Journeying Toward Wholeness

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The Holiday Season, Belonging & Family Stress

December 15th, 2013 · family, family stress, stress

The holiday season activates a great deal of family stress for many individuals, especially around the issue of belonging.

family stress

Humans are a social species, and we have a fundamental need to not be isolated, to be “part of” important social groups.  But holidays can emphasize peoples’ experience of isolation, family stress and of not belonging.

The Holiday Season Spotlight

The holidays emphasize and re-emphasize  the issue of belonging.  We anticipate that the holidays will be a time of special connection with family and friends. Yet for many, finding that sense of belonging, especially relative to family, can be a difficult, sensitive matter.

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The holidays flood us with images of family togetherness — families frolicking in the snow, gathered around a turkey dinner, opening gifts under the Christmas tree.  These images clearly resonate with something deep within us, as advertisers well know.

But, for very many people, these images bring up the question, “Where do I really belong?”

The Roots of Family

There are deep instinctual foundations that all these images of holiday togetherness touch upon.  It is deeply and widely enough shared that Jungians speak of the existence of certain family archetypes.

Jung makes some very clear pronouncements about the psychological importance of the archetypes associated with family:

How is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles… in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.

There is a part of us deep within the psyche that knows what it is that we want from family members, and how it is that we want to be valued and loved.  We also know, in a very deep way, when that love is not received in the way that we need it.

Family Stress and the Need to Belong

For many at the holidays, there is an awareness that family and others are not giving us the sense of belonging that we need, and this is a painful contributor to family stress.

family stressss

Perhaps the individual has had a life long awareness that he or she cannot receive what is needed from father or mother or family.  Perhaps this awareness has only grown as a part of adult experience.  It may also be that distance, or other factors such as physical or mental illness or family conflict have brought such awareness to the fore.

As the prominent evolutionary psychiatrists Anthony Stevens and John Price remind us, “loss of an attachment figure is associated with grief, despair, depression, and ultimately detachment.”

For many, an open acknowledgement and working through of the grief process around the loss of real or perceived family attachment and belonging can be essential to allow movement into the rest of an individual’s life.  A person may well need to free him- of herself from the ghost of family Christmases past and related family stress to a new sense of belonging with friends and other loved ones who accept and value them on a soul level.

family stress

Authenticity and Real Belonging

Individual psychotherapy may relieve family stress by assisting in the full realization of where one does belong, and with whom.  Above all, it rests on the understanding that the individual most fundamentally belongs to him- or herself, and has the fundamental right to live out his or her own destiny.

PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike  Some rights reserved by dno1967b ; anna gutermuth
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Renewal

December 31st, 2012 · holiday stress, individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress

Working with people in individual psychotherapy around holiday stress teaches you a lot.

 individual psychotherapy

Among other things, you realize that, on some level, many of us do actually expect some kind of renewal at this time of year.

Does this result from expectations nurtured by our particular culture?  Perhaps so.  But there is also the age old reality of the solstice, and the effect of shortening and then lengthening days on all of us.  SAD, or seasonal affective disorder shows that many of us are deeply affected by the power of the light.

The sun’s power diminishes as we near solstice, and then ever so slowly comes back.  The expectation of renewal is part of our being, as it was for our ancestors thousands of years ago.  Jungian individual psychotherapy regards that expectation of renewal as archetypal.

But What Kind of Renewal?

Those in the second half of life know it’s not possible to simply wipe the slate clean, and start life again.  This reality of holiday stress is bluntly affirmed by one of the most popular Christmas songs of the last 30 years, “Fairy Tale of New York” by Kristy McColl and the Pogues [WARNING: Offensive Language]:

It’s hard to imagine a more eloquent expression of lost hope and broken dreams than this song.  Why is it so popular — at the very season of renewal?  In my opinion, the answer rests on another aspect of the holiday season that I discussed in my last post: the deep yearning for reality that accompanies this season.  In individual psychotherapy, people often reveal that want to believe in the possibility of renewal in life — but, in our era, they refuse to accept a cheap sentimentalization that lacks any substance.  In truth, we simply cannot stand any more…

Humbug!

It’s striking that, given our wariness about sentimentality, we remain fascinated by another figure who embodies renewal at this season — Ebenezer Scrooge!  I recently attended Soulpepper Theatre‘s annual dramatization of Dickens’  A Christmas Carol, and was fascinated to watch the audience, and realize the power that this story has to draw us in.  Why does this story still resonate?

Part of the reason is its power to reach the Scrooge element within each of us.  We want to believe in new possibilities for the rigid, mistrustful wounded part of ourselves that could readily give up on the possibility of anything new or alive.  We want to believe in renewal.

The Archetype of Renewal

Renewal comes from acknowledging that wounded, shamed, weak, deeply disappointed part of ourselves as indeed ourselves, and showing it real compassion and acceptance.  It’s so easy to treat it with contempt, which can very readily turn into contempt for the weakness and brokenness of others.  If we can connect with and accept the Scrooge in ourselves, there is hope for connection with others, and, above all, with our own real lives.  This goal of recognizing  and accepting all that we are is the goal of individual psychotherapy in depth.

Attribution   Some rights reserved ItzaFineDay ; VIDEOS: “Fairy Tale of New York” © Warner Music UK Ltd 1988 ; “A Christmas Carol” © Soulpepper Theatre Company

 

 

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Holiday Stress: Reality

December 22nd, 2012 · holiday stress, individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress

One learning I’ve had from from practicing individual psychotherapy is that some holiday stress stems from people’s attempts to find reality at the heart of the holidays.

individual psychotherapy

That sounds like a surprising thing to say.  But the yearning for real, meaningful experiences around the holidays actually runs quite deep.

The Realm of Kitsch and Bling

In the holiday season, we are surely living in the realm of kitsch, that style of mass-produced artifact that uses well-worn cultural icons or images. It’s a term generally reserved for

holiday-stress-kitsch

things gaudy or lacking in substance, designed to appeal to a wide audience at a shallow level.  Unfortunately, much of holiday art, design and decoration is kitsch, which contributes to holiday stress.  The same is true of much of holiday storytelling, especially in the mass media.

We fill the holidays with kitschy symbols and images of Christmas in our culture, and we also fill up the holidays with extravagant gifts, which can easily pre-occupy us during this period.  Yet, for many, the “bling” that accompanies Christmas feels hollow and empty.

Reality vs. Sentimentality

Many people experience holiday stress because of the way in which the season is shrouded in sentimentality, which might be characterized as appealing to shallow, uncomplicated emotionality at the expense of depth and real, individual humanity.  It’s not hard to find expressions of sentimentality tied to the key elements of the holidays.

Tired Symbols in Need of Renewal

The traditional symbols of the holiday season have lost some or all of their energy or vitality.  Jung would be the first to tell us that, when symbols lose their power and effectiveness in peoples’ lives, they must either be renewed or be replaced.  Over 40 years ago, Ian Anderson sang of the need in our culture for a renewal of holiday symbols, and of the need to get beyond the cloying sentimentality with which it has become encrusted.

What IS Real?

Individual psychotherapy shows that holiday stress often reflects our yearning for reality and genuine experience.  Few among us are really complete cynics about the holidays.  Even individuals without religious conviction look to them as a time of increased cooperation and goodwill among people, and, also, perhaps a hope for genuine connection with family members and friends.

Focusing on a sense of personal reality during the holidays relates to bringing a sense of reality and personal meaning back into our lives in general.  It’s always important to ask ourselves what in our lives carries a sense of deep meaning and reality.  Some of this may have to do with personal philosophy or meaning, worldview, or spirituality.  Some of it may have to do with deep and genuine connections and relationships with others in our lives.  Again, as individual psychotherapy knows, connection with those things for which we have genuine, deep passion is also essential.

Our yearning for reality during the holidays reflects our need for reality and substance in our lives in general, a key focus of individual psychotherapy that focuses on depth, like Jungian therapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario

1-905-337-3946

Click below to arrange a no obligation initial session:

   
Attribution   Some rights reserved wellohorld ; VIDEO: “Christmas Song” from album “This Was” © Chrysalis Records Ltd 1968

 

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Individuation, Individual Therapy & Work Related Stress

March 5th, 2012 · individual therapy, Individuation, stress, therapy, work, work related stress

individual therapy

People expect work related stress to be a subject for individual therapy, but think less commonly about work and individuation — especially for today’s pressurized workers.  Individuation is the term Jung used to describe “the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.”  Particularly in the last 10 – 15 years, as anxiety has crept more and more into the work place, the experience of work for many people may seem to be about anything but genuine individual development.

Yet… Something in Us Seeks Wholeness — Even at Work

For Jung, the human psyche is always in process, seeking to bring all the parts of our self into relatedness with each other.  Even at our work.  In our work experience, with specific tasks, co-workers, clients, etc., some aspect of our self is confronting us, trying to come into awareness.  There’s truth about ourselves that we need to take in — even in work related stress.

Vocation — What if It’s Not Just a Word?

Vocation can be overly spiritualized and dramatized, or trivialized, as in the so-called “vocational test”.  But what if there actually is something specific that life and my own nature has suited me to do?  That may be a matter of the job I do, or a vocation that I live out over and above my job.

Connecting Point recorded archetypal psychologist Jame Hillman on the subject of “What is Your Calling?”

Work Related Stress: Message from My Deep Self?

The fundamental question for individual therapy is, “What does my work stress tell me about my true self?”  Perhaps in relation to fellow workers?  Or about my trouble with saying “No” or setting boundaries?  Or the ways that I have been kidding myself about the type of work that suits me, or about my own true abilities or inclinations?  Or maybe my own deepest motivations, or compulsive need for success or status?  Or my driven-ness or workaholism as avoidance of life?  Or my fear to move on?

The Shadow in Working Life

My work may express who I really am, and allow me to give from my deepest self to the world.  Alternately, it might be that I’m really alienated from myself at work, unable to show anyone who I really am or what I really care about, and that this disconnect is a real source of work related stress.

If shadow is the unacknowledged part of the self, what is in your shadow that concerns work?

PHOTOS:  © Maria Paula Coelho | Dreamstime.com
 © 2012 Brian Collinson

 

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Depth Psychotherapy, Stress Reduction & the Holidays

December 8th, 2011 · depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress, stress reduction

Stress reduction during the Holidays: can a depth psychotherapy perspective help with keeping the season genuine and human?

depth psychotherapy

I hear from many people in many ways at this time of year how hard it can be to stay true to oneself.  People find it hard to stay with how they really feel; to keep to what they want for themselves, instead of being driven by others’ expectations; and, to stay with their own genuine spirituality.

 

Approaching the season in the spirit of depth psychotherapy, here are 4 potentially important elements.

Honest Connection, Not “Going Through the Motions”

Relationships with others in the holiday season can be routine, rather than genuinely connected.  Sometimes I would really rather not see a particular person at all; experiences of betrayal or violation by family members, for instance, can generate such feelings.  Or, it may be painful to pretend to be as others rigidly expect me to be.

These holidays, could my stress reduction involve making my connections with others reflect how I really feel in my depths?

Authenticity, Not Conventionality

Similarly, my holiday activities might be motivated by what I’m expected to do, rather than what I really want.  How free can I be this year to do what genuinely matters to me?

More Living, Not More Stuff

We all know the ever-growing marketing pressure to buy more at this season.  Underlying this compulsive push is a powerful fantasy: the idea that owning the right things will lead to an imaginary good life of fulfillment.  But maybe the key to our fulfillment has much more to do with what we experience.  How could I alter my holiday season to experience more, in order to feel more alive?

Depth of Feeling, Not Sentimentality

The holiday season is often full of hackneyed sentimentality, both sacred and secular.  I can feel a lot of pressure to feel what I’m “supposed” to feel, rather than what I actually do feel.  This doesn’t mean that I have to be cynical; in our era that can be a canned sentiment, too.  What do I genuinely feel and think as I reflect about myself, the season, those close to me, and my journey?

Father Christmas” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer expresses these psychological truths:

 

My very best wishes for the Holiday season,

PHOTO: © Wessel Du Plooy | Dreamstime.com
MUSIC: “I Belive in Father Christmas”, Greg Lake © 1975  Atlantic Records  All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

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Jungian Therapy, Stress Reduction & Perfectionism

November 17th, 2011 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, perfectionism, stress, stress reduction

stress reduction

There is a clear link between stress reduction and perfectionism, when these two things are viewed from the perspective of Jungian therapy.

Roots of Perfectionistic Stress

Often perfectionism and much associated stress are rooted in complexes, those “knots” or “eddies” of feeling toned energy in our minds, that often have their roots in traumatic occurrences.

 Never Enough

Often, the negative side of the father, mother or family complexes can lead to a continual sense that whatever we do or produce is not enough.  Another factor in the continual striving to make what we do better can be the shadow, which is the sum total of all those aspects of ourselves that we don’t wish to acknowledge.  Our anxiety about these unacknowledged aspects of ourselves can drive us to strive ever more relentlessly to try to cover our weakness and imperfection.

Unrealistic expectations for ourselves are rooted in a lack of willingness to accept our own fundamental nature, with its particular strengths and weaknesses. This is a kind of pride.

The Sisyphus Agenda

In Greek myth, because of his pride, Sisyphus is eternally condemned to push a heavy rock up to the top of a mountain.  He never can finish the task, and the rock continually rolls back downhill, and must be raised again. The eternal exhaustion and frustration of Sisyphus are an apt image for the struggle and stress of perfectionism.

Often, our own perfectionism can have this feeling of an endlessly wearing, endlessly frustrating ordeal.  I know I have rolled the rock of perfectionism up the endlessly defeating hill more than a time or two in the past!

Accepting Ourselves and the World

Recently, a Facebook friend, Paulette Turcotte, posted “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen on her wall.  The song is a remarkable commentary on perfectionism, and on our need to accept the shadowy and broken dimensions of life.

Cohen’s lyrics are profoundly expressive:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything…

That’s how the light gets in, that’s how the light gets in

We don’t get perfection in this life, either inside of ourselves, or outside.  If we can accept this, and have some compassion for ourselves, then perhaps we can make some peace with the demands that we make on ourselves, and equally importantly, set appropriate boundaries for the demands that others make on us.

PHOTO:  © All rights reserved by New Visions2010
VIDEO:  “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen © 2011 Sony Music Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

 

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

 

 

 

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Psychotherapy for Work Related Stress: 4 Realities

October 20th, 2011 · stress, work, work related stress

work related stress

Psychotherapy for work related stress is increasingly essential for many people.  In our present era of privation and job uncertainty, it is abundantly apparent that work stress has more than purely psychological consequences, and deeply impacts the physical well-being of workers — for stress is a mind-body phenomenon.  A recent article from the Manchester Guardian on a report on a U.K. survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)  shows that worries about job losses have caused stress to become the most common cause of long-term sick leave in Britain.

Now, these statistics are for the U.K.  Is it similar in North America?  The fact is, it is similar enough.

Here are 4 factors pointing to the urgency of finding ways to address work related stress.

1. Work Related Stress Can be a Personal Crisis

Stress related to work accumulates in ways that cause emotional damage to workers.  In particular, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that continued anxiety over job loss is even more damaging emotionally than actual job loss.

2. Self Esteem is Involved

When dealing with something as fundamental as work identity, continual anxiety about job loss can easily engender endless anxiety about the self.  The question of self-esteem can be relentless for someone dealing with these issues.

3. Work-Related Stress Can Bring Serious Illness

In a similar way, serious stress can and does lead to serious illness.  Stress reduction research has clearly established the connection to coronary disease, ulcers and many other  illnesses.  It’s essential for the individual facing such stress to avoid these extremely negative consequences.

4. There are Deep Questions Within Work Stress

Work stress opens up questions that we would rather not face.  The most fundamental of these are around resilience in the face of great fear and stress, and also around maintaining a sense of abiding personal identity, in the face of grave assaults on personal dignity, our sense of ability to control our lives, and our self worth.  It is in these areas that psychotherapy can have the greatest and most lasting effect.  The particular message of Jungian psychotherapy, that the Self is something greater and more lasting than the ego, and is drawing us towards a meaningful wholeness that we cannot fully anticipate, can be something that is essential for us to experience in our turbulent and demanding times.

PHOTO:  Copyright  All rights reserved by herr klamm
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Stress Therapy & Making Difficult Decisions

September 22nd, 2011 · difficult decisions, making difficult decisions, stress, stress therapy

stress therapy

Stress therapy reveals that major life transitions are often fundamentally linked with the necessity of making difficult decisions — and with intense anxiety and stress.  When one is confronted with major, potentially life-changing decisions, it can seem very fateful indeed.

Relationship Choices

Stress therapy shows it’s common for crises or major life transitions to be mixed right up with the process of making difficult decisions about key relationships in our lives.  Decisions about whether to stay in marriages or relationships, or possibly difficult choices about who to love are frequent.  Sometimes these feelings are occasioned by major life transitions; sometimes they force us into the crisis of a major life transition.

Career Transition

It may be that a career path that has been pursued ends or starts to feel like it simply can’t or won’t work anymore.  An individual must face whether to stay in the old career, or else find some new way to move forward.  Often there can be intense stress in deciding what to do — or how to do it.

Changes in Philosophy, Spirituality or World View

Changes in the fundamental way  a person views the world can lead toward making difficult decisions.  The reverse can also be true.  A change in a fundamental aspect of belief, or a spiritual crisis can be a real earthquake in a person’s life, and it may require a very individual solution, and also the right kind of help to work it through in a way that is authentic for that individual.

Patterns of Behaviour that Don’t Work Anymore

We adapt to situations in life with patterns of behaviour.  For instance, the person who grows up in an incredibly chaotic house may learn to be incredibly rigorous and methodical, as a way of “getting through”.  Such attitudes may serve a person incredibly well — until one day life calls for change.  Transitioning to a new attitude may require skilled help through stress therapy.

A Whole New Way of Making Decisions — and Living?

At crisis points, the challenge of making a particular major decision may lead to a transformed way of making decisions, and, in fact, to a whole different outlook on life as it is worked through.  Often, depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis can be of tremendous help in the decision process.

I wish each of you the gifts of insight and clarity in the decisions on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: © Laqhill | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Stress Reduction: 4 Basics

June 26th, 2011 · individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy, stress, stress reduction

stress reduction

Individual psychotherapy can enhance mental resilience and stress reduction.  Increasing our capacity to cope with stress is a vital concern.  A recent StatsCan study shows large recent increases in the number of Canadians over 15 who report that most days are extremely or quite stressful.  Reducing stress matters a lot in a time like ours.

Since the great Dr. Hans Selye of the University of Montreal coined the term “stress” in 1950, our understanding has grown immensely.  Selye and his colleagues have shown us very important things about this important psychological state:

  • It Can Cripple

Selye pioneered the connection between mental stress and its physical manifestations in coronary disease, ulcers and many other  illnesses.  In its physical manifestations, stress can rob us of our health, or sometimes even our life.  Stress can also cripple us psychologically, taking our enjoyment of life, and, sometimes preventing us from carrying out even rudimentary tasks.

  • Personal Factors Can Increase Its Severity

Personal psychological factors can directly affect the way an individual handles stressful situations.  A powerful example of this would be when an individual has experienced post traumatic stress disorder through physical abuse in childhood, violent crime or accident, exposure to combat, or similar factors.   Other kinds of of psychological wounding also greatly increase the difficulty of dealing with stress.

  • Problem or Symptom?

All too often in therapy, symptoms are treated, and we think that eliminates the issue.  But depth psychotherapy knows that just treating stress may leave big underlying emotional issues untouched.  There is a great deal more to us than initially meets the eye.  Stress is often fundamentally connected to how we relate to ourselves and our lives.

  • Is Your Stress Related to Your Life Journey?

Stressful states can be related to what is going on in the deepest levels of the conscious and unconscious self.  To put it in Jungian terms, if the way of life of a person is fundamentally at odds with the true nature, or the unlived life of that individual, this is an enormous stressor.  This can especially be true at midlife.  On the other hand, a better connection with his or her own real identity may often bring a dramatic reduction in an individual’s level of stress.

Personal stressors may be an urgent invitation from body and mind to embark on a personal journey of discovery of the true self.

What do you think about stress in our age? I’d welcome your comments or emails.

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: © Picstudio | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario  (near Mississauga)

 

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4 Benefits of Psychotherapy for Work Related Stress

April 25th, 2011 · psychotherapy for work related stress, stress, work related stress

work related stress

Why would someone get psychotherapy for work related stress?  There are a variety of reasons, but a key consideration is that the stress of work is often so consuming that it involves the whole person.  Because it is concerned with healing for the whole person, psychotherapy can often be the most effective way to deal with problems concerning personal growth and work.

Four principal benefits that come through psychotherapy for work-related stress are the following.

1.  Talking with Someone Outside Your Situation Can be Vital

It can be essential to speak to someone who is outside your situation to gain some perspective on your work situation, and how all the stress and emotional factors are affecting you.  Someone who is objective, but who can truly listen and be emotionally attuned, like a depth psychotherapist, can be invaluable.

2.  “Hanging onto Yourself” Makes a Huge Difference

Staying in a place where you are not overwhelmed by emotional or stress factors at work can be vital.  To gain real insight and help in dealing with potentially overpowering emotional factors can make a great deal of difference for “getting through”.

3.  Work Related & Personal Stress Amplify Each Other

Often important personal issues can affect the stress loading at work, and work stress can complicate personal life and relationships.  Good psychotherapy creates an environment where you can understand all the separate factors, and begin to deal with each of them in the way you really want and need.

4.  Connecting Work to the Direction & Meaning of Your Life

Work is a part of life, but it isn’t the whole thing.  Work can be fulfilling, but the whole person, the Self, needs more than just work.  Depth psychotherapy focuses on the needs of the whole person, conscious and unconscious, and how a person’s work fits together with, and emerges from, the needs of the deepest personality.  This is an exploration that many people need to make for a meaningful life.

How Does Your Work Relate to Your Deepest Self?

What do you want and need from your work life?  Is the stress that your work produces interfering with your sense of well-being, and keeping you from a fulfilling life?  Psychotherapy can open up the way to healing and meaningful connection of your work life with your life as a complete person.

Wishing you the satisfaction of meaningful, balanced work on your journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:  © ShashiBellamkonda

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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