Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis: Matter

November 20th, 2012 · crisis, Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, spiritual crisis

Jungian psychotherapy is aware of a profound and paradoxical truth: to understand spirit, and, often, to move beyond spiritual crisis, we must experience — take in, accept — the reality of matter.

Jungian psychotherapy

For Jungian psychotherapy, spirit and matter are not fundamentally opposed, but profoundly related.  Many a spiritual crisis erupts from a disconnect between the two.

Here in the Material World

Madonna sings the lines, “For we are living in a material world /  And I am a material girl.”  And the reality is that we are all material people.  The body is not an illusion.  It’s substantial, and real — it is what we are.

Our entire psyche is shaped by the fact that we are embodied creatures, living in a physical world.  It is virtually impossible to conceive what it would be like to live in an unembodied way.  Our whole manner of mental functioning stems from being in a body, and even the images generated by archetypal psyche are images of embodied existence — of physical being.

Matter, My Nature

To be human, we have to come to terms with animal life.  One of the great spiritual lessons to come out of the work of Charles Darwin and evolution has to do with recognizing that we live in continuity with all that lives in the material world, rather than existing in a separate and god-like apartness.  We are a part of the whole great living reality of the earth.

An important part of the journey of the spirit for us is a journey into accepting our own material, animal existence.  Accepting the simple, humble, yet wondrous organism that each of us fundamentally is.

To approach this simple, wondrous, poor, yet infinitely rich, fearful yet courageous, humble and yet deeply dignified being, our own animal self, with compassion and self acceptance, is a huge journey.

Dust, Perhaps, but Enchanted Dust

We are matter, surely, yet we move with a strange enchantment.  Looking at ourselves, we cannot help but wonder: do we have even the beginning of an understanding of the nature of matter — our own matter?  The fact remains that, of all the things that humanity has encountered in the universe so far, we ourselves are the most intricate and wondrous.

The matter which forms us, and by which we are surrounded is infinitely variable, subtle and complex.  We swim in it, we are it, and yet we cannot even take in the complete fullness of the mystery of matter in the apparently smallest and most insignificant of things.  A magnificently simple and eloquent scene from the film American Beauty (dir. Sam Mendes) captures this:

Living in the Flesh of the World

We live with and in the flesh of the world, subject to its necessities, its weaknesses and its wonder.  When we move away from material existence, and from our body existence, we move away from life, and from others.  Spiritual crisis?  Jungian psychotherapy knows that, without relationship to matter, there is no relationship to spirit.

Next in series: Spirit

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved nilsrinaldi ; familymwr  |   VIDEO: “American Beauty” © 1999 Paramount Pictures

 

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Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis 3: Belonging

November 3rd, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, spiritual crisis

Belonging, or as modern psychology might refer to it, attachment, is a key element in spirituality; its absence can lead to spiritual crisis as Jungian psychotherapy affirms.

rose as symbol in jungian psychotherapy

Belong in the World

For many people, feeling a sense of truly belonging in the world is a deep issue.  Jungian psychotherapy stresses that uncertainty about belonging is central to many a spiritual crisis.

We come into the world ready to belong, to attach — we might well say that this instinct has something archetypal about it,   Yet, starting even from a very early age, it may be our experience that the world seems to offer little hospitality or welcome for who we actually are.  That, at least, is the experience of many individuals.

It may be essential to the resolution of any spiritual crisis for an individual to experience a sense of rightness to his or her life — a sense of genuinely belonging in life.

Belonging in the Self

Jungian psychotherapy refers to “relativization of the ego” as the process by which the individual ego comes to realize that it is not the sum total of who we are.  That role belongs to the Self, the fullness of all that we are, conscious and unconscious.  There are unconscious processes working themselves out in our lives, going on without conscious control, and even without consciousness.  This can be a very humbling realization, but it can also provide healing to the  individual in spiritual crisis to realize that the ego does not exist in splendid isolation– it is part of something greater, rather than heroically alone.

Jungian psychotherapy affirms that the Self has a sense of purpose it that goes beyond that of the ego.

The Numinous

What Jung stated about the numinous is very important for those in spiritual crisis.   The numinous is what gives religious experience its compelling power — but it is  found in many other places than organized religion.  As Jung said, the numinous is:

“a dynamic agency or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will…. [that grips] the human subject.”

As Andrew Samuels added:

“The numinous cannot be conquered; one can only open oneself to it.”

This experience is at the root of spirituality.  In addition to contact with something greater, it also implies contact with “a not-yet-disclosed, attractive and fateful meaning” (Samuels).

It’s not often put this way, but the numinous conveys profound connectedness and belonging, especially to those in spiritual crisis.

Destiny and the Love of Fate

Jung often spoke of “amor fati”, the ability to love one’s fate.

It may be a life’s work to come to the point where an individual can begin to have this kind of self acceptance and acceptance of life, and of the direction that life has taken.  It is no small thing, to say the least, and should never be spoken of lightly.

Yet, to love one’s fate, to be able to accept one’s life, can be central to the sense of belonging, and the journey to wholeness.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved ~suchitra~ |   VIDEO: Rumi,  “There is A Field”  aeneb1

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Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis 2: Reality

October 20th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, spiritual crisis

Issues of spirituality, and particularly, around psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, often confront us as questions about what is fundamentally real or important

psychotherapy for spiritual crisis

— questions which often are front and centre in Jungian psychotherapy.

 The Quest for the Real

We often deal with disconnect between what others — friends, employers, advertisers, the society as a whole — are telling us is real, and the disquieting sense that there must be something more.

We sense that what we are looking for is missing from what the society as a whole perceives as real or significant. The media and Internet do not often point us to things of substance or lasting value.

Often, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis encounters individuals experiencing a sense of emptiness, flatness, or even “vertigo”.  For such individuals, the quest for reality is not something “fluffy” or academic: it can well become fundamentally, even crucially important.

Experiencing Reality

When are we experiencing reality?  One indicator would be when we feel most alive or aware.

Meaning, value, significance and even joy: these are the things that make reality — and make it important.  This doesn’t mean that experiencing reality in our lives is always painless or easy, by any means.  Many experiences connecting us to a sense of spiritual reality may in fact involve pain.  But invariably, they bring with them the sense that we are living our lives, in a way connected to something bigger than the consci0us self.

To Live Here and Now

Psychotherapy for spiritual crisis concerns opening up for individuals a way of living that feels full of aliveness, radically in the here and now.  A spirituality that is only for the next life is no real spirituality at all.

It’s also more than living in the moment in a shallow way.  It involves connection to our unconscious depths, finding meaning in life, and rooting in archetypal reality.

It also entails being rooted in self-awareness of all the differing ways in which we experience life, whether it be through our feeling, our thought, the awareness of our senses, or the promptings of our intuition.  Often psychotherapy for spiritual crisis involves opening the “shut down” aspects of ourselves.

To Live My Reality in Depth

Living in a way that is open to everything in us involves being open to myth: to the true story of our lives.  Real myth, our own story gives us the true context for who we are, and  enables us to know that we belong in our lives.

In the following video, psychiatrist and Jungian Analyst Anthony Stevens reads from his book “Jung: A Short Introduction“:

“C.G. Jung and Reinvesting in Our Real Life”

The real healing that emerges from the psychotherapy of spiritual crisis entails the sense of being truly rooted in my life.  It is connected with my sense of feeling at home in my life and in the world… that there is a rightness to my being here and now.

Jungian psychotherapy for spiritual crisis involves opening to the call of my deepest being,

PHOTO:  © Bortn66 | Dreamstime.com  VIDEO: “Jung: A Very Short Introduction” © Anthony Stevens 1994

 

 

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Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis 1: Yearning

October 6th, 2012 · Jungian psychotherapy, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, spiritual crisis

In describing Jungian psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, it would be easy to succumb to “foot-in-mouth disease”!

psychotherapy for spiritual crisis

The word “spiritual” can be hard to pin down.  As I use it here, I’m not necessarily meaning something heavenly or other worldly, nor something confined to organized religion.  I’m referring, broadly to all those desires in a human being to connect with something bigger and more lasting than one’s own ego.

To understand spirituality, we have to start from our yearning.

 Archetypal Yearning

“Yearning” evokes a sense of deep longing…the deepest longing.  And often the baseline sense of the word “spiritual”, at least today, in the western world, relates to a kind of very deep, possibly only partially conscious longing.

For many of us today, spirituality actually entails a yearning for something hard to tightly define.  But it entails a sense of connectedness, of belonging, and of finding meaning and value in life.

Is it OK to yearn? Or, should life solely be concerned with going to work, and paying the bills?  For the vast majority of the human race over its entire existence, yearning to be connected to something greater than the ego has been an essential part of life.

Yearning for Something Lasting

We humans yearn to find something lasting and permanent in our lives, the value of which is not going to disappear with the chances and changes of life.  We need to feel that we are somehow at home in our place in the universe, and that our living has meaning.

Change & the Death of Symbols

But we also live in an era of massive continuous change.  Things seemingly stable and permanent even 50 years ago now seems far more temporary and subject to change.  This pertains even to some of the key symbols in our lives.  Forms of religious and cultural symbol and story that spoke to earlier generations often seem to have lost the power to ground the lives of modern people.  This realization leads many on a spiritual search — and, at times, to spiritual crisis.

An Individual Way: Your Personal Myth

In our era, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis entails helping individuals to move forward on their own spiritual paths.  This means helping the individual to find symbols that connect him or her in a meaningful way to her or his own personal life.

Bruce Cockburn, “Understanding Nothing”

 
In C.G. Jung’s terms, this means that I must discover my own personal myth — the story and the symbols that give meaning to my individual life.  This is the primary focus of Jungian psychotherapy for spiritual crisis.

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by jurvetson   VIDEO: Bruce Cockburn, “Understanding Nothing”

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Life Crisis, Meaning and Psychotherapy

December 9th, 2010 · analytical psychology, crisis, depression, depth psychology, Existential crisis, Individuation, spiritual crisis

When a psychotherapist, and especially a Jungian analyst uses the expressions “life crisis” and “meaning” today, he or she means something specific.  It’s something different from a “major crisis“, which might be some major change and disruption in a person’s life due to changes in external events or relationships.  A life crisis is a crisis about the roots of a person’s life.  Some people might call it a spiritual crisis or crisis of meaning, and others, an “existential” crisis.  The things that characterize such an event are often deep emotional distress accompanied by persistent questioning about whether life is meaningful.  A person may, at times, even look at his or her life and ask her- or himself questions like, “Is it worth it?  or “What’s the point?”  As such, it’s something very fundamental in a person’s life, and something that she or he simply cannot ignore.

A Life Crisis is About Meaning

It’s very easy for helping professionals to look at someone suffering from this kind of crisis, and to simply conclude that the individual is suffering from some variant of depression, or possibly that he or she is having a grief reaction.  And what makes it complex is that there may well be depression that the person is experiencing.  Or else, it may well be that the person’s life crisis has been triggered by a major grief event of one kind or another.  However, if the person is simply treated for the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root causes, it will not lead to a complete resolution.  Putting an individual who is suffering from this kind of life crisis on anti-depressants, for instance, might “take the bottom out” of the depression, so that the individual won’t feel quite as low.  But if the individual is not helped in a very personal way to find what is meaningful in his or her life, nothing fundamental will have changed.

Life Crises are Very Individual

People who are confronted with life crises have to be helped in a very individual way to discover meaning and value to their lives.  This can only someone who has the necessary skills and depth to help the suffering person find the very personal, individual resources within her- or himself to move back into a place where he or she can gratefully and passionately embrace his or own particular, individual life.  This is the particular kind of thing that a therapist with extensive training and personal experience in depth psychology and Jungian analysis can provide.

Have You Ever Experinced a Life Crisis?  Are You Facing One Now?

Although “life crisis” moments can often come at the middle of life or later, they can come at any point in life?  Have you ever had a crisis of meaning, when it “just didn’t feel worth it”?  It’s amazing how many famous and very gifted or capable people have been through this kind of experience.  If you’ve had a similar experience, and you were willing to talk or write about it, I’d welcome the chance to hear from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Wishing you meaning and vibrant inner life on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © Franz Pfluegl | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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