Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Another New Year: Time, Change and Resiliency, Part 2

January 13th, 2020 · resiliency

In Part 1 of this post, we examined how remembering where we’ve been contributes to our resiliency in facing the present and the future.

Resilience

We’re still in the early days following all the emotion associated with the coming of the New Year. Yet the daily news is filled with stories of the devastating Australian bushfires, the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, and the tragic downing of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran, carrying so many young Canadians. These events are sobering reminders of pain, challenge and anxiety in human existence, and of the need to find strength and a sense of meaning to cope with the broken parts of life.

New Year’s, especially, may be an important time to reflect on our journey. It gives us a perspective to understand our past experience and life transitions, and all the things in our conscious and unconscious lives that have enabled us to “get through” to this point in our lives. These may be key resources as we move into our future.

The rest of this post offers some key questions to ask of ourselves: 1) as we seek to understand our life journey through the past; and, 2) as we seek to find the resiliency and strength to move through our future.

Refiner’s Fire: Experiences Which Have Formed Us

The first set of questions relate to experiences in our past that may have been very difficult, which have nonetheless shaped us to be who we are.

What have been the most difficult experiences or stressors in my past?  What have been the experiences that have really shaped me? How have each of those events impacted me?

The most difficult experiences in our lives may be things that we would rather not even think about. Yet, often these harrowing experiences can be the very ones that show us the strong and enduring part of ourselves, if we can just discern it.

If you recall the most difficult experiences in your life, can you remember what was so difficult about them? Or, how you got through those times? It’s likely that these experiences have profoundly affected or shaped your life. If you or I can discern how such events have made a difference to us, we’ll likely learn something important about who we are.

The Key People

Who are the important people in my life who’ve helped me when I’ve been distressed?  To whom have I reached out for support?

In every human being’s life, there are key people, who’ve been an integral part of the journey. Some people may be part of the pain and struggle in our lives, as they are tied to very negative experiences like abuse and betrayal. However, almost always there are key people who’ve been essential to our journey, and who’ve had a stabilizing and supportive impact, often at times that were crucial for us.

Who are the people who’ve been key supports in your life journey? What role have they played in your life? What is it that they brought to your journey, that made such a key difference? How did they see you? What does that tell you about who you really are — as opposed to the hyper-critical stories that it’s often so easy to tell ourselves?

The Voice of the Self

The final set of questions really emerges from previous two:

What have I learned about myself and about what’s really important to me during difficult times? Have I been able to overcome obstacles, and if so, how? What has helped me to find hope for the future?

Who are you really when confronted with extreme difficulty? What are the characteristics of my most fundamental self when the going is at its roughest? If you have faced extraordinary obstacles, how did you get through or around them? In such situations, we might expect ourselves to be at our worst, or perhaps we even remember ourselves at our most fearful or despairing. And yet, when you listen to peoples’ stories of these dark times, what you often hear is something else: people talk of a part or an aspect of themselves that somehow got them through this extreme difficulty.

This sense of a part of us that is wise and strong, and which abides with us in even the most difficult situations is one of the most important things that underlies genuine hope for the future. It can be essential to our life journey to seek to come into contact with that wise part.

A strong, supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can be a vital asset in seeking to come into contact with our fundamental self. Such a therapeutic relationship can be of inestimable value in finding our way through our lifelong journey to wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Some rights reserved by  Robert Couse-Baker (Creative Commons Licence)

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Another New Year: Time, Change and Resiliency

January 6th, 2020 · resilience, resiliency

People seem much more likely to think about and make resolutions at the New Year’s season, than they are to think about change and resiliency.

finding happiness in life

That’s probably because we see the New Year’s season as a time for renewal and new beginnings, which in some respects, it certainly is. New Year’s resolutions allow us to feel that we are starting anew, perhaps that we are beginning again. I may have intended to use the exercise machine four times a week last year. That may have not worked out so well, — but here we are at New Year’s, and it’s a new beginning.

This has validity and importance for people, without a doubt. Yet there are other significant dimensions to the coming of a New Year, that carry important meaning. In a time like ours, when we’re constantly buffeted by change, it’s important that these other dimensions, which involve the fullness of our life journey, also be recognized.

Throughout the English-speaking world, it’s long been customary to take a moment in the beginning minutes of the New Year to sing Robert Burns’ “For Auld Lang Syne”. We might dismiss this as a musty tradition, but it’s worth bringing the lyrics of that tune into focus. The phrase itself is probably best translated as “for long long ago”, and the rhetorical question posed by the first lines is probably best rendered as:

Is it right that old times be forgotten?

Remember How You Got Here

It’s easy to give this question endless amounts of smarmy overlay and dreary sentimentality. Yet it’s very important for each of our own lives and our journey to wholeness. In our time, the internet, smartphones and an endless succession of other technologies bring a continual influx of the new. It’s an era when “disruption” is seen as a positive, even life-giving thing. This current information culture gives us strong incentives to focus on the novel, and on what’s changing, rather than understanding and appreciating the things in our collective or personal past that have made us who and what we are today.

Yet it’s important for each of us to turn a discerning and compassionate eye onto our own journey. We need to understand, in a self-compassionate way, how we got to where we are today. That entails understanding just how much change each of us has undergone to get here. It also entails understanding and appreciating the experiences that have really shaped us into the particular unique individual that each of us is.

Easy to Forget the Journey…

There are many voices in our culture that seem to imply that the best way to be strong and advance in life is to forget all about the past, and to live in a way that just moves forward. In a time like ours, this is a very seductive message. As wave after wave of change washes over us, it’s very easy to feel disconnected from our personal past, with all it’s pain, courage and hard-won clarity.

As we celebrate the end of a decade, it may be valuable to think back on ourselves of ten years ago. Given the fast pace of events, can we even remember ourselves and the world as it was in 2010? Yet, it’s not that long ago!

Often that past experience of ourselves, and of how we have gotten through the demanding experiences of the past can be an important part of our resilient core as we approach the future.

Resiliency Through Affirming Who We Are

As the American Psychological Association tells us that,

[r]esilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress …. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

APA Website

We face a world now where there is a continual onslaught of anxiety and stress from ongoing, relentless change. We need to be able to “bounce back” in the face of continual stressors. One important way to gain such resilience is through connecting with our past in meaningful, healing ways. These often involve connecting with out past experiences in life events such as past major life transitions. Depth psychotherapy can be centrally important in helping us to access these resources for resilience, contained deep within ourselves.

In our post next week, I’ll be continuing our exploration of resources within ourselves that contribute to our resilience.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Some rights reserved by  Robert Couse-Baker (Creative Commons Licence)

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