Journeying Toward Wholeness

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CG Jung’s Approach: Not for Everyone, but Essential for Some

July 16th, 2010 · Carl Jung, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, The Self, therapy, unconscious, Wellness, wholeness

Let’s face it: there are a lot of different forms of therapy / counselling out there.  So, why would someone choose to work on themselves with a Jungian therapist, as opposed to another type of therapist?  Well, here’s a list of 6 prominent factors, which certainly led me to do Jungian analysis, and which ultimately convinced me to become a Jungian analyst.  These are not the only factors, but they are certainly 6 big ones.

6 Reasons to do Jungian Analysis

1.  A Jungian approach emphasizes individuality, and  plurality.  Jung’s psychological work was always oriented to the particular individual.  He felt that it was in our unique individuality that we are most human.  He also was among the first in modern psychology to recognize that there is not just one way to be a living growing human being: there are a plurality of ways, as he recognized in his psychological types.  So, I am unique, but also similar in some ways to other human beings, and very different from others.  There is real strength and value, in my opinion, in the way that Jung is always calling us back to our individual psychological paths.  Not everyone needs this kind of an emphasis — but it’s very significant and even essential for some people.

2.  The Jungian approach recognizes that human beings are not just simply rational.  Jung acknowledged that people have a rational component, and that some people — thinking types — are predominantly rational.  But there is a whole lot more going on within us than just rational deduction.  There is our feeling, our intuition and our ability to relate to the external world though our sensation.  When we are stuck, the Jungian approach offers hope that other aspects of ourselves than our thinking may help us to find our way through.

3.  The Jungian approach recognizes that, as people, we’re not just conscious.  Unlike those types of therapy that just seek to deal with the impulses and aspects of our behaviour that are purely conscious, and that the ego, or waking mind is aware of, Jungian analysis seeks to get at those aspects of us that are not connected to consciousness, and seeks to make them conscious.

4.  The Jungian approach is certainly not just about pathology.  While many forms of therapy center in on identifying what is “abnormal” or “pathological” in clients’ behaviour, a Jungian approach focuses on the client as a unique individual.  One of Jung’s favourite sayings was that the oak tree is potentially and latently in the acorn.  In a similar manner he saw that what the deepest parts of the psyche of any individual, what Jung called the Self was striving towards was the expression and living out of the uniqueness and wholeness of the individual’s personality.  To strive for this is not just about overcoming pathology and deficiencies: it is about growing, and becoming that which we have been destined to become.

5.  Jungian analysis is about finding ways to live fully and abundantly without having “all the answers”.  Jung and the Jungian tradition have always maintained that there are vast portions of the human psyche that we simply cannot fully understand.  In the face of this, some forms of psychology simply opt for very simplistic answers that turn the individual human being into a mere machine or puppet.  These approaches unfortunately leave the individual human being “beyond freedom and dignity”, as the behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner freely admitted.  By contrast, Jung’s approach emphasizes the uniqueness and individual dignity of each human being — and the fact that each of us represents something that fundamentally cannot be totally captured by the human intellect.

6.  Jungian analysis is about the sense that, as individual human beings, we share a journey with all other human beings.  Jung was ahead of his time in recognizing that each of us, while we are unique, also shares in a profound way in the journey that has been taken by the whole of the human race, in every place and time.  This emphasis gives us a sense of compassion and connection to the rest of the human race, and also a sense of sharing in something in which every human since the beginning has shared.  Jung always spoke about drawing on the resources of the “two million year old man” within us.  To me, at least, it’s good somehow, to know that, in my own unique way, I share a journey with all other humans — I and many others find that a very grounding realization.

Does this kind of an approach speak to you?  I’d be very interested to hear, and to see any comments that you might have on this post.  If there’s an aspect of Carl Jung’s thought that really resonates with you, I’d be more than eager to hear.

How important to you is it to feel that your life is the unfolding of a unique and meaningful path?

My very best wishes to each of you as you make your individual journeys of wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Pilart | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

July 11th, 2010 · Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, Meaning, persona, popular culture, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, symbolism, unconscious, wholeness

 

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III, Heart Trouble

…I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. 

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course.  What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

We think here,” he said, indicating his heart. [Italics mine]

Conversation between Ochway Biano, Chief of the Pueblo Indians and Carl Jung, recorded in  CG Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections  (1961)

Everything has been “figured out”, except how to live.

Jean-Paul Sartre

 In Part I  and Part II of this series “Anxiety Behind the Mask”, I’ve been exploring the symbollic meaning of the pop cultural figure of Iron Man.  He is certainly a symbol for the relationship in our culture between the social mask and the inner human, and for the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable.   However, there is great psychological danger in complete identification with such an impervious persona: it can become a trap, become robotic, with no way left for the inner person to “get beyond the mask”.

One of the elements from the story of the origin of Iron Man is that Tony Stark, who becomes Iron Man, has heart trouble.  As the first Iron Man movie shows, he is injured in the process of his capture, and has to be fitted with a special magnetic device to keep shrapnel from ripping apart his heart.

There is of course a tremendous importance to the symbolism of the heart.  It is the seat of the feelings and of passion.  It is also the particular organ associated with eros, which includes but is more than the power of sexual love.  Eros is also the human capacity to connect and relate.  The place where our yearnings are located.  The place where hope and despair alike find their home.

Tony Stark is portrayed as a technical genius, someone who can create the most incredible machines.  As a hero figure, he symbolizes the incredible technical prowee of our culture.  This kind of technical knowledge exemplifies the tremendous power of rational thinking — what Jung identified as the principle of logos.  It is characterized by the ability to organize, quantify, discriminate, classify, and strategize.  But logos is always pulling things apart, using conceptual power to break things down into their component parts, and make them less than they are.  Our ability to do this as a species is a great strength, and has contributed mightily to the survival and success of our species.  It is a cornerstone of western civilization, and we all glory in our scientific and technical acheivements.

However, this scientific and technical prowess can leave us completely isolated and alienated from our world, nature, and other people.  And above all, it can leave us cut off from our inner selves, from our true ability to feel things, and to relate to others and to our world.

Like Tony Stark, the Iron Man, who is a symbol produced by our culture’s collective consciousness, it is all too easy for those of us who live in our culture to have “heart trouble”, to have lost touch with our ability to feel, to empathize, to relate.  But, as Leonard Cohen seeks to remind us, the truth of the heart is never really lost.  It is always there waiting for us, even when we seem to be in exile from ourselves, even when the world seems to say, “this heart, it is not yours”.

Four Questions about the Heart

Here are some questions that may help the conversation with your own heart.

Are there any feelings that you would find hard to share with the people closest to you? 
What are the three most painful experiences in your life?
 
 
 
What are the three most joyous experiences in your life?
 
 
 
 
What is it that you really yearn for?
 
 

What about your own heart?  It’s only by staying close to it that one can begin to be close to the spontaneity and aliveness that is one’s own real life.  Often, the course of analysis, therapy or counselling is following the road back to the deepest parts of the heart.

I’d welcome your reflections on the “heart trouble” of Iron Man and the ways in which it reflects our own struggles with our hearts, as individuals and as a culture.

My very best wishes to each of you as you make your individual journeys of wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Marvel Entertainment, LLC  These images are the property of Marvel comics and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

VIDEO CREDIT: “By the Rivers Dark” by Leonard Cohen, from the album Ten New Songs ©  2001 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.  This music is the property of Sony Music Entertainment and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II

July 2nd, 2010 · creativity, Film, Identity, Individuation, inner life, popular culture, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, spontaneity, The Self, wholeness

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II, The Armoured Self, My Prison

In the course of thousands of years of mechanical development, the mechanistic concept, from generation to generation, has anchored itself deeply in man’s biological system.  In so doing, it actually has altered human functioning in the direction of the machine-like….   Man has become biologically rigid. He has armored himself against that which is natural and spontaneous within him, he has lost contact with the biological function of self-regulation and is filled with a strong fear of that which is alive and free.

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933)

 In Part I of “Anxiety Behind the Mask” I began to explore the meaning of the pop cultural figure of Iron Man.  As seen in recent movies, Iron Man is a symbol for the relationship in our culture between the social mask, known in Jungian terms as the “persona”, and the inner human.  The Iron Man myth represents the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable, beyond weakness, mistake and humiliation.   However, as we discovered, there is also great psychological danger in complete identification with such an impervious persona.

In this post, I’d like to open up that idea in a fuller way.  In fact, the social armour which protects us can also be a prison.  We can so easily develop a way of relating that is very smooth, glib, almost machine-like.  It can be so effective that it can give me the strong sense that nothing is ever going to hurt me.  It can lead me to “pat” answers and attitudes that accord with the standard views and attitudes in our social grouping(s), that completely avoid vital questions about how we feel and what we want.

Our armour can persuade others and even ourselves that we are sleek and slick, even sophisticated.  But I can only ensure that I’m on top of things by ensuring that nothing is ever going to reach me, that nothing will ever break my stride.  I need to keep whatever might disrupt my performance at a distance.

So we armour ourselves not only against others, but against ourselves.  We do this by repressing any inner acknowledgment of our own inferior, weak, morally suspect or socially unacceptable parts – and the shame that often goes with acknowledging them.  We eliminate our vulnerability, but at the price of our vitality and spontaneity.

I have heard innumerable people relate nightmares to me with themes that resemble the following:

I am in a labyrinth, or a dark, unknown place.  I am being pursued by robots.  They advance relentlessly, despite all my efforts to destroy them or fend them off.  No matter how many I disable, they just keep coming…  closer and closer and closer.  I wake up, filled with fear.

Potentially a very disturbing dream, that reflects a very important reality in the psyche, about which we genuinely should be disturbed.  In the words of Eric Fromm:

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.

In a certain important sense, this is also the danger of the present, as the dream above reflects.  My armour, my social mask, may become robotic, particularly if I let it get to be thicker than it needs to be, as a result of my over-identification with my social role or roles.  Then I may find myself cut off from the instinctual and spontaneous sources of life deep in the psyche, and may find myself overwhelmed by anxiety, depression or even psychosomatic illness.  All are dangerous signs that the connections with the deep inner life of the human being are in danger of being severed.

To be continued in “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part III: Heart Trouble

I’d welcome your reflections on the symbollic aspects of Iron Man and the trap of robotic social roles.   Do you ever see others trapped in their social roles?  Do you ever find that you are struggling to be your genuine self in situations?  In relationships?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness and self-discovery,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Marvel Entertainment, LLC  These images are the property of Marvel comics and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part 1

June 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, mythology, persona, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul, wholeness

When I was 9 or 10 years old, I was an insatiable Iron Man fan.  I used to race to the local drug store every day to see if a new issue of my hero’s adventures had hit the stands yet.  I still admire Stan Lee and those who developed the Iron Man character: he was truly an iconic figure for a pre-adolescent boy in the mid-1960s.  Well, it’s 45 years later, and Iron Man is receiving great attention — arguably much greater than in earlier days.  “Iron Man 2” was the lead-grossing movie for much of the 2010 Spring season, and the Iron Man 1 and 2 movies are estimated to have grossed in excess of $935 million.

There is no question that the Iron Man figure captures the imagination of many in our culture.

What is the fascination that Iron Man exerts?  Why is this figure a cultural icon—and not just for 9 year old boys?  What is it that he shows us about ourselves as a culture, and the issues and problems that we collectively face?  Please bear with me as I relate some of this modern myth – for it actually has a surprising amount of symbolic and psychological depth.

According to the story line, Iron Man is the alter ego of the wealthy industrialist Tony Stark (played in the recent movies by Robert Downey).  In order to escape a situation where he is held hostage by some despicable outlaws, Stark fashions a suit of practically invincible armour, and overcomes his foes – all details covered in the original “Iron Man” movie.  Stark then goes on to improve and enhance this very sophisticated flying suit of armour, to the point where it is mighty, mobile, and both beautiful and technologically advanced to an incredible degree.

In Jungian terms, Iron Man as a symbol for our relationship between the social mask, the persona and the inner human.  It represents the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable: the fantasy of being beyond weakness, mistake and humiliation.

Undoubtedly, we need a social mask – we cannot just “let it all hang out” in social situations.  The result would be chaos, and we would be extremely dangerous to ourselves and to others.

But how devastating must the underlying shame be, to lead me to wrap myself in the fantasy of untouchability, to strive for invulnerability, to ensure that nothing is ever going to touch me.  We have to admit that it is a seductive fantasy–one that we might easily be tempted to try and pull off.  Particularly in a culture like ours that so values external appearances.

We are so utterly afraid of our own vulnerability and weakness.  We can so easily live in terror of our own true nature.  It can be so hard to let ourselves be what we are, to know ourselves, and to let ourselves be known.  Part of us is utterly convinced of the need for the pretense of invulnerability.  Yet part of us knows what we really are.

Stark says, “I am Iron Man.  The suit and I are one.”  That’s great for a myth and a fantasy hero.  Heroes in myth are always something other than simply human.  However, complete identification with the persona,  “the suit and I being one” would be a form of living death for a real human being.  It’s easy for us to live in such terror of our vulnerable selves, those parts of ourselves which are not strong and beautiful.  Yet they are there, and if we cannot acknowledge them, and give them their due, they will surface in very destructive ways, such as anxiety and depression, as symptoms of the underlying shadow self.

Somehow, we’ve got to come to terms with the human inside the armour, and to learn compassion and acceptance for that person, just as he or she is. We have to abandon perfectionism, and get beyond the toxicity of shame.  Often, it’s just at this point that psychotherapy or Jungian analysis is a necessity.

To be continued in “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II: Imprisoned in the Armoured Self”.

I’d welcome your reflections on the nature of “social armour”, and the social mask.  Have you ever experieced situations where, to your surprise, someone was suddenly vulnerable?  Where you were?

I wish you every good thing as you travel on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Turkbug| Dreamstime.com ; marvel.com

VIDEO CREDIT: ©Marvel Entertainment, LLC  //marvel.com/movies/iron_man.iron_man_2

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Work and the Heart

May 15th, 2010 · Hope, Identity, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, Wellness, wholeness, work

An article from the Globe and Mail of 12 May 2010 , “Working regular overtime linked to increased heart attack risk” raises some very serious questions about the way that we’re living now:

//bit.ly/99TwPg

The article cites a study published in the European Heart Journal, which finds that employees who regularly put in 11- to 12-hour days have an almost 60 per cent greater risk of having a heart attack than those who put in a standard 7 to 8 hours daily.  The scary thing, of course, is that, in our world, that group who are putting in the 11 to 12 hour days is very large.  As the article suggests, “the overtime hours were not, in and of themselves, causing heart problems, but rather that they likely reflect the stress being felt by those who work long days”.  So, to be literal-minded, stress and endless days are making people sick at heart.

What is it about work and the heart?  There is true symbolism here, that comes right out of the midst of flesh and blood.  For events in the body are very often symbols or metaphors of what is going on in the psyche.  Psyche will reflect in the stomach, or in the neck and back what psyche has to bear, or finds unbearable.  Psyche and soma (Greek for body) are a unity, and they reflect each other.

At the risk of sounding childish or naive, this whole area begs our consideration because it draws attention to a huge very personal, very human question: what is our heart’s desire?

Down through the millenia, the symbolism of the human heart has represented that dimension of the human being that interacts with life through feeling.  The psychic reality is that the feeling dimension of life cannot be ignorred.  The overall question of what we want, really want, from our lives is not going to leave us alone, not really going to go away, even if it gets repressed.  Endless work and/or the complete blurring of the distinction between work and home leaves the heart in a desert wasteland.

We have to come to terms with the true depth of our yearning.  The only way to do that is to trust that our deepest yearnings are not meaningless.

How can we possibly find a way to make a living and keep our health?  Only by giving the heart what it needs.  What does your heart need?  Can we dare to even ask that question?  Do we dare to hope for it anymore, or has that hope gotten submerged or lost in the midst of cascading demands and obligations?

Stay with your heart.  Trust that it knows what you need.  Strive to find the ways to get closer to the things that matter to you, and to be less and less driven by urgencies and agendas that have nothing to do with your own real life.  As the Book of Proverbs, that compendium of age-old human wisdom in the Hebrew Bible has it:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

 My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness — and your journey to your heart.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Vladimirdreams|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety, Stress and Decisions

May 11th, 2010 · Anxiety, decision, Individuation, midlife, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, unconscious, wholeness

A great deal of stress and anxiety in peoples’ lives is associated with making major decisions that deeply effect personal life.  Very often, people come into therapy because they are hung on the horns of a major dilemma, with a decision to be made between two or more possible decisions or paths to take.

As we all know, making a life-changing decision can be a time of real struggle.  Often the choice may be of a kind from which there is no easy turning back.  In such a situation, if the stakes are high enough on each side, the dilemma can seem insoluble, and the situation can seem absolutely paralyzing.

This is in part because, there is often no easy, logical set of steps to take in making the fundamental decisions in life.  Decision-making is not nearly the logical, rational proposition that it is often portrayed to be, and that we would like to think that it is.  This is true whether we look at individual or group decisions.  I appreciated this article in the Financial Post newspaper of date, which concerned research into the psychological processes around decision-making demonstrates this:    //bit.ly/cd0whp

In the course of an ordinary human life, there will be decisions that will be true forks in the road.  These decisions will not be made easily, and making them may well have a very real personal cost.  As one enters mid-life, the frequency of these difficult, uncharted decisions tends to increase.  From the middle of life on, there will be more and more of an individual character to such major choices.  As one really confronts one’s own unique identity, and one’s own unique values and sources of meaning, conventional cookie-cutter answers to these dilemmas will be less and less readily apparent and less and less helpful.  If an individual is to find an authentic way to move forward at such a point, it will require genuine self exploration, and confrontation with the unconscious elements in him- or herself.

Coming to terms with the unconscious element of ourselves, and becoming aware of its presence and its effect on the direction of our lives is a transforming process.  The self that makes the decision and moves forward will necessarily be somewhat different from the self that originally confronted the dilemma.  Often it is the support provided by the container of depth psychotherapy that can make the difference between an end result that furthers a sense of despair and stagnation, and a resolution to the dilemma that provides a sense of greater unification and integrity of the self.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments on the decision process.  Have you confronted times in the recent past where making a major decision or decisions has been a source of great stress?  Have you ever had to confront decisions that had the feeling of being a genuine “fork in the road” or “crossing of the Rubicon” from which, once made, there was no turning back?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Main website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ffennema |Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Crisis

May 8th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, complexes, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, psychological crisis, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, soul, stress

 

Sometimes we can be overtaken by things that happen in the psyche.  Such events can leave a person in a very vulnerable place struggling with intense anxiety, depression or stress.  Often these psychic events are triggered by events in our outer lives.  Nonetheless, it is their psychological impact, the things that they cause to happen in our minds, that has the most fundamental impact upon us.  It is the manner in which we perceive these events, and the meaning that we attach to them, that can led us into real difficulties.

There are many potential types of crisis.  I have chosen just a few types to mention here, which are among the most prominent and difficult.

Betrayal is often one of the very worst types of crises. A negative experience at the hands of one who is loved and trusted can be one of the most profoundly shattering experiences in life.  I will be writing a whole posting, or a whole series on this in the near future.  Nonetheless, what is important here is that such an experience can shake a person to the core, particularly if the relationship in which the betrayal occurs is one that is fundamental to a person’s sense of identity (see below).

Fundamental crisis of identity. A fundamental crisis of this kind is an experience in which an individual’s sense of themselves is pulled out from underneath them, as it were, rather than the kind of gradual change in understanding of identity that occurs in aging and maturation.  For example, consider the person who has 37 years in with the same firm, and who is unexpectedly laid off 2 1/2 years before retirement.  Or the 47 year old woman who learns for the first time that she is adopted in her mother’s last will and testament.  job loss.  loss of a business.

Grief and or profound disillusionment.  These two types of experience can be quite distinct, or else they can come together.  Often the loss of a loved one can lead to some of the deepest soul-searching and questions in life.  Sometimes grief, though, can also be associated with the loss of a way of life, or something that has provided a certain kind of meaning, such as a pattern of life that may be associated with living with a certain city or location, or in a certain community of people, when one has to leave it.

The sense of being fundamentally overwhelmed by external events.In my opinion, this is one of the most frequent kinds of psychic crisis for people in suburban environments like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga.  In fact, at certain times in recent years in our culture, I think that this kind of psychic affliction has been almost epidemic.

The effect of huge life events of these types is that they can cause some pretty fundamental upheavals deep in the individual’s psyche.  These can lead to things in the unconscious getting very shaken up and emerging in consciousness, such as anxiety and depression.

However, it is important to recognize that contents from the unconscious might well be surfacing in an attempt to bring healing to the individual, also.

What do I do if I find myself in the grip of a crisis? Sometimes people keep on with business as usual, acting as if nothing has changed in their lives.  They work just as hard, maybe harder.  They are just as demanding of themselves as they ever were, maybe even more so.

1. Acknowledge that you are in a crisis. This can be hard to admit.  All of us would rather not go through this type of experience, even though they are a fundamental aspect of human life. Sometimes the need to look good–to ourselves, or to others–can keep a person from acknowledging in a self-compassionate way that she or he has something big with which they have to struggle.

2. Take care of yourself.  Carefully consider your sleeping, eating, working and stressful interactions.  Are you putting more burden on yourself than you can manage in a healthy way?  As in 1. , are you truly acknowledging what it is that you are going through?  If you respond to the distress of a crisis by, say, trying to drown the pain through working harder, you need to recognize that the outcome may not be at all good for you or for the people to whom you are close.

3. Get help.  Seek out a good therapist.  You are going to need to process what is happening to you, to come to terms with the feelings, and with everything, such as depression, anxiety and perhaps even panic, that may be coming up from the unconscious.  A skilled therapist who is aware of the deeper meanings of these types of events can help you to put them in a context where the psyche can start to make some kind of meaning out of them.

4.  Ask whether this situation reminds you of anything similar in your earlier life. Is this particular crisis bringing up things out of the past for you?  Does it connect with difficult things that you have had to deal with earlier in your life?  Does it reflect patterns that you have experienced at earlier times in your life?……..

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on psychological crisis.  Have you, like very many people, had experience of crisis in your life?  Are you dealing with forms of crisis now?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Icefields|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Here in the Middle Years of Life: Is That All There Is?

February 28th, 2010 · Anxiety, depression, depth psychology, Hope, Identity, inner life, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, suburbia / exurbia, The Self, therapy

The great jazz artist Peggy Lee performed the following beautiful, highly disturbing yet haunting song in 1969, at midlife, in her 50th year:

I doubt that questions get much more real than those in this song.  And the question that Peggy Lee sings about here is of the type, that, for many people, can become achingly urgent at the middle of life. 

For many people, especially in our tumultuous times, the middle years of life can come to feel like an endless process of coping with chaos.  It can feel like life has become a time of just responding to one crisis after another: issues with maturing children, issues with the health of parents; job issues; issues of financial security.  At times, life can come to seem endlessly wearying, and very much as if there is nothing to it, but “just going through the motions”.  From such a place, for very many people, there can come a deep heartfelt cry: “Is this really all that there is to my life?  Is this all that I get?”

This moment, the moment of this question, is highly important in the life of the individual.  This is true, even especially true, if the time when this question arises is filled with depression, anxiety — even despair.

From experience with clients, I can almost guarantee that there will be no canned, pre-packaged answer to this question that will slake the desperate thirst of those who ask such a question. Only an answer rooted in the individual’s life will bring any peace, any hope, any meaning — any sense of value.

By an individual answer, I mean one that emerges from the very depths of the individual.  Not something that the individual’s intellect or conscious mind has cobbled together, but something that emerges from the very depths of the person, from what they most fundamentally are.  Something to which they can say “Yes!” with their whole being.

It is the task of good therapy (and of Jungian analysis) to assist the individual in finding the symbolic dimension that conveys meaning, to find the deep story or myth of an individual’s life.  There are many in suburban places like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga for whom the question “Is that all there is?” has become urgently real.  I invite you to enter into the therapeutic journey inward, to find your own inner treasure.

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections from readers.  Have you had the experience of wondering in this way “is that all there is”?  How has that question affected your life?  If you were willing to share this important and personal part of your life, I’d be deeply interested to dialogue with you.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Does February Bring Any GIfts?

January 31st, 2010 · depth psychology, Hope, Identity, Individuation, inner life, soul, The Self, therapy

February Gifts 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing  “April is the cruelest month” wrote the poet T.S. Eliot.  When I first read that line as a teenager, my thought was, “Obviously, this poet wasn’t a Canadian!”

Anyone who has consistently lived through winters in places like Oakville, Mississauga or Burlington will probably tell you that “the cruelest month” is either January or February.  I suspect that many would vote for February.

For many people, February can seem very bleak.  The year-end holidays are far behind us.  There is no major holiday to lighten our hearts, although we do now have “Family Day”.  Snow or brutal cold –this year we have little of the former and plenty of the latter–can turn trips out into an ordeal.  The days are lengthening, it’s true, but, at least in our part of the world, long strings of overcast days lead many people to feel starved for sunlight.

Does February bring us any gifts?  How could it?…

One of the most difficult aspects of this time of the year can be that we tend to feel shut in, and shut up with ourselves.  This can mean that we are left with what I often term the fundamental question of ourselves.  That is, with how to be who we are and feel good about it.  How to actively accept and cherish our lives, rather than just seeing ourselves as “one in a million”.

Many of the things into which we pour our energy at other times of the year are just not available now.  Our response to that can be to curse the luck and hang on grimly until spring.  Or, we could use the time to really encounter ourselves.

Here are some things that might be helpful to think about at this time.  They’ve proved valuable to me, so I leave them with you for your consideration:

 

Have you ever told yourself the story of your own life?  To sit down and actually write your own life story can be a truly revelatory thing to do.

Have you ever thought about what the happiest time in your life was?  Have you ever thought about what was the saddest?

Who are the three most significant people that you have encountered in your life, other than parents or siblings.  Why are they important to you?  What does that tell you about yourself?

In what do you put your faith?  This might be a formal religious belief, or a personal spirituality or philosophy, or it might be something quite different.  What you fundamentally value can tell you a tremendous amount about who you fundamentally are.

It may be that, as you live with these questions, they take on a fundamental importance that leads you to want to explore new dimensions of yourself, with someone “on your side” to witness your journey.  Certainly that was my experience, and that is what initially led me into psychotherapy and Jungian analysis.

 

I’d welcome comments below from readers on how any of these thoughts relates to your lives at this time of year.

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

PHOTO CREDITS: © Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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When You Hit a Brick Wall

July 9th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, midlife, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

Often people get to the point in life where they reach an impasse, and they don’t know how to solve a particular situation in their lives.

Hitting the Wall 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

There doesn’t seem to be a way forward and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.  Although this can happen at any point in life, it seems particularly prevalent at mid-life.

Often, the way one becomes aware of this is that you just realize that the way that you have been trying to solve a particular problem or deal with a particular life situation just isn’t opening anything up.  What this tells you, at least in part, is that your attitude is no longer adapted to the realities of your life.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying something along the lines of “If you want it enough, and you’re unfailingly positive about it, what you want in your life will come” — the kind of message that you find in books like The Secret.  I think that approach to life is quite naive, and I have seen a fair number of people come to real harm as a result of trying to live like that.  Such an attitude can be really unadapted, and can lead you into a major collision in reality.  I know of one person who left home and found herself absolutely destitute and friendless in Dubai as a result of that kind of thinking.  From all that I hear, Dubai is not a great place to be penniless, and to try and get by on just a sunny smile.
Having an adapted attitude may well mean that there are certain realities that I have to let in and acknowledge.  That may even mean that there are things that I have to grieve.  What it may mean, above all, is that I have to change.
Let’s say that I’m a true died-in-the-wool “thinking type” person.  So I try to approach all the problems and situations in my life in very rational, thought-out, dispassionate ways.  Then perhaps one day I find myself deep in the grip of a depression that I simply can’t shake.  It might well be that the only way that I’m going be able to come through the depression and feel alive again is by acknowledging my feeling side — all those years of unacknowledged and suppressed feelings.  This is going to require a big change in the way that I see myself, and a lot of open-ness to dimensions of my life that I’ve previously done my very best to cut off.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Parts of me are really going to resist.  But it may well be that it’s the only way that I’m going to get my real, meaningful life back.
Similarly, a person who is all about willpower and control may well have to acknowledge the parts of him- or herself in the unconscious that they can’t control.  They may have to admit that the ego is going to have to acknowledge that it is “second banana” to the Self, and let things emerge from their dreams and from other parts of the unconscious, and take those things into account in the way that they live their lives.  This might be quite difficult, but it might just give them a meaningful life again.
 Hitting the Wall 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Many times “hitting the wall” has to do with coming up against the things that I really refuse to admit to myself.  The key to the lock that I need to open, I hide from myself, because there is some truth about myself or my situation that I really don’t want to look at.
The only way past the wall is to be open to something new: the undiscovered self.
Please keep sending me your comments and your thoughts!  I would welcome any of your reflections on the “walls” in your life, past or present.

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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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Alexandr Tkachuk | Dreamstime.com ; © Kentoh | Dreamstime.com   

© 2009 Brian Collinson

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