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Tending the Soul and the Passage of Time in the Holidays

December 5th, 2022 · passage of time

The yearly arrival of the Holidays reminds us of both continuity and the passage of time. What does this mean for tending the soul, the essence of ourselves?

(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

As we go through the repeated cycle of the year there is something that is comforting and reassuring in its recurrence and stability. Yet, there is something else as well. As we see the years go by, we are reassured to see the seasons pass in their regular ways. But then, we are also haunted by an awareness of something else. That is the passage of time, and its meaning for our particular, individual lives.

The seasons, and particularly the Holidays, come back to us in their endless repetition. In many ways, with their traditions and patterns, they stay the same, recurring again and again. Yet what happens to us as individual humans, is different. We find that we change, and we age, in many ways. Each of us is a somewhat different individual every time that the Holidays come back to us.

With each year, we have had a little more experience, a little bit of change in ourselves. We notice this particularly as we get near to the midlife transition, and then travel on in the second half of life. These life stages draw our attention more and more to the passage of time and the changes in ourselves.

These types of realizations can evoke very strong feelings. The Holidays are a time when we might feel them particularly strongly.

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, [whatever they do, whoever they are].

~C.S. Lewis

It All Passes By!

In many ways, it’s very good news that we experience the passage of time through the return of events like the Holidays. As a culture, we experienced an unbearable sameness of time in the lockdowns of the recent pandemic period. I wrote about this in my 2020 blogpost Lockdown, Soul and the Passage of Time . We need some ways to mark and measure the passage of time, in order to feel that life has momentum and meaning—in essence, to keep it human.

The Holidays appear and then reappear in our lives, with something of the same feelings associated with them every time they make their return. Often this adds to the sense of meaning in our lives. We are connected, to our earlier and later selves, to family, friends and everyone who is celebrating the same season, and to previous and following generations. This connection with the fabric of the human race, and to the flow of the human story, is of great importance to us.

The Passage of Time in Our Individual Lives

Yet this same awareness of the passage of time associated with the Holidays may lead us to reflect on our lives as individuals. Each passing Holiday season may remind us of the passage of time in our individual lives. As another year goes by, we may well reflect on what the year has brought for us as individuals. It may lead us to ask ourselves whether we’re getting the things that we want and need from our lives. These questions may be particularly acute if we’re going through a major life transition, or are dealing with grief or major loss.

Our awareness of time may lead us to the question of individual identity and meaning. For human life to stay viable, we have to have some sense of meaning connected to our individual existence. What we find meaningful varies greatly from individual to individual. That we need something meaningful in our lives for us is a basic fact of each of our human lives.

Who am I? The question I had my whole life.

~Kim Namjoon, BTS

The passing seasons and years make us strongly aware of the passage of time. That may give a sense of deep importance and urgency to the question of what has deep meaning and reality in our lives. As the unique individual that I am, what, for me, carries the deep sense of reality and value for which I yearn?

Meaning and Reality for Me, In the Passage of Time

The search to discover what has meaning and reality for each of us, in our uniqueness, is a key part of the individuation process. It’s an essential element in the unfolding of our unique selves. Another way to look at this is to view it as a fundamental kind of compass. It gives us the ability to know to what we wish to say yes to, or no to, on the journey of our lives.

Working with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist or analyst can be of immense help in furthering our search for meaning and reality. It can be of great value as we seek to unfold the majesty and mystery of the passage of time in our lives.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Lockdown, Soul and Marking The Passage of Time

August 17th, 2020 · passage of time

Marking the passage of time in important ways is a quintessentially human activity. However in these COVID times, it’s become a great deal more difficult to do.

I don’t mean that we can’t tell what time it is: of course, the clocks still work! But that’s something different from being aware of the passage of time in a psychological sense.

Yes, you can still watch the hands of the clock go around during the time of COVID. But the problem for many people is the endless sameness of each day, when work occurs in the same space as homelife and relaxation, when there are limited destinations outside of the house, and when few people can gather at any one time and place.

Our human life depends greatly on indicators that map out the passage of time as we experience it subjectively. A great deal of research in modern neuroscience has emphasized that there are strong linkages between our emotional state, and the ways in which we subjectively experience the passage of time. Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to use the term “flow” for the way time passes when we’re caught up in pleasurable, engaging experiences where all distractions are shut out. In recent years, research has also done much to confirm and explain our felt sense that time passes quicker as we age as individuals.

The marking of personal time, of the passage of seasons and the occurrence of significant events and major life transitions in our lives is a matter of the greatest importance for meaningful human life. It’s not overstating things to say that it is key to having the sense of being truly alive.

Loss of Soul

Loss of awareness and failure to observe the special, meaningful character of time is strongly connected with the loss of awareness of key aspects of our inner life, sometimes referred to as “loss of soul” by depth psychotherapists. This is something we can experience powerfully during times of lockdown. The days drift into one another, when weekdays can seem just the same as weekends, when cherished regular activities have been put on hold, and when even family routines have been disrupted (e.g., taking the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house).

As a result of this “flattening out”, our lives can begin to lose the dimension of soul, as Jungians and other depth psychotherapists would say. The deep human significance of human events gets lost. We see this loss at its most extreme, when we see what happens with some of the turning points or very special major life transitions during the lockdown. One hears of couples getting married, and of almost all the guests only being able to attend virtually. The same has been experienced by a substantial number of people around funerals of family members. And the most extreme example has occurred when people who are fatally ill with COVID have been forced to leave this life without being able to see any family members. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how dreadful such an experience would be.

Flattening Out, Dampening Down

Denial of the need to acknowledge the special moments in our human life results in a loss of our connection to meaning and to what has lasting importance—a loss of connection to the archetypal dimensions of human life, as Jungians refer to it. As Jung and Viktor Frankl and many existentialist and humanistic psychologists have pointed out, one of the key things that human beings need to survive and thrive is a sense of meaning. We strongly need to feel that there is a significance to our lives, to feel that what happens to us matters.

The purpose of ritual, celebration and commemoration in human life is to make us conscious of the connection between what we’re doing or living and some bigger, more fundamental story. Whatever form it takes, we need this connection back to the meaning of the passage of time—in order to stay human.

Creativity and the Passage of Time

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel to the City of Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is famous for the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest Shakespearean festival. This year, because of COVID-19, the regular season of plays, all held in indoor venues, had to be cancelled. To its credit, though, the City didn’t respond to these events by lapsing into despair or passivity.

When you walk on the streets in Stratford this summer, you get the sense of a great deal of life! A large number of the restaurants in the central part of the city have created patios, so that, even if people cannot be in the restaurants for dinner, they can be out enjoying meals on the streets, which are full of life and pedestrian traffic. None of the Festival’s plays can currently be performed indoors, but various theatre groups have created plays that you can watch out of doors—or seated in your car, as if for a drive-in movie. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, they’ve created a marvelous little music barge with a good sound system, which enables some fine musical artists to perform out-of-doors while travelling up and down the Avon river, which runs through the centre of town. It’s all quite impressive!

It seems to me that Stratford has done something that we all need to do in the face of the sense of shut-down and restriction that we have faced as a result of COVID-19. The CIty has found ways to acknowledge and show that this summer period is something special, even if people can’t do the “normally special” things that are usually associated with Stratford in the summer. The people and organizations of Stratford have used their various creative abilities to mark the passage of this summer season in some valuable, meaningful ways.

I believe that essentially all of us are called by the Self to use our own individual creativity to achieve similar kinds of result, which acknowledge the passage of time in meaningful ways during this time of COVID. It’s very important that each of us find good, personally fulfilling ways to acknowledge important events in our own lives, and to understand the movement occurring in our own lives and of those who are close to us.

An important part of the work of depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis is to find connection with the deep meaning and significance of the events of our own lives, and to identify ways to honour the meaning we find in our own journey. This is always important, but in this time of COVID-19, it takes on an even greater value and meaning.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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