Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Therapy, Personal Growth & Self Knowledge …Really?

August 8th, 2011 · growth, personal growth, Self, self-knowledge, therapy

personal growth

Many speak about therapy and/or psychotherapy as a route to personal growth and self knowledge, but can it really deliver? That depends a lot on the kind of therapy, the attitude of the person undertaking it, and the knowledge and attitude of the therapist.

The famous passage quoted below illustrates this very well.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

from Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk , © Portia Nelson 1993

The good outcome in this story is due to three things.

1) Reflection

The author of the poem has the courage to look at what is going on in her life.  Not at first, because panic and confusion are in the driver’s seat.  But eventually, she faces the questions: “What is going on?’, “What caused this?”  And, actually, at an even more basic level, she’s able to admit that “I’m in a hole!”

2) Willingness to Honestly Look at Oneself

Gradually, the poem’s author is able to put down her knee-jerk self defense, and to clearly see her role in creating this situation.  She is able to do this with compassionate self acceptance.

3) Willingness to Put Insights Into Action

Once she has these insights, she acts on them and experiences personal growth.

Very often, these three steps need the fertile ground, compassion and support of the right therapy to best come into being.

 Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga Ontario

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PHOTO: © All rights reserved by mfriel81
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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Shadow Identity: Inside You Someone Waits to Emerge

February 4th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian analysis, Self, self-knowledge, Shadow

The shadow is the unacknowledged part of ourselves.  Inside you, that shadow someone has been waiting to emerge for a very long time, like a butterfly from a cocoon.  You may well encounter that someone, or aspects of her or him, in your dreams.  That person may be an elusive stranger, or someone who urgently cries out to you to open your doors to her…or him.  The shadow can be many things.

The shadow someone who waits to emerge may contain elements of you which have been forgotten or even repressed since childhood.  Or, that “someone” may appear with elements that have never before been in your conscious mind.  He or she may represent something new in you, a reality about you held in the depths of your unconscious, waiting until now to emerge and encounter you in your conscious identity.  You may well find that you are not always entirely comfortable with this one who wishes to emerge!

Depth Psychology and Emergence of the Shadow

The calling of the depth psychotherapist is to assist in the encounter of the one who wishes to emerge with the already established identity of the person who starts to hear the call of their inner self, in whatever form that call takes.  The depth psychotherapist recognizes that these are elements of one and the same person. and that,  for a person to love, accept and acknowledge him or herself, the known self and the undiscovered or emerging self must embrace each other. Then the person will live in the awareness of his or her true self, and her or his own real life.

Yearning for Transformation

Something inside of us yearns for this. Something in us may also be aware that such a transformation takes effort, and is only acheived if we devote ourselves to the goal, and move past that part of ourselves that would tell us that everything is OK the way it is, and there is no need for us to change or grow.  The part of us that is caught up with inertia, that would tell us that even though things don’t seem the best, and that life is less than satisfying— or even less real — than we had hoped, it is better to let sleeping dogs lie…or sleeping aspects of the self.

Awakening

Depth psychotherapy, especially Jungian analysis, is all about the process of awakening sleeping shadow aspects of the self.  It is opening gates within you, and allowing exiled aspects of your being to walk through those gates.

What will that someone who emerges be like?  The answer to that question will be as unique as you are.  But the encounter with the undiscovered self will ultimately be a homecoming.

Who is Waiting to Appear?

As you read this, there are aspects of who you are of which you’re aware, and aspects that are in the unconscious.  Who is it who is waiting to appear in you?  What is there that is part of your nature that is yearning to reveal itself in you?  What kind of healing would those parts of you bring?

Have you ever had the experience of encountering an aspect of yourself of which you had previously been unaware?  Such experiences can sometimes be profoundly transformative.  If you were willing to share about such an experience either in a comment or vie email, I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you and your emerging self every good thing as you travel on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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PHOTO CREDIT:     Creative Commons  Some rights reserved by Teosaurio

© 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)

wealth

riches

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In January, with Mind, Body, and Instinct

January 20th, 2011 · archetypal experience, archetypes, body, Carl Jung, consciousness, cravings, dreams, inner life, instinct, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, seasonal affective disorder, self-knowledge, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

This blog post, on our January mind set, and on mind, body and instinct, continues my last post, although it might look quite different.  My immediately previous post was centered around two quotations that painted pictures of the conscious and unconscious brains in relation to each other.  This post is much more directly concerned with the subjective experience of mind, body and instinct.  I include another quotation from Jung, speaking on primal “instinctual” humans and modern “rational” humans.  Jung’s prime concern here is the loss of human connection with nature — primal, fundamental human nature.

The holidays are over; spring is a long time off.  In the post-December winter months, it’s often easy to fall into a kind of robotic “just-gotta-get-through-it” mental state.  In my personal experience, it’s altogether too easy to just go to a kind of  place where we’re mentally divorced from our feelings, and we just stoically keep answering the “call of duty”, withour regard for the instinctual human we all carry within, and his or her needs.

The Instinct-Rationality Divide

Primitive man was much more governed by his instincts than his “rational” modern descendents. who have learned to “control” themselves.  In this civilizing process, we have increasingly divided our consciousness from the deeper instinctive strata of the human psyche, and even ultimately from the somatic [body] basis of psychic phenomena.  Fortunately, we have not lost these basic instinctive strata; they remain part of the unconscious, even though they may express themselves only in the form of dream images.

Jung, C.G., ed.,  Man and His Symbols, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964)

Modern humans can be very cut off from the instinctual basis of life, and even from being aware of our bodily existence.  In my experience, this can be particularly true when you’re bundled up, slogging down an ice-and-snow filled January street at -25 degrees with a high wind chill!

But, even so, as Jung was among the first to tell us, the instinctual side continues to function, along with the whole broad psychic processing of of inner and outer experience.  It’s always with us, and one important way to move closer to wholeness is to work actively to be aware of that.

Ways to Access the Instinctual Life Within You

Here are four questions to ask that can bring you nearer to the instincts and the life of your body.

1.  What is Your Body Telling You?

It is amazing the degree to which many modern people are completely oblivious to their bodies.  As a very simple step, what if you were to become aware of where in your body you carry tension, and when that tension appears?  If really thinking about this is something new to you, I think you would be amazed at the degree of awareness of your own psyche and your own instinctual self that can come to you through continually practicing this one simple step.

2.  Be Honest: How Do You Really Feel About That?

Of course, it’s just about the world’s oldest joke that therapists are always asking everyone, “Well, how do you really feel about that?”  But it can be so easy to drift into a place of non-awareness about your own feelings — particularly if you’re a personality type that leans heavily on thinking as opposed to feeling.  For such people (and I’m certainly a card carrying member of “Club Think”!) it can be a matter of great importance to be asking yourself continually, “Yes — but what am I feeling now?”

3.  What Do I Really Crave, Yearn for?  Why Do I Crave That?

Your cravings are important!  It may seem like a triviality in the midst of the great Project of Individuation to note that when I’m alone I experience a strong craving for Junior Mints, but don’t be too quick to assume that it’s irrelevant!  Try as much as you can to get into the question of “Yes, but why do I crave Junior Mints at such a time?”  Are they a distraction from the feelings, a self-medication?  Do they have symbollic importance in some ways — a connection with a happy, secure time in my life, for instance?  On the other hand, do the things I crave in some way or other symbollically embody spirit, or my deepest aspirations?

4.  What is Emerging in My Dreams?

And one very profound way in which instinctual life expresses itself is in dream images.  This is a big one for psychotherapists, and especially for Jungians, as we undergo a great deal of rigorous training in how to handle dream material.  I’ve written about this quite a bit, and you can expect me to write about it a lot more.  But we can certainly say here that the deepest aspects of ourselves, instinctual and otherwise, can be counted on to show up through our dreams — that aspect of ourselves that Jung sometimes referrd to as “The Two Million Year Old Man.”

What Are You Instinctually Disposed Towards?

Have you ever had times in your life where you have felt strongly that you were doing things by instinct? I’ve heard many stories that, for instance, mothers tell of getting through unbelievably difficult situations on the strength of their mothering instinct alone.   I’ve also heard of situations where something like raw instinct has led people at a certain point to make fundamental and life-changing decisions.  Indeed, I believe that I made such a change at one particular points in my life — that probably saved my life.  Has your instinct or your “animal side” ever moved you in directions that your intellect would have never thought of going?

I would be very interested to hear about your experiences: please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, send me an email!

Wishing you rich growth in your experience of all that you are, on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Psychotherapy on Job Search and Self Search

December 15th, 2010 · Identity, Individuation, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Self, self-knowledge, The Self, vocation

Does Jungian psychotherapy with its emphasis on the Self have anything to do with job search?  I emphatically believe that it does.  I recently came upon the following remark online.  It seems to me that it is pretty representative of a whole approach to searching for work within our society at the present time:

“A job search is a sales & marketing exercise with you as the product.

Are you wrapped to seduce a decision maker?”

Frankly, I find this kind of remark offensive.  Now, clearly, there’s a huge self-marketing component to finding a job.  But is that all that a job search is, a “Sales and marketing exercise”?  And is that all that we can hope for, to be “wrapped to seduce a decision maker”?  Certainly, I think if I were a woman, I would find such a suggestion to be blatently demeaning and repulsive.  (Actually, I do anyway.)

Does Job Search Mean Being a Chameleon?

If all that we can expect for and hope for from a job search is to fit ourselves, chameleon-like, to the expectations of some decision-maker who has all the power and choice, when we have none — then God help us.  This seems to me like nothing so much as a working life that is trapped within the expectations of the false self.  A life that doesn’t allow for what a Jungian psychotherapy would call individuation.   Surely there must be a possible way to pursue a job search that has more connection with soul!

Job Search and Depth in the Self

The issue of job search actually takes us right inside some deep inner questions, if we let it.  If we are open, it will lead us to ask questions like: “What is it that I really, most deeply, want to do?”; “What is most meaningful to me?”; and, “What is my vocation?”.  To even begin to answer those questions, a person must start to get to know themselves.  In other words, a job search is not just a job search.  Every time we encounter job search, if we’re to find something that’s going to work for us, it must necessarily turn into Self search.  To find what we need to know about ourselves, to encounter those dimensions of the Self that we need to take into account in a job search, it may well be that the journey leads us into psychotherapy, if we are truly to come to individual, rather than canned, answers.  This is especially true at mid-life or later.

Is the Issue of Career or Vocation Prominent in Your Life at this Time?  Or, Can You Recall a Time When it Was?

Sooner or later the question “What should I be doing with my life?” comes to occupy a prominent place in our lives.  Perhaps it will do so numerous times over the course of a lifetime — this is not uncommon.  Have you ever had an experience where job search turned into self or soul search?  Have you ever been transformed by the experience of looking for a job, or just faced with very deep questions as a result?  If you’ve had this kind of experience, and you were willing to comment below or send me a confidential email, I’d be thrilled to read it.

Wishing you a sense of meaning and vocation on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:      Some rights reserved by lumaxart under a Creative Commons license

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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