Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What Helps Depression: Individual Therapy & Soul Work

May 28th, 2012 · depression, individual, individual therapy, soul, soul work, therapy, what helps depression

what helps depression

Individual therapy and careful, gradual soul work are often key elements in what helps depression.  “OK,” you’re saying, “other than a fancy buzzword or slogan, what is ‘soul work'”?

Saying anything about soul may seem strange in 2012.  “Isn’t it just an irrelevant step back into the Middle Ages?” you may ask.  Well, here’s why depth psychotherapists consider it important.

Doing Soul Work?

As I’ve stated in earlier posts, soul as used here has nothing to do with organized religion, astral projection or seances, but with connection with the deep images and experiences of inner life.  It concerns the deepest and most intimate levels of what is going on inside a person.

How Does It Occur in Individual Therapy?

In a recent “Facts and Arguments” piece  in the Globe and Mail newspaper, entitled “A psychiatrist’s double bind“, psychiatrist Gili Adler Nevo wrote of her experience of soul work in individual therapy:

 I entered the world of psychotherapy not knowing what to expect. How the hell could it help, just talking?

I’ve talked before…. Yet, gradually, in the privacy of this shrine for the individual soul that was the therapist’s office, in this sacred place free of malice, motives or moral judgment, I could set my soul loose.

It had been cooped up for so long, it didn’t even know it. And my soul, like anyone else’s, seemed complicated. Different layers protruded every time….

Letting it out into that attuned and understanding comfort enabled my soul to live in peace with all its parts.

 Nevo contrasts her own experience of therapy with a patient in a psychiatric setting, whom she efficiently diagnoses and prescribes Prozac.  She clearly finds this modern psychiatic care to be incomplete:

I could not afford to create that sacred place for the soul in which she could untangle her layers, understand the source of her depression and climb out of it. I did not have the time: It was no longer in the culture of my profession.

Does Soul Work Truly Help Depression?

I’m not suggesting that antidepressants are not necessary sometimes.  But they are often not sufficient.  Often people need to get in contact with their depths, and to experience acceptance and understanding.

Individual therapy

What Helps Depression

“Just talking” is sometimes disparaged.  Yet the journey of talking about the fundamental matters in personal life, and contacting the many aspects of the self is a key element of what helps depression.  It can free the life locked up in the individual.

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Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 2: Thick Mask

May 22nd, 2012 · individual, individual therapy, Individuation, masks, therapy

Individual therapy

In individual therapy, a huge obstacle to the individuation process can be a “thick mask”.  To put this another way, the persona (Latin for “mask”), or social self that the individual shows to the world can become so artificial and entrenched that no one — including the person wearing the mask — knows who the individual really is.

Expectations

We’re easily seduced into carrying the expectations of others.  This process often begins in the family of origin at an early age, but often gets more ingrained as a result of carrying expectations later in life.  Peers, school, work, kids, spouse or significant other can all contribute.  This may go on so thoroughly that we find ourselves completely out of touch with who we really are.  A key part of individuation and of individual therapy is to separate the excessive people pleasing and expectation meeting behaviours that we’ve internalized, from who we really are.

The Pain of Vulnerability

Individual therapy shows we put on thick masks because of the pain in our lives, and our vulnerability.  Where we have encountered the deepest pain in our lives, and perhaps the deepest sense of weakness, we can consciously or unconsciously try to hide our vulnerability, to avoid more pain.  But in the process, we may lose our spontaneity, our real feeling, and the sense of who it is we most fundamentally are.

Delusions About the Self

A thick mask seduces us into very mistaken beliefs about ourselves.  A very successful business person may adopt a delusional sense of entitlement, or can even start to believe that they are somehow fundamentally different than the average person on the street — a specially gifted “winner”.  Or, a cleric may start to believe that the saintly persona of sacrifice is who he or she really is — until the day his or her own needs, and/or resentments, surface.  We each have such seductive “thick masks” that can be mistaken for real identities.

Acceptance

One of my favorite C.G. Jung quotations about individuation and self-acceptance is “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely”.  It is — but it is also the most liberating.  To finally put down the weighty mask is incredibly scary, but brings immense freedom and relief.  Bruce Cockburn captures this in his powerful song “Fascist Architecture”.

 

The growth of that freedom is right at the core of individuation, and of Jungian individual therapy.

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Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 1: Symbolism

May 7th, 2012 · individual therapy, Individuation, masks, therapy

individual therapy

How do the masks we wear connect to our individuation, and how do they fit into individual therapyFor we do, all of us, wear masks, though many of them are not literal face coverings, but ways that we hide our real selves behind what we present — a smile, a “tough person look”, or a “poker face”.

Jung saw that we all conceal our true nature to at least some extent , and identified it with a particular structure in the personality: the persona, which means “mask” in Latin.  Mask is an deep thing in all of us.

Fascinated with Masks

Mask is an archetype: it appears all over the world.  They are virtually universal, even though the forms of masks vary greatly.  Coming to terms with mask is an important part of individuation.

Wearing a mask, we hide behind something that can almost be taken as a real face.

We can become identified with, and maybe inflated with, what the mask represents.  In primal cultures, one who donned the mask of a god or spirit became that spirit.  And today?  Doesn’t one who dons the Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous become Anonymous?

Disturbed by Masks

Masks resemble living faces, but aren’t.  They are static, and that can make them seem eerily lifeless.

Masks can be fearsome. We fear that they might become so fastened to our face, that we will be unable to remove them. This was the theme of a famous 1964 Japanese horror movie, Onibaba, which centers around a demon-like mask that cannot be removed, and that causes the features of the wearer to become distorted.

The Truth Behind the Masks

We certainly all do wear masks.  We must, because we need them.  If we were just absolutely “raw and out there” with everything we think and feel, we’d get hurt and hurt others without end.  Yet, although we need masks, there’s good reason to have a healthy caution and respect for them, and sometimes even to be afraid of what they hide, what they reveal, and of being overly identified with them.

Relating to Our Masks

The ways in which we relate to tmasks we wear in individuation will be the subject of the rest of this series of posts, and we’ll explore it at some length.  We can say for sure that one essential way we need to relate to the masks we wear, is to be conscious that we are wearing them — and to be conscious of what exactly we are wearing — an essential part of the process of individual therapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by vreimunde ; VIDEO: © Contemporary Arts Media //www.artfilms.com.au
© 2012 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 6: Mystery

April 23rd, 2012 · Jungian therapy, mystery, second half of life, therapy

jungian therapy

In the second half of life, mystery is more and more our companion, and Jungian therapy urges us to open ourselves to it, rather than run from it.

 The Surrounding Mystery

What does Jungian therapy mean by mystery?  Well, clearly not this:

The kind of mysteries that we’re dealing with in this context are not some hidden facts waiting to be puzzled out by intense investigation.  Rather, we’re talking about those aspects of human life that are impenetrable to the human intellect.  Or better yet: those things in human existence that we can understand and understand more and more about, and yet there will always be profound things about them that the human mind cannot exhaust or fully penetrate.  These things might not always fit neatly into our lives, but they are the things that give human life its real depth.

The Mystery of the Self

Jungian therapy has as its starting point one of these profound mysteries, namely that the ego or conscious mind is not the complete personality in a human being.  Another greater reality is involved: the Self, which Andrew Samuels defines as “the unity of the personality as a whole.”  The Self in us is continually striving to bring together the opposites in our nature.  Sometimes, we’re aware in the second half of life that something in us doesn’t just go along with the direction that our ego may choose for us — it has its own clear direction and sense of where we should be going in our personal journey, and its own greater wisdom.

The Mystery of Life

The course of our life has a definite direction and shape.  The psychological concerns and tasks native to the second half of life are different from the life tasks in the first half.  As we move through life, we are unavoidably confronted with the question, “What is of lasting value?”  The answer to that question is linked to our personal mythology, and it will likely take us into the territory of the mystery in life.

Intimations

What is it, in this second half of life, that takes on fascination and depth for you?  That really grips you?  As you explore this, you enter into mystery, and also into intimations of deep significance and meaning.  Jungian therapy is concerned to uncover the value and meaning in life through the exploration of its mysteries, and ultimately, the mystery of our own unique and individual being.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Individual Therapy & Overcoming Internet Addiction: Soul

April 16th, 2012 · individual therapy, internet addiction, overcoming internet addiction, therapy

individual therapy

It may seem strange to say that soul might be required in individual therapy for overcoming internet addiction.  Soul is a word that we don’t hear very often in the modern world.  It tends to conjure up visions of organized religion and stained glass windows, or maybe we even think of the late, great James Brown!…

But when depth psychotherapy refers to “soul” in  individual therapy, it refers to images that emerge from the depth of the personality, and the way in which psyche converts events into experiences of meaning and substance.

Inner Treasure

We each come into the world with the capacity for our own unique inner experience.  There are things that come from the depths of ourselves, from places that we don’t fully understand — images, fantasies, feelings.  Our capacity to experience these things is unique to us.  Only you have your particular, unique inner life, and only I have mine.  As that inner life flourishes, so does the uniqueness of the individual.

Food for Soul

The inner person needs a lot of rich inner images, fantasies and imagined experiences to flourish — these things bring our soul, our uniqueness, alive.  In an interview with Mary Nurriestearns, James Hillman noted that “You need a lot of food for the imagination. [A]dvertisers recognize our need to stir our imaginations.  Cars and shoes are two very practical items which, when advertised are sold through imaginative fantasies….  [T]hey are serving other purposes than nurturing the acorn [of the self], but advertisers recognize that human beings respond to imaginative images and fantasies.  That’s the first food.”

Imagination needs to grow, and find its unique form.  Often, advertising stifles this, by cramming the individual’s imagination into narrow, straightjacketing forms.  But that’s nothing compared to what the Internet can do to our imaginal selves.

 The Blizzard of the World

If we allow it, the sheer enormity of the Internet can have a huge impact on our imaginal life.  There’s always more of it; we’re never done.  We don’t need our imagination or inner life to animate the images of the Internet; they just keep coming: more porn to be seen; more people to be tweeted or FBed, more dating prospects to look at.  As the poet Leonard Cohen sang prophetically in his song The Future :

overcoming Internet addiction

Beyond Endless Hunger: Overcoming Internet Addiction

Overcoming Internet addiction involves return to our own real life.  First and foremost, that entails return to our own imagination, and our own soul.  Individual therapy in depth plays an important role in this.

PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by michael_reuter ; © Helder Almeida | Dreamstime.com
© 2012 Brian Collinson

 

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 3: Time

March 14th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy, Time

Jungian therapy

Jungian therapy is shaped and informed by this awareness: no one can avoid the significance of time in the second half of life.  In my earlier posts in this series on the second half of life, I focussed on open-ness and desire.  For this post, I’d like to think about time, and its enormous impact on us

Our Finite Season

We become acutely aware that our time is limited in the second half of life, as Jungian therapy well knows.  This gives a certain type of urgency to living.  We have real choice about whether we will meet it with panic, denial and regret, or a sense of courage, self acceptance and engagement of creativity.

We are Creatures of Chronos

Many traditions have a time deity, to reflect its necessity, like Greek Chronos or Mithraic Aion.  Human consciousness needs duration to even be aware of itself.  We have to spend time to even feel that we are living.  So how will we spend it?

Time, Change, Age

Time, change and aging profoundly affect our relationships

We confront these three in our bodies.  We confront them in the self, as, in the second half of life, we become aware of possibilities that we have not lived out, and aspects of ourselves that we have not yet acknowledged — the unlived life.

However, there is also the possibility that, as we age, we may move towards a certain important kind of freedom.

Courage to “Waste Time”

Growing older, I may find that I am liberated from the tyranny of the expectations of others, and of the need to prove myself to others.  This can be one of the genuine gifts of maturation through midlife and the second half of life.  I may find that I need to have the courage to “waste time”, as the world might think of it, to remove myself from the busy-ness, and just to reflect on my life.

I will never forget a lawyer I know, who through Jungian therapy decided to leave the legal profession, after years of working incredibly gruelling hours.  He told me, “The single most important thing that this experience has taught me?  My time is the single most precious thing that I have.”

Learning how to live in the present, to be with yourself, to listen to yourself, and to foster soul.  These can be key elements of psychotherapy in the second half of life.

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

 

 

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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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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 2: Desire

February 27th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

We tend to think that desire declines in the second half of life, but Jungian therapy challenges us as to whether that is really true.

Jungian therapy

As life goes on, there are actually some things that we yearn for with greater and greater intensity, and they may well have a profound importance for our psychic wholeness.

second half of life

Is Blake a bit extreme here?  Perhaps… but if we are talking about our heart’s real yearning, especially in the second half of life  — is he really wrong?

What We Fundamentally Desire Embodies Who We Are

What we most fundamentally yearn for hugely effects the forward movement of our lives.  Jungian therapy knows that our desires often comes from the deepest parts of the self, including the unconscious, in ways that we may not readily understand.  Our desire powerfully embodies the way we actually are in the world.

Wholeness, Yearning and Desire

In his Red Book,  Jung tells us that desire is “image and expression of the soul.”  (By “soul” he means the essence of who we are, or personality, rather than anything metaphysical.)  If desire is the expression of soul, and expresses our feeling, then it has immense importance for us during the midlife transition and the second half of life.  To explore fundamental desires, and to live them out, is connected with being who we are, in an essential way.

The Unexpected Attractor

The unexpected desire may be the most important.  Sometimes, in the second half of life, the individual finds him or herself attracted to things that seem completely unexpected, even inconsistent with desires at earlier life stages.  Yet, sifting through these “strange attractors” and unfamiliar desires, and possibly living them out, may be essential for the journey towards wholeness.

Hidden Desire and Imagination

Much art concerns yearning, often hidden desire and the ways in which it is fundamentally enfolded in imagination.  An important dimension of growth in the second half of life can be the process of letting desire speak through imagination, and realizing that imagination possesses a fundamental reality.  As Jung says:

 


Our desire is a powerful thing, and it matters to our lives.  Jungian therapy can be a key part of exploring desire, and entering into the fulness of who we are, and are meant to be, in the second half of life.

How have your deepest desires changed through the course of your life?

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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 1: Openness

February 21st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

I’ve always wanted to do a series on how Jungian therapy approaches the second half of life.  This is the time in our life from the onset of psychological midlife on.  For the first post, I’ve chosen the challenge of openness.

Jungian therapy

Growing older can tempt us to close ourselves off from new kinds of awareness and new possibilities for living.  How do we avoid this, and stay open, alive and aware?

Below are four insights about openness and the second half of life.

Coping with the Current of Life

Sometimes the current gets rough.  I can easily be overwhelmed with all that life brings over the bow in the second stage of adulthood.  Kids facing the challenges of the teen years, and of moving out into the adult world, and then the reality of empty nest.  Ever-changing and less stable work life.  For many, the end of marriages and partnerships, sometimes of long standing.  Achievement of some dreams, and the recognition that others will never come about.  The feeling of passing time, and anxiety about life slipping away.

The Temptation to Disengagement

As we get older and confront these challenges, there can be a slow, subtle, almost unconscious temptation to pull back from the world.  Without even being aware we’re doing it, we can end up holding ourselves aloof from what is going on around us, sometimes feeling betrayal, disillusion or disgust.  It wouldn’t be “cool” to admit it to others, yet this can often occur.  Which is tragic, because we can miss the real substance of our lives.

Seductions of Rigidity

We can find ourselves slowly taking a more and more rigid stance in life, slowly falling victim to unbending opinions, unwillingness to really listen to others who differ from ourselves, and resisting coping with change and anything new.  This kind of psychological rigidity can amount to a kind of living death.

Open-ness and the Undiscovered Self

To stay vitally alive, I need to respond openly to others, to the outside world, and, above all, to the undiscovered and unacknowledged aspects of my self — the shadow.  Dream images often reflect how unacknowledged aspects of the self are trying to come into consciousness.  There are possibilities in each of us that strive to be lived out, and to bring us into an going affirmation of life.

second half of life

How do you keep yourself open in the second half of life?  I’d welcome your comments.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Coping with Change: Archetypal & Individual Therapy

February 15th, 2012 · archetypal, change, coping, coping with change, individual therapy, Psychology and Suburban Life, therapy

Individual therapy

To practice individual therapy in 2012 is to see how coping with change plays an ever greater role in peoples’ lives.  Many of my clients are forced to cope with a faster and faster pace of change almost month to month.  Change at work can be the most strenuous, but sometimes coping with change in other areas of life can be as much of a challenge.

“Embrace change” is the continual message.  But when is it too much?  Change can leave us empty and completely disoriented.  Can we protect ourselves?  Here are 4 insights from individual therapy about coping with change.

1.  Endless Demand

We all accept change as a given, in our era.  We’re continually told that we should comply with its demands, no matter how voracious they might be, and that resistance to any change is living in the past.  We continuously face external demands for change, which can turn toxic when mixed with our own  inner perfectionism and compulsiveness.

2.  Anxiety

The continual anxiety experienced in our time often pertains to a feeling that there is nothing firm to hold onto.  But this feeling often stems from the fact that we’ve been led to believe there is nothing to hold onto; we expect everything to slip between our fingers.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially with our personal needs and wants.

3.  Instinct, Archetype

We are so cut off from our instinct that we think it irrelevant.  Our culture endorses the idea that people are born as blank slates, devoid of instinct.  Only very slowly is evolutionary psychology reversing this.   In Jung’s phrase, coined long before evolutionary psychology, only now are we re-discovering “the 2 million year old man.”

As an archetypal symbol, “home” is incredibly multifaceted in its symbolic meaning.  But we seem to have forgotten one instinctual thing that any cave dweller could tell us : we need a real home to survive.  Many today act as if they need a mere dormitory or place to put their stuff.  Many more are so glued to their electronics that they invest nothing in creating the social fabric of their homes.

4.  The Part of Ourselves that Knows

In dreams, health concerns, and modern addictions, the instinctual and archetypal self cries out for something beyond rootlessness, anxiety and the relentless churn of the Next New Thing.  As we explore the wisdom of the self in therapy, we gain a greater and greater sense of those individual parts of our life that give value and stability.

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© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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