Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

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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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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Anger: Everybody Has It, So What Do We Do With It?

December 9th, 2008 · anger, collective consciousness, depression, depth psychology, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

Anger for Vibrant Jung Blog There is no easy way with anger.  It can be one of the most powerful psychological forces that we experience.  As an old song once said, "anger is an energy" — and it can be a force for growth in a person's life, or a source of misery and destruction.

At this time, the problem of dealing with anger is more on our minds in this society than it has surely ever been.  As a society, we really don't know what to do with it.  It is simply symptomatic of our confusion and uncertainty that a major fast food chain has created a major campaign centered around a hamburger called the "Angry Whopper"!

For many people, anger is the unacceptable "taboo" emotion, the one that has no real place in our lives, the one that "decent" or "reasonable" people avoid.  This is a lesson that many of us learned deep in the womb of the family.  When I think of my own upbringing, it is absolutely clear to me that most emotion was suspect, but anger in particular was completely anathema. Anger 2 for Vibrant Jung Blog

There is a trend in modern thinking to isolate anger, to treat it as some intruder in the human psyche or soul.  There is a tendency in much of modern psychology to want to wall anger off and treat it as a specific discreet problem that has only limited connection to the whole of a person's personality.  So we hear a lot about anger management and rage addiction.  This type of term that ignores the fact that a person's anger stems from real issues in the whole of that person's personality.

But those who have to deal with their anger or rage as personal problem know that such emotions are anything but discreet.  When they are in full force, they can often seem to take complete control of the personality, and to be completely in the driver's seat.

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Anxiety and the Downturn

November 30th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, panic, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, The Self, Wellness, wholeness

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The present economic conditions are deeply challenging to the ways that we all think about ourselves and our lives.  It takes a toll on all of us to be constantly bombarded with negative economic news that often seems only to get worse with each passing day.

It's evident to me from my practice how much anxiety is being created in each of us, and what a heavy burden a lot of people are having to carry in the present situation.  At the tail end of last week, there were numerous people who came through my office who were profoundly anxious and deeply scared at the things that they were seeing in their personal and working lives as we undergo the current economic crisis.

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How can we avoid being crippled by the anxiety and the fear?  There are a number of things to keep in focus.

First, the economic conditions that we are confronting are governed by the psychology of the crowd.  Modern communication technology only enhances and deepens this effect.  Crowd psychology is prone to irrational excitements and manias when things are good, and is equally prone to mass panics when they are bad.  In the short run, it can likely be expected that panic will actually worsen economic conditions, and we have to be prepared to weather that.

Second, we must fully expect that this mass panic is going to "hook" and activate all of our deepest fears.  Money is a very emotional matter for the vast majority of human beings.  It symbolizes our life-energy, which we have put into our work, through our sweat and sacrifice.  We can expect that, when we receive the kind of ominous news that has been about, we are going to initially respond with fear and anxiety — maybe even with terror.

Third, it is important to "hang onto ourselves" by not giving way to this fear and panic.  On balance, weighing decisions carefully at this time, and realizing that we are being infected, so to speak, by the panic of the crowd, and taking action in a way that really is in line with our own true feelings and emotions will lead us to courses of action that will serve us better.  Also, we need to hang on to the recognition that this crisis will not last forever.

Fourth, find your basic trust in life again, and act from that.  This is the time to draw on your deepest philosophical and religious convictions.  What do you really believe is important in life?  Do you believe that life is a meaningful journey, which is unfolding in a way that makes your life and the lives of the people close to you valuable?  If so, now is the time to put that belief in front of you, and to remind yourself of it constantly.

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It's Been a While Since I've Posted

November 16th, 2008 · depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, Wellness, wholeness

…because it's been an extremely busy time for me, professionally and personally!

  I haven't given up on this blog, though.  I'm still enjoying it and I still want to keep sending out thoughts and reflections, and welcoming dialogue with all of you.

If I can just paddle my canoe past the end of November, I should be back to my usual blogging frequency.

Canoe Paddle for Vibrant Jung Thing 

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Looking forward to more Vibrant Jung Thing, and wishing you all every good thing,

Brian

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In Suburbia At Age Forty-Five

November 2nd, 2008 · Current Affairs, depth psychology, Georgetown, Halton Region, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, wholeness

 One of the larger age groups that come to me for therapy are people who are at or right around the age of 45.

Age 45 man for vibrant jung thing blog © Aleksandar Nikolov Dreamstime.com

This is not entirely surprising to me.  For many people at this age, there is a tremendous amount going on in their lives.  As life unfolds for many people, this is an point in life where the individual is confronted with fundamental changes in his or her life.  These may not be obvious to outsiders, especially given the suburban lifestyle with its unique pressures.  Nonetheless, sometimes what is going on for people on the psychological level is enormous.

Does this mean that these people are mentally ill, or somehow suffering from "psychological disorders"?  Of course not.  But it does mean that these people are confronting some of the most fundamental psychological or existential issues in human life. 

For many of these people, the question of meaning is becoming a matter of increasing urgency.  In a lot of cases, the people who come to me are people who are very accomplished, and who have achieved a lot in their lives.  They have done what society has asked of them, in that they have moved out from the family of origin, gotten the necessary education, gotten into good careers, and often gotten married and raised families.  They are exemplary "good members of the community".  However, for many of them, there is a need for something more, now.  They are seeking for a life that is fulfilling for them.  They are seeking for a life that has value for themselves, individually.

Many such people are struggling with relationship issues.  There can be a strong feeling that the relationship that they are in is simply not currently meeting their needs.  Or else, they may have a strong feeling that their partner, who is often dealing with some pretty fundamental issues in his or her own life is no longer as fulfilled by the relationship as they once were.

Often these people are in the midst of deep changes in their lives.  Often they are unsure "which way is up", and they are asking questions about where lasting value is in their lives, and what they can hold onto that will give them a sense of orientation.  They are asking these questions in a deeply personal way: no "ready made, off the shelf" answer is going to work for them.  They are asking about who they really are, and they are asking what in their lives has lasting, incorruptible value.

These are the questions at the heart of what Carl Jung called the individuation process.  For many people in the age bracket anywhere from later 30s through the 50s. these questions can take on a tremendous urgency.

Who, most fundamentally, are you? 

What is most meaningful to you, personally, in your life? 

How will you live in the light of what is most important to you? 

These are not questions that stem from some sort of psychological disorder.  Rather they are questions that sane, healthy people naturally confront as they move through the journey of their lives.  Nonetheless, finding the answers that we need may be tied very strongly to incorporating new insights that emerge from the deepest parts of ourselves, and from the collective unconscious.  Often people need help to orient themselves in this unfamiliar territory, and to wrestle with their own depths.  I firmly believe that this is something that working with a compassionate therapist with deep experience with this type of issue and with the unconscious can provide.

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In Your Dreams

August 23rd, 2008 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, dreams, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, symbolism, wholeness

Night_dreams_vibrant_jung_thing_b_3 Looking at dreams is often a part of Jungian analysis.  Jungian analysis, along with other forms of depth psychology, maintains that dreams are meaningful, and that the dreams a person has are directly connected to what is going on in his or her life, both right at the present time, and over much longer periods of time.

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Sometimes people are afraid of looking at their dreams, or sometimes they feel gullible or silly for looking at them, as if this wasn’t "practical", or "down to earth" in some sense.  However, it is interesting to note that this attitude toward dreams in our culture is at odds with the views of most other cultures, and even with our own culture in earlier periods of time. 

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews certainly believed that their dreams were meaningful, and this attitude prevailed in the West throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and even up to andDream_sleep_vibrant_jung_thing_3   including the Enlightenment.  It is only with the rise of "hard core" empiricism and materialism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that our Victorian forebears began to be sceptical about dreams, a trend reversed by that very hard-nosed and commonsensical empiricist and rationalist, Sigmund Freud. 

                                                                                                                                                                            © Dewayne Flowers | Dreamstime.com

Unlike Freud, who saw dreams as a mechanism for preserving sleep by keeping repressed thoughts and Dream_sleep_2_vibrant_jung_thing impulses from emerging during sleep, Jung believed that dreams represent an on-going commentary by the unconscious on the conscious position and attitudes of the individual.  For Jung, the unconscious is composed of so much more than just repressed contents, and it has its own wisdom, which can sometimes greatly surpass the understanding of the conscious mind.  If that is true, then we can expect to glean many important insights from understanding the contents of our dreams.

© Petar Neychev | Dreamstime.com

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Chicago: An Enormous, Diverse, Extroverted, Friendly American City…

August 16th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul

Chicago_for_jung_blog

© Bonnie Pignatiello Leer | Dreamstime.com

I’ve just gotten back today from a trip to Chicago, and I apologize to my readers for the lack of posts over the last little while.  I plan to write about my trip, and to reflect on different psychological and soul aspects of my trip to that great city.

It was a wonderful trip!  Chicago is such a vital place! 

I couldn’t help drawing a lot of comparisons with Toronto as we explored different dimensions of the city.  There are certain similarities — large cities each located on the shores of the Great Lakes.  However, beyond these surface characteristics, the two cities are very different in very many ways.

Most fundamentally, I think , there is a difference in what Jung would call weltanschauung, or world view.  Perhaps to, say, Europeans, or Asians, the inhabitants of Chicago and Toronto would seem very similar.  However, I think that there are some fascinating differences in fundamental attitudes.  It’s hard to put this into words, except to say that, even in the midst of the current economic uncertainties, there is an extraordinary confidence that Chicago exudes.  Perhaps it’s a bit cliche, now, but I could hear the poetry of Carl Sandburg ringing in my ears as we travelled through the city.

It’s not a question of one collective outlook being either wrong or right, of course, but I’m intrigued with the differences in what seems to me to be each city’s collective perception of the world.  I hope to write more about this in subsequent posts.

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Under Milk Wood: Our Dreaming and Waking Selves

August 7th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, theatre, wholeness

Over the weekend my wife and I had the chance to see the Soulpepper Theatre production of Under Milk Wood, the Dylan Thomas work originally performed as a one-person monologue by the Welsh poet himself.  Many other versions of Under Milk Wood have used a large cast, with different actors playing the various characters, but in this version director Ted Dykstra and actor Kenneth Welsh go back to Thomas’ Boathouse_dylan_thomas_boathouse original idea of a monologue.  It’s an extremely energetic and demanding 85 minute performance for Welsh, but the result is an entrancing immersion in a small Welsh town and a deeply empathic, frank and often humorous engagement with the unique character of each of the inhabitants.  I found myself completely enthralled and drawn in by Mr. Welsh’s performance as this version of Under Milk Wood unfolded.

Laugharne Boathouse in Wales where Dylan Thomas spent many years and where he wrote some of his best poems.     © Hans Klamm | Dreamstime.com

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