Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 2

February 6th, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy
My first post on “A Dangerous Method” looked into the depths of the film to see what it could teach us both about the nature of individual therapy and the psychological character of major life transitions.  This post looks at two other insights that the film offers about major life transitions and the nature of the individuation process.  Both are in the latter part of the film, where, for a time, Jung the healer becomes one who is himself in need of healing.

Here are two further important aspects of Jung’s psychological development portrayed in the film.

3.  Often Growth is Preceded by Depression

At the end of the film, in his last encounter with Sabina Spielrein, we become aware that Jung is suffering from acute depression.  What the film only explores in a cursory way, though, is the way in which this experience of depression and going into the depths of the “night sea journey” eventually leads Jung to a closer and different relationship to himself, the discovery of hitherto unknown parts of his psyche, and eventually to the development of what we know today as his unique psychological perspective.

Jung’s experience highlights an important truth.  Depression involves a submergence of the person into his or her unconscious depths.  But if we can have the courage to go into our depression as Jung did, we often find that it contains within it the very things that the soul needs for its renewal.

4. Everyone Needs an Individual Way Forward

The film ends at the very beginning of a vital stage in Jung’s personal journey.  He has broken with Freud, and ended the relationship with Spielrein.  Implied, but not stated, is that the next few years of Jung’s life will involve an inward journey of the most profound kind, that will ultimately be chronicled in his great Red Book, and, later in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

individual therapy

 

This aspect of Jung’s journey sheds much light on each of our individual journeys.  For when we are confronted with the profoundest types of crisis in our lives, only an individual answer will suffice, as Jung came to know well.  There is a definite type of crisis that is only resolved by a very individual encounter with the unconscious, and within it, the as yet undiscovered aspects of the self.

Wishing you every good thing on your own individual journey to wholeness,

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011

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

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 1

February 2nd, 2012 · individual therapy, life transitions, major life transitions, therapy

individual therapy

The relationship between Freud, Jung and Sabina Spielrein portrayed in the film “A Dangerous Method” provides great insights into effective individual therapy and the psychological impact of major life transitions.  But, both in the media and in the film, these insights are often eclipsed behind the drama of the relationship between Spielrein and Jung.

The film faces a big challenge to convey the nature of the break between Jung and his older mentor/colleague Freud, together with the relationship with Spielrein, a brilliant, forceful and complex personality in her own right.  The film also seeks to convey the immense struggles and conflicts undergone by Jung at this time.

In my next two blog posts, I want to look briefly at 4 major insights into individual therapy and major life transitions portrayed by “A Dangerous Method”.

1.  The Power of Acceptance and Listening

Spielrein came to the Burgholzli, where Jung was a psychiatrist, in grave crisis.   As the film portrays, she may not have been psychotic, but she wasn’t far off.  In using Freud’s novel “talking cure”, Jung took Spielrein seriously as an individual person and engaged with her in a very accepting and affirming way, even affirming her desire to be a medical doctor.  Whatever the weaknesses of Freud’s method, one key aspect of “the talking cure”, embodied in Jung’s deep acceptance of Spielrein — listening, engaging her and entering into her experience — had a profoundly positive effect on her life.  This is essential in good individual therapy to this day.

individual therapy

2.  Even Brilliant People Hit Impasses During Major Life Transitions

This movie is set prior to the beginning of the single greatest crisis in Jung’s life.  This took place in 1913 – 1918.  Looking forward, we know that he will emerge from this time transformed, and with his own developed psychology.  However, just at the time of this movie, Jung is really struggling.  It is characteristic of major life transitions, and especially those that come near midlife, that they can make incredible demands on people, and can often only be resolved by a fundamental change in outlook, and encounter with the hitherto undiscovered parts of the self.

This is not pathology. People with real difficulties at these points in life are not mentally ill.  These are the kinds of challenges that people — even brilliant, very successful people — often experience at times of major life transition.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at insights from the film pertaining to growth, depression and individuality.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & the Overly Driven Person

January 26th, 2012 · Anxiety, driven person, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety

Jungian therapy

It’s actually painful to be an overly driven person, as both Jungian therapy and therapy for anxiety in general recognize.  When we allow ourselves to get caught in this way, we run a great risk of chronically devaluing our inner life, and our true worth.

The overly driven person :

1. Never Relaxes or Feels Secure

The overly driven person can’t afford to lower his or her level of alertness, or level of effort, for fear of being overtaken or overcome.  She lives by the old sports maxim: “You’re Only as Good as Your Last Game”.

For the overly driven person links self-worth and specific achievements.  Now, Jungian therapy would acknowledge that we should have particular achievements of which we are proud.  But if our sense of identity is built around socially recognized achievements, then we are on very shaky ground.

2.  Fears Chaos; Continually Struggles to Maintain Control

Often the driven person strives to fend off their greatest fear: the collapse of a situation into chaos.  Often that fear is rooted in experiences of chaos in their past at some point, or in a fear of chaos inherited from the family of origin.  Therapy for anxiety knows that the response to this threat is to strive for greater control — of others, of ourselves, of the environment.

3.  Thinks in Absolutes

In Steve Jobs’ biography, I was struck by the fact that he had only two attitudes to the work of others.  He would either say “This is excellent! Amazing!”, or else he would say, “This is s–t!”.  Excrement or excellence: no in-between.  Overly driven people are often locked into perfectionism in their demands and expectations of themselves and others.  So if a thing isn’t perfect, then it’s a complete miss and worthless.

4.  Pushed by Unconscious Factors

Jungian therapy would emphasize the unconscious forces at work in the overly driven person.  They may be rooted in past traumatic experience, past emotional dynamics in the family of origin, or overidentification with an archetype.  Often, if a person is to gain freedom from  driven-ness, she must become more conscious of what’s doing the driving.  Therapy for anxiety includes healing around basic issues of self acceptance, satisfaction in what has been accomplished, and security.

 “Is It Ever Gonna Be Enough?“…  Metric – Gold Guns Girls

Often depth psychotherapy can assist greatly in untangling the knot of drivenness.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved by ray_wilson_jr
VIDEO: © “Gold Guns Girls”  ©  2009 Metric
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Jungian Therapy, Time and the New Year: 4 Reflections

January 5th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, New Year, therapy, Time

At New Year , we are all acutely aware of the passage of time; an approach rooted in Jungian therapy leads us to reflect on time in at least four different ways.

Jungian therapy

1.  We Live in the Flow of Time

By nature, humans exist in time, and in conscious awareness of time.  All we do and are is in the midst of duration.  We may lament time’s passing, but without it, we wouldn’t exist.  Still, we are surrounded by so much that is impermanent, to which we cannot cling.  How will we cope with passing years?

2.  Midlife and the Significance of Time

By midlife, and often before, we feel keenly that our time is limited.  We know we have lived nearly half of our lives.  Sometimes, I can seem to feel the days rapidly slipping away.  It can be an agonizing realization, and sometimes we may have to battle the snares of regret , in order to stay with life in the present.

3.  Worthy of my Time?

If life is limited and finite, I need to live in the ways that are most meaningful to me.  To do that, I must know what it is that I really value.  And to know what it is that I really value, I will have to encounter those parts of myself that I do not usually encounter or acknowledge — the undiscovered unconscious self.  Many people don’t dare to really ask, “What is it that is really important to me?  What are the things that will really last?” — and then to live in and for those values.

4.  Dancing Toward Soul

We cannot imagine existence outside of time — it is fundamental to who and what we are.  And yet, something in us connects to, and resonates with, eternity.  There is a dancing way of living, that, although it moves through the seasons, has the air of eternity, because it connects with values and aspects of the self that are unchanging — the things we eternally seek.  This, the reality of soul, is often imaged in dreams and in art, as a lover within us, who we seek and love for our whole lives.  Here is Donovan, singing W.B. Yeats’ profound and beautiful poem,

With very best wishes for the New Year, and for you, on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: © Some rights reserved by midgefrazel
VIDEO: “The Song of Wandering Aengus”, by cronogeo
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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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,

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

 

 

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Jungian Therapy, Individuation & Dealing with Feeling

November 24th, 2011 · Feeling, Individuation, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy

Jungian therapy

In Jungian therapy, discovering feeling is often a key to individuation, the discovery of our individual identity.  What we feel is part of what makes us human; discovering our own unique feeling is often an important path to ourselves.

Feeling gets a bad rap in our culture.  We see reason as more dependable, consistent, even, dispassionate.  But without this dimension, would we even be human?

What is feeling, really?

  • A Unique Way of Taking in Reality

For Jungian therapy, one of the basic ways that we take in both internal and external reality is through what we feel.  We often devalue it.  Nonetheless it is real, and impacts our lives at a very deep level.  Some of the most powerful things that can happen to a person happen through what is felt.

  • As Important and Real as Thinking

Feeling and thinking are both fundamental ways in which we take in, and interact with, the world.  Thinking evaluates things rationally, or logically.  Feeling evaluates things in terms of our judgement of “how we feel” about things, whether we are positively or negatively disposed toward them, and why.

  •  Broader than Just Emotion

However, what we feel is not identical with affect or emotion.  We can feel something without having an emotion, although emotion itself contains feeling.

  • Non-Rational

That which is felt is not irrational, as if it were an illogical argument.  You cannot evaluate it using thinking, or vice versa.  For Jungian therapy, feeling brings a whole different type of understanding into the picture than does thinking and rationality — a whole new colour.

William Blake (1757 – 1827) was a profound poet and artist of imagination and depth.  His poem “And did Those Feet in Ancient Time” proclaims feeling and soul in the midst of the British industrial revolution, a time that,  like ours, denied the value of what we feel and exclusively exalted reason.  When he writes of England’s “dark satanic mills”, he is not referring to manufacturing, but to the inhuman character of reason cut off from felt reality — a real and present danger in our own time.  Blake yearns to be in touch with its power and reality:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

 

May we live in the reality of feeling and of our own “arrows of desire”, on our personal journey towards individuation.

PHOTO: © Senai Aksoy | Dreamstime.com
MUSIC: “Blake’s Jerusalem”, Billy Bragg © 2006  Outside Music  All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

 

 

 

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Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & Times of Crisis: 5 Truths

August 14th, 2011 · crisis, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety, times of crisis

therapy for anxiety

In times of crisis like these, with financial panic and other factors, some important truths emerge from the practice of Jungian therapy, depth psychotherapy, and therapy for anxiety.   Here are some key learnings important for resilience — and for getting through — in times like these.

1.  Acknowledge Your Emotions

This is key to consciousness of ourselves, in Jungian therapy terms.  Also, attempting to deny feelings and be stoic in demanding times only increases anxiety and stress loading.  Much better to be forthright with yourself about what you’re feeling.  Psychotherapy can provide a supportive container for this.

2.  Current Crises Activate Old Feelings

Going through instability and volatility in the present, we may vividly re-experience old memories and feelings of difficult or crisis times undergone in the past.  It is important to realize that much anxiety and emotion may stem from the ways in which the situation “hooks” our memories of earlier situations (e.g., 9/11 , 2008 crisis , personal crises).

3.  Limit Exposure to Anxiety Provokers

In crisis situations we seek reassurance.  We may seek out modern media as information sources to get it, but then find that, by their nature, the media do the opposite, and elevate our anxiety.  It may make sense to limit your exposure to news media or other anxiety amplifiers, if you possibly can.

4.  In Crises, the Archetypal Often Emerges

Often, in times of high stress and emotion, the unconscious becomes particularly active.  This may be an important time to be aware of dreams and other content from the unconscious.  It may shed a significantly different perspective on what is going on than your everyday conscious awareness.  Depth psychotherapy like Jungian therapy may well help in integrating this material into your life.

5.  Hang onto Your Individuality

In times of crisis it’s easy for strong feeling or affect  to make people lose their individuality, and be overcome by a herd mentality.  Just this week, we have seen the panic in financial markets and the London riots.  But it’s essential both for our own well-being and conscious awareness of ourselves as individuals that we hold onto ourselves, and avoid merging with the herd.  That’s the way we stay human.
My best wishes to you for resilience, as we all live and move through and beyond these challenging times.

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by chee_hian/
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Therapy, Personal Growth & Self Knowledge …Really?

August 8th, 2011 · growth, personal growth, Self, self-knowledge, therapy

personal growth

Many speak about therapy and/or psychotherapy as a route to personal growth and self knowledge, but can it really deliver? That depends a lot on the kind of therapy, the attitude of the person undertaking it, and the knowledge and attitude of the therapist.

The famous passage quoted below illustrates this very well.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

from Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk , © Portia Nelson 1993

The good outcome in this story is due to three things.

1) Reflection

The author of the poem has the courage to look at what is going on in her life.  Not at first, because panic and confusion are in the driver’s seat.  But eventually, she faces the questions: “What is going on?’, “What caused this?”  And, actually, at an even more basic level, she’s able to admit that “I’m in a hole!”

2) Willingness to Honestly Look at Oneself

Gradually, the poem’s author is able to put down her knee-jerk self defense, and to clearly see her role in creating this situation.  She is able to do this with compassionate self acceptance.

3) Willingness to Put Insights Into Action

Once she has these insights, she acts on them and experiences personal growth.

Very often, these three steps need the fertile ground, compassion and support of the right therapy to best come into being.

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

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by mfriel81
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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Individual Therapy, Overwork & Workaholism

July 22nd, 2011 · individual, individual therapy, overwork, therapy, workaholism

workaholism

There is a real difference between overwork and workaholism, and it makes a real difference to the issues that arise in individual therapy.  Both of these things are way too prevalent in our culture, but they are not the same.

  • Differences Between Overwork and Workaholism

Workaholism has an obsessive-compulsive, addictive character.  Workaholics often think continuously about work, and often use work as a way of avoiding pain or hardship — or intimacy — in other areas of life.  But someone may be subject to overwork, without any of these things being true.

  • Workaholics Overwork; Overworkers May Not be Workaholics

Workaholics do overwork, in terms of hours and/or effort put into work.  They are part of the general epidemic of overwork in our society.  In our culture, an increasing percentage of people work themselves into sickness, premature old age, even death, through work related stress.  Both the workaholic, who feels an inner compulsion to work, and the person who works harder and harder out of fear of job loss, form part of this picture of ever-increasing overwork — both often need individual therapy and burnout treatment.

  • Workaholism and Overwork May Feel Productive, but Actually Aren’t

Often those compelled to overwork in short bursts for specific goals feel that their additional work is effective and productive.  Workaholics may also feel this, but we know that they are wrong.  It may feel like more is getting done, as endless hours that are put in, but studies show clearly that, with increasing hours, productivity is declining.

  • Both Overwork and Workaholism Can Keep Life From Being Meaningful

Work is ultimately only meaningful and satisfying if life overall is meaningful.  Both the self-imposed, compulsively avoidant working of the workaholic, and the oppressively imposed burdens of the overwork culture can deprive life of much of its real meaning.  From a Jungian perspective, the goal of life is to find those things in life that are genuinely meaningful to the unique individual.  To acheive that requires a life in which there is meaningful work life balance in combination with other vital endeavours that each person’s unique being requires of him or her.  Often Jungian psychotherapy can play a key role in assisting the individual to reach this point.

What does genuinely meaningful work really mean to you? I’d welcome your comments.

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

1-905-337-3946

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

 

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Psychotherapy and Renewal: Persephone’s Big Comeback

April 5th, 2011 · depth psychology, Jungian analysis, life passages, mythology, personal myth, personal story, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, renewal, Self, soul, therapist, therapy, unconscious

There’s a lot of truth for psychotherapy in the Greek myth of Persephone and it’s all tied up with the yearly renewal of the seasons.  Persephone, a vegetation goddess, and the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, was kidnapped and ravished by Hades, the king of the Underworld, and taken to live in his realm.

Demeter, so distraught at her disappearance, refused to let crops or vegetation grow anymore until her daughter was returned.  The gods finally prevailed on Hades, who agreed to let her go.  However the all-wise Fates had decreed that anyone who consumed the food of the underworld was destined to stay there for eternity.  Alas, wiley Hades had persuaded Persephone to eat 3 puny pomegranite seeds.  And so Persephone must spend part of the year in the Underworld, a time of barreness, and vegetation would flourish again only when she was re-united every year with Demeter above ground.

This is quite a myth to explain the origin of the seasons.  Here in Canada, after the long barren winter, we all feel a little like I imagine Persephone would, as she was released from the earth. Released back into life!

The profound truth of the Persephone myth also conveys a deep meaning for our own psychological journey.

The Persephone myth conveys a natural movement in psychological life  For Persephone, it is only as she is detached from her familiar world, and descends to the Underworld that she can bring the blessing and the gift of the seasons, of new green life, and fertility.

My experience is that it is like that in the lives of my clients and in my own life, also.  Sometimes the encounter with life’s circumstances and with the unconscious can seem like a sudden plunge into darkness and descent into the underworld.  But the underworld has its own gifts that it brings.  Only those who can accept those gifts, and “eat the food of the underworld”, can bring the gift of life and fertility back to the “surface world” of their everyday lives.  In the encounter with the depths in ourselves, including our unconscious, we travel Persephone’s way, and return to our everyday life with the green lushness of  renewed outlook and vitality.

In the video below, the great Brazilian jazz stylist Antonio Carlos Jobim sings his wonderful song “The Waters of March” at the 1986 Montreal Jazz Festival.  Lush and full of feeling, this wonderful music captures the enormity of the renewal of Spring that we all sense at this time of year.  May we find that same sense of renewal through the encounter with our own deepest selves.

A stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road

It’s the rest of a stump, it’s a little alone

It’s a sliver of glass, it is life, it’s the sun…

…It’s a beam it’s a void, it’s a hunch, it’s a hope

And the river bank talks of the waters of March

It’s the end of the strain

The joy in your heart

Finding Renewal

Both Persephone’s descent into the underworld and the renewal of spring symbolize aspects of the psychotherapeutic process.  Often for renewal, it is important to enter into the depths, and to encounter the more hidden parts of our own existence, and our own experience of life.   The journey may well be demanding, and it is the role of the depth psychotherapist to guide the individual toward renewal, and the deep rewards of the journey.  There’s no better time to start than now.

As always, I welcome your inquiries and comments.

Wishing you the gifts of renewal on your journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:  Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton (1830–1896).  This work is in the public domain.

VIDEO CREDIT  © 1986 Antonio Carlos Jobim and Koch International

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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