Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Jungian Psychotherapist & the Power of the Image

December 1st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

If you work with a Jungian psychotherapist, he or she is going to want to know about the images at work in your life.

Jungian psychotherapist

For a Jungian psychotherapist, inner images have far more lasting and influential power over the way that you or I live our lives than do the concepts tossed about on a daily basis by the conscious mind.

Images?  What images?

The Image as Fantasy

What does Jung mean by an image?  As he says, “the image has the psychological character of a fantasy-idea… it never takes the place of reality, and can always be distinguished from sensuous reality by the fact that it is an ‘inner’ image.” [CW 6, para. 743]  So, he’s not referring to hallucinations, but to the images stirred up within us by fantasy, particularly unconscious fantasy.

Unconscious fantasies?  Do we have such things?  Yes.  How we react to people and situations, what we “project” or put on them is constantly conditioned by images that reside in the unconscious.  If you have ever had a violent emotional response to a person, place or thing come upon you out of the blue, it’s likely rooted in an unconscious image or fantasy.  Sometimes, we may even be aware of these images, or “fantasy ideas” being present in the background, as we confront various situations in our lives.

Images: Where Conscious and Unconscious Meet

As Jung says, “the image is an expression of the unconscious as well as the conscious situation of the moment.”  For the Jungian psychotherapist, those inner images coming up from the unconscious are interpreted and understood in a definite way.  They represent the way that our unconscious mental situation is interacting with our consciousness, as it deals with the situations in our lives.  If we can surface these images, we can understand a lot about what is going on within us as we encounter the situations in our lives.

Jungian psychotherapist

The Power of the Image Goes Beyond Language

Often incredible emotional power is associated with inner images and fantasies, and they can often be associated with a major complex. Consider an individual who has the semi-conscious image of sitting down across the kitchen table from his abusive, alcoholic father, every time he sits down in his bosses office, .  Or, on the other hand, the individual who cannot help the images of his lost first love that arise every time he sees his children’s nanny.  Individuals confronted with such compelling inner fantasies may find that the emotions generated in the situation powerfully affect their responses to life situations.

What are the Images in Your Life?

Becoming conscious of inner images may be a major, very important piece of soul work.  It can be very important to be aware of how these inner images affect the way that we experience and respond to outer reality.  What are the emotionally charged images that underlie the characteristic situations in your life?  Working with a Jungian psychotherapist is, in part, a journey into the emotionally charged images that structure our lives.

Attribution   Some rights reserved garlandcannon

 

→ No Comments

A Jungian Psychotherapist Looks at Hallowe’en as Symbol

October 30th, 2012 · Jungian, psychotherapist

Hallowe’en is one of the most enjoyable nights of the year in my opinion; as a Jungian psychotherapist, I’m also fascinated with its symbolism.

Jungian psychotherapist and Hallowe'en

As the young go around with their treat bags, dressed as ghosts, witches and fantasy figures, they’re have a great time, as all can see.  But are they also symbolically living out something important in psyche, for all of us?

What is this Hallowe’en thing, after all?  Why do 21st century people do it?  Its roots are a matter of great interest to a Jungian psychotherapist…

How Did Hallowe’en Get Started?

The most important root source of Hallowe’en is probably the pagan feast of Samhain, celebrated across the Celtic world. At Samhain it was believed that the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened to allow the souls of the dead, fairies, and other beings to enter this world. It was expected that dead kinsfolk would revisit their former homes on Samhain.   The souls of dead kin were invited to feasts, and a place set at table for them.

Ghosts

Recently, on Twitter, I quoted Salman Rushdie:

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”

For a Jungian psychotherapist, those ghosts may be things from our individual past with which we simply haven’t dealt.  They may  be issues of pain or sorrow, or unresolved longings in our early life.  They may be unrealized possibilities in our later lives.  But whatever they are, if they come to us, we probably need to deal with them.

Ghosts may also be something other than personal.  Some of the ghosts that come back to us can belong to our family, our ethnic group, or the society as a whole.  The ghosts of racial and sexual attitudes, bigotries, collective fears, family or community complexes.  And even beyond this, there are the archetypal factors that dwell in the collective unconscious of the human race, and demand our attention.

Setting a Place at the Table

The ancient Celts knew that their ghosts would come back from the other side, and would need to be met and dealt with. The Celts knew that the ghosts had business with us.  Their myth and legend told them that the ghosts would be hungry, would  need a place at table, and would need the fellowship of breaking bread.  In essence, they showed their ghosts hospitality.

Hallowe’en As Symbol

Hallowe’en reflects to us our own need to show our “ghosts” hospitality, to break bread with them, feed them.  A Jungian psychotherapist sees this symbolism as reflecting an aspect of our own need for soul.  There are vital elements that need to come to life in our lives, and elements of the unconscious that we need to uncover for the first time.

So, give food to the ghosts, goblins or fairies at your door; in addition to being a good neighbour, you’re symbollically opening the door to your own soul, and to the journey of soul work

 

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved Fifikins |   VIDEO: OdessaWest  “Dead Man’s Party”  Oingo_Bingo © 1991 UMG Recordings, Inc.

 

→ 2 Comments

A Depth Psychotherapist on Late Midlife Transition 1

October 1st, 2012 · midlife, midlife transition, psychotherapist

To a depth psychotherapist, late midlife transition has some characteristics different from earlier stages in the midlife transition process.  This is especially true in our time, when particular aspects of the late midlife transition get intensified by our way of life.

midlife transition

Individuals today experience a great deal of demand on their strength, time and resources, and the late midlife transition period is often a time when the stress level is particularly great.

Has It Been Worth It So Far?

The depth psychotherapist knows that this retrospective question is all too characteristic of much of the midlife transition process for individuals.  But the further the journey of midlife transition goes, the more this question can take on urgency.  Individuals strongly feel the need to get some concrete resolution to this question.

What Will Make It Worth It From Here on in?

Tied to the above is the question about the future: what is the direction that I really want in my life?  For some people, the problem becomes that they can’t even really imagine what it is that they might actually want in their lives.  What can give all of this journey value and meaning?  This might be a values or a religious or philosophical question, or it might be something else altogether.

Sometimes, as we move through midlife transition, even acknowledging what it is that we yearn for can be an extremely hard thing to do.

…If Only I Could Get Free From All These Pressures…

In our era, to an accelerated degree, people in late midlife transition face acute pressures.  Pressures from our kids, at the stage where they are making fateful decisions about vocation, the move into adulthood and leaving home. Pressures of rapidly changing workplaces, and of fighting to stay in the workforce.  Pressures of aging and increasingly dependent parents.  For individuals in the late midlife transition “sandwich generation”, individuation means finding meaning beyond and through major life transitions.

I Can’t Postpone Living Anymore!  …But What is it to Live?

What is it to live?  For many of us, even in later adulthood, this is a thorny question.  What is it for me to live?  Answers are intensely individual.  They will only come through exploration of personal depths and the unconscious, and through a deep level of acceptance of what life has been so far.  This is key to the work of the depth psychotherapist with clients in late midlife transition.

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by Rememberwhen512 VIDEO: “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott joeystillfree

→ No Comments

Jungian Analysis, the Psychotherapist & “Moving Stone”

September 6th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

A psychotherapist who is fully trained in Jungian analysis adopts a certain attitude to the work, as embodied in the quotation below:

psychotherapist

The Psychotherapist and Stones

The image of stones in the path of a person’s development is powerful. If the obstacles on the path are removed, the individual will travel his or her own path to wholeness.  Jungian analysis discerns an inner wisdom deep in each human being, a kind of self-healing element to the human personality.  If we clear its path correctly, it responds.

What obstacles keep a person from herself?  Frequently, they are forms of psychological complex that result from imbalances in development, and deep psychological wounding.  Becoming conscious of these knots of psychological energy that distort our thinking and feeling, withstanding them, and taking the power out of them, is a key way to “remove the stones”.

Don’t Indoctrinate!

Often, without necessarily being aware of it, the psychotherapist subtly or unsubtly injects his or her version of reality and reasonableness into the client.  Many implied “shoulds” and “oughts” lurk in the ways that psychotherapists respond to clients.

The psychotherapist shouldn’t allow individual therapy to degenerate into putting things into the patient, as if it was de-bugging software.  Psychotherapy is about genuine encounter between two people, in which the client learns more about her or his inner life, and experiences a deep level of acceptance.  That’s the only way the client can find his or her own truth.

Internal Authority, Not External

As stated above, this is a key matter in terms of the individual finding his or her own direction and freedom.  If the therapist’s idea of “the way it ought to be”, or of “normalcy” is injected, the client will stay stuck in an infantile position, depending on the psychotherapist to think and feel for him or her.  But what’s important, as Jung indicates, is what a person learns and acquires for him- or herself, through a process of discovery aided by the psychotherapist.

In our supposedly free and democratic world, much pressure is still placed on many individuals to comply, and to please others.  That’s why the next point is so important.

Taking Hold of Real Life

The goal of all good psychotherapy, including Jungian analysis, is for clients to firmly take hold of their own real lives, through:

  • acknowledging my own real thoughts & feelings, and distinguishing them from how others might want me to think & feel;
  • recognizing my own freedom to choose, and acting upon it; and,
  • acknowledging the parts of myself that I have hitherto been unable to acknowledge.
PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by BinaryApe

→ 1 Comment

The Psychotherapist & Self Acceptance: A CG Jung Quote

August 23rd, 2012 · psychotherapist, Self, self acceptance

Self acceptance has become a buzz word, a part of the stock in trade of the psychotherapist, but, in this quotation, C.G. Jung invites us to take things deeper.

psychotherapist

To really look at what a depth psychotherapist means, and needs to mean, when he or she utters those two little words — self acceptance

The Offence of the Shadow

The self that we need to accept includes that part of the Self that Jung called the Shadow.  This is the part of the Self that Jung tells us contains all that we would rather not acknowledge as ourselves, and would, in fact, rather not be.

It does not take long, if we’re honest in our introspection, to get to the starting point of shadow work.  If we can honestly look upon the most embarrassing and shame-filled moments in our life, or the time we have done the most morally reprehensible thing we have ever done — there it is.  It truly does offend.  How can we ever be reconciled with that?

Hungry Me

To confront that part of ourselves is to confront the hurt, wounded and impoverished parts of myself and  my soul.  The parts that feel so needy, which are filled with yearning and desire so deep we can only call it hunger.  Sometimes, it can be barely tolerable to acknowledge, and accept, how truly needy we are.

Aspects of Me — That Insult Me

People who can bear to be honest about it are often tormented by certain aspects of their personality that just seem unbearable to themselves, their egos, their images of who they are.  To somehow come to terms with “this person”, this me, this insulting beggar, this impudent offender — often is no small piece of psychological work.

Love and Forgiveness — and Me

The depth psychotherapist works with the client to help him or her see and accept who and what he or she is.  The essence of the work is to help the individual gradually to find the alms of their own kindness — real self acceptance — to give to themselves.  I know no more profound expression of such self-acceptance than the great Leonard Cohen‘s powerful song “Hallelujah”:

The work of the psychotherapist in helping the individual discover and accept all of themselves can often be a profoundly changing life experience, and a key part of journeying towards wholeness.

 

PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by außerirdische sind gesund  MUSIC CREDIT: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, from the album Essential Leonard Cohen ©  Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

→ 4 Comments

The Individual Psychotherapist & the Mystery of the Self

August 17th, 2012 · psychotherapist, Self, The Self

The right attitude of the individual psychotherapist to the mystery of the Self is expressed in the quote below from C. G. Jung:

individual psychotherapist

The individual person is a unique phenomenon.  And that unique person forms a unified whole, although with component parts that are more varied and complex than most people realize.  To really understand the individual requires getting beyond statistics, theories and labels to the very nature and story of that particular person.

This might seem like a truism, but it isn’t at all apparent in the way many approaches to psychotherapy actually work.

Beyond Scientific Generalization

While psychological science is essential to understanding the background of the issues that a given individual experiences, it’s never enough on its own.  A great deal of the effort of the individual psychotherapist has to go to understanding the specific person and his/her situation — the ways in which it is an exception to the general rule.  Jungian therapy has always emphasized the specific uniqueness of a person’s case, and, in my opinion, that is one of its greatest strengths.

Without Theory

The psychotherapist needs theory as a way to stay oriented in dealing with a client.  However, before we get to the point where we can use it, we have to really, truly see who it is who is sitting in front of us.  Individual psychotherapy has to really take in the unique person right where they are, without filtering out things that might not fit with preconceptions.

Without Prejudice

One of the toughest parts of being a psychotherapist: to get beyond what “everybody knows” and “what everybody sees”.  The mystery of the undiscovered Self does not fit these categories.  “Everybody knows” that “Jack” is a tough, hard-driving litigation lawyer, who loves what he does…  until the day he collapses on the floor sobbing, because he just can’t do it anymore.  “Everybody knows” that “Jeanne” is a great, dependable accountant whose brain is a ledger sheet– but they don’t know that she goes home and writes passionate poetry in a gilt edged leather book.

Openness to the New

On both the part of the individual psychotherapist, and the part of the client, there needs to be a readiness to see things that are surprising, things that have never been seen before.  These little, often subtle beginnings contain the germs of new life.  There are things within each of us that we are not expecting.  They are part of the Self in its wholeness.  Can we be open to them?

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 1-905-337-3946

Click below to arrange a no obligation initial session:

 

PHOTO:  Attribution   Some rights reserved by saintbob

 

→ 5 Comments

The Depth Psychotherapist & the Meaning of Dreams

July 19th, 2012 · dreams, meaning of dreams, psychotherapist

What possible reason could a depth psychotherapist have to care about the meaning of dreams? Well, there are several reasons, as C.G. Jung shows us in the quotation below:

meaning of dreams

Dreams Contain Images and Associations

The language of dreams is fundamentally, uncompromisingly illogical.  This can easily offend us.  This language expresses itself through the power of images and associations which are not rational in the usual sense.  Yet, if we can understand that language, the meaning of dreams can bring profound insights.

Dreams are Not Created by the Conscious Mind

Dreams come from the other realm — that huge portion of the human psyche that is not conscious.  This is the source of their particular profundity.  The depth psychotherapist knows they represent the unconscious mind commenting on the attitude and outlook of the conscious mind and the ego.

Dreams Represent Psychic Activity Outside of the Will

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  So they say.  But, is there a way that may be beyond the will?  Personality outside the control of the ego and conscious volition?  The great discovery of Freud and Jung was that, yes, there is.  There is a whole “other” psyche, both at the personal, and at the instinctual-archetypal level that works in us without being under the control of the everyday conscious mind.  The depth psychotherapist knows this, coming out of a hundred year-plus long tradition, the roots of which extend back well before Jung and Freud.  But today’s neuroscience, with its advanced empirical techniques, is confirming this reality — in spades.

Dreams are Actually Highly Objective

It sounds strange to speak of dreams as possessing objectivity.  Yet, if we can understand their language, dreams give us a perspective on our place in life that is not contaminated by the particular tunnel vision and defense mechanisms of the ego.  Like the sign on the map in the mall that indicates “You Are Here“, dreams give us an objective sense of what we are experiencing in our lives that compensates and supplements the perspective of the ego.

psychotherapist

Odd as it is to find this message confirmed in popular culture, here is music by Billy Joel that is surprisingly apt:

 Dreams are Natural

Dreams are natural phenomena, occurring in many higher mammals.  Because they naturally occur, we can assume that they have an important role in our adaptation and survival.  Doesn’t it make sense that we should pay attention to them?

Often, the role of the depth psychotherapist is helping clients to understand and live out the wisdom of the unconscious, expressed in dreams, and elsewhere.

 

→ No Comments

Jungian Analysis , A Psychotherapist & The Worried Well

May 25th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian analysis, psychotherapist

psychotherapist

Should a psychotherapist be working with the “worried well”, even if he or she practices Jungian analysis?  Who exactly are the “worried well”?  If you click on the link immediately below, you will see a splendid picture of a “Worried Well” as drawn by the subtly wise cartoonist WG on his site Reaction Formation:

“The Worried Well”

 

Who Are the “Worried Well”?

Semi-official medical lore has it that the worried well are people who have nothing medically wrong with them, but who visit doctors to gain re-assurance.  In a psychiatric context, it refers to those who do not have a psychiatric diagnosis, but who nonetheless seek to gain some reassurance from a psychotherapist.  On a narrowly medical model, only those with a psychiatric diagnosis should seek out a psychotherapist.  But from the perspective of depth psychotherapy and Jungian therapy, does this seems like an adequate understanding of the needs of those seeking counselling / therapy?

Is Psychological “Wellness” Really the Issue?

Do people go to a depth psychotherapist to “get cured”?  In my experience, the vast majority of people who come to see a psychotherapist in a practice like mine would not seem to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder, and they are not exactly looking for “the cure”.  They are, however, looking for something else.  What is it?

The Psychotherapist and the “Other Well”

I know it’s a bit of a play on words, but let’s look at the other meaning of the word “well.”  For the psychotherapist, wells have great significance in dreams, myth and fairytale.  A well is something made by humans, but it penetrates into the dark reality of the earth, and miraculously fills with water, the liquid so essential for life.  And that’s a powerful image for what we as individuals are seeking in the dark earth of the unconscious psyche.

jungian analysis

Water from the Depths

A symbol of the water of life from the depths.  In my opinion, this symbolizes very well the inner journey that many take through a depth psychotherapy, such as Jungian analysis.  From an arid landscape where there is no moisture, devoid perhaps of life and possibility, where the individual roams endlessly and finds nothing but dryness and dust, to a relationship with their own inner depths that brings fluidity, restoration, life.  In this sense, the well with its life-giving water from the depths can be a very apt symbol for the work of a depth psychotherapist or for Jungian analysis.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by ruffin_ready

→ 1 Comment

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 and Life Events… Consciousness and Aloneness

April 18th, 2011 · aloneness, Identity, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy

Truly wise psychotherapy knows that you can have an experience of life events, that changes your consciousness but at the same time leaves you in a state of profound aloneness.  Karin Dubois wrote of such an experience in her essay Friends on the Other Side in the Globe and Mail of April 13, 2011.

As a very young woman, Karen was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer.  She describes in graphic terms how psychologically isolating that experience was for her.

Most of my friends were worrying about exams at school while I was paralyzed with fear that my next CT scan would light up with cancer.  We couldn’t relate.

When Others Have No Idea

What a profoundly difficult experience for someone to encounter.  Yet, there are many people who have experiences of this kind, which make that person aware of aspects of life of which many other people have no idea.  An illness, yes, or a child born with a disability, a parent with an addiction, a major economic setback or family bankruptcy in an affluent community — the list is endless.  There are many, many different types of experiences that can change a person’s consciousness.  The problem can be that, when we have those experiences, especially if they involve deep pain or insight, it may make it very difficult for others to connect or understand.

The Fundamental Need to Reach Out and Connect

When someone is at a point like this, it can be essential for that person to connect with someone who sincerely strives to understand, and who listensmost carefully to his or her story, in all its uniqueness.  Oftentimes, we also need to hear ourselves talk about such experiences, with a receptive witness, to get beyond aloneness.   This is because we truly need to know that our experience, while uniquely ours, is something human, something that others can relate to, understand and appreciate.  Entering into real psychotherapy can bring this dimension of reality and acknowledgement to our experience, connecting us powerfully to the entire human race, while leaving us standing in our unique human dignity.  That’s the power of depth psychotherapy.

I welcome your inquiries and comments.

Wishing you deep and fundamental human connection on your journey to wholeness,

PHOTO CREDIT:  © Rafael Mengual Caucera | Dreamstime.com
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near  Mississauga )

→ 8 Comments