Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 1: Michaelle Jean

March 16th, 2010 · Home, symbolism


I think that many Canadians’ imagination and empathy has been caught by news stories of our Governor General, Michaelle Jean, who has been in the news here quite a bit this week.


Haiti for Vibrant Jung Thing

Her Excellency is herself a native of Haiti who came to Canada at age 11 in 1968.  In the last few days, she has returned to her homeland in the wake of the devastation, as an emissary of hope and solidarity.

Michaelle Jean has been both very strong, and also very apparently in grief over the loss of human life and destruction in her homeland of Haiti and her home town of Jacmel.  It is very clear how moved she has been, even shaken to the core.  Yet in the midst of that she has delivered a clear and unshaken message of hope for the future.  Clearly she is a very remarkable woman.

Her experiences should cause us to stop and reflect.  It is hard for those of us who have not been through such an experience to imagine what it would be like to see one’s home, the place from which one sprang, facing such devastation, to face the death of many whom one has loved, and to see the places of one’s youth endure such damage.

Horrific as these experiences are, they teach us an incredible amount about the psychological significance of home… to ourselves — and to every human.  It is the nature of human beings that we need a place to belong, a place that is fundamentally ours, where there are others to whom we are bound by ties that never break.  The very bond with the land where we come into being is a very powerful one.  The place that brings us to life marks us, shapes us, never truly lets us go.

Modern people tend to downplay the importance of place, and to feel that one country, one city, one house is interchangeable with another.  This is particularly so in suburban places, like Oakville, Burlington or Mississauga.  Here we often tend to think in terms of houses and the land they are located on as badges of particular social status or as arrangements of convenience, rather than as a fundamental reality that touches us in the deepest places in our being, in what we might very well call our soul.  But increasingly, environmental psychology is demonstrating to us the unshakeable importance of place.

This is a matter of particular psychological importance for nations like Canada, the United States and Australia, which are predominantly immigrant cultures, or particularly mobile.  The immigrant retains a psychological bond to the soil that brought him or her to life.  That bond is not easily broken, and may be a matter of great personal significance to the individual.  To come to terms with that bond, and to come to terms with the particular character of the new homeland may be a major piece of psychological work. 

For Jungians, there is another dimension, also, to the symbolism of home, and that is an archetypal dimension.  For the deepest and true home of all of us is the Self, the core of our being.  Ultimately, it is only by connecting with one’s true identity and the unique reality that each of us is, that we can really come to feel at home in the world, and in our lives.


I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections on the archetype of home.  What does the symbol of “home” mean in your life?  Where is home for you, a place that you associate with your own fundamental identity? 

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Konstantin32 |

VIDEO CREDIT: © ‘A’ Morning Video, 2010 | //

© 2010 Brian Collinson




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Dreaming About the Self as a House

April 9th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, dreams, Jungian psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, wholeness

Carl Jung had the following dream when he was about to embark on a new path in his psychological work. The dream is of a type that is familiar to Jungian therapists, as it is a kind of dream that many people have, sometimes at key turning points in their lives.

I'll be interested to hear from people reading, to find out if any of them have had this kind of dream, and when it occurred in their lives.  Possibly you've had such a dream recently.

"Before I discovered alchemy, I had a series of dreams which repeatedly dealt Dreaming About the Self as a Housewith the same theme.  Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing or annex, which was strange to me.  Each time I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently always been there.  

"Finally, there came a dream in which I reached the other wing.  I discovered there a wonderful library, dating largely from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Large, fat folio volumes, bound in pigskin, stood along the walls.  Among them were a number of books embellished with copper engravings of a strange character, and illustrations containing curious symbols such as I had never seen before.  At the time I did not know to what they referred; only much later did I recognize them as alchemical symbols.  In the dream I was conscious only of the fascination exerted by them and by the entire library.  It was a collection of medieval incunabula and sixteenth-century prints.

Dreaming About the Self as a House 2

"The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself; it represented something that belonged to me but of which I was not yet conscious…."

"The Work" in Jung, C.G., Jaffe, Aniela, ed. and Winston, Richard & Clara., transs.,

Memories, Dreams and Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. 202


In a time of uncertainty and doubt in a life, perhaps a time of economic anxiety, such dreams frequently come to people.  Jung's dream is a magnificent specimen and it illustrates how dreams can work to comment on, or as Jung says, to "compensate" the conscious position or attitude that we have in our lives at the time of the dream.
Jung's dream of a new wing on his house related to his discovery of alchemy, but the motif or theme of a new wing on our house, a door that suddenly appears and which leads into a new room — this is something that we find frequently in the dreams of people.
I would like to ask everyone reading:
What might be the "new wing in your house", the unexplored part of your personality?
Have you ever had a dream of a house, and a new wing or door suddenly appearing in your house?
When did such a dream happen?  What was going on in your life at that time?  Was it at a time of major change in your life?
I would welcome your input, comments and thoughts on these things.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: 


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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Sorinus | ; © Jacus |

© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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Coraline: The Real, the Ideal and the Substance of our Lives

April 7th, 2009 · archetypal experience, depth psychology, Film, Jungian psychology, parent-child interactions, puer aeternis, symbolism

Coraline E for Vibrant Jung Thing

Coraline is a recent movie, ostensibly geared to children.  Nonetheless, it tells a story deeply rooted in the realities of soul.  In that sense, its story is of deep relevance to all of us.

The film itself is something of a visual wonder.  It is an exercise in 3-D stop motion photography, giving a film experience that certainly I have never had before.  It's a very rich and imaginative world that is created, based on a story of fantasy and science fiction writer Neil Gaiman.

Coraline is a girl of about ten years of age, whose family moves from Michigan to "the Pink Palace Apartments", a big pink house near the mountains.  She is undergoing a difficult time accepting some of the realities of her life.  Her parents seem totally absorbed in their work as writers, and both the house and the environment in which she lives seem uninteresting and lacking in vitality.  Even the food she has to eat seems singularly boring and unappetizing.

In the midst of the house into which her family has moved, Coraline discovers a portal into another world.  In that world she discovers her "other Mother" and "other Father", who are, in essence, perfect, and geared to meeting all of Coraline's needs.  All the inhabitants of this world are more vivid, more interesting, more what Coraline would want them to be, with the one odd exception that they all have doll-like eyes made from buttons. 

Everything in this tiny parallel world seems ideal, and Coraline is highly tempted to flee to it to live in the realm of her "other Mother" forever.  But then she learns that the price of admission for entry to this world: she must give up her own real eyes, and have a pair of doll-like button eyes sewed into her eyes in their place, and then she will be imprisoned in the witch's world permanently.  With the help of an unusual cat, she is able to escape the witch's realm, and free her real parents from her grip. 

Like Coraline, sometimes the outline of our own real lives is something that we would rather not see, and in which we would rather not live. Perhaps we don't find it meaningful.  There can be a seductiveness to seeing things in our lives as the way that we wish they were, rather than the way that they are.  We willingly make the trade, and give up our own real eyes for illusory eyes that willing get caught up in the spider's web of illusion.  It is not without significance that the witch mother, seemingly so ideal, turns out to be a monstrous spider who devours the souls of her victims.  The ancient eastern symbol for Maya, or illusion, is the spider's web.

It's the cat — the ancient symbol for authentic feminine instinct — that is Coraline's aid and guide out of the witch world.  Through the earthy reality of the cat, Coraline finds her way back to her reality, which, once the seduction of "the ideal" or "what could be" is removed, turns out to be much more vital and alive than at first appeared.

It often takes real courage to give up our illusions and to live in the real non-idealized world that we actually inhabit.  It can take real strength to engage that world, and really dwell in it, rather than allowing fantasies of idealized possibilities to keep us hovering above our real lives.  We all know people whose lives never get grounded, who are always flitting from one idealized goal or dream to another, but who are never able to actualize any of their dreams or realize any of their aspirations in the real world.  Perhaps we recognize those tendencies in ourselves. 

The spider-witch can keep us so caught up Maya web to such an extent that we never materialize our projects, never really go after the things we really need in our lives, and perhaps we are never satisfied with our lovers, children or friends, and we always are looking for the "next great thing".

An important part of therapy can be finding ways to get "down to earth", and to really grapple with the lives and the selves that we actually have.  Like Coraline, we have to free ourselves from the witch's enchantment, and really live — right here, right now.

I highly recommend this wonderful, charming movie!

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ; Email:

Get "Vibrant Jung Thing" posts delivered to your email using the "FeedBurner" box in the left column.



Directed by Henry Selick; written by Mr. Selick, based on the book by Neil Gaiman; director of photography, Pete Kozachik; edited by Christopher Murrie and Ronald Sanders; music by Bruno Coulais; production designer, Mr. Selick; produced by Mr. Selick, Bill Mechanic, Claire Jennings and Mary Sandell; released by Focus Features.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Dakota Fanning; Teri Hatcher Jennifer Saunders; Dawn French; Keith David; John Hodgman; Robert Bailey Jr.;  and Ian MacShane.


© 2009 Brian Collinson 



Carl Jung on Dreams

March 6th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, dreams, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, symbolism, wholeness

Dreams figure prominently in Carl Jung's psychology, and he has a great deal to teach usDreams for Vibrant Jung Thing about them.  The quotation that follows builds very well on my earlier post in which Jung reflects on the position that many people find themselves in at mid-life.

"Through scientific understanding, our world has become dehumanized.  Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos.  He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had a symbolic meaning for him.  Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor in lightning his avenging missile.  No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man's life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain still harbors a great demon.  Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants and animals….  His immediate communication with nature is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk into the unconscious.

"This enormous loss is compensated by the symbols of our dreams.  They bring up our original nature, its instincts and its peculiar thinking.  Unfortunately, one would say, they express their contents in the language of nature, which is strange and incomprehensible to us.  It sets us the task of translating its images into the rational words and concepts of modern speech, which has liberated itself from its primitive encumbrances — notably from its mystical participation with things….

A realistic picture of the human mind reveals many primitive traits and survivals…. The man of today is a curious mixture of characteristics acquired over the long ages of his mental development.  This is the man and his symbols we have to deal with, and we must scrutinize his mental products very carefully indeed….  Such are the people who produce the symbols we are investigating in their dreams…."

                   Carl Jung, Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams, Collected Works, volume 18, paras. 585-588, Princeton: University Press

Jung's idea that dreams are a form of communication with our original nature is very powerful indeed.  Following his lead, Jungians are very careful to examine the meaning of dreams for the individual, functioning from the understanding that dreams are a kind of comment by the unconscious of the dreamer on the conscious stance that the dreamer's ego takes in his or her waking life.  This is an activity most successfully done with the help of a thoroughly trained Jungian therapist or analyst.

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ;         Email:

Get "Vibrant Jung Thing" posts delivered to your email using the "FeedBurner" box in the left column!

PHOTO CREDITS:  © Alexander Kuzovlev|

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The Market and the Self

October 16th, 2008 · collective consciousness, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Markets, Meaning, panic, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, wholeness

It seemed as if the world's stock markets might have finally turned a corner early this week, in response to concerted action from the world's governments.  Now things seem somewhat less certain.  Since I last posted, people throughout the world have endured bout after bout of bad financial and economic news, with stock markets declining in a dramatic and fearful way.  This has combined Bear for Vibrant Jung THing with continued anxiety about the health of banks and other financial institutions world-wide.  People are understandably concerned about the health of the economy and about their economic futures.

The fear is real.  To recognize that the situation is fearful is not the same thing as giving way to panic, as I tried to suggest in my last post.  Nonetheless, an attitude of smug complacency would be completely inappropriate when we are faced with economic convulsions of this magnitude  which will surely directly impact all of us.

© Schoolgirl|

It might be a surprising way to think of it, but nonetheless the markets pose psychological questions to us.  They ask us what the value is of a given share, of a commodity, of a "put", of a "call".  There is a rational thinking element to the process of how something is to be valued in the market, based on all manner of fundamentals: market conditions, price-to-earning ratios, and the whole endless array of techniques and information that modern finance can bring to bear.  But ultimately, the value of an investment will come down to a subjective, feeling-based factor.  How much of my money — my energy, my sweat, my care — do I think this given investment is worth?  In the end, there will be a difference of valuation:  the seller and the buyer will always disagree on the outlook for a given investment, and what it is fundamentally worth.

Bull for Vibrant Jung Blog That is the nature of markets.  Each market is an enormously complex expression of individual and collective psychology, full of fateful outcomes for economic life on the large scale, and on the very small, even individual scale.  The valuations that the market places on things are continually shifting, ephemeral.  Oil is a conquering giant this week, and is a defeated midget the next.  Nothing is permanent, nothing is lasting, nothing is sure, as much as we would like it to be.

On Wall Street, there is a famous statue.  It is of "the Bull" and "the Bear" of bull and bear market fame, locked in what seems like eternal struggle.  However, in my opinion, the sculpture doesn't get the struggle between Bull and Bear quite right, for in the Wall Street version, it seems that the Bull has gotten the Bear down on the floor, almost as if he were about to finish him off.  But of course, the Bull never does finish off the Bear.  They remain locked in an eternal conflict, first one ascendant, then the other.  And all of us are along for the ride.

© Enrique Sallent|

If that is the human condition, then we can all expect our economic fortunes to be in continual flux.  If my identity then is tied up with my wealth or my occupation, how can I find anything secure to found my life upon?  

Market Concern for Vibrant Jung Thing

© Otnaydur|

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In Your Dreams

August 23rd, 2008 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, dreams, Halton Region, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, symbolism, wholeness

Night_dreams_vibrant_jung_thing_b_3 Looking at dreams is often a part of Jungian analysis.  Jungian analysis, along with other forms of depth psychology, maintains that dreams are meaningful, and that the dreams a person has are directly connected to what is going on in his or her life, both right at the present time, and over much longer periods of time.

Shtirlitz |

Sometimes people are afraid of looking at their dreams, or sometimes they feel gullible or silly for looking at them, as if this wasn’t "practical", or "down to earth" in some sense.  However, it is interesting to note that this attitude toward dreams in our culture is at odds with the views of most other cultures, and even with our own culture in earlier periods of time. 

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews certainly believed that their dreams were meaningful, and this attitude prevailed in the West throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and even up to andDream_sleep_vibrant_jung_thing_3   including the Enlightenment.  It is only with the rise of "hard core" empiricism and materialism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that our Victorian forebears began to be sceptical about dreams, a trend reversed by that very hard-nosed and commonsensical empiricist and rationalist, Sigmund Freud. 

                                                                                                                                                                            © Dewayne Flowers |

Unlike Freud, who saw dreams as a mechanism for preserving sleep by keeping repressed thoughts and Dream_sleep_2_vibrant_jung_thing impulses from emerging during sleep, Jung believed that dreams represent an on-going commentary by the unconscious on the conscious position and attitudes of the individual.  For Jung, the unconscious is composed of so much more than just repressed contents, and it has its own wisdom, which can sometimes greatly surpass the understanding of the conscious mind.  If that is true, then we can expect to glean many important insights from understanding the contents of our dreams.

© Petar Neychev |

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Under Milk Wood: Our Dreaming and Waking Selves

August 7th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, The Self, theatre, wholeness

Over the weekend my wife and I had the chance to see the Soulpepper Theatre production of Under Milk Wood, the Dylan Thomas work originally performed as a one-person monologue by the Welsh poet himself.  Many other versions of Under Milk Wood have used a large cast, with different actors playing the various characters, but in this version director Ted Dykstra and actor Kenneth Welsh go back to Thomas’ Boathouse_dylan_thomas_boathouse original idea of a monologue.  It’s an extremely energetic and demanding 85 minute performance for Welsh, but the result is an entrancing immersion in a small Welsh town and a deeply empathic, frank and often humorous engagement with the unique character of each of the inhabitants.  I found myself completely enthralled and drawn in by Mr. Welsh’s performance as this version of Under Milk Wood unfolded.

Laugharne Boathouse in Wales where Dylan Thomas spent many years and where he wrote some of his best poems.     © Hans Klamm |

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Is My Life Meaningful — for Me?

July 21st, 2008 · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul, symbolism, Wellness

One of the most fundamental questions a person can Dancing_woman_for_meaningask  is whether his or her life, taken as a whole, is meaningful to her or him.  This is different from an abstract question about "The Meaning of Life".  There is no abstract universal answer to the yearning that each of us has for a meaningful life.  Every "answer" that an individual finds in terms of meaning in his or her life is an individual answer, an answer that emerges from the very fabric of his or her unique life.  On this level the question is as important as it is urgent: Does your life or my life have meaning– not in the abstract, but to us personally? 

image: Arjan Hamberg //

Meaning is to be found in the value that we place on our experience and our involvements.  It does not reduce to simply "just being happy": it is something more and deeper than that, something that is not incompatible with happiness, but that can abide through the difficult times and struggles of life.


What gives meaning can vary greatly from person to person.  Sometimes it is found in our relationship to other people.  Sometimes it is in our vocation, if our work is meaningful or satisfying, or in our avocation — what we do with our time and our life outside of work.  Sometimes meaning is found when we can relate symbols intimately to our lives, whether those symbols are found in the arts, in organized religion, or in symbols that have emerged for us as individuals on a deeply personal level — symbols from the depth of psyche.

image: Christof Wittwer //

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The Symbolic Power of Home

June 4th, 2008 · depth psychology, Jungian psychology, Lifestyle, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, suburbia / exurbia, symbolism

Toy_houses_for_blog Suburbia is fundamentally linked with the symbolism of “home”.  And the symbolic reality of Home runs incredibly deep in the human psyche.

In the western world, one of the greatest and most profound tributes to the depth and power of this symbolism is found in Homer’s Odyssey.  In that great poem, the hero Odysseus struggles through overwhelming difficulties and trials, motivated above all else by his desire to return to his home, Ithaca, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus.  The wily and resourceful hero succeeds in his quest, only after many years, and much loss and sorrow, and returns home, where he finally encounters his wife again.

Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land, and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her two fair arms from about his neck.  [Homer, trans. Samuel Butler, The Odyssey, Book XXIII]

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