Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Individual Psychotherapy for Relationships… Say, What?

October 14th, 2011 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Relationships

individual psychotherapy

Getting individual psychotherapy often can be the best thing for the relationships in your life, and especially for relationships with lovers and spouses.

But isn’t getting individual therapy for yourself and hoping for improvement in key relationships a little bit like, well… “Dancing with Myself”?

Billy Idol humour aside… there’s truth here.  Learning to “dance with yourself”, and learning to dance with others are intimately related.  Jungian psychotherapy stresses that our individual “stuff” can profoundly affect intimate relationships — and vice versa.  Here are 4 important ways that can occur:

1) Identifying Projections

Projection occurs when I unconsciously see people through the lens of my past experience, and when “difficult emotions and unacceptable parts of the personality are located in a person different from the subject” (Samuels).  So, for instance, I may perceive my partner as being controlling when I’m the one being controlling in the relationship — but it would distress me greatly to acknowledge that.  Individual therapy work can help me to take back projections, and to have a more accurate picture of what is going on in the relationship.

2) Others’ Projections onto Me

Also, people close to me may put their projections on me.  They may unwittingly perceive me in ways related to their own history that really have nothing to do with who I actually am.  If I’m not conscious of how this is occurring, it may distort communication and relationship.  Or I may even act in ways that resemble the other person’s projections — what is known as projective identification.

3) Recognizing Shadow – the Unacknowledged Self

Individual therapy often reveals the ways in which the shadow, the unacknowledged aspects of ourselves, affects a relationship.  Shadow may be very active.  For instance, we may feel that striving for power in a love relationship is the last thing we would do — until we recognize ourselves doing it in the mirror held up by individual psychotherapy.

4) The Contrasexual

This is the inner image and form of the opposite sex that we carry within us, referred to by Jungians as either the anima or animus.  That particular entity strongly influences our feelings about the ideal mate, and more especially in the inner story that we tell ourselves about “how guys / women are.”  If we are unconscious of our anima or animus in our relationship, we probably have a tiger by the tail.

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© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 


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Psychotherapy, Projection and Relationships

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

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

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

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

Seeing Me in You

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Big Challenge

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

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

When the Movies Stop: Ending Your Own Projections

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

I welcome your inquiries and comments.

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

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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The Self as Hidden Treasure in Jungian Psychotherapy

January 27th, 2011 · alchemy, art, C. G. Jung, collective consciousness, depth psychology, False self, Identity, parent-child interactions, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Relationships, religious symbolism, Self, self-knowledge, symbolism

Jungian psychotherapy and Jungian analysis put a high value on the uniqueness of the individual, and on the treasure that is the inmost Self.  Jungians see symbolic reflection of the motif of the Self as hidden treasure in many texts from the world’s artistic, religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions.  For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew, and also in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, there is the famous parable comparing the “kingdom of Heaven” to a hidden treasure.  A Jungian psychological interpretation of this saying would portray the “kingdom of Heaven” as, broadly speaking, a symbol of the Self:

‘The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field

which someone has found; He hides it again,

goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

Matthew 13:44, The New Jerusalem Bible

The motif of the Self as hidden treasure also permeates alchemy, that esoteric pre-scientific approach to matter and the world, in which Jung took such an interest in the later part of his life.  The goal that the alchemists sought was not to create ordinary gold from lead, but to create something called “the philosophers’ stone”, an absolutely incorruptible and indestructible substance.

Jung acknowledges that, from a scientific point of view, the way the alchemists went after this goal made no sense, but what gripped him was the underlying symbolism.  Jung saw in the “philosophers’s stone” a potent symbol of the Self, in this case, hidden in matter and awaiting discovery, a treasure guarded in secrecy by the alchemists.  Jung believed that some of the later alchemists such as Gerhard Dorn came to realize that what they were seeking in their alchemical work was not a physical, but a psychological reality, and that it was that reality that the symbol of the philosphers’ stone or “son of the philosophers” as it was sometimes called was pointing.

The Core of the Self

At the base of all this symbolization there lies a profound and precious truth about human existence.  It is a truth about the nature of the human self.  At the core of each of us, there is that element in us, an awareness, that is unique and precious, that defines what we most fundamentally are.  Sometimes that is represented symbollically as a hidden treasure, sometimes as a gemstone, sometimes in a variety of other ways.

This is the core of ourselves, symbollically represented.  And there is a bit of a paradox about its nature.  Certainly, symbollically, it is often presented as something that is so precious because it is incorruptible, even indestructible.  Yet, there is a danger concerning the self to which symbol and myth point.  It seems that it is possible for us to lose this treasure, to have it taken away.  Somehow it needs to be guarded and treated with vigilance — like the individual in the parable who joyfully finds the treasure, but then hides it carefully again, until such time as he can go and buy the land in which it’s buried.

Self Protection, Self Possession

This issue of the core of the self, protecting it and keeping it, is one that I meet with on a very regular basis in psychotherapy practice.  It is something with which, in one way or another, very many people.  It is a sad truth that very many people have learned, one way or another, and very often early in life, that their self — their true uniqueness — can be stolen or devalued by others

Sometimes, people learn this lesson as a result of the guilting, shame or ridicule of those who are close to them.  Sometimes what happens really does look like a theft of the self: for instance, a young person will get the message very directly that a parent or other significant person cannot tolerate or deal with who the young person really is, and so that person (often unconsciously) manufactures a false self tp placate the other.  Sometimes a person will give themselves whole-heartedly in relationships — and then find her- or himself deeply betrayed.

Learning to Hide the Self Away

As a consequence, these people learn — sometimes unbelievably well — that the true self has to be hidden away, that they cannot dare reveal who they really are to the people closest to them.  It is then very easy for this lesson to get generalized out to take in the whole world.  It can be come a reflex to feel that nobody wants me, or wants to know who I really am.  Then the only way I get through life is to “keep my head down”, in despair, and just try and keep my joys, my needs — anything at all about me — from getting noticed, and that any encounter of another with me will only result in guilt, rejection and shame.

As is very often the case, it seems to me, when you are looking for someone to express some aspect of modern consciousness, you very often cannot do better than the Beatles.  Here they are, singing a song that is profoundly “on the money” about the need to hide the true self — “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away“.


Getting the Self Back

For such an individual, getting the self back, and spontaneously living out of it, is a key priority.  The reason for that is that, without that sense of acting and reacting out of our actual self, our life simply doesn’t feel real to us.

Psychotherapy with the right therapist may be an essential part of this self-recovery.  An effective psychotherapeutic approach will allow you to get at the deeper reasons for hiding the self.  Many of those reasons may reside in the unconscious, and it may be that only as a person uses the therapy as a “laboratory” for exploring him- or herself, that they can begin to develop a sense and a comfort for what it is to live out of the self.

Most people at one time or another have had to wrestle with the feeling that who and what they are is not acceptable to others.  Has that feeling ever been a part of your experience?  If you would be willing to share your experiences, either in a comment or an email, I would welcome the opportunity to share and dialogue with you.

Wishing you a fuller and fuller encounter with your deepest treasure, the Self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     Rembrandt “Parable of the hidden treasure” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

MUSIC CREDIT:      © Lennon / McCartney, EMI Music, 1965

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 2: Where is Home?

June 10th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Halton Region, Home, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology and Suburban Life, Relationships, The Self, therapy, wholeness

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how the experience of connection to a specific place that is home can be powerful and profound. However, there are also many people for whom there is no connection to a sense of home.  And, for any of us, there can be many times–perhaps long periods–when we feel that we have lost anything that resembles that connection.

There are many real people for whom the experience of not having a place where they belong is overwhelmingly powerful and poignant.  We may not be that sort of person, may not feel that way.  And yet, very often, there is something in the experience of these people that can profoundly resonate with us.

OK, I admit it: I am really dating myself with the video below.  It’s from 1970, but, nonetheless, I’ve decided to include it, because I think that it represents a remarkable musical expression.  The group is Canned Heat, a blues-rock band from California, and the singer/blues harmonica/group leader is a young man named Alan Wilson.  In my opinion, Wilson’s singing here, in his inimitable blues manner profoundly touches on the experience of what it is to feel without a home.  By today’s standards, the video is very rudimentary, and the band seems far from polished in its stage presence.  However, as you watch and listen to Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sing and play “blues harp”, it is hard to avoid the feeling that he is putting the whole of himself, the whole of the pain in his life, into those lyrics of endless wandering, “on the road again”.

“The first time I travelled on, in the rain and snow / I didn’t have no fare, not even no place to go…”

“My dear mother left me, when I was quite young / She said, Lord have mercy, on my wicked son…”

This is really an aspect of all of us.  It’s an archetypal theme.  Homer’s Ulysses on his seemingly endless 10 year struggle — and all he wants to do is get back home to Ithaca.  Aeneas, in Virgil’s Aeneid, sole Trojan survivor and refugee from the sack of Troy, for whom there is no home to which he can go back–he must just keep on moving, that’s all there is.

As good as the human experience of home may be, there are those voices that would remind us that the welcome is never quite complete and total enough.  In the words of the German writer and poet Hermann Hesse, “One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”  But there is always a sense in which we are journeying onward.

The truth seems to be that our deepest yearning for home is something that cannot be fully met by an outer place, however wonderful. We may feel deeply connected to the place of our birth or family life, for instance, and yet something is missing, something for which we yearn.  This is because home, the real home we are seeking is something within ourselves and our own being.  Symbollically, it is the center of the mandala.  Home is connection with the centre of our own being; it is to be accepting of and at home with the deepest part of the self.  But to find that, we must undertake an inner journey.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you yearned for a feeling of security and rootedness?  Do you know what it is to be “on the road”?

Are there people who make you feel at home with their warmth and acceptance, as Hesse suggests?

Have you had the experience of feeling at home in yourself, of accepting who and what you are, and accepting your life?

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on the archetypes of home and homelessness.  What would it mean in your life in your life for you to truly “come home”?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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VIDEO CREDIT:

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Trust and Betrayal, Part 2: 4 Simple, Difficult Truths

June 2nd, 2010 · depth psychology, Hope, Meaning, parent-child interactions, psychological crisis, Psychotherapy, Relationships, The Self, therapy, trust

Following on from my last blog post on trust and betrayal, the following are four truths about the experience of betrayal of trust.  They are surprisingly easy to state.  However, really taking in what they mean for our lives is likely a much bigger psychological task.

1. An Experience of Betrayal Can Deeply Impact A Person’s Ability to Trust Others.  Not surprisingly, someone who has had their trust violated in a profound way is wary of giving that trust again.  It may be that they find that it is only with the greatest degree of effort that trust can be restored.  It may well be that, on an unconscious level they withhold trust or sabotage relationships — or they just don’t get into them.

2. An Experience of Betrayal Can Really Impact a Person’s Ability to Trust Him- or Herself.  The experience of betrayal not only impacts a person’s attitudes and response to others.  It can also have a profound impact on the way an individual regards his or her own being.  The reflection that he or she trusted someone deeply, and was betrayed, can lead to profound self-doubt and lack of confidence in her or his own judgment.

3. Experiences of Betrayal Can “Snowball”.  If Someone Has Undergone Betrayal, It Can Be Easy to Repeat the Pattern.  On the other hand, the reverse of point 2. can occur to a person.  An individual who has suffered a deep betrayal may unconsciously seek to get into a relationship of trust with someone who is as similar as possible to the initial betrayer.  They may hang onto a deep hope in the unconscious that they will be able to be in an intimate relationship with one like the former beloved, and instead of having the same tragic outcome as in the first relationship, there is a deep yearning for it to “turn out differently this time”.  Needless to say, such an individual may be unconsciously setting themselves up for a econd, maybe even more devastating betrayal.

4. Betrayal Can Lead to Bitterness, Revenge, Hatred — or to New Awareness.  Probably all of us know someone who has been through an experience of betrayal, who “can’t let go”.  Sometimes people are consumed by bitterness, hatred or an overwhelming desire for revenge, and as a result, that person’s life ends up “on ice”.  They are stuck, and can’t move past what has been done to them.  Such a person needs to find a way to begin to let go of the pain and the outrage, and to find a source of hope, and an awareness of  something that gives meaning and in which he or she can invest themselves.  Something that beckons him or her on, pulling him or her into his or her life.

I am not engaging in uttering some glib bit of fake sunshine here.  Make no mistake: such “letting go” can be the biggest single piece of psychological work that a person may undertake in his or her life.  It is a work that cannot just come from the ego.  It is something that comes from the Self.

In one form or another, betrayal is an experience common to humanity.  To find a way to let go of the experience enough to allow it to be transformed, to move through it and into our lives — is unfortunately not as common.  It can only be accomplished through engagement with the deepest parts of ourselves.  Often this is a place in life where depth psychotherapy can have an important role in the journey toward wholeness.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness — especially if at this point in your journey you are seeking healing around issues of trust.  If you were willing to share any of your experiences around this very important area of life, I would welcome and honour your comments or emails.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ciapix |Dreamstime.com © 2010 Brian Collinson

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Other People?

July 7th, 2009 · Carl Jung, Identity, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Relationships, Shadow, unlived life

Here's a reflection-provoking quote from Jung on how we tend to see other people.

Other People 3 for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog "Everybody thinks that psychology is what he himself knows best  – psychology is always his psychology, which he alone knows, and at the same time his psychology is everybody else's psychology.  Instinctively he supposes that his own psychic constitution is the general one, and that everyone is essentially like everyone else, that is to say, like himself.  Husbands suppose this of their wives, wives suppose it of their husbands, parents of their children, and children of their parents.  It is as though everyone had the most direct access to what is going on inside [him or her], was intimately acquainted with it and competent to pass an opinion on it; as though his own psyche were a kind of master-psyche which suited all and sundry, and entitled him to suppose that his own situation was the general rule.  People are profoundly astonished, or even horrified, when this rule quite obviously does not fit — when they discover that another person really is different from themselves.  Generally speaking, they do not find these psychic differences as in any way curious, let alone attractive, but as disagreeable failings that are hard to bear, or as unendurable faults that have to be condemned.  The painfully obvious difference seems like a contravention of the natural order, like a shocking mistake that must be remedied as speedily as possible…."

"The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man" in Jung, C.G., Hull. R.F.C., trans.,

Civilization in Transition, Collected Works, Vol 10, second edition, 

(Princeton: University Press, 1989), para. 277

Jung highlights for us one of the very greatest dangers in our relations with other people: Other People 2 for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog that we will see them as just like ourselves when in fact they are hugely different.  This is a trap that each of us falls into numerous times a day, very often without being aware of it.

I invite you to think about the people in your life.  Do you see them as more similar to yourself than they really are?  Can you be open to their psychology, their way of perceiving their lives?  Can Other People for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog you acknowledge who they really are, without a sense of threat?  This can be quite a challenge — and an ongoing one with which we're never quite finished.  Yet the process of taking back our projections on others is a key part of individuation, of becoming ourselves.  Unless we can do this, we find ourselves fated to go round and round on the same old merry-go-round of relationship, never really knowing others or that part of ourselves that we have never lived, and have not yet acknowledged.

As always, I welcome your comments and your thoughts on relationship and "the other", and I look forward to dialoguing with each of you.  

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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The Mirror of Relationship

May 18th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, Relationships, soul, The Self, unlived life, wholeness

Mirror of Relationships for Vibrant Jung Thing He woke up one day, and realized that he didn't recognize his marriage, his partner or himself.  He realized that things had gone on in a certain way for years and years, but that for a long time now, he had just been going through the motions.  

Certainly, he loved his kids, now in their early teens, and was a very giving parent.  He knew he wanted good things for them, was prepared to make all kinds of sacrifices for them, and could not bear the thought of hurting them.  Outside of the relationship with the kids, though, what was there that remained positive, or that had any life in it?

He thought of his wife and felt that he had nothing in common with her anymore.  It was almost painful these days to spend time together.  She seemed so different from the woman that he had been in love with, all those years ago.  He could remember how thrilled he had been to be with her, to share things with her, and just to talk early in their relationship.  It had been so intoxicating!  But now there was little that they enjoyed doing together.

With pangs of sharp feeling, he realized that he himself had changed.  The young adult "keener" who had worked so hard to supply all the material things, and who had sought to advance himself any way he could had disappeared now.  In that person`s place was someone who among other things, realized that he was not immortal, and who wanted the things that he did with his life and his time to count — to be meaningful to him.  And right now what he was experiencing in his relationship was not meaningful, and was not making him feel good that he was alive.

The experience of this man is not uncommon.  He could just as easily be a woman, or a partner in a gay or lesbian relationship.  In our current world of shifting relationships, people are now often much readier to acknowledge when relationships and marriages are no longer working.  This is not to say that such awareness comes easily: it may often be a very difficult matter for a partner when they finally have to admit to themselves that their relationship, once so full of hope, is now a shell of its former self.

When such awareness dawns, there is usually no going back from it.  It may be that the couple concerned will end their relationship, or it may be that the relationship will change dramatically  One thing that you can be very sure of: the relationship that used to exist has outlived itself, and is dead and gone. Something new, either within or without the relationship, must now emerge.

QUESTIONS FOR WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE RELATIONSHIP CRUCIBLE:

1.  Who has changed in the relationship?  Me?  My partner?  Both of us?

2.   How did I see my partner when we first got together?  What attracted me to my partner?  How do I see my partner now?

3.  Do I see my partner realistically?  What are the aspects of him/her that I don't acknowledge, or that I don't understand?

4.  Are there aspects of myself that I see in my partner.  Are there aspects of anyone else that I recognize in him or her.

5.  What am I really yearning for in relationship.

Dreamstime_573697 The journey of therapy very often starts in the crucible of relationship, or leads through it.  In many different ways, relationship can catalyze a deeper connection with the depths of the self.

Thank you to clients and readers alike who have shared with me aspects of their lives in relationship over the years.  As always I welcome readers comments ànd I thank you for taking the time to read.

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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