Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Depth Psychotherapy Heals

June 14th, 2010 · complexes, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Science, unconscious, Wellness, wholeness

  The research paper that I have linked to below is both striking and very important.  It provides strong empirical evidence of the effectiveness of “psychodynamic psychotherapy”.  That’s a technical term for those forms of psychotherapy, like the Jungian approach, which:

 

In this study, Shedler’s “Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”, evidence shows psychodynamic therapies to have a treatment effect as large as those reported for other therapies whose proponents stridently proclaim them to be “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that people who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends.  The study also tends to indicate that non-psychodynamic therapies may be effective in part because the practitioners who are the most skilled at using those methods bring techniques into their practice that essentially originated in the theory and practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The researcher makes it clear that any perception that psychodynamic approaches lack empirical support “does not accord with available scientific evidence.”

 

These results, while not entirely new, are very striking.  They are worthy of very careful consideration by the therapeutic profession as a whole.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on any of your experiences with Jungian or other forms of depth psychology.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Crisis

May 8th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, complexes, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, psychological crisis, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, stress

 

Sometimes we can be overtaken by things that happen in the psyche.  Such events can leave a person in a very vulnerable place struggling with intense anxiety, depression or stress.  Often these psychic events are triggered by events in our outer lives.  Nonetheless, it is their psychological impact, the things that they cause to happen in our minds, that has the most fundamental impact upon us.  It is the manner in which we perceive these events, and the meaning that we attach to them, that can led us into real difficulties.

There are many potential types of crisis.  I have chosen just a few types to mention here, which are among the most prominent and difficult.

Betrayal is often one of the very worst types of crises. A negative experience at the hands of one who is loved and trusted can be one of the most profoundly shattering experiences in life.  I will be writing a whole posting, or a whole series on this in the near future.  Nonetheless, what is important here is that such an experience can shake a person to the core, particularly if the relationship in which the betrayal occurs is one that is fundamental to a person’s sense of identity (see below).

Fundamental crisis of identity. A fundamental crisis of this kind is an experience in which an individual’s sense of themselves is pulled out from underneath them, as it were, rather than the kind of gradual change in understanding of identity that occurs in aging and maturation.  For example, consider the person who has 37 years in with the same firm, and who is unexpectedly laid off 2 1/2 years before retirement.  Or the 47 year old woman who learns for the first time that she is adopted in her mother’s last will and testament.  job loss.  loss of a business.

Grief and or profound disillusionment.  These two types of experience can be quite distinct, or else they can come together.  Often the loss of a loved one can lead to some of the deepest soul-searching and questions in life.  Sometimes grief, though, can also be associated with the loss of a way of life, or something that has provided a certain kind of meaning, such as a pattern of life that may be associated with living with a certain city or location, or in a certain community of people, when one has to leave it.

The sense of being fundamentally overwhelmed by external events.In my opinion, this is one of the most frequent kinds of psychic crisis for people in suburban environments like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga.  In fact, at certain times in recent years in our culture, I think that this kind of psychic affliction has been almost epidemic.

The effect of huge life events of these types is that they can cause some pretty fundamental upheavals deep in the individual’s psyche.  These can lead to things in the unconscious getting very shaken up and emerging in consciousness, such as anxiety and depression.

However, it is important to recognize that contents from the unconscious might well be surfacing in an attempt to bring healing to the individual, also.

What do I do if I find myself in the grip of a crisis? Sometimes people keep on with business as usual, acting as if nothing has changed in their lives.  They work just as hard, maybe harder.  They are just as demanding of themselves as they ever were, maybe even more so.

1. Acknowledge that you are in a crisis. This can be hard to admit.  All of us would rather not go through this type of experience, even though they are a fundamental aspect of human life. Sometimes the need to look good–to ourselves, or to others–can keep a person from acknowledging in a self-compassionate way that she or he has something big with which they have to struggle.

2. Take care of yourself.  Carefully consider your sleeping, eating, working and stressful interactions.  Are you putting more burden on yourself than you can manage in a healthy way?  As in 1. , are you truly acknowledging what it is that you are going through?  If you respond to the distress of a crisis by, say, trying to drown the pain through working harder, you need to recognize that the outcome may not be at all good for you or for the people to whom you are close.

3. Get help.  Seek out a good therapist.  You are going to need to process what is happening to you, to come to terms with the feelings, and with everything, such as depression, anxiety and perhaps even panic, that may be coming up from the unconscious.  A skilled therapist who is aware of the deeper meanings of these types of events can help you to put them in a context where the psyche can start to make some kind of meaning out of them.

4.  Ask whether this situation reminds you of anything similar in your earlier life. Is this particular crisis bringing up things out of the past for you?  Does it connect with difficult things that you have had to deal with earlier in your life?  Does it reflect patterns that you have experienced at earlier times in your life?……..

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on psychological crisis.  Have you, like very many people, had experience of crisis in your life?  Are you dealing with forms of crisis now?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Seeking for Depth

January 18th, 2010 · archetypes, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, Identity, inner life, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, therapy, wholeness

 

Seeking for Depth for Vibrant Jung Thing In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on what are called “brief psychotherapies” by the therapeutic profession.

The emphasis has been on providing very short courses of psychotherapy to individuals, with an eye to providing concrete definable “results” with respect to narrowly defined issues.  In large part, the movement to this type of therapy has been driven by pressure from insurance providers, who have sought to keep costs down by focusing on achieving measurable progress on specific, very focused issues.  By keeping therapy short, the inscos hoped to return people who are off work back to the workplace in the shortest feasible time that is compatible with the safety of the client.

It may well be that the brief therapies and “solution-focused” therapies are quite successful in acheiving their defined goals.  However, that is not the point that I want to pick up in this particular post.  Rather, I want to ask a bigger and more fundamental question, which is implicit in the following quotation from Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby:

 …any psychotherapy founded on depth psychology should focus above all on the question of who we really are above and beyond the distortions provoked by the way we were brought up or by the society we live in.  Becoming conscious ultimately involves an unbiased experience of the ‘true self’. The self in the Jungian sense is rooted in the unfathomable domain that has rightly been termed the unconscious. 

Mario Jacobi, Individuation and Narcissism,

(London; Routledge, 1990), p. 96

 The type of psychotherapy Jacobi is describing is rooted in fundamental questions of depth.  The question that forms its basis is, quite simply, “Who are you?”  It does not accept any glib or shallow answer.  It also recognizes that who we fundamentally are is something that we will never be able to just size up intellectually.  It’s much deeper than that — a matter that we can only experience, and never exhaust.

While brief therapies may provide concrete value, there is a whole other level upon which we need to encounter ourselves, and there be healed.  For many people, it is that deeper level where the need is urgent.

I’d welcome comments from any readers on experiences of their own depth, in therapy or outside of it. Are there moments when you feel that you have really experienced yourself?

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

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© 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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The Introvert, Subjective Life, and the Reality of the Psyche

April 3rd, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, inner life, Introversion, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul

Inward Shell for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Here's a quote from Jung that I've been looking for for a long time.  It is a classic comment of Jung's about the reality of the inner life and the psyche.

"And so, you see, the man [sic] who goes by the influence of the external world — say society or sense perceptions — thinks he is more valid because this is valid, this is real, and the man who goes by the subjective factor is not valid because the subjective factor is nothing.  No, that man is just as well based, because he bases himself on the world from within.

"…the world in general, particularly America, is extraverted as hell, the introvert has no place, because he doesn't know that he beholds the world from within [italics mine].  And that gives him dignity, that gives him certainty, because nowadays particularly, the world hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man….  Nowadays, we are not threatened by elemental catastrophes….  We are the great danger.  The psyche is the great danger.  What if something goes wrong with the psyche?  And so it is demonstrated in our day what the power of the psyche is, how important it is to know something about it. 

"Nobody would give credit to the idea that the psychic processes of the ordinary man have any importance whatever.  One thinks, "Oh, he is just what he has in his head.  He is all from his surroundings."  He is taught such and such a thing, believes such and such a thing, and particularly if he is well-housed and well-fed, then he has no ideas at all.  And that's the great mistake, because he is just what he is born as, and he is not born as a tabula rasa but as a reality." 

"The Houston Films" in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds.,

C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)

 

"[A person] is not born as a tabula rasa, but as a reality."  That is quite a statement that Jung is making there.  The challenge is to see the reality of ourselves, as in some sense a unified whole.  To see ourselves as something more than the lump sum aggregate of all the conditioning that we have experienced in our lives, and to see our inner experience as something real, something substantial.  And then, to go on the adventure of discovering that reality, of having the courage to know ourselves as what we most fundamentally are.

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

Brian Collinson

Websitefor Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca ; Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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"People Don't Say What's On Their Minds"

March 26th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Identity, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, persona, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul

Masked Man for Vibrant Jung Thing 

This has been an extremely busy time for me, and I apologize to those of you who may have been expecting that I would be posting before now.  I have a number of somewhat longer posts that I expect to put up on the blog before very long, but I thought that today I would leave this quotation with you from Jung.  It's the latest in the series of Jung quotations that I have been posting on this blog. 

It's a fascinating little comment in which Jung tells us something of how he himself first became interested in psychology and psychological growth ,and ultimately, in identity and individuation and the shadow.  It's from an interview of Jung called "On Creative Achievement" by Emil Fisher, which appears in that great little book called C.G. Jung Speaking.  Fisher asks Jung,

What were the circumstances that induced you to work in the field of psychological research?

To which Jung replies,

"Even as a small boy I noticed that people always did the contrary of what was said of them.  I found some of the people who were praised quite unbearable, whereas I though others who were criticized quite pleasant.

I noticed the inconsistencies in the behaviour of adults quite early on, because I spent my formative years in Basel, in a rather odd environment, which was frequented by people with a complicated psychic structure.

When I was barely four years old, someone said to me in an exaggerated childish tone: "Where do you think you are going with your rocking horse?"  I reacted quite the enfant terrible: "Mama, why does this man say such nonsense?"  Even as a child I clearly felt that people did not really say what was on their minds."

"Americans Must Say 'No' in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds.,

C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)

 

I think most of us share the sense that Jung had at a very early age, that there is a lot more going on inside people than they really show us on the outside.  And then, it's also true that there's a lot more going on inside ourselves than we show on the outside.  It's something that we've all known for a very long time, and we all really want to understand it.  When it comes to ourselves, there may well come a time in our lives when it's absolutely vital for us to understand what makes us tick.  To open ourselves up to self-knowledge may well be the true beginning of wisdom.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys 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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Real Alchemy: Jung, Psychological Growth & Individuation

March 19th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, wholeness

individuation

Here’s a quotation from Jung that’s quite brief, but it says a mouthful:

“The opus (work) consists of three parts: insight, endurance and action.  Psychology is needed only in the first part, but in the second and third parts, moral strength plays the predominant role…”

Jung is here describing the individuation process.  What he observes is very important.  For him, the process of psychological growth begins with psychological insight into the situations of our lives, but insight all on its own doesn’t really give us much that makes a difference.

One of the fantasies that people can have when they enter therapy — I know that I had it — is that somehow, I’m going to have some blinding revelatory insight that in one fell swoop is going to shake me to the very core, and that I’m going to be changed forever more as a result.  Jung is quite right: this doesn’t usually happen.

It’s quite possible to have huge insights that lead us to see our lives in a very different light.  But we have to make them real, to bring what they teach us right down into the midst of our lives.  And that takes some genuine hard work and courage.

When we have the insight, we have to hang onto it.  That can be quite difficult.  The whole previous pattern of how we have responded in a certain type of situation, what Jungians call the complexes, will work on us to push us back into the rut of perceiving and reacting to situations in the same old way.  It may even be hard to hang onto or to remember the insight that occurred in therapy when we are back in the all-too-familiar situations in our lives.

This is where endurance is needed. 

 

It can be painful to look at our lives and our situations in the light of the new insight.  If I realize, for instance, that instead of my image of myself as a strong autonomous person who independently solves problems, I actually do a great many things that constitute pleasing people, and that I’m unable to say “No” in situations in my life where I need to establish boundaries, it may be a painful realization.  I may not like to see myself that way.  However, if I want to grow, I have to accept that, yes, this is how I respond in those situations.  I have to know that, and to observe myself in the situation, and then I have to respond.

Finally, if I want to change things in my life, if I want to become more myself, I have toAlchemy 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing take action.  If I recognize that I truly have tended to please people to the detriment of myself in a certain situation, then I have to change how I am in the situation.  I have to be willing to resist my natural tendency to fall into the old pattern, and I have to enter into something new and unexplored.  This is quite possibly going to be scary, and its entirely possible that I might make mistakes, or do things in ways that I might later decide that I want to correct or change.  But to the degree that I can hold onto my new course, it’s surprising how life can sometimes intervene to help me find my new way.

This is the pattern that is involved in doing “the work”.  It isn’t easy, but, in the end, it can result in a sense of vitality and meaning in my life, where before, things felt only dead and flat.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys 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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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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Is My Life Meaningful — for Me?

July 21st, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, Wellness

One of the most fundamental questions a person can Dancing_woman_for_meaningask  is whether his or her life, taken as a whole, is meaningful to her or him.  This is different from an abstract question about "The Meaning of Life".  There is no abstract universal answer to the yearning that each of us has for a meaningful life.  Every "answer" that an individual finds in terms of meaning in his or her life is an individual answer, an answer that emerges from the very fabric of his or her unique life.  On this level the question is as important as it is urgent: Does your life or my life have meaning– not in the abstract, but to us personally? 

image: Arjan Hamberg //12186.openphoto.net

Meaning is to be found in the value that we place on our experience and our involvements.  It does not reduce to simply "just being happy": it is something more and deeper than that, something that is not incompatible with happiness, but that can abide through the difficult times and struggles of life.

Meaning_11

What gives meaning can vary greatly from person to person.  Sometimes it is found in our relationship to other people.  Sometimes it is in our vocation, if our work is meaningful or satisfying, or in our avocation — what we do with our time and our life outside of work.  Sometimes meaning is found when we can relate symbols intimately to our lives, whether those symbols are found in the arts, in organized religion, or in symbols that have emerged for us as individuals on a deeply personal level — symbols from the depth of psyche.

image: Christof Wittwer //7740.openphoto.net

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Individu- What???

June 11th, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, midlife, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy

I’m enjoying the process of writing this blog on a regular basis, and having the chance to communicate with all of you about different aspects of what it is to be a therapist and a Jungian in Halton and Peel Regions in this continually surprising "place" that we call suburbia.  I’m really open to any of your comments, either privately via email, or in the comment sections on the blog.

Solitary_pathway_for_blog_2 Carl Jung developed the idea of "individuation" to describe the individual journey that human beings undertake in their lives.  I believe that this is a very useful way of looking at things, and that it helps people to answer the question "What is it that is happening to me in my life?"

Jung’s idea is that the journey of our lives takes us on a more and more individual path.  That we are in the process of becoming more and more uniquely ourselves.  Jung often used the analogy of an acorn and an oak tree, saying that the potential to be an huge oak tree is latent in the acorn, waiting to expand and to become.

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