Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

What is A Midlife Crisis? What is a Transition to Later Life?

March 11th, 2019 · Psychology and Suburban Life

Well, what is a midlife crisis? Could you possibly be having one now? Or, is something else important unfolding in your life?

Image: “Mid Life Crisis 2” by Steve A. Johnson
The standard image of a midlife crisis has certainly made its way into the media and the popular psyche. It’s a pretty stereotypical, almost cartoon-ish image! It has a lot to do with middle-aged males leaving their wives for much younger women, and zipping around town in newly purchased flashy red sports cars. Some people do have midlife experiences of this type. Yet, it’s important to cast our net much more widely if we want to understand the kinds of transitions that people undergo at midlife — and later in the second half of life.
Firstly, it’s not just males who go through major life transitions in the middle of life. Far from it! Females are just as likely to enter a period of real questioning and soul-searching as a part of midlife transition. Males and females alike often fully realize in midlife that life doesn’t last forever, and feel that that puts particular emphasis on what each of us chooses to do with the rest of life.
What’s more, the particular challenges of the middle of life, and the second half of life have a way of being very individual. We can see the first half of life for many people as very much being about living in a way that meets the broad expectations of family, peer groups, or society as a whole. The second half of life is very much about finding things in life that hold value specifically for me. So, the particular way that these issues come up for each person in a “midlife crisis” or midlife transition vary so enormously that we always have to ask, “What kind of a ‘midlife crisis’ is this individual having?

What is a Midlife Crisis — for Me?

Each of us has to ask ourselves how the previously unacknowledged parts of ourselves are confronting us as we move into, or through, the second half of life.

One person may find that issues around career are bringing up deep questions about what is meaningful or worth doing in life. Another may find him- or herself asking important questions about key relationships with a partner or a spouse. Someone else may find that they are going through significant changes in their ethical, spiritual or religious orientation. Others may find that they are strongly attracted to some new interest that seems even “out of character” with the way that they have thought of themselves to this point in their lives.

In my own case, at one point in my midlife journey, it was pretty much a blend of “all of the above.” Your experience will differ — as it does from individual to individual. As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us,

When one has let go of that great hidden agenda that drives humanity and its varied histories, then one can begin to encounter the immensity of one’s own soul.

James Hollis, The Eden Project

It’s important to recognize that any and all of these experiences may also be accompanied by the experience of anxiety and/or depression. The presence of anxiety or depression may well be one of the things that alerts us to the fact that we are going through the transition into the second half of life.

Business as Usual? — Probably Not An Option

There’s a psychological liability in trying to ignore the inner voices that may come up in the middle of life. It can be very tempting to simply pretend that everything in our lives is just as it always was — even though at the deepest level, we know that it isn’t. Hollis speaks of this inertia in us in the context of spirituality:

In moments of spiritual crisis we naturally fall back upon what worked for us, or seemed to work, heretofore. Sometimes this shows up through the reassertion of our old values in belligerent, testy ways. Regression of any kind is just such a return…

James Hollis, What Matters Most

Often we can try to simply ignore the reality of what is happening in mid-life. However, it’s not likely that we’ll be able to feel that life is flowing for us, and moving beyond stagnation, unless we take changing realities seriously.

Your Unique Journey

The process of uncovering the personal meaning of these changes will involve creative disruption. Moving in the direction of living out our own uniqueness is the only life-giving way through these challenges. Hollis puts it in perspective for us:

We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide [examples] for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.

Hollis, What Matters Most

It’s only when we’re on the road to our own individual selves, our own particular, unique sense of what is meaningful in our lives, that we can find any lasting sense of value in our lives. It’s essential to commit ourselves to trying to understand ourselves as we emerge, and to discern what begins to call to us, as we journey into the second half of our lives. Jungian depth psychotherapy may well prove to be an invaluable aid on this journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2019 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS: karludeman (Creative Commons Licence)

→ No Comments

7 Stress Management Tips That Take Soul Seriously, 1

November 30th, 2014 · Psychology and Suburban Life

At times like the Holidays, it’s common to see the appearance of lists of stress management tips.  And no wonder!  It’s a very demanding time.

stress management

Stress management tips often seek to help us “cope” with stress.  This post looks at stress from a depth psychotherapy or Jungian perspective.  It focuses a little more at human depth — what depth psychotherapists mean when they talk about “soul”.

The trouble with many “coping strategies” or “stress management tips” is that they don’t really deal with root issues.  They can feed a desire to keep doing exactly what we’re already doing, but just “turn the symptoms off” — the pressure, the anxiety, the depression.  Hopefully these tips go deeper.

 1. Minimize Mass Media and Social Media

Mass media can very easily be a source of stress.  The mass media often use peoples’ anxieties to induce viewership and buying behaviour.  Consider this little vignette as a prime example:

 

Clearly, it’s intended to be funny and “an exaggeration”, but what is this advertisement really telling us?  That we should be putting pressure on ourselves to “make the holidays special” — and the only way to do that is to spend.

The advertisement above is a mass media ad, but the same kind of messaging regularly permeates social media.

stress management tips

2. Don’t Let it be About Stuff

This is a truth about all of life, but it takes on particular importance at Holiday time.

A dominant message in our culture is that the only way to have a good or worthwhile life is through the accumulation of wealth.

Of course, there’s a natural human desire to “make the Holidays special”.  It’s a fundamental, even archetypal dimension of human experience to identify certain days as special, festive, even sacred time.  Yet, very many cultures are quite able to do that without the obsessive accumulation of gifts, decoration, food, entertainment — and debt — that our society now takes as the norm for the Holidays.

I think that we need to be honest and admit that in our culture, there is a very strong collective pressure and message: you are not being a good parent, friend or partner unless you have “the right” Christmas, “the right” gift and ‘the right” sort of holiday.

What about using the holidays — and our lives in general — to connect with ourselves, and with the people we love?

tips for stress management

3. Listen to Yourself

A key way to get beyond killing stress levels in general, and especially at the Holidays is to start to engage in discernment.  We need to get beyond the conscious and unconscious collective pressures and messages about what’s important, and listen to our deepest selves.  This isn’t easy: it’s time-consuming, requires careful attention to our inner life, and appropriate help, like depth psychotherapy.

Here are three key ways to do that.

Listen to your body.  We can be totally driven by stress, and yet be quite unconscious of it.  We can learn a lot about our stress from examining our bodies, and coming to understand the places that it shows up.  Do you have tight steely muscles in your neck, for instance?  That’s likely stress.  Can you determine what’s causing it?

Pay attention to your feelings.  This can be our emotional states, which we may not even be aware that we have (see “Listen to your body!”), but it can also be much subtler feeling states (“I like this; I don’t like that; this makes me feel like…”).  This stuff is often the very rich reality of ourselves.

Pay attention to your dreams.  You may need to get help with this, but there are many things you can notice from dream reality that relate to your stress level.

Depth psychotherapy offers much that’s relevant to stress management, but it’s rooted in insights about our real individual identity and the deeper self.

In Part 2, we’ll look at numbers 4 to 7 of our depth psychotherapy stress management tips.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © I See Modern Britain modified ; Dylan Tweney modified;  
VIDEO: © 2014 Target Brands, Inc. quoted for the fair use purpose of critical comment and inquiry
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

→ No Comments

Coping with Change: Archetypal & Individual Therapy

February 15th, 2012 · archetypal, change, coping, coping with change, individual therapy, Psychology and Suburban Life, therapy

Individual therapy

To practice individual therapy in 2012 is to see how coping with change plays an ever greater role in peoples’ lives.  Many of my clients are forced to cope with a faster and faster pace of change almost month to month.  Change at work can be the most strenuous, but sometimes coping with change in other areas of life can be as much of a challenge.

“Embrace change” is the continual message.  But when is it too much?  Change can leave us empty and completely disoriented.  Can we protect ourselves?  Here are 4 insights from individual therapy about coping with change.

1.  Endless Demand

We all accept change as a given, in our era.  We’re continually told that we should comply with its demands, no matter how voracious they might be, and that resistance to any change is living in the past.  We continuously face external demands for change, which can turn toxic when mixed with our own  inner perfectionism and compulsiveness.

2.  Anxiety

The continual anxiety experienced in our time often pertains to a feeling that there is nothing firm to hold onto.  But this feeling often stems from the fact that we’ve been led to believe there is nothing to hold onto; we expect everything to slip between our fingers.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially with our personal needs and wants.

3.  Instinct, Archetype

We are so cut off from our instinct that we think it irrelevant.  Our culture endorses the idea that people are born as blank slates, devoid of instinct.  Only very slowly is evolutionary psychology reversing this.   In Jung’s phrase, coined long before evolutionary psychology, only now are we re-discovering “the 2 million year old man.”

As an archetypal symbol, “home” is incredibly multifaceted in its symbolic meaning.  But we seem to have forgotten one instinctual thing that any cave dweller could tell us : we need a real home to survive.  Many today act as if they need a mere dormitory or place to put their stuff.  Many more are so glued to their electronics that they invest nothing in creating the social fabric of their homes.

4.  The Part of Ourselves that Knows

In dreams, health concerns, and modern addictions, the instinctual and archetypal self cries out for something beyond rootlessness, anxiety and the relentless churn of the Next New Thing.  As we explore the wisdom of the self in therapy, we gain a greater and greater sense of those individual parts of our life that give value and stability.

PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by 416style
© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

→ No Comments

Individual Psychotherapy & Hope: 4 Jungian Truths

November 10th, 2011 · Hope, individual, individual psychotherapy, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy

individual psychotherapy
Hope is key to individual psychotherapy — especially for the Jungian therapist.  It is always true that the hope of the client is going to be essential to the healing process of the psyche.  But, especially in an age like ours, with the continual struggle that many face to keep hope alive, hope becomes even more crucial.

1)  Hope from Within, Not Without

We tend to look outward for hope, to external realities.  However, the truth is, that we will not be able to experience a sense of hope from outer events, unless we first experience hope within ourselves, in the form of some new possibility for being.  If we can meet possibilities in ourselves — for real feeling, for love, for a deepened sense of self-esteem, for living some hitherto unlived form of life — then we can begin to trust and hope outwardly.

2)  I have a Unique Individual Identity; Others See That I’m Real

One of the deep changes that can come through individual psychotherapy can come from the reality of feeling listened to, and truly “seen” as we are.  As we experience ourselves through the other, we can come to realize that what we are is unique and unrepeatable.  I realize that “I” exist: that there is a wholeness, a reality and a persistence to me.

3)  The Self is Greater than the Ego

Not only is there a reality, a substantiality to me, I am also greater than I know.  I am greater than my idea of myself.  Outside of my conscious self  is the vastness of the unconscious self, full of aspects of my being that are yet to be explored, the realm of dream, myth and symbol.  When I can enter a dialogue with this vast inner sea, and discover how it responds to, and is connected with, my conscious self, there is a sense that, as Walt Whitman put it, “I am large; I contain worlds.”

individual psychotherapy

4) The Psyche Has the Inner Wisdom to Heal Itself

The vast reality of psyche is revealed in dreams and other manifestations.  In ways often unknown to me, psyche is striving to solve its own dilemmas, and to heal itself.  Part of me, hidden from consciousness, knows how to begin to heal itself, and knows where it is going.  The challenge of individual psychotherapy is to unlock that inner wisdom of the self, and to move in harmony with it.

PHOTO:  © All rights reserved by mosaicmuse(Valerie)
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

 

→ 2 Comments

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)

→ No Comments

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Gabe Ramos
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga )

→ No Comments

Psychotherapy, Projection and Relationships

April 12th, 2011 · projection, Psychology and Suburban Life, Relationships

Projection is a very common thing that we all unconsciously engage in, and depth psychotherapy is very concerned with how it colours relationships.  What does psychology mean by “projection”?  Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels writes:

Projection may be seen as… a defence against anxiety.  Difficult emotions or unacceptable parts of the personality may be located in a person or object external to the subject.

Samuels, A., et al., Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis(London: Routledge, 1986)

Seeing Me in You

So, basically, if there’s something about myself that I don’t like, or don’t want to acknowledge, I can unconsciously start to see it in other people, and that makes me feel less anxious about myself and the situation.  Although, depending on what I’m “projecting”, it may not make the other person feel very good… and it likely will not help the relationship between us.

Jung has some choice things to say about our projections upon others:

We are still so sure we know what other people think, or what their true character is.  We are convinced that certain people have all the bad qualities that we do not know in ourselves, or that they practice all those vices which could, of course, never be our own….  If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all these projections, then you get someone who is conscious of a considerable shadow….  He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against.

 C. G. Jung, “Psychology and Religion” in Collected Works, vol. 11

And, in relationship, such a person would also not so easily be able to say “you do this”, “you are wrong”, or things of that sort.

It is mind-boggling what we project on others, and how ready we are to see in them those “shadow” parts of ourselves that we don’t wish to acknowledge.  We also project the characteristics of others — mother, father, sibling, etc. — on others in our lives.  On top of all that, we make purely archetypal projections: for instance, we can easily project the anima, the animus, the Wise Old Man or the Wise Old Woman.

A Big Challenge

One major challenge in psychotherapy is getting past the projections,and actually seeing the real person in front of us, instead of our unconscious illusory constructs.  This takes some doing!  To recognize, for instance, that I may be misconstruing my boss as my hyper-critical father (real life Brian-based example here!), is something that takes quite a bit of work to understand — and more to get beyond.

Similarly, recognizing when I have projected aspects of myself that I have difficulty acknowledging on another person, and actively accepting those parts of myself, may take real psychological stamina.  I may see aspects of myself — pettiness, intolerance, stubborness — that I don’t like at all.  Seeing these, understanding how they came about, and then having compassion for myself while acknowledging that these traits genuinely are part of me may take quite a bit of doing.  However, when I can do it, energy for living my life, and a sense of completeness, are liberated within me.

When the Movies Stop: Ending Your Own Projections

Taking back projections is a key part of the work of psychotherapy.  While it is demanding, and we often resist it, it brings real vitality, and a deep sense of having been really honest with oneself.  Have you ever had the experience of suddenly realizing that the way you have perceived someone else is completely wrong?  How about the way that you perceive yourself?  In my own experience, acknowledging that certain attitudes or inclinations are part of me has at times been particularly tough, but also full of genuine growth.  Entering into real psychotherapy brings this into our lives, giving us a healthier, more authentic relationship with our deepest self and with others.

I welcome your inquiries and comments.

Wishing you every good thing on your journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

To Main Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice


1-905-337-3946


PHOTO CREDIT:  © Jackq | Dreamstime.com

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

→ 2 Comments

Psychotherapy and Renewal: Persephone’s Big Comeback

April 5th, 2011 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, life passages, mythology, personal myth, personal story, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, renewal, Self, soul, therapist, therapy, unconscious

Frederic Leighton – The Return of Persephone (1891).

There’s a lot of truth for psychotherapy in the Greek myth of Persephone and it’s all tied up with the yearly renewal of the seasons.  Persephone, a vegetation goddess, and the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, was kidnapped and ravished by Hades, the king of the Underworld, and taken to live in his realm.

Demeter, so distraught at her disappearance, refused to let crops or vegetation grow anymore until her daughter was returned.  The gods finally prevailed on Hades, who agreed to let her go.  However the all-wise Fates had decreed that anyone who consumed the food of the underworld was destined to stay there for eternity.  Alas, wiley Hades had persuaded Persephone to eat 3 puny pomegranite seeds.  And so Persephone must spend part of the year in the Underworld, a time of barreness, and vegetation would flourish again only when she was re-united every year with Demeter above ground.

This is quite a myth to explain the origin of the seasons.  Here in Canada, after the long barren winter, we all feel a little like I imagine Persephone would, as she was released from the earth. Released back into life!

The profound truth of the Persephone myth also conveys a deep meaning for our own psychological journey.

The Persephone myth conveys a natural movement in psychological life  For Persephone, it is only as she is detached from her familiar world, and descends to the Underworld that she can bring the blessing and the gift of the seasons, of new green life, and fertility.

My experience is that it is like that in the lives of my clients and in my own life, also.  Sometimes the encounter with life’s circumstances and with the unconscious can seem like a sudden plunge into darkness and descent into the underworld.  But the underworld has its own gifts that it brings.  Only those who can accept those gifts, and “eat the food of the underworld”, can bring the gift of life and fertility back to the “surface world” of their everyday lives.  In the encounter with the depths in ourselves, including our unconscious, we travel Persephone’s way, and return to our everyday life with the green lushness of  renewed outlook and vitality.

In the video below, the great Brazilian jazz stylist Antonio Carlos Jobim sings his wonderful song “The Waters of March” at the 1986 Montreal Jazz Festival.  Lush and full of feeling, this wonderful music captures the enormity of the renewal of Spring that we all sense at this time of year.  May we find that same sense of renewal through the encounter with our own deepest selves.

A stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road

It’s the rest of a stump, it’s a little alone

It’s a sliver of glass, it is life, it’s the sun…

…It’s a beam it’s a void, it’s a hunch, it’s a hope

And the river bank talks of the waters of March

It’s the end of the strain

The joy in your heart

Finding Renewal

Both Persephone’s descent into the underworld and the renewal of spring symbolize aspects of the psychotherapeutic process.  Often for renewal, it is important to enter into the depths, and to encounter the more hidden parts of our own existence, and our own experience of life.   The journey may well be demanding, and it is the role of the depth psychotherapist to guide the individual toward renewal, and the deep rewards of the journey.  There’s no better time to start than now.

As always, I welcome your inquiries and comments.

Wishing you the gifts of renewal on your journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:  Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton (1830–1896).  This work is in the public domain.

VIDEO CREDIT  © 1986 Antonio Carlos Jobim and Koch International

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

→ No Comments

Addictions, Perfectionism and Jungian Psychotherapy

March 19th, 2011 · addiction, perfectionism, Psychology and Suburban Life

There can be a strong connection between perfectionism and addiction, as Jungian psychotherapy readily asserts.  We live in the midst of intense pressures that many experience as a continual demand to overcome, and to excel.  For many, this leads to a gnawing, unending driven-ness, in which their efforts are never good enough, complete enough, or secure enough, especially in their work.  They pour more and more of themselves out in the effort to acheive an impossible standard that is continually elusive.  In the process they feel more and more empty and hollow inside.  These people are in a continually painful state.  They cannot ever feel satisfied or secure, valuable — or even adequate.

 Not Looking at the Shadow

In the terms of Jungian psychotherapy, this is a shadow issue.  For such individuals, it is intolerable to face or accept their unacknowledged weakness, vulnerability and humanity.  They strive to get rid of “the shadow”, the suffering, exhausted and often despairing parts of themselves that are so difficult to face up to.  Through inhuman effort, they strive to eliminate their unacceptable parts.  They try harder and harder.  But the cost to the individual can be so great that it brings immense pain.  Often, it is only through the “self-medication” of addictions — alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, Internet, you name it — that the awful pain and emptiness can be kept away.

Woodman on Addictions and Being Perfect

Prominent Jungian analyst Marion Woodman writes about those individuals who are perfectionistic in their attitudes, in a way that combines with addiction:

Behind the masks of these successful lives, there lurks disillusionment and terror.  One common factor appears repeatedly.  Consciously the individuals are being driven to do better and better within the rigid framework they have created for themselves;  unconsciously they cannot control their behaviour.  There are countless individual and collective reasons for the outbreak of chaos as soon as the daily routine is completed.  Will power can only last so long.  If that will power has been maintained at the cost of everything else in the personality, then nothingness gapes raw.  When in the evening it’s time to come back to oneself, the mask and the inner being do not communicate….  Compulsions narrow life down until there is no living — existence, perhaps, but no living.

Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride

 I believe there are millions of people who are caught in this trap in our present time.  Such individuals are not going to get out of their prison by greater effort of will.  Many such individuals would benefit greatly from entering into depth psychotherapy, so that they can get in contact with the living part of themselves.

Can You Be with Yourself, and Feel It’s Good?

Can you give yourself a break?  Can you put on the brakes, and accept that enough is enough?  Can the inner critic in you be silenced, or are its attacks relentless?  Do you medicate in some way, to keep the pain and loneliness at bay? 

There is hope, and there are possibilities.  If you find yourself confronting feelings of hollowness, or despair, because of perfectionism, there are ways of opening up to the reality of the self, and to accepting the real, vital and unique person within you.  Don’t deny yourself!

May your journey to wholeness connect you to your real, imperfect, but wonderfully alive self,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © All rights reserved by John Suler’s PhotoPsychology

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

→ No Comments

Jungian Psychotherapy, and Our “Typical”, Atypical Self

March 13th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, journey, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life

Jungian psychotherapy tends not to talk much about “the typical person”.  However, someone I respect a lot recently sent me a link to a very clever video on what humans have and do not have in common.  It’s produced by the National Geographic Society, and entitled “7 Billion: Are You Typical?”  It’s a very well put-together, engaging video about “the world’s most typical person”:

Typical

The concept of “the world’s most typical person” invites some really careful thinking.  All of us seem inclined to compare ourselves to the “typical person”.  It seems to me that there are some interesting ways in which we do this.  I think we both look for the ways in which we are like such a typical person, and the ways in which we are unlike him or her.  We often do want to establish what we have in common with such a person.  We want to feel some bond of shared humanity.  But we also want to find ways in which we are individuals.

How Do You Compare?

How do you compare to the “most typical person” in this video?  He is a 28 year old Han Chinese male.  Perhaps you feel, as I do, that “The most typical person in the world is not like me, in many respects.”  But are there some deeper ways in which you and this “typical person” are alike?  Put more basically, what is it that gives you your particular identity?  What makes any of us unique individuals?  I think it’s something beyond whatever categories or traits are compared.  There’s a kind of mystery in that.

It’s All There, In Us

What makes us “atypical”, or unique?  There are many, many things, when we reflect.

It would be a big mistake to see the 9 million “most typical” humans referred to in the film as all “the same”.  Every one of them will have a myriad of unique personal factors.  For instance: different family of origin; different socio-economic background; different genetic make-up; and, different life history.  These are just four of a huge array of factors that make a person the complex, unrepeatable event that they are.

Questions for You, as a “Typical Atypical” Individual

What makes you the unique human that you are?

What do you feel are the key things about you that shape your particular identity?

What are the groups of people with whom you feel a common human link?

Are there things that you feel you have in common with all human beings?

What are the mysteries that you experience in yourself?  The things that form part of your identity that you maybe can’t fully understand or explain?

Beyond Categories, There is the Mystery That We Are

This last thing, the exploration of the mystery of the self, is the special realm of psychotherapy and depth psychology.  For many, opening up the unexplored territory in the self, and living it out, is essential to having a meaningful life.  For many, as life progresses, this journey takes on more and more importance.  For such individuals, entering something like Jungian analysis may be essential.

May your journey to wholeness connect you meaningfully to others, but above all, to your unique self,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © Constantin Opris | Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT: © 2011 National Geographic Society

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

→ 2 Comments