Journeying Toward Wholeness

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7 Stress Management Tips That Take Soul Seriously, 2

December 7th, 2014 · stress management tips

In the Part 1 of this post on stress management tips from the perspective of soul, we started to explore options for reducing stress by making choices aligned with who we really are.  Here, we continue that exploration.

stress management tips

Although these “tips’ have broad general reference to our lives, they’re also relevant to trying to live authentically through the Holiday season.

Claim Your Right to Go Your Own Way

Going with your own chosen path can be tough.  Clinical experience certainly shows the   incredible climate of expectation surrounding people at the Holidays.  Some of this is outer, stemming from friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.  But just as formidable is the mass of inner expectation, the ways we “should” and “ought” ourselves.

Being social beings, we face the expectations of others.  Sometimes those expectations are benign, and, even if they don’t reflect everything we want, the cost to us of meeting them is small.  But sometimes the cost of meeting others’ expectations is higher than we can possibly afford to pay.  A person who has been emotionally abused by a parent or sibling, for instance, may find the prospect of spending Christmas day at a family gathering with that family member simply unbearable.  If the abuse has been physical or sexual, this may well be true in spades.

Even if the emotional issues are not as dramatic, the emotional undertow may be just as powerful.  It can be extremely painful to be in family situations where an individual cannot be who he or she is: in Jungian terms, the Self may simply not allow it.  We have to be discerning, and continually asking ourselves, “What works for me?”

Discern What Really Matters — to You

The type of discernment described above is a matter of great importance throughout the adult life journey.  Yet, the Holidays just have a capacity to bring this need for discernment home, often, in uniquely powerful ways.

stress management tips

 

In my deepest self, what do I really value and desire?  This isn’t an easy question.  Often some real journeying and real work on one’s conscious and unconscious selves is needed to find answers.

The Holidays may underline for us just how important these questions are.

Affirming My Own Story, Distinct from “The Family Story” or “The Collective Story”

My authentic story, who I am, does not boil down to the way my family sees me, the story that they tell about me, or the expectations they have of me.  The same is true of the perceptions and stories of society as a whole, or of the particular social groups to which I belong.

It’s essential to identify “the real story” about myself.  This is not the superficial story that the ego may settle for, but the authentic story of myself that emerges from my deepest being.  This deeply resonant story is what Jung refers to as my “personal myth”.

Be Open to Your Own Experience

Can I really be open to my own experience, or am I continually governed or dominated by what others say of me, perceiving myself and living my life only as “they” tell me that I “should”?  Such a posture in life can be a source of immense, often unrecognized stress.

Consider the Holidays.  They promise an experience of transcendence, numinosity, wonder, and intimacy.  They often deliver so much less — and our culture seeks to fill the gap with sentimental schlock and materialism.  So the question I face around the Holidays is essentially the same question that I face about life as a whole.  Will I settle for the paltry experiences that my culture insists are my birthright, or will I go in search of my own experience, my own lived truth, my own real life?

This key question in life is writ large for us at the Holidays: What is mine?  What is my own individual experience?  What makes me feel alive?  Consider Jung’s answer, embedded in a striking photo from the Martha Graham dance company:

stress management tips

Depth psychotherapy is passionately concerned with the individual becoming “on fire” — fully alive.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © John Talbot modified ; Ramón Cutanda López modified;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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