Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Eros: Towards a Depth Psychology of Relationship, 2

October 5th, 2015 · psychology of relationship

For all the reasons we looked at in the last blog post, a depth psychology of relationship needs to be resourceful, creative and intentional about connection with others.  So where do we begin?

psychology of relationships

At the end of the last post, we looked at Eros, and what that means in terms of connectedness and relationship.

Where Does Eros Lead Me (Depth Psychology of Relationship)?

psychology of relationship

True eros involves our individuality as human beings.

If we agree with Adolf Guggebbuhl-Craig that eros is the attribute that makes us loving, creative and involved, then we have to acknowledge that we face many pressures that are anti-eros.

Much in our time blocks loving creative involvement with other people.  Even in relationships that should be intimate and loving, we can treat others as utilities or tools, rather than full persons in their own right.  Consider an average couple, facing the strident demands of two careers, children’s academic and programming needs, relentless technology and media bombardment and continual messages of economic anxiety and uncertainty.  It can be easy for even the most loving couple to end up treating each other in mechanized ways that don’t acknowledge the other’s full humanity.

For depth psychotherapy, eros is about cherishing the uniqueness of the other, valuing the individual’s story and building up their most vulnerable and delicate parts.  Eros uncovers what is uniquely meaningful in the other’s life.

Beyond Mere Sexuality

psychology of relationship

Our era often completely sexualizes eros, as Freud did. Freud saw sexuality as one of the two great drives that motivated human beings — and consequently, saw eros as narrowly sexual.  Incidently, because he saw eros as narrowly about sexual gratification, he saw humans as eternally locked into a fundamental conflict between our sexuality and the demands placed on us to be civilized human beings.

Freud’s era was repressive, but our culture sexualizes everything, and, what’s more, makes sexual connection, “hooking up”, a very impersonal way to gratify our own needs.  This is not genuine eros.

Jung and later depth psychotherapists see it differently.  For them, eros belongs, on one side, to sexuality and our animal nature, and on the other to the highest forms of the spirit: “[Humanity] thrives when spirit and instinct are in right harmony”.

Eros, Instinct and Spirit

psychology of relationship

Roots and Wings

Much great music, art and literature concerns erotic love.  For humans, eros is not just a matter of biological functioning, but is also a matter of the deeper levels of meaning in human life.  However, just as sexuality on its own is not enough, so “spirituality” on its own is not enough.  We need both an instinctual and a spiritual dimensions for the meaningful fulfilment of eros, whether this is in a sexual relationship — or the experience of mystical encounter with the Divine, however we might conceive that.

Eros and Will to Power

In our time, eros tends to degenerate into either impersonal “hooking up”, or else, what Jung, after Nietzsche and Adler, called “will to power”: the drive to control someone who should be an object of love.  Given the pressures that people like our couple referred to above face, it’s easy to drift into using power tactics to control the other, and get them to do what we want.  Yet, as Jung has it,

“Where love reigns there is no will to power, and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.”

Approaching the other in genuine eros means seeking to understand and support the other in his or her individuality, rather than using coercion or power tactics.  When we coerce the other, we’re probably not actively loving the other — or ourselves.

Our journey toward wholeness is not a “lone wolf” experience.   It takes us inward, but also takes into relatedness to others: these are two parts of the same reality.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  © Kenneth Lu ; AngelsWings ; Felix Montino ;  Freedom To Marry
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Eros: Towards a Depth Psychology of Relationship

September 28th, 2015 · psychology of relationship

Moving into Fall, our culture celebrates events that emphasize the importance of the psychology of relationship.  Does depth psychotherapy, in particular, have anything important to say to us about connection to others?

psychology of relationship

EROS – God of connection and relationship

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in early October, Hallowe’en comes at the end of the month, and the lead-up to Christmas soon follows.  It’s the season of connection, it seems.  But in the 21st century the meaning of relationship and connection has shifted dramatically.  Can depth psychology help us make sense of all this?

Relationship is Changing

psychology of relationship

At this time of year, psychotherapy clients start to talk to me about Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities.  They wonder how they’re going to organize things with their complex family situations.

They face many of the demanding situations of modern day family life: dealing with holidays in the aftermath of marital breakup; addressing issues of blended families after re-marriage; facing complex issues that used to go unacknowledged, such as family members “coming out”, homophobic relatives, close relatives who have been abusive, or family members struggling with addictions issues.

As a culture, we are conscious of different things than we used to be.  Relatives can be distant or alienated from each other, and it can be hard to know how to have them in the same room during holiday and festive occassions

For many, connection with family isn’t simple or straightforward.  In our fast-moving age, the same can be true of friends.

Individuality and the Meaning of Relationship / Connection

We live in the era of triumphant individualism.  Once, blood connection between people was a secure bond.  Not now.  Many today experience increasing alienation and isolation.  Our culture often promotes a ruthless self-sufficiency that flies in the face of vulnerability and relatedness.

This is very true for men, but also for women, as they adopt more and more masculinized social roles.

Individuation, Individualism, Eros and the Psychology of Relationship

psychology of relationship

Our culture promotes individualism, which is not the same thing as individuation.  Individualism promotes self-reliance, even suspicion of others, and a very robust kind of self-interest.  Depth psychotherapy, after Jung, emphasizes the psychological need for individuation, which is the process of more and more uncovering your own individual identity.  However, individuation includes the dimension of Eros: the development of empathy and discovering how I can connect to others.

Eros is involved in sexual love, but it is much broader than that.  Psychiatrist and Jungian Analyst Adolf Guggebbuhl-Craig speaks of Eros as the attribute that makes Gods and humans loving, creative and involved.

To get to an authentic, creative, and life-giving connection with others, we have to understand our individual selves, who we are drawn to, and with whom we really want to be connected.  Such intentional connection goes far beyond the old saying that “blood is thicker than water.”

The Divinity of Eros

Greeks made Eros a God, recognizing the great power and necessity of this dimension of human life.  Similarly, we can’t afford to ignore our own need for meaningful connection with others.  We cannot afford to “offend the God”, as the Greeks would say.  Eros — true human connection — is centrally important to our journey toward wholeness.

Yet we can’t force our Eros to go where it won’t, or force others to be what they’re not.  In our time, when “compulsory” connection with others is breaking down, we need to be resourceful, creative and intentional about connection with others.  Just how we do that matters for our individual journey — and is the subject of our next post.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Ben Salter ; Bev Sykes ; Eugene Kim 
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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