked, all this time.  Therapy, and Jungian analysis in particular, has the power to give a person a perspective that differs fundamentally on all kinds of levels from that with which the individual entered the therapeutic work.  For many, therapy brings a depth to ordinary life that cannot be reached in any other way.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on the role of therapy in our lives today.  The position I’m taking is that therapy at the right time can benefit almost everyone.  Do you agree with me, or do you have different perspective?  Have you had any experiences with therapy, whether good or bad?

Wishing each of you the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga psychotherapy practice:

www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 2: Where is Home?

June 10th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Halton Region, Home, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology and Suburban Life, Relationships, The Self, therapy, wholeness

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how the experience of connection to a specific place that is home can be powerful and profound. However, there are also many people for whom there is no connection to a sense of home.  And, for any of us, there can be many times–perhaps long periods–when we feel that we have lost anything that resembles that connection.

There are many real people for whom the experience of not having a place where they belong is overwhelmingly powerful and poignant.  We may not be that sort of person, may not feel that way.  And yet, very often, there is something in the experience of these people that can profoundly resonate with us.

OK, I admit it: I am really dating myself with the video below.  It’s from 1970, but, nonetheless, I’ve decided to include it, because I think that it represents a remarkable musical expression.  The group is Canned Heat, a blues-rock band from California, and the singer/blues harmonica/group leader is a young man named Alan Wilson.  In my opinion, Wilson’s singing here, in his inimitable blues manner profoundly touches on the experience of what it is to feel without a home.  By today’s standards, the video is very rudimentary, and the band seems far from polished in its stage presence.  However, as you watch and listen to Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sing and play “blues harp”, it is hard to avoid the feeling that he is putting the whole of himself, the whole of the pain in his life, into those lyrics of endless wandering, “on the road again”.

“The first time I travelled on, in the rain and snow / I didn’t have no fare, not even no place to go…”

“My dear mother left me, when I was quite young / She said, Lord have mercy, on my wicked son…”

This is really an aspect of all of us.  It’s an archetypal theme.  Homer’s Ulysses on his seemingly endless 10 year struggle — and all he wants to do is get back home to Ithaca.  Aeneas, in Virgil’s Aeneid, sole Trojan survivor and refugee from the sack of Troy, for whom there is no home to which he can go back–he must just keep on moving, that’s all there is.

As good as the human experience of home may be, there are those voices that would remind us that the welcome is never quite complete and total enough.  In the words of the German writer and poet Hermann Hesse, “One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”  But there is always a sense in which we are journeying onward.

The truth seems to be that our deepest yearning for home is something that cannot be fully met by an outer place, however wonderful. We may feel deeply connected to the place of our birth or family life, for instance, and yet something is missing, something for which we yearn.  This is because home, the real home we are seeking is something within ourselves and our own being.  Symbollically, it is the center of the mandala.  Home is connection with the centre of our own being; it is to be accepting of and at home with the deepest part of the self.  But to find that, we must undertake an inner journey.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you yearned for a feeling of security and rootedness?  Do you know what it is to be “on the road”?

Are there people who make you feel at home with their warmth and acceptance, as Hesse suggests?

Have you had the experience of feeling at home in yourself, of accepting who and what you are, and accepting your life?

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on the archetypes of home and homelessness.  What would it mean in your life in your life for you to truly “come home”?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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VIDEO CREDIT:

© 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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Welcome to the New Home of “Vibrant Jung Thing!”

May 5th, 2010 · Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy

Dear Readers,

With some great help, I’ve finally been able to move my blog onto my main website, which is something that I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  I hope that you will continue to read and enjoy my posts.  Having the blog on my main site makes it easier to see how the posts are connected to my counselling, psychotherapy and Jungian analysis practice.

I invite you to check out the “Welcome” page, to get a clearer sense of what I do as a therapist, and my particular concern for soul-making and wholeness, and especially what that means for people in suburban places like Oakville, Mississauga and Burlington.

I also invite you to look at the “About Brian” page for more information on me and my background and The Journey in order to get a sense of the kind of clients with whom I work.

So, for me, getting the blog to this point is the completion of a journey of sorts.  My hope is that Vibrant Jung Thing will continue to be a resource that you can use on your journey to yourself.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Missdolphin |Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Men’s Issues

April 28th, 2009 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, Identity, masculinity, mens issues, Mississauga, Oakville, persona, Psychology, psychotherapy for men

mens issues We live in a society and a time when this has become a burning question with which many men are struggling.  The old understandings of maleness and masculine identity don’t work any more, but what are we supposed to put in their place?

Recently, I attended a production by Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross.  Director David Storch and the Soulpepper company have succeeded in giving us a very provocative production of a rather well-known play.  I had read the play, and was familiar with the excellent film version with Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin, but I feel that what Soulpepper’s version particularly opened up for me was the dilemmas around masculine identity in which the men in the play find themselves.

This is a play in which macho male identity fairly runs wild.  The setting is a suburban Chicago real estate office in the early 1980s — at the time of the last big economic downturn.   Things are obviously desperately difficult for the salesmen in this office.  Few sales are being made.  To make things that much worse, the management of the office initiates a particularly brutal sales contest: first prize, a new Cadillac; second prize, a set of steak knives; and, the bottom two sellers end up fired.

The atmosphere that is created is a hideous stew of competitiveness, bravado, insecurity and intrigue.  The salesmen are brutally competitive, and obsessed with the question of who is up and who is down.  The salesmen’s competitiveness co-exists with their deep yearning for respect from the other men, and with strange, agonizing moments when the men stand revealed in their desperate vulnerability. 

If there is a tragic figure in the play, it is Shelley “the Machine” Levine, a salesman in his 50s.  Once celebrated as an unstoppable selling machine, Shelley has now lost the ability to sell.  He oscillates between pathetic begging, verbal abuse of others, obnoxious triumph and utterly craven despair.  He is trapped by the outer situation in which he finds himself, but also by his own relentless drive for success, which in his case can only mean that he is able to demonstrate his power and virility by outstripping and What Is a Real Man for Vibrant Jung Blog 2 humiliating other men in the office.

These salesmen understand themselves to be “men”, i.e., “real men” as opposed to the bureaucrats and paper pushers whom they feel are taking over the world.  The world of cutthroat competitiveness, deceit and inescapable isolation is what they understand to be their masculine birthright.  In watching these men, trapped by their circumstances, certainly, but above all, trapped by their individualism (not to be confused witn individuation!), insecurities, and by the hard but brittle masks they are compelled to present to each other and the world, it is hard to avoid the question, “Is that all there is?”  If so, things must seem to be pretty bleak for males.

 

Clearly Mamet portrays an extreme situation in excruciating and eloquent detail, but the questions that Glengarry Glen Ross raises are deep indeed.

How can men relate to each other without the demon of competitiveness destroying the possibility of friendship or even respect?

Is male self-esteem only to be achieved by winning competitions with other men?

Can a man show his vulnerability and humanity to another man without being humiliated for doing so?

How can I ever feel secure in my identity as a man?

These are questions I hope to explore in the next part of this series.


If you have any comments on this blog post, as always, I’d welcome them.  Also, if you have any topics or subjects that you’d like to see here, please let me know.  I value greatly the input of those who take the time to read this blog!


 

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

Brian Collinson


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

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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