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Three Truths about Mortality and Life Transitions

September 29th, 2013 · life, life transitions, Transitions

Our growing awareness of mortality in the second half of life can spur us to major life transitions.

life transitions

While some life transitions just occur to us, others require some element of decision.  Those are the ones that I want to reflect on in this post.

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The Shortness & Infinite Preciousness of Life

The issue of mortality came home to me this week in a vivid personal way, when, sadly, I learned of the death of a woman I know in her mid-50s.  I cannot, of course communicate any identifying details about this wonderful person, other than to describe her as an engaging, young-looking woman with a quick mind and vivid sense of humour, who apparently passed with incredible quickness.

Certainly, anyone who knew this competent, vivacious, woman, who apparently had so much ahead of her, must have been deeply shocked by this turn of events.

This is a difficult truth, but an incredibly important one: none of us knows how much time we actually have to live, and to become aware.  That makes each day, each new awareness, each new choice, infinitely precious.

There are Life Transitions We Need to Make Happen

In keeping with the theme of those life transitions that we have a role in bringing about, we need to ask some searching questions.

1.  Are there experiences that I need to have?  I don’t mean this in the sense of fulfilling some entertaining “bucket list” of diversion.  Rather, are there experiences that are soul work, that my inmost being cries out for?

2. Have I found people with whom I can connect in a meaningful way?  Are there people with whom I am truly at home?  Where in this world can I find a welcome?  And…

3. Perhaps most profoundly and fundamentally. are there ways in which I need to explore and be aware of myself?  To embark on a path of increasing self awareness — this can often be the profoundest life transition of all.

Go for Soul

For many, as life moves along its course, it becomes essential to have experience of the true depth of life within ourselves.

Here is a Zen Buddhist parable on mortality:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger.  He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.  Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!…

life transitions

The following recounting of a dream by C.G. Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections seems to me to sound many of these same themes, as does the accompanying song by, of all people, Jimmy Buffet:

Jungian therapy concerns itself with the key importance of life transitions, particularly in the second half of life, and emphasizes the need to pour ourselves fully into the things that want to draw us into life.

PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike  Some rights reserved by deejayres ;
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Life Transitions: 4 Truths about Seasons of the Heart

August 27th, 2013 · life, life transitions, Transitions

Life transitions are at their most readily apparent in the late Summer-early Fall period: we feel the turning of the seasons — in nature and ourselves.

life transitions

I’ve certainly felt this personally this year as the days move towards early September.  My youngest child is heading off to university this fall, and so this seasonal turning matches the turning of the seasons in my own life. Who knew there were so many seasons, so many life transitions in adulthood!

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Seasons of Adulthood

Well, it turns out psychologist Daniel J. Levinson did, or at least knew more about it than most of us.  His groundbreaking work on the seasons of men’s and women’s lives postulated four stages, overlapping to some degree, that run right through the life cycle: 1. Childhood and Adolescence (birth to 20);  2. Early Adulthood (17-45); 3. Middle Adulthood (40-65); and, 4. Late Adulthood (60 and up).  life transitions

According to Levinson, each stage has a stable period, and transitional stages between it and the other stages.  Whether or not he gets these precisely right, it ‘s hard to avoid his basic intuition that life consists of stages and seasons — an intuition shared by Jung.

Discerning the Time

It’s essential to discern the season of our lives.  What is it that life is bringing to us at this time, right here, right now?  Can we see it?  Can we let it be what it is? Or are we straining to return to some long past reality, trying to fit the present into the mold of a now non-existent past?  Or, striving in some grim, relentless way to bring an as-yet non-existent future into existence, and, in the process, missing what life is bringing to us now?

Or, am I stuck in a major life transition, knowing that I can’t remain in the past, but unsure about how to move into the future?

Life Transitions: Embrace, Let Go

September is a time that really brings home the realities of the seasons of our lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the present moment and its meaning.  We’ll see this reality powerfully mirrored in the faces of some of our children as they face the reality of going back to school!  Still, we have to accept what our lives are, and what we face at the moment, in both our inner and outer worlds.

We also have to be strive to be aware of the feeling response of our inmost being to the season — whether it is anxiety, acceptance, grief, yearning, or any other reaction.

life transitions

Life Transitions of the Fall

Here comes September, a reminder of the changing seasons and of the life transitions of men and women.  Here comes September, mirror of all the seasons of life, and of their call to us, as the Byrds remind us in the beautiful song “Turn, Turn, Turn”, with the words of the Bible sounding remarkably like the words of Lao Tzu:

 

 

Life transitions, especially major life transitions, touch our depths.  Often depth psychotherapy can help us find meaning, healing and direction in the midst of the seasons of our lives.

PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved Nicholas_T ;  VIDEO: © 2006 Sony BMG Entertainment (UK) Ltd.
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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5 Ways Major Life Transitions Can Bring Up Shadow

April 19th, 2013 · life transitions, major life transitions, Transitions

Major life transitions are events that reach deeply inside of us, and they can often bring out our shadow, that portion of the psyche of which we are unaware, and which we resist.

major life transitions

Here are 5 ways  in which the Shadow often shows up amidst the stresses and strains of major life transitions.

1. Persona (Social Mask) Gets Thin.

Very significant emotion and distress can accompany major life transitions.

As we experience such things, aspects of our personality may become apparent that are different from the ways that others think about us, and the ways we normally think about ourselves.  We may also experience reactions that are different from those that we conventionally expect.

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At such times, social masks or personae often become so thin that aspects of ourselves that aren’t regularly seen show through.  This may be a time to learn important things about ourselves.

2. Complexes Get Activated.

A complex is an inter-related cluster of unconscious contents that is part of the shadow.  As Jung reminds us, they are strongly accentuated emotionally and incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness.  When a complex is activated, we often powerfully re-live something from the past.

3. We May Tend to Split Off Difficult / Painful Contents.

Because major life transitions are times of strong affect, we may not remember as accurately, nor think as clearly, as usual.

We may find that many memories will not come to mind at all.  We may also be surprised, later on, when others tell us how we have acted, and what we have said, during such times of trial, transition or crisis.

So, we need to exercise great care when dealing with major life transitions.

4. We May be More Receptive to the Unconscious.

On the other hand, during major life transitions, we may be more receptive to the unconscious aspects of ourselves, and what shadow might be bringing to us.

major life transitions

At one point, a client experienced this powerfully.  He was at a point in my career when he was feeling pressure and striving very hard  to present a “tough guy” image to meet the challenges of the business world.  He was never more surprised than when the  realization came up from the unconscious that, actually, the last thing he really wanted to be was that kind of guy, and that he really wanted to be compassionate, affirming and open.  In the words of James Hollis, “Whodathunkit”!

What might be waiting for you in shadow, the unknown parts of yourself?

5. We May Be Open to New Possibilities…

Major life transitions may actually open up possibilities in our awareness and our lives.  We may find  that we become less reliant on conventional ways of seeing things in our lives, and on conventional pat answers, and more open to something new.

Individual therapy may contribute dramatically to the discovery and opening up of new possibilities within ourselves, and in our outer lives.  When therapy is creative, receptive and deep, it can make a real difference.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved Nono Fara ; ShotHotspot.com  VIDEO: “Shadows” © Lindsey Stirling
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Jungian Therapy, Loneliness and Life Transitions

January 11th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, life transitions, loneliness, Transitions

Jungian therapy

Loneliness is often the frequent companion of major life transitions; Jungian therapy recognizes that finding ways to cope with it can be essential at key turning points in life.

Recently, I’ve been struck by the number of clients who have come to see me in the course of undergoing very significant life transitions.  The situations of these clients bring home to me a lot of significant truths about the loneliness experienced at such times.

Here are 4 ways in which people can find themselves alone in the midst of such life transitions.

Not Being Understood or Accepted

Individuals can experience great loneliness in the course of life transitions when a previously taken-for-granted level of acceptance, understanding or connection is no longer present in a relationship.  The individual may feel that he or she has been understood and accepted for who he or she is, only to discover that those who previously seemed to accept them now can no longer do so.  The spouse who follows the inclinations of the inner self, and finds themselves in a place to which their partner simply cannot relate, would be a prime example.

Isolating Events or Circumstances

Intense loneliness can result for individuals when a life altering event fundamentally alters perception or consciousness.  Such individuals can feel completely isolated from others, even though they may previously have been close to them.  Serious illness, injury, job loss, or other personal tragedy would all be prime examples.

Difficult & Profound Transformations

Life transitions can stem from situations where an individual realizes that “I can’t go on living like this anymore”.  Often this type of loneliness occurs when an individual feels that they can no longer live confined by a given social mask, or persona.  Changes in professional, sexual or gender identity would all be prime examples.

Faced with Difficult Choices

Often a deep loneliness can result from struggling with major moral choices.  The need to courageously make a decision that transcends black and white moral answers, such as whether to keep and raise a child suffering from serious developmental issues, or to give up the child for adoption,  would be a case in point.

Jungian therapy

Often connecting with someone empathetic skilled in depth psychotherapy or Jungian therapy, who understands the issues around the loneliness of life transitions, can be of great assistance.

PHOTOS: © Anke Van Wyk | Dreamstime.com ; © Jerryway | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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