Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

The Individual Psychotherapist & the Mystery of the Self

August 17th, 2012 · psychotherapist, Self, The Self

The right attitude of the individual psychotherapist to the mystery of the Self is expressed in the quote below from C. G. Jung:

individual psychotherapist

The individual person is a unique phenomenon.  And that unique person forms a unified whole, although with component parts that are more varied and complex than most people realize.  To really understand the individual requires getting beyond statistics, theories and labels to the very nature and story of that particular person.

This might seem like a truism, but it isn’t at all apparent in the way many approaches to psychotherapy actually work.

Beyond Scientific Generalization

While psychological science is essential to understanding the background of the issues that a given individual experiences, it’s never enough on its own.  A great deal of the effort of the individual psychotherapist has to go to understanding the specific person and his/her situation — the ways in which it is an exception to the general rule.  Jungian therapy has always emphasized the specific uniqueness of a person’s case, and, in my opinion, that is one of its greatest strengths.

Without Theory

The psychotherapist needs theory as a way to stay oriented in dealing with a client.  However, before we get to the point where we can use it, we have to really, truly see who it is who is sitting in front of us.  Individual psychotherapy has to really take in the unique person right where they are, without filtering out things that might not fit with preconceptions.

Without Prejudice

One of the toughest parts of being a psychotherapist: to get beyond what “everybody knows” and “what everybody sees”.  The mystery of the undiscovered Self does not fit these categories.  “Everybody knows” that “Jack” is a tough, hard-driving litigation lawyer, who loves what he does…  until the day he collapses on the floor sobbing, because he just can’t do it anymore.  “Everybody knows” that “Jeanne” is a great, dependable accountant whose brain is a ledger sheet– but they don’t know that she goes home and writes passionate poetry in a gilt edged leather book.

Openness to the New

On both the part of the individual psychotherapist, and the part of the client, there needs to be a readiness to see things that are surprising, things that have never been seen before.  These little, often subtle beginnings contain the germs of new life.  There are things within each of us that we are not expecting.  They are part of the Self in its wholeness.  Can we be open to them?

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 1-905-337-3946

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Jungian Therapy, the Self & the Christmas Tree

December 20th, 2011 · christmas tree, Jungian, Jungian therapy, The Self, therapy

Who would think that the familiar Christmas tree is an ancient symbol of the Self, in the way that Jungian therapy uses that term?  Yet the evidence shows that Jungian therapy is correct about this.

The symbol of the Christmas tree is quite unusual.  For one thing, it’s quite unclear how it fits with traditional Christian narrative about Christmas.

Jung on the Christmas Tree

Jung whets our appetite with some striking commentary:

…Everyone decorates Christmas trees or hides Easter eggs without ever knowing what these customs mean.  The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean….  What the Christmas-tree might be, our forefathers knew even less than ourselves, and it is only quite recently that we have bothered to find out at all.  The archetype…causes man to utter words and perform actions whose meaning is unconscious…

 C.G. Jung, Collected Works, v.v. 8 & 9.1,

Christmas Tree as World Trees,

The unusual tree in our living rooms at Christmas actually represents the “World Tree”, the tree containing the universe in many mythological traditions.  In particular, this tree is really the Yggdrasil from Nordic mythology of the pre-Christian era.  In Nordic myth, the universe is formed of nine independent worlds, each part of the great Yggdrasil — a vast “Forest Ash”  or yew tree, growing in Ginnungagap (“the great emptiness”).

Roots: the 3 Legged Christmas Tree Stand

Traditional Christmas tree stands had 3 legs.  This isn’t accidental: in Nordic myth, the Yggdrasil tree had 3 roots, associated with the three Norns, the Nordic goddesses of fate, and with past, present and future.  The threefold Christmas tree stand symbolizes the rootedness of the World Tree.

Jungian therapy

Who knew?

Tree Symbolizes the Self in Jungian Therapy

Jung thoroughly studied the tree as a symbol of the Self, which is to say, the whole of the personality.  With roots in matter, in the earth, and branches in the sky, gaily coloured ball decorations which symbolize stars and planets, shiny tinsel garlands that represent the rainbows that connect together all the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, it is a marvellous symbol of the wholeness of psyche.  As the poet Walt Whitman says, for all of us, “I am large, I contain worlds”  And so each of us does in Jungian therapy.

Very best wishes for the holidays,

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VIDEO: “Worlds’ Largest Tree”, by cannibal17
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Saying No: Jungian Psychotherapy, the Self, and Compliance

February 9th, 2011 · ego, Jungian, Self, The Self

In Jungian psychotherapy, the Self is something greater than, and distinct from, the ego, and it is something that plays a very active role in the psychological life of the individual.  I often see it at work when I have the experience of working with individuals who have simply reached the point where they cannot accommodate the inappropriate needs of others any further.  It isn’t that they have “decided not to”.  It’s more elemental: something in them will not allow them to bend themselves any further to the will of other people at the cost of their own needs and identity.

People Who Please

Often these are people who, at earlier points in their life have been extremely accommodating of others and who have experienced great pressure, often early in life, to be compliant.  However, when these people come to see me,  often in an agitated state, they make it very clear that they simply can no longer oblige others by being who that Other expects them to be.  It’s over: they can’t do it.  Or, at least, they can’t do it without paying an extremely heavy price, such as possibly lapsing into some form of serious physical or mental illness.

The End of a Certain Road

Often this experience comes at the end of a very long period in an individual’s life of suppressing his or her own wants and needs in favour of others’ demands.  In many cases, the individual may be suddenly confronted with one or more new and extreme self-denying demands, often with the difference this time that the individual is simply incapable of assenting to the wishes of others.

Astounding Self Revelation

Such people are often astounded at their own reactions.  They possibly find themselves feeling great anger or resentment, or overcome with a malaise or apathy not at all characteristic of their usual “sunny disposition” social selves.  They might find themselves in states of intense fear, or even despair.  What it all comes down to though, is this:

I have jumped through the hoops of others’ expectations so many times in the past.  I realize now the incredible price that I have paid in myself for doing it.  I can’t do it any more.  I can’t go back to that…NO!!!”

The “No” That Contains a “Yes”

That NO the individual gives to the demands for compliance contains within it a huge YES to the individual’s selfhood, and to their own real life.  At this point a new adventure begins.

I’ve had experiences like this myself, at several key points in my life.  At one point, in a time of genuine crisis, I made a decisive choice to move my life in a different direction.  Not because I had a choice about it, but because I didn’t — not if I wanted to continue to be myself, rather than a burnt-out remnant.  In the words of Robert Frost, “and that has made all the difference”.

Have you ever had an experience of this type?  Would you recognize it if you yourself were to come to this place?

Is Your Own Deepest Self Saying “No”?

I have no doubt that, among those reading this, there are some of you who have had the type of experience that I describe.  I suspect that there may be others among my readers who are undergoing this type of experience right now.  If you are, please remember that the support of a skilled therapist can be invaluable at times like this.  I know that it was for me.

Have you ever faced a situation in your life, where something within you just said “No” in an absolute way?  What kind of situation was it?  Did it relate to your work life?  Your personal or domestic life?   I would welcome any of your comments or reflections.

Wishing you and your potent, living self every good thing as you find your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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Psychotherapy, Self and a Snow Day

February 2nd, 2011 · analytical psychology, Anxiety, depression, inner life, life journey, Lifestyle, Meaning, Oakville, Peel Region, personal story, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, reflection, Self, soul, The Self, therapy

Why am I writing about psychotherapy, snow days and the self today?  Because, if Environment Canada and the other weather folks are right, today will shape up to be the most significant “snow day” we’ve experienced in this part of Canada for a number of years.  And even if the weather folks are wrong, there’s a huge number of school and other closures, and people just staying home in anticipation of a huge dump of snow, whether it actually comes or not.  Psychotherapy would say that the snow day is a psychological and social reality, even if it turns out not to be a meteorological one.

So what do psychotherapy, psychology and the self, etc. have to do with a snow day?  I think it’s this.

Normal Expectations — Shut Down!

With a snow day, suddenly all of our normal expectations for the day just get shut down.  Normal routines and expectations of the day are put on hold.  There’s no taking the kids to school, and maybe no commute and time in the office.  Where we had expected an ordinary working day, filled with the usual frenetic busy-ness, we often get a much quieter day.  A day with unexpected elements of “down time” and maybe with significant blocks of empty space.

What do I Notice?

What do I notice in the middle of the unexpected emptiness of a snow day?  Potentially, many things.  One of them may be a lot of anxiety.  The sudden lack of agenda may lead us to feel an unexpected void.  Alternately, we might find ourselves feeling a bit “down”.  For some people, there may have been a feeling of anticipation of the snow day — “Oh, good, no work!” — which is gradually replaced by a feeling of listlessness that seems to creep in as they are confronted with inactivity.  And then, for some folks, there will be a genuine feeling of relief to just have some let up from the pressure of the daily routine in this unexpected way.

Opportunity

Whatever feelings you may confront, they bring an opportunity.  In this open space of time, you have the opportunity to learn something about yourself, about relationship, and about your feelings about your own real life.  This day, seeming empty, may prove to be a doorway, if you take the opportunity it provides to look within.

Three Psychological Questions to Ask Yourself Today

1.  What do I really feel today?  Please note: this is not the same question as “What do I think?” or “What do I think I ought to feel?” It’s a question that I ask myself when I’m trying to be as honest as I can about parts of myself to which I may not usually pay attention.

2. What do I really want today?  Again, this is not the same as, “What do I think I ought to want?”  Without censoring myself, can I be honest about what I’d really like in my life?

3. Is the Life I’m Leading Meeting the Needs of My Inmost Self?  If the answer to this question is “No”, or “I’m not sure”, this might be the moment to seek out the help of an experienced and qualified psychotherapist to do some in-depth self-exploration.

More than just “down time”, the open-ness of a snow day can be an opportunity to move into depth.

Wishing you a meaningful snow day — and a genuine encounter with your own dear self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2011 Brian Collinson

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In January, with Mind, Body, and Instinct

January 20th, 2011 · archetypal experience, archetypes, body, Carl Jung, consciousness, cravings, dreams, inner life, instinct, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, seasonal affective disorder, self-knowledge, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

This blog post, on our January mind set, and on mind, body and instinct, continues my last post, although it might look quite different.  My immediately previous post was centered around two quotations that painted pictures of the conscious and unconscious brains in relation to each other.  This post is much more directly concerned with the subjective experience of mind, body and instinct.  I include another quotation from Jung, speaking on primal “instinctual” humans and modern “rational” humans.  Jung’s prime concern here is the loss of human connection with nature — primal, fundamental human nature.

The holidays are over; spring is a long time off.  In the post-December winter months, it’s often easy to fall into a kind of robotic “just-gotta-get-through-it” mental state.  In my personal experience, it’s altogether too easy to just go to a kind of  place where we’re mentally divorced from our feelings, and we just stoically keep answering the “call of duty”, withour regard for the instinctual human we all carry within, and his or her needs.

The Instinct-Rationality Divide

Primitive man was much more governed by his instincts than his “rational” modern descendents. who have learned to “control” themselves.  In this civilizing process, we have increasingly divided our consciousness from the deeper instinctive strata of the human psyche, and even ultimately from the somatic [body] basis of psychic phenomena.  Fortunately, we have not lost these basic instinctive strata; they remain part of the unconscious, even though they may express themselves only in the form of dream images.

Jung, C.G., ed.,  Man and His Symbols, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964)

Modern humans can be very cut off from the instinctual basis of life, and even from being aware of our bodily existence.  In my experience, this can be particularly true when you’re bundled up, slogging down an ice-and-snow filled January street at -25 degrees with a high wind chill!

But, even so, as Jung was among the first to tell us, the instinctual side continues to function, along with the whole broad psychic processing of of inner and outer experience.  It’s always with us, and one important way to move closer to wholeness is to work actively to be aware of that.

Ways to Access the Instinctual Life Within You

Here are four questions to ask that can bring you nearer to the instincts and the life of your body.

1.  What is Your Body Telling You?

It is amazing the degree to which many modern people are completely oblivious to their bodies.  As a very simple step, what if you were to become aware of where in your body you carry tension, and when that tension appears?  If really thinking about this is something new to you, I think you would be amazed at the degree of awareness of your own psyche and your own instinctual self that can come to you through continually practicing this one simple step.

2.  Be Honest: How Do You Really Feel About That?

Of course, it’s just about the world’s oldest joke that therapists are always asking everyone, “Well, how do you really feel about that?”  But it can be so easy to drift into a place of non-awareness about your own feelings — particularly if you’re a personality type that leans heavily on thinking as opposed to feeling.  For such people (and I’m certainly a card carrying member of “Club Think”!) it can be a matter of great importance to be asking yourself continually, “Yes — but what am I feeling now?”

3.  What Do I Really Crave, Yearn for?  Why Do I Crave That?

Your cravings are important!  It may seem like a triviality in the midst of the great Project of Individuation to note that when I’m alone I experience a strong craving for Junior Mints, but don’t be too quick to assume that it’s irrelevant!  Try as much as you can to get into the question of “Yes, but why do I crave Junior Mints at such a time?”  Are they a distraction from the feelings, a self-medication?  Do they have symbollic importance in some ways — a connection with a happy, secure time in my life, for instance?  On the other hand, do the things I crave in some way or other symbollically embody spirit, or my deepest aspirations?

4.  What is Emerging in My Dreams?

And one very profound way in which instinctual life expresses itself is in dream images.  This is a big one for psychotherapists, and especially for Jungians, as we undergo a great deal of rigorous training in how to handle dream material.  I’ve written about this quite a bit, and you can expect me to write about it a lot more.  But we can certainly say here that the deepest aspects of ourselves, instinctual and otherwise, can be counted on to show up through our dreams — that aspect of ourselves that Jung sometimes referrd to as “The Two Million Year Old Man.”

What Are You Instinctually Disposed Towards?

Have you ever had times in your life where you have felt strongly that you were doing things by instinct? I’ve heard many stories that, for instance, mothers tell of getting through unbelievably difficult situations on the strength of their mothering instinct alone.   I’ve also heard of situations where something like raw instinct has led people at a certain point to make fundamental and life-changing decisions.  Indeed, I believe that I made such a change at one particular points in my life — that probably saved my life.  Has your instinct or your “animal side” ever moved you in directions that your intellect would have never thought of going?

I would be very interested to hear about your experiences: please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, send me an email!

Wishing you rich growth in your experience of all that you are, on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock

December 22nd, 2010 · dreams, inner life, journey, Jungian, Jungian analysis, life journey, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, persona, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unconscious, wholeness

I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”.  Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in psychotherapy, in one form or another.  It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients.  In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.

A Dream Motif

The dreamer is trying to get somewhere.  Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot.  However, there is some obstacle.  She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road.  Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill.   However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens.  Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. 
In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.

The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure.  However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian psychotherapy could say about its meaning.

1.  The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction

Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward.  There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome.  The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work.  The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path.  No matter: the import of the dream is the same.  You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.

2.  To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality

However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past.  He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps.   There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood.  The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either.  The person can’t do what he or she used to do.  Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price.  What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment.  What is the individual to do?

3.  Something New is Needed

A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma.  Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach.  This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”.  The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped.  From the perspective of Jungian psychotherapy, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.

Is There Anything Across Your Path?

Have you ever encountered a dream of this type?  Have you possibly had such a dream recently?  As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon.  With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation.  If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.

Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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Jungian Psychotherapy on Job Search and Self Search

December 15th, 2010 · Identity, Individuation, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Self, self-knowledge, The Self, vocation

Does Jungian psychotherapy with its emphasis on the Self have anything to do with job search?  I emphatically believe that it does.  I recently came upon the following remark online.  It seems to me that it is pretty representative of a whole approach to searching for work within our society at the present time:

“A job search is a sales & marketing exercise with you as the product.

Are you wrapped to seduce a decision maker?”

Frankly, I find this kind of remark offensive.  Now, clearly, there’s a huge self-marketing component to finding a job.  But is that all that a job search is, a “Sales and marketing exercise”?  And is that all that we can hope for, to be “wrapped to seduce a decision maker”?  Certainly, I think if I were a woman, I would find such a suggestion to be blatently demeaning and repulsive.  (Actually, I do anyway.)

Does Job Search Mean Being a Chameleon?

If all that we can expect for and hope for from a job search is to fit ourselves, chameleon-like, to the expectations of some decision-maker who has all the power and choice, when we have none — then God help us.  This seems to me like nothing so much as a working life that is trapped within the expectations of the false self.  A life that doesn’t allow for what a Jungian psychotherapy would call individuation.   Surely there must be a possible way to pursue a job search that has more connection with soul!

Job Search and Depth in the Self

The issue of job search actually takes us right inside some deep inner questions, if we let it.  If we are open, it will lead us to ask questions like: “What is it that I really, most deeply, want to do?”; “What is most meaningful to me?”; and, “What is my vocation?”.  To even begin to answer those questions, a person must start to get to know themselves.  In other words, a job search is not just a job search.  Every time we encounter job search, if we’re to find something that’s going to work for us, it must necessarily turn into Self search.  To find what we need to know about ourselves, to encounter those dimensions of the Self that we need to take into account in a job search, it may well be that the journey leads us into psychotherapy, if we are truly to come to individual, rather than canned, answers.  This is especially true at mid-life or later.

Is the Issue of Career or Vocation Prominent in Your Life at this Time?  Or, Can You Recall a Time When it Was?

Sooner or later the question “What should I be doing with my life?” comes to occupy a prominent place in our lives.  Perhaps it will do so numerous times over the course of a lifetime — this is not uncommon.  Have you ever had an experience where job search turned into self or soul search?  Have you ever been transformed by the experience of looking for a job, or just faced with very deep questions as a result?  If you’ve had this kind of experience, and you were willing to comment below or send me a confidential email, I’d be thrilled to read it.

Wishing you a sense of meaning and vocation on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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The Not-So-Simple Task of Simply Being Honest, Pt 2: Shadow

September 14th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Shadow, soul, The Self, unlived life, wholeness

As I indicated in Part 1 of this post, if we really get serious about the task of being honest with ourselves, sooner or later, we are going to run into what Jung calls the Shadow.  The Shadow represents all those parts of ourselves that we do not, or do not want to, acknowledge as being parts of ourselves.  As Jung himself puts it:

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.

If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that “they” do this or that, “they” are wrong, and “they” must be fought against.  Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.

CG Jung, CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. pp. 131 – 140

So a person’s shadow will often have a large element of moral difficulty attached to it.  It may be that I have certain strong ethical standards for instance, which I not only feel that I adhere to, but which I also proclaim to the world.  But it’s often the case that, underlying such a position, I in fact do not really act in a manner consistent with my conscious convictions — and, what’s more, I even hide the fact that I do so from my conscious awareness.

The above is the aspect of the shadow that preachers or moralists might easily pick up on, but there is more to the shadow than that.  For the shadow also contains those aspects of our personality associated with feelings of weakness, inferiority or shame.  These may be elements of our personality that we do not hide or fail to acknowledge for moral reasons, but more because we simply resist showing them to the world.  These shadow contents may often concern the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, including parts of ourselves that have been deeply wounded or shamed by others, or which we simply cannot accept about ourselves.  They may well have hidden themselves, not only from the view of the world, but also from my own view.  Remarkably, many memories may have been repressed and split off.

And this is certainly not all that there is to be said about the shadow.  There could easily be another 50 posts like this one on the subject!  But it’s important to recognize that the undeveloped potentialities in my personality reside in the shadow.  For instance, if I’m a fairly introverted person, in the way I present to the world, I may have a fairly extroverted shadow… or vice versa.  There are very likely aspects of myself in my shadow that I find very difficult to face or acknowledge — but it may also be that a great amount of undiscovered life is there in the shadow as well, waiting to be uncovered and encountered.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Shadow

  1. What do I have the hardest time admitting to be true about myself?
  2. Where do I feel weakest and most vulnerable in my innermost self?
  3. What kinds of people, or what individuals, do it have the hardest time putting up with?  If I’m really honest with myself, is there anything at all about them that I envy, or even admire, however grudgingly?  Is that which I envy a quality that I might find somewhere in myself?

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and your reflections on the whole subject of the shadow.

Wishing you every good thing on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Let’s Keep Jung’s Red Book Away from Spiritual Hucksterism

July 21st, 2010 · archetypal experience, archetypes, Carl Jung, collective consciousness, collective unconscious, Identity, Individuation, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

It is now quite clear that Jung’s Red Book, which I wrote about in an earlier post, has created quite a stir in certain circles, and has been very well popularized.  It has had quite an impact in cultural and literary circles, and has gained a lot of attention in the media since its publication.

On the whole, those who appreciate Jung’s psychological work must necessarily feel good about this.  Those of us who are passionately convinced that Jung has something profound to say about the human psyche and about life in our time cannot help but feel joy that his message is getting out more widely and deeply in our society.

However, it is hard at times to avoid the feeling that Jung’s legacy is suffering from an approach that is overly-commercialized.  I don’t fault W.W. Norton for a moment for bringing the Red Book to publication, even though Jung himself was very clear that he did not want it published, at least not in his lifetime.

The Red Book documents Jung’s own profound psychological struggle in a manner so eloquent and deep that it is difficult if not impossible to describe.  The world owes the Jung family, the Philemon Foundation, editor Sonu Shamdasani and W.W. Norton a huge debt for bringing the Red Book to the world.  In the sincerest possible way, I thank them all.

But do we really need mystifying and sensationalistic messages associated with it, such as the following?

Jung’s Red Book is a magnificent record of his interior journey through the most profound crisis of his entire life.  It is as if at every turn of the page Jung meets us, personally, with the same wrenching, implacable questions that he meets himself as he descends into his own depths.  Who are you?  What are you?  What are the unknown elements of yourself?

Do we really need this profound encounter opened up for us on the lecture circuit?  Or in webinars?  Or in talk show formats with Jungian analysts and pop culture celebrities?

Can we honestly persuade ourselves that Jung would have wanted this?  Frankly, who are we trying to kid?

As Jungian analyst Wolfgang Giegrich is at pains to remind us, Jung’s Red Book is not “The New Bible”.  Those of us who love Jung need to be careful not to portray it as some kind of divine revelation composed by a semi-divinity which answers all questions.  It’s the record of a very human struggle by someone who was ready to encounter his depths and ready to try to acknowledge his weakness and the inferior and broken parts of himself.  If we read the Red Book carefully, we’ll encounter Jung’s shadow.  We may not always like that and may be uncomfortable or even shocked by it.  Nonetheless, it’s a reminder that here was a human being much like you or me, who really wrestled with his darkness, and fought his way into it and through it to his own unique selfhood, and his own healing.  And he invites us to do the same.

Have you had any experience with Jung’s Red Book, reading it or seeing one of the current exhibits?  I’d love to hear about it if you have.

I wish you all the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

VIDEO CREDITS: © W.W.  Norton & Company; © Digital Fusion Creative Technologies Inc. These images are the property of W.W.  Norton & Company and/or Digital Fusion Creative Technologies Inc. and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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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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