Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Merry Stuff-mas: Depth Psychotherapy, Being & Having

December 2nd, 2013 · depth, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Depth psychotherapy is deeply concerned with our real identity; one key dimension of  that identity is the distinction between being and having.

depth psychotherapy

The fascinating photo above was included in a flyer sent to my home just before Black Friday by a major wireless and internet services provider.

It shows a family moment of warm togetherness in some outdoor setting.  Four people and 3 electronic devices — 2 smartphones and a tablet — visible in the picture.  The people appear very connected, with laughter, smiles and lots of touch.  Apparently, wireless content is being shared between them, and, somehow, it’s the source of all this warmth, mirth and belonging.  The picture implies that if we get more wireless services, we’ll get more family connection.

Really?

 Fantasy Spells and Stuff

Actually, many experience wireless technology as alienating and isolating people, and as reducing conversation and interaction.  To go to a shopping mall or restaurant in 2013 is to see masses of people hunched over,  making love to their devices rather than interacting with others.

It’s striking how the above picture ties into our yearning for connection, belonging and participation in family in the fullest sense of the word.  It’s a wonderful fantasy of warmth and love, apparently associated with this technology — even though our real world experiences of it is often the exact opposite.

Our era bombards us with messages that more  — more stuff, the right kind of stuff — will solve the problems in our lives.  Particularly the problems of relationship, meaning and feeling secure in who we are.

Consumer goods get associated with fantasies, which advertising spreads through our whole society.  The promise is that, if only we own the product being sold, our lives will be more.

Archetypal Hijack

Advertising for “stuff” often taps archetypal themes.  Certainly, the above picture holds some of the most significant archetypes — Mother; Father; Family and Belonging, or attachment.

Archetypal themes exist in the human psyche and point us toward the things in human life that matter, and that are meaningful.  But the above advertisement implies that archetypally based needs can be met cheaply, and without really opening up or exploring our lives in any meaningful sense — by simply owning stuff.  To own the product is somehow to possess or live the fantasy associated with the product.

Depth psychotherapy

Being and Having

Our society is fundamentally confused about the distinction between being, or in other words having a life, and having possessions.  Advertising seduces us into fantasies associated with certain types of possessions.

As humanistic psychologist Erich Fromm put it:

 The difference between being and having is the difference between a society centered around persons and one centered around things.  Modern humanity cannot understand the spirit of a society that is not centered in property…

The being/having tension arises profoundly during the holidays.  Ostensibly, this season celebrates the transcendent values of several of the world’s great spiritual traditions.  Yet, in North American society, it often turns into a glorification of stuff, and of fantasies associated with owning the right stuff.  So, a season that should celebrate what is of deepest meaning in human life can often turn into a very degraded spectacle of the opposite.  Case in point: this now fairly famous video taken at a sale display of  televisions in a Wal-Mart on Black Friday:

Is this really what we’ve come to?  Apparently, the fantasy of “joy through stuff” isn’t quite working out for us.

Depth Psychotherapy and the Treasure of the Self

Depth psychotherapy focuses us on authentic connection with the archetypes, and on living them out for ourselves in our own real lives.  There’s nothing wrong with owning things, but ownership won’t make a meaningful human life.  Depth psychotherapy invites us on the journey to wholeness, and to the possession of the one thing that makes all the difference — our own authentic selves.

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Rob Ford & Shadow: 4 Jungian Psychotherapy Insights

November 17th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Rob Ford, Toronto’s crack-smoking Mayor, dominates the media: but, from a Jungian psychotherapy perspective, one thing we don’t talk about is what Rob Ford shows us about our own collective shadow.

Jungian psychotherapy

It’s easy to moralize about Ford’s very public, very sensational melt-down: he’s an easy target.  What is not so easy or comfortable is the awareness that Toronto elected Rob Ford into his current role.  The City of Toronto voted for him, and in many ways, he reflects aspects of the collective shadow of the entire Greater Toronto Area.

I understand that this may seem like an outrageous claim!  Let me explain: Rob Ford’s attitudes may be repugnant to us, but they reflect aspects of our collective psyche that we would really rather ignore.

1.  Convenient Self-Delusion

T.S. Eliot famously wrote that “humankind cannot bear very much reality.”  Many would see the public pronouncements of Rob Ford and his closest supporters as a case in point.

First we’re told that one newspaper has a vendetta against Mr. Ford, which is gradually widened out to the whole press corps and then eventually to the Chief of Police.  Similarly, Mr. Ford admits to outrageous public incidents of out-of-control alcohol use, smoking crack cocaine, and driving under the influence, but is in such denial that he seems to genuinely believe that it’s O.K. because “everybody does it”.

It’s commonly held that Mr. Ford maintains these self-delusions to avoid the necessity of threatening change.  Yet, dare we look at our own delusions, which allow us to stay locked in behaviors that, on the deepest level, we really know we must change?  For instance, how many people in our culture are locked into ever-increasing levels of debt, that they tell themselves will somehow be magically reversed?

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2.  Them: It’s Their Fault

Related to the above is the tendency to blame or scapegoat others for ills in society or our own lives.  When things are going wrong, we can easily blame others or outsiders for the bad developments.  Rob Ford is famous for his blaming of “left-wing elites” or the press or “thugs” for social ills or his own personal difficulties.

Prof. Nathanael J. Fast of Stanford University has researched the incredibly contagious properties of blaming and scapegoating others, and the ways in which they can spread with incredible rapidity through an organization or a society.

Many accuse Rob Ford of this kind of scapegoating.  But can we see our own shadow, and the ways in which we, too, scapegoat?  We do it on a social and political level: we also do it in communities, places of employment — and families.

3.  Enable Me — Or You’re No Friend of Mine

Many feel that Rob Ford surrounds himself with people who all reinforce a distorted view of the world.  They find this to be particularly true of his family’s apparent denial of his rampant substance abuse issues.

But, we also often surround ourselves with voices that reinforce the way we already see the world, or confirm us in existing behaviour patterns — because it makes us comfortable, even if it’s not true.

4.  Without My Job I’m Nothing

Some allege this is the real sticking point in terms of Rob Ford actually leaving the Toronto mayor’s job: without the job, he has no concrete identity to which he can cling .  Rather than be nobody, he clings to the mayor role like a life preserver.

We might regret such an attitude in Mr. Ford, if he does indeed hold it.  But it might be good to have a very serious look in the mirror.  How much of our own identity is tied up with our work persona?  Who would I be without my job?  Would I feel like I was anybody?  These are very serious questions for early 21st century people.

Rob Ford can be seen as a mirror of our own shadow.  It’s only through self-compassionately and courageously acknowledging the shadow and the undiscovered self that we can grow towards our own wholeness and completeness, and become rooted in ourselves.  This is the heart of the work of individual psychotherapy.

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Psychotherapy & the Spiral Path

October 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Many people enter individual psychotherapy consciously or unconsciously expecting the process to be linear, rational and directly goal-oriented.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, people often find, as they start to tell their stories, that the real course of their lives is not nearly as straightforward, simple or consistent as they expected.  It often seems to have much more of a spiral or multi-spiral character.

People start to experience themselves as much more many-layered and subtle than they had initially supposed…

Stories and Apologies

In therapy sessions, as people talk about ordinary life, one of the commoner things that I hear them say is:  “I’m sorry that this is so convoluted”; or, “I’m sorry, I seem to have gotten way off track…”; or, even, “How did we end up talking about this?” individual psychotherapy

Then, very often, I try to connect what we are talking about to a theme from earlier in the session — the connection, for instance, between this week’s episode of Breaking Bad and their own father’s illness, that they hadn’t yet made consciously.  Such connections are often not just blatant, but they most often reflect the person’s inner reality. That unbelievably varied and multi-hued inner reality that we each are, which is not so easily encapsulated, explained or described.

Irreducible Me

We all have a story that we tell about ourselves.  But a key question is whether that story going to be the small story, or the big story. The small story is most often the one dictated by social convention. The big story might be seen as what Jung refers to as our personal myth; the deeper, more complete story, that takes in all the dimensions of who we are.

It matters which story we accept.  Are we going to let ourselves be reduced to what others say or know about us, or are we going to accept the full truth of all that we are?

Yet the Movement is Around a Centre

individual psychotherapy

Letting in that fuller experience of ourselves can seem disruptive and chaotic.  Over time, though, the apparently random and haphazard movement in inner life shows a very different character.  As Jung tells us:

The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere. The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals: the dream-motifs always return after certain intervals to definite forms, whose characteristic it is to define a centre. And as a matter of fact the whole process revolves about a central point or some arrangement round a centre…

~C.G. Jung

The Fundamental Reality of the Self

The central point to which Jung refers is the heart of our identity, the Self.  As Jung puts it elsewhere, the self is the sum total of our psychic wholeness, or, as Professor Samuels puts it, the “archetypal image of the unity of the personality as a whole.”

To enter into individual psychotherapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, is to enter into a deeper experience of the Self and its many dimensions.   As we experience this wider Self, we experience our own reality, solidity and uniqueness.

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Crisis of Connection: Depth Psychotherapy & Eros, 1

September 13th, 2013 · depth, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Often, depth psychotherapy reveals the need for real feeling and relationship in an individual’s life, and highlights the crisis of connection that characterizes our lives now.

depth psychotherapy

It’s not the only factor, but technology highlights the fact that, in this culture, at this time, we have a big disconnection issue.

Technology and Connection: A Thumbnail Sketch

Recently, I sat in our biggest local shopping centre early on a Friday evening, having a coffee. I noticed a man who stood in front of a store, texting.  He remained there motionless, typing, for a very long time.  He seemed to be completely oblivious to anything in the world, other than what was appearing on his cell phone screen. Eventually a woman I assumed to be his partner came and stood beside him, but he just kept on texting endlessly, obliviously. Finally his whole family came to stand beside him, but he seemed completely shut off from them.  He just kept texting.  Eventually, after quite a while, he finished, and seemed to leave his trance and be aware of others, in particular, his family

A number of possible interpretations that could be put on these events.  But, to me, it seemed that this was a situation of someone so caught up in texting, that he was completely disconnected from the world around him — including the people who care about him.

The Siren Song of Connection

It’s a fact of importance for individual therapy that we are now continuously confronted with the immediacy of technology: smartphones, tablets, laptops — you name it.  This omnipresence of information devices highlights a stunning reality: in the 21st century, many of us are more connected to our machines than to the people in our lives.

Machines seem to promise connection, to make it omnipresent.  And they do deliver, for we can use them to convey any amount of information.  But what they are far less good at is bringing people into actual relationship.

depth psychotherapy

What Is It To Genuinely Connect?

To genuinely connect with another human being, in an in-depth way involves risk, vulnerability and imagination.  To genuinely connect, as in love or deep friendship, or even just really listening, is to be open to continually changing and adapting our understanding of the person to which we are connected.

The information era is a time of steadily escalating pressure to check out from genuine connection.  In my opinion, this is at the cost of much of our true human-ness.

Here are the words of the Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto, on the real nature of Eros, or connectedness:

 

Break Through

Connection involves breaking through in the outer world.  Reaching out to the other in the midst of all the priorities and demands that scream at us, to break through with

Genuine connection with another involves a real break through in the inner world, as well.  It requires an open-ness to letting the other be who they genuinely are, and a preparedness on my part to accept everything that my encounter with the other person brings up in me — even if it’s very unfamiliar.

The focus on finding the genuine connection that we truly need is often a key element of depth psychotherapy.

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Depth Psychotherapy and Nature, Outer & Inner

July 31st, 2013 · depth, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Depth psychotherapy concerns itself with nature — inner human nature, which is fundamentally connected with outer nature, which we often experience so powerfully in the summer season.

depth psychotherapy

Nature, Inner & Outer

The McMichael Art Gallery is currently exhibiting a wonderful group of works by photographer Ansel Adams.  Just to declare my bias: Adams was one of the great artists of the 20th century.  In works like “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” above, he opens up a vision of outer nature that resonates profoundly our own inner life — our inner nature.

Jung on Nature

Jung’s depth psychotherapy was similarly concerned with the relationship between nature and the human mind.  He wrote a lot about his own experience of nature:

“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go , in the procession of the seasons.  There is nothing with which I am not linked.”

C.G. Jung, MDR

depth psychotherapy

IMAGE, JUNG’S RED BOOK

But Jung cautioned western culture:

“Our intellect has  created a new world that dominates nature, and has populated it with monstrous machines….

‘We have conquered nature’ is a mere slogan.  In reality we are confronted with anxious questions, the answers to which seem nowhere in sight.  The so-called conquest of nature overwhelms us…

Western man has no need of more superiority over nature whether outside or inside.  He has both in almost devilish perfection.  What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around him and within him.  He must learn that he may not do exactly as he wills.  If he doesn’t learn this, his own nature will destroy him.  He does not know that his own soul is rebelling against him in a suicidal way.

The one thing we refuse to admit is that we are dependent on “powers” beyond our control…

The afternoon of humanity, in a distant future, may yet evolve a different ideal.  In time, even conquest will cease to be the dream.”

C.G. Jung, CW 11; CW 18

Jung anticipated the eco-psychology and environmental psychology of our era by 50-60 years.  I’m struck by the way that he brings it together with depth psychotherapy and the unconscious mind.

Peace with Outer and Inner Nature

Jung stressed connections between natural landscapes and the unconscious.  He spoke in very positive terms of consciousness of indigenous people, as when he stated

“The country [the indigenous person] inhabits is at the same time the topography of his unconscious”

[CW 10]

The unconscious and nature in its outer form are profoundly connected: there is a strong similarity in the ways in which consciousness relates to both.  Jung notes that modern culture has an attitude of exploitation towards nature, seeking the “conquest” of nature.  This manifests in dismissal and contempt of inner nature — the unconscious dimensions of the personality, and the rhythms of bodily existence.  Result: people fundamentally at odds with their own being.

Depth psychotherapy aims at staying real by re-establishing an intimate relationship with nature, inner and outer.

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Psychotherapy: Quit Living Provisionally! 1

July 20th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

In individual psychotherapy, a key issue for an individual can be finding a way to return to his or her own actual, immediate experience of life.

individual psychotherapy

As Jung  indicates in this quote, it is far too easy for us to live provisionally.  That is to say, to live our lives as if they don’t really matter or count.

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Still Not Taking This Life Seriously

For a very, very long time, Western culture  has conditioned us to treat the real happenings in our lives as not real — as if they don’t count.  Partly, this is due to a certain version of Christianity, which views this world as a veil of tears, and sees the sole purpose of this life as readying us for life after death in “a better place”.  The power of this worldview has diminished — although many are still under its sway — but there is a variation of it, still very potent, that goes back to Plato.  On this view, only thoughts, and particularly reason and logic, are truly important.    And, as a result, western civilization is very much stuck in its head.

individual psychotherapy

Virtually Alive (Sort Of)…

For many in our time, information technology has intensified the tendency to live in our heads, to live “virtually” or “in the cloud”.  There are many in our culture whose most intense experiences have involved video games, or role playing in online chatrooms.  From the perspective of individual psychotherapy, that is quite concerning.  Such “virtual worlds” are the latest, most technologically intense version of provisional life: spoon-fed generic experiences, rather than real, individual life.

As a culture, we are in continual avoidance of our own real lives.  We are too ready to float above the real joy and pain in our life, and call it living, when it is really only participation in the collective fantasies of mass entertainment and consumerism.

The Unconscious In the Immediate

Jung tells us, “our unconscious often tries to convince us of the importance of living here and now.”  I believe that this may be even more true in our time than his.  Our dreams may well reflect when we get too divorced from the immediacy of life.  Similarly, we may find that inexplicable slip-ups and errors in performing ordinary daily activities may be the way in which the unconscious draws our attention away from our ceaseless mental taskmaster, with his or her inflexible agendas and killer timelines.

Epidemics of events such as repeatedly losing our car keys as we are trying to get out of the door to go to work may reflect the attempts of the unconscious mind to bring us back to more natural rhythms, and a greater awareness of the immediate events in our lives.

individual psychotherapy

This, Now, COUNTS

This present abiding, right here, right now in the awareness of our actual this-moment experience, is what makes human.

Often individual psychotherapy, and particularly depth psychotherapy, brings us much closer to our feeling, sensing and overall experiencing of our own actual lives.

Next post in the series:  Why Living Now Matters

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Psychotherapy Oakville: 4 Insights into Natural Life

June 24th, 2013 · Oakville, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy Oakville

To practice depth psychotherapy in Oakville is to be aware of many key symbols in peoples’ lives, including “naturalness” or “the natural life”.

psychotherapy Oakville

This symbol has become of more and more importance to dwellers in affluent suburban communities like Oakville, especially in the last 15-20 years.  It seems clear that it resonates with the increasing divorce from nature that we have experienced in an advanced technological mass society.

What makes this symbol so potent for us?

Nature as Symbol

If you study the history of suburban life, you discover that, at its roots.  it’s really about return to, and increased contact with, nature.

The idea of suburbia springs from the awareness in late 18th and 19th century cities that life was increasingly divorced from meaningful connection with the natural environment.

So, as long as there have been communities like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga, their inhabitants have yearned for connection with the natural world.

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Outer Nature

Connection with outer nature concerns 21st century North Americans more and more.  You can see it reflected in a a vast variety of ways in popular culture, and in economic life.

Many of us feel acutely that our lives are more and more confined to artificially constructed environments.  Often that awareness brings a sense of claustrophobia.

psychotherapy Oakville

We want natural everything:  exposure to the outdoors; natural fabrics in our clothes; natural cleaning materials; and perhaps especially, natural foods and medications, due to our fear that ingesting man-made chemicals or GMOs may lead to grave illness.

In many areas, people flock to cottages at this time of year, often to experience less complicated living that seems closer to the natural environment.

Our yearning for closeness to nature — at least nature in its outward manifestations — seems boundless.

Inner Nature

What we may be less aware of is our need for a return to inner naturalness.  There is real danger that we can become over-civilized, over-technologized, and over-rationalized, thereby losing contact with who we most fundamentally are.

In particular, we can lose contact with those aspects of our own nature that don’t fit the mode and expectations of our society, or our idealized self-image, or fit the way we present ourselves — what Jungians call the persona or social mask.

Rediscovery of our connection with our most fundamental nature, with who and what we really are, may be experienced as a genuine liberation, accompanied by a deep sense of being wholly, and integrally, ourselves.

This is the deepest, and most profound, sense of contact with nature.

Psychotherapy Oakville: the Journey to My Own Nature

psychotherapy Oakville

One of the most painful things can be to discover that I am at odds with my deepest nature, with my most fundamental self.  This awareness can manifest in a profound yearning for authenticity and wholeness.  In this fundamental sense, the journey of individual therapy can be a journey toward natural life — life in connection with the whole of the instinctual and spontaneous Self.

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4 Ways the Orphan Appears in Individual Psychotherapy

June 17th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

The experience of the orphan is surprisingly important for individual psychotherapy.  Why is this image so powerful for us?

individual psychotherapy

For those who come from stable family backgrounds, that might seem like an absurd thing to claim.  But let me try and show you what I mean.

Exile

To live as an orphan, is to feel completely alone in the world.  To feel that the world is not dependable or safe, and in particular, that there are few or no bonds with other people that can be depended on at any deep level.

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The true orphan is one prevented from forming and relying on the bonds to parents and family that are so crucial in early life.

To be an orphan is to experience radical aloneness.  It is to experience radical vulnerability.

There are many people who genuinely don’t have parents.  Some actually don’t have living parents.  Others, many more, live the wound of profound abandonment, due to parental apathy, abuse or fundamental rejection.

And, all of us, in the process of individuation, will at times partake of orphan reality — where we are left feeling profoundly isolated and abandoned, with no resources to rely upon but our very own.

Eric Clapton sings of many kinds of orphan state in the song Motherless Child:

Forever Taking Leave (Always on the Verge of Departing).

As John Bowlby showed, one of the characteristics of those who, like orphans, have had weak or broken attachment to others in early life is that, very often, they can be ready to cut their connections to other people, places or situations at the drop of a hat.

When I reflect on this, I’m reminded of some lines from an old pop song by the Eagles:

“I’ve got this peaceful, easy feeling / I know you won’t let me down / ‘Cause I’m already standing on the ground”

The orphan part of our psyche is always ready to pull away, because it never truly feels like it is at home, or that it really belongs.

individual psychotherapy

Yearning for Home

Yet orphans continually yearn for home.  Symbolically, home represents a place of true belonging, to which a person is fully, fundamentally and irrevocably connected.

This yearning is deeply embedded in human psychology and biology, through 200+  million years of mammalian evolution.  It expresses itself in a vast variety of ways in human art, literature, music, religious symbolism and philosophy — and also, I note with interest, in baseball!

individual psychotherapy

To Really Come Home

All human individuals can can experience this orphan dimension to human existence — can, at times, feel incredibly alone and without a true home.  One of the key benefits of in depth individual psychotherapy is to enable the individual to have the sense of being at home in her- or himself, in one’s true nature.  Just what that means for any given individual is apparent as he or she takes his or her own journey into the experience of the orphan, and into self-understanding, and self acceptance.

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© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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4 Human Truths about DSM-5 & Individual Psychotherapy

May 14th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Since 1952, the APA’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual [DSM] has been key to psychiatry and psychology in North America, and has had a profound influence on much individual psychotherapy.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, with the upcoming release of version 5 [“DSM-5”] the validity and scientific authority of this mainstay is under intense scrutiny.  What does this mean for individual psychotherapy?

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1. NIMH: DSM Has Failed Patients

In recent days, Dr. Thomas Insel, the head of the NIMH, the largest funder of psychiatric research in the U. S., announced that NIMH would not fund research projects relying exclusively on DSM criteria, due to a lack of clarity and objectivity concerning the DSM’s categories.   Among other things, he stated that,

“Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. [italics mine]…

While DSM has been described as a ‘Bible’ for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each….

Patients with mental disorders deserve better.”

This is a very serious blow to the DSM-5, a mere 2 weeks before its release.

2. But Biological Psychiatry Isn’t A Total Solution

Dr. Insel and NIMH have concrete suggestions as to how to overcome the  lack of true scientific depth in the DSM:

“Mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, or behavior;…

Mapping the cognitive, circuit, and genetic aspects of mental disorders will yield new and better targets for treatment.”

While all would welcome advances in neuroscience, it seems that Dr. Insel sees all “mental disorders” as reducible to biological states of affairs that can be mapped and described.  If so, many in his and related professions would not entirely concur.

Are “mental disorders” simply biological states of affairs that can be fully understood and addressed on that level alone?

3. Still Something Missing

It would certainly seem that there’s more.  There is the whole vast area of the individual’s subjective experience.

Dr. Eric Maisel regards the upheaval around DSM-5 as “the beginning of a movement in the direction of a smarter and more truthful understanding of human distress”.  However, as he states, that happy outcome can only occur if the science of the psyche takes adequate account of the inner states of the individual — his or her inner life.

He goes on to state what should be obvious: the central fact of individual therapy is that a human being is involved here.

From a specifically Jungian place, we might wish to add that to address a specific human being is to address a unique phenomenon, whose essence will never be completely classifiable.

4. The Irreduceability of the Human Individual

Key to the healing of psyche is the individual human being, with his or her unique journey.  Empirical science will no doubt continue its inquiries, but as Eric Maisel reminds us, the factor that must never be lost sight of is the inner life of the individual human being.  This is the heart and soul of individual psychotherapy from a depth perspective.

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5 Key Issues in Depth Psychotherapy for Men, Part 2

May 10th, 2013 · men, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for men

In the first part of this post on depth psychotherapy for men, I looked at the first 3 of 5 key issues that can often confront men in therapy; here are the other two.

psychotherapy for men

As I mentioned in Part 1, these issues have much in common with key issues for women in psychotherapy.  But the ways that they differ for men are tied up closely with the whole meaning of what it is to be male.

4) Competitiveness vs. Connection

It’s often difficult for men to acknowledge their own receptive dimension and weaknesses, due to the threat of competition and possible judgment from other men.  Very often, from the youngest age, boys are treated with shame for displaying vulnerability.

Often, self-shaming can get incorporated into the inner dialogue of a man, so that he shames himself when he is confronted with his own vulnerability.  So a man often develops a deep aversion to displaying anything that comes remotely close to vulnerability.  Sometimes the avoidance of intimacy and vulnerability becomes so acute that the only way that two men can express affection for each other is to trade insults.

Genuine connection between people requires vulnerability.  If as a male I crave intimacy, I have to accept that others will see my weaknesses and the places where I might have flaws.

Women, too, may reinforce male competitiveness and men’s lack of self-acceptance.  It’s not always easy for women to easily accept a man who departs from deeply culturally embedded stereotypes of so-called “rugged” masculinity.

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5) Individuality vs Individualism

This key issue is crucially related to the last point, in that it is connected to the whole issue of men and competitiveness — but it also goes beyond it.

psychotherapy for men

Males are very caught up in individualism here in North America.  The myth evoked by the image of the Marlboro Man is very much alive in our psyches.  Our culture has the idea that men should not only have initiative, but should go beyond that: somehow the “real man” or hero figure is someone who goes it very largely alone.  Each one should pursue his own advantage, and interdependence or cooperation is somehow very suspect — perhaps effeminate?  This dynamic draws its energy from the archetype of the hunter.

What we don’t so easily see is that pursuing goals individualistically is not the same thing as individuation.  Men in our time need the courage to be genuinely individual, to be genuinely in ourselves, no matter what anyone else may think of it, as opposed to merely pursuing my own individual advantage in a competitive and comparatively unreflective way.

Some key questions: What is it to be genuinely individual?  What does that mean for you?  When are the moments that you feel truly, individually you, with no pretense?

Individual psychotherapy for men is about men truly taking in their own individual stories, and their own nature, and really living in the experience of who they are.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved  familymwr ; Brianfit
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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