Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Anxiety, Regret and Persona in “Death of a Salesman”

November 19th, 2010 · Anxiety, Father, Marriage, persona, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, regret, Self, soul, symbolism, unlived life

I love theatre, and I’m lucky enough to live in the Toronto, Canada area.  We have a lot of excellent theatre hereabouts, including the wonderful Soulpepper Theatre, which is not nearly so famous as it deserves. I was fortunate enough last Saturday to see Soulpepper’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  which was arresting and raw.  It’s a profoundly psychological play, in the ways in which it deals with anxiety, regret and “persona“, or the false self.

Lots of people know the story of Willy Loman, the crumbling salesman at the centre of the play, and the drama of his decline and eventual death.  Clearly Willy is retreating more and more from reality and from life — but what pushes him into this?

Anxiety

Clearly, Willy and his family live in an atmosphere of intense anxiety.  In the initial scenes of Act 1, Willy has returned from a business trip because he cannot concentrate when driving, and has nearly driven off the road.  The interactions between Linda and Willy are full of an unacknowledged but agonizing anxiety that pervades the whole of the play until the tragic climax.  An important psychological question, though, is, “What is the source of this anxiety?”

Grandiosity and Failure

I believe the answer is found in the tension between Willy’s grandiose and idealized image of greatness, and his own very real sense of failure to live up to this idealized image of himself, to be the “well-liked” man whose fame precedes him, and for whom all doors open.  Willy does not dare become fully conscious of this profound sense of failure.   He can only look at it indirectly, or acknowledge it glancingly in his interactions with Linda.  It seems when he does do this, he expects to be re-assured by Linda, to be argued out of his feeling.  Right through the play Linda enables Willy by shoring up his illusions.

Willy’s Persona

In Jungian terms, Willy is firmly in the grips of a persona (Latin for “mask”) or false self with which he identifies and tries to present outwardly to the world.  But it is deeply at odds with who he really is, and his attempts to carry off this masquerade are costing him more and more emotionally and — dare we say it — spiritually.  Willy is in a horrible dilemma:  the only image he has of himself is as a “well-liked” salesman — and yet he knows that he has failed profoundly in realizing this ideal.  However, there is no other sense of himself that he can find to hang onto, and so he is drowning.

Biff

So Willy does what parents often do in this kind of situation: he transfers all of  his hopes for success and greatness to his sons, and in particular, onto his eldest son, Biff.  However, whatever wounds Biff may be dealing with, he cannot ultimately bring himself to live out the unlived life and fantasies of his father.  After initially succumbing to his father’s illusory picture, Biff refuses to enable his father further, saying “we’re a dime a dozen, you and I!” to Willy, which is the very thing that Willy cannot, will not accept.

Regret

The picture is further complicated for Willy by his profound regret, particularly for an incident in which he was discovered by Biff with another woman with whom he was having an affair in a hotel room.  This incident has a profound and fateful effect on Biff.  Miller’s dialogue masterfully shows how Willy can neither really face and be honest with himself for what he has done, nor can he release himself from the torture of his regret.  Finally, this regret will lead Willy to a horrific act of atonement, which is intended to restore Biff to the path of “greatness” — as imaged by Willy.

“The Woods are Burning”

What is it to be consumed by false self, by persona?  What are its inner psychological effects?  I believe that playwright Arthur Miller captures this powerfully in one phrase that Willy uses several times throughout the play: “the woods are burning!”  In dreamwork and in fairy tales, the deep woods, which are dark and where one’s view is limited, are often the image of the unconscious.  The image of the woods burning, of a huge forest fire in the unconscious symbolizes the psychological reality in a profoundly eloquent way.  The true self may be ignorred, and may be pushed into the unconscious, but not without powerful, often devastating consequences.

What about You and I?

The false persona and false self are real things in human life, not just art.  It can be a devastating thing to live with a false sense of who one is, and without any real connection to the true self.  I have had personal experience with the ways in which such an over-identification with the persona can bring a person into difficulties.  I was fortunate to have the help of a good psychotherapist to get me through that extremely difficult period.

Staying as true to the real self as possible is an ongoing process in life, a genuine psychological work.  This is especially true in a society like ours, which becomes more success and image-oriented with every year, or so it seems.  Are these issues which you, too, have encountered in your life, or are addressing right now?

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© 2010 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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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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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 3: Through Phoenix Gate

August 11th, 2010 · complexes, depression, depth psychology, guilt, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, regret, Shadow, soul, therapy, unconscious, unlived life, wholeness

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on regret, I have tried to portray something of the nature and power of regret as it manifests in our lives.  Hopefully I have succeeded in making one very central thing clear: regret is not some peripheral thing in our lives that is going to be cleared away by simply improving our thinking.  It strikes deeper.  It is much more fundamental.  How then are we to deal with the presence of regret in our lives?

One of the first steps is to frankly acknowledge the danger to us that regret represents.  Regret, truly strong regret, has the power to deprive us of a meaningful life in the present, even though it concerns events in our past.

Neither will regret be skirted.  It often stands in the center of the road of our journey.  The way that it holds our energy can seem hopelessly entangling.

Acknowledging the sheer pain of regret can be very hard to do.  As is often the case with strong negative feelings, we try to deny their existence.  Yet it is only acknowledging the pain that really makes us aware of the life that has been lost, of which the regret reminds us.  And it is only in acknowledging the pain and sometimes the despair that is associated with regret that the energy that is tied up in it can begin to be freed up to move toward something else in our lives.  And that something may have real life and real meaning for us.

Despair is usually the last place we want to go.  The last thing we want to face in our lives.  Yet, it is in our despair that our energy gets caught.

What is it about what we regret that really keeps us from wanting to release it?  Can we face the hurt inherent in failed hopes?  Does regret really move us more deeply into the question of what our life is about, and whether we find it meaningful or not?  As the character Ivan says in the recent film Greenberg , can we really come to accept and cherish a life other than the one we planned?

Carl Jung frequently used a phrase that he took from the ancient world” amor fati .  Literally translated, it means “the love of one’s fate.”  This is not a phrase to be chucked around glibly, and Jung certainly did not do that.  However, the idea of loving one’s fate is the mirror opposite of living a life that is consumed by regret.

When one looks at the painful, and sometimes even horrific events that can be endured by human beings, one can only conclude that it would be a grim mockery to counsel someone to somehow love these actual events.  That would be the bitterest possible perversion of some idea of positive thinking.  I don’t think that is what Jung means when he uses the phrase amor fati. I think what he does mean is that the person who loves his or her fate somehow lives in hope, and sees a meaning emerging in the midst of the fabric of his or her life.  Such a life and such a hope offers the possibility of living passionately into life — beyond the chains of regret.

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the whole subject of dealing with regret.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 1

July 26th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, depth psychology, guilt, life passages, midlife, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, regret, soul, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

Regret is a power that can bring you to your knees.  A great many of us have experienced its power.  Sinatra may sing “Regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention.”  This sounds admirable and enviable, but over the course of a lifetime, most of us have to deal with some very powerful rendez-vous with the way it might have been.

Regret can be experienced at any point in life, but often at mid-life, regret can start to take on a particular intensity.  As we go through the journey of life, the awareness that we have only a finite amount of life left, a finite number of possibilities open to us, can lead us to an exquisite hyper-sensitivity to the regret we have for all the choices we could have made differently, roads we could have walked, ways that it might have turned out that it did not.  In other words, the life unlived.

How can we live with this awareness?  We may attempt to shrug it off, pretend it isn’t there.  But very often for us it is there, often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when all the spirits tend to come out.  Not a few of our addictive and compulsive behaviours — including workoholism — can stem from attempts to run away from regret.  But how can you or I run away from something so close to ourselves?

In my next few postings, I will be examining the phenomenon of regret, and the way it impacts us.  It can have a huge grip on us.  It can even imprison us, and embitter us beyond words.  But, let me ask a question that might seem strange:  Is there health in regret?  It’s clear how regret can be a poison, but, oftentimes, the cure for the poison is made from the poison itself.

Does regret play a part in your life?  Do you ever find the experience of regret both inescapable and painful?  I’d welcome any of your comments on this post.

My Next Post: Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 2: Understanding the Power of Regret

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Between Childrens’ and Parents’ Needs: the Generational Anxiety Sandwich

February 15th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, parent-child interactions, parental complex, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unlived life, wholeness

 

Sandwich for Vibrant Jung Thing In this post, I would like to write about something that may have a sense of “taboo” about it.

For many of us in the present day world, a powerful struggle goes on in our middle years.  There are greater and greater demands on our personal reserves of compassion, empathy, time, energy and money.  These resources are streaming out in two directions, both towards our children, and also towards our parents, and possibly other aging relatives, who are living to a greater age than ever they have in the past.

As many people in their middle years try to meet the needs of the younger and older generations, they find themselves nearly impossibly stretched.

In such a climate, it can feel almost impossible to meet the needs of others.  In addition, many people end up feeling like callous ingrates if they give any consideration to their own needs as people.  “How can I consider myself?” one often hears people in this position say, “My parents gave me so much.  I owe them so much–everything!”

The really difficult thing is when the inner complex gives such guilting messages to an adult child, when the parents have actually not been kind or supportive to their children.  I experience this as a very frequent occurrence in my practice.  Many times, people who have been seriously emotionally or physically neglected by their parents — or worse — are the very people who respond in the most dutiful and self sacrificing manner.

And then again, it is often those same people, dutiful to their parents, who turn around and are completely self-sacrificing to their children.  And sometimes those children can be every bit as demanding unreasonable and narcissistic toward their parents as their grandparents are toward them.  And often that same mass of guilt and obligation that whips these people into unreasonably self-denying behaviour toward their parents will do the same when it comes to their children.

The particular psychological forces that bring this about are as individual as the people involved in the situation.  Very often, in dealing with these situations, healthy ordinary people need therapy to get to the root of the problem, and to free themselves from the crushing guilt.  Guilt can be an extremely powerful emotion and motivator, and it is often necessary to confront it in the safe environment of therapy to be able to remove its power.

The other hugely difficult component of these intergenerational binds is that they often lead to enormous amounts of anxiety.  This can prove as difficult, if not more so, than the guilt.  However, what I am going to say next about that guilt may prove surprising, even shocking!

Which is, that it may actually be quite a good thing that the individual is experiencing the guilt!  “Wow, Brian” you might be thinking, “what a horrible thing to say!  …Speaking of callous!…  How can you possibly wish anxiety on already-burdened people?”

Now, I don’t wish anyone unnecessary pain, and, all other things being equal, I would wish that no one would have to deal with excessive anxiety.  But in a situation like this, I believe that it is often the case that the anxiety has a psychological purpose.  Simply put, the intense anxiety makes us aware that there is a conflict, and that the status quo is simply untenable for the individual

It may be that the guilt is intense for such a person, but the anxiety shows us that there is tension, that the needs of the self are not willing to just continue being put on the shelf and denied.  The complex of guilt and obligation within us may spur us on to utterly altruistic self-destruction…but that complex is not all that there is to us.  There is the part of us that recognizes that the purpose of human life is to become the person who is latent within us, that that is why we are here in this life.  That part will allow us to make some compromises, but it will not allow us to completely sell ourselves out — not without our paying a very dire, wrenching psychological price.  

It’s easy for many people to feel a strong impetus to self-sacrifice, but, psychologically speaking, it’s important to realize that there may be very real limits to the degree to which we can put our own needs on one side to care for and meet the needs of others.

This awareness might lead us to face an even more fundamental questions like, “How do I begin to live my own real life?” and “What is meaningful to me?”  These questions takes us to the very heart of Jungian analysis, and true depth psychotherapy.

I’d gratefully welcome comments from readers on these issues, which affect very many of us.  How have you experienced the “generational sandwich”?.

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

Brian Collinson

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© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

January 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Current Affairs, depth psychology, Film, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, persona, puer aeternis, unlived life, wholeness, work

Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham

 

“Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

Up In the Air Official Website

Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

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

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

 

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When You Hit a Brick Wall

July 13th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, unlived life, wholeness

Often people get to the point in life where they reach an impasse, and they don't know how to solve a particular situation in their lives.Hitting the Wall 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

There doesn't seem to be a way forward and there doesn't seem to be a solution.  Although this can happen at any point in life, it seems particularly prevalent at mid-life.

Often, the way one becomes aware of this is that you just realize that the way that you have been trying to solve a particular problem or deal with a particular life situation just isn't opening anything up.  What this tells you, at least in part, is that your attitude is no longer adapted to the realities of your life.

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not saying something along the lines of "If you want it enough, and you're unfailingly positive about it, what you want in your life will come" — the kind of message that you find in books like The Secret.  I think that approach to life is quite naive, and I have seen a fair number of people come to real harm as a result of trying to live like that.  Such an attitude can be really unadapted, and can lead you into a major collision in reality.  I know of one person who left home and found herself absolutely destitute and friendless in Dubai as a result of that kind of thinking.  From all that I hear, Dubai is not a great place to be penniless, and to try and get by on just a sunny smile.

Having an adapted attitude may well mean that there are certain realities that I have to let in and acknowledge.  That may even mean that there are things that I have to grieve.  What it may mean, above all, is that I have to change.

Let's say that I'm a true died-in-the-wool "thinking type" person.  So I try to approach all the problems and situations in my life in very rational, thought-out, dispassionate ways.  Then perhaps one day I find myself deep in the grip of a depression that I simply can't shake.  It might well be that the only way that I'm going be able to come through the depression and feel alive again is by acknowledging my feeling side — all those years of unacknowledged and suppressed feelings.  This is going to require a big change in the way that I see myself, and a lot of open-ness to dimensions of my life that I've previously done my very best to cut off.  It isn't going to be easy.  Parts of me are really going to resist.  But it may well be that it's the only way that I'm going to get my real, meaningful life back.

Similarly, a person who is all about willpower and control may well have to acknowledge the parts of him- or herself in the unconscious that they can't control.  They may have to admit that the ego is going to have to acknowledge that it is "second banana" to the Self, and let things emerge from their dreams and from other parts of the unconscious, and take those things into account in the way that they live their lives.  This might be quite difficult, but it might just give them a meaningful life again.

Hitting the Wall 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Many times "hitting the wall" has to do with coming up against the things that I really refuse to admit to myself.  The key to the lock that I need to open, I hide from myself, because there is some truth about myself or my situation that I really don't want to look at.

The only way past the wall is to be open to something new: the undiscovered self.

Please keep sending me your comments and your thoughts!  I would welcome any of your reflections on the "walls" in your life, past or present.  

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

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2009 Brian Collinson    

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Other People?

July 7th, 2009 · Carl Jung, Identity, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Relationships, Shadow, unlived life

Here's a reflection-provoking quote from Jung on how we tend to see other people.

Other People 3 for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog "Everybody thinks that psychology is what he himself knows best  – psychology is always his psychology, which he alone knows, and at the same time his psychology is everybody else's psychology.  Instinctively he supposes that his own psychic constitution is the general one, and that everyone is essentially like everyone else, that is to say, like himself.  Husbands suppose this of their wives, wives suppose it of their husbands, parents of their children, and children of their parents.  It is as though everyone had the most direct access to what is going on inside [him or her], was intimately acquainted with it and competent to pass an opinion on it; as though his own psyche were a kind of master-psyche which suited all and sundry, and entitled him to suppose that his own situation was the general rule.  People are profoundly astonished, or even horrified, when this rule quite obviously does not fit — when they discover that another person really is different from themselves.  Generally speaking, they do not find these psychic differences as in any way curious, let alone attractive, but as disagreeable failings that are hard to bear, or as unendurable faults that have to be condemned.  The painfully obvious difference seems like a contravention of the natural order, like a shocking mistake that must be remedied as speedily as possible…."

"The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man" in Jung, C.G., Hull. R.F.C., trans.,

Civilization in Transition, Collected Works, Vol 10, second edition, 

(Princeton: University Press, 1989), para. 277

Jung highlights for us one of the very greatest dangers in our relations with other people: Other People 2 for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog that we will see them as just like ourselves when in fact they are hugely different.  This is a trap that each of us falls into numerous times a day, very often without being aware of it.

I invite you to think about the people in your life.  Do you see them as more similar to yourself than they really are?  Can you be open to their psychology, their way of perceiving their lives?  Can Other People for Vibrant Jung Jung Blog you acknowledge who they really are, without a sense of threat?  This can be quite a challenge — and an ongoing one with which we're never quite finished.  Yet the process of taking back our projections on others is a key part of individuation, of becoming ourselves.  Unless we can do this, we find ourselves fated to go round and round on the same old merry-go-round of relationship, never really knowing others or that part of ourselves that we have never lived, and have not yet acknowledged.

As always, I welcome your comments and your thoughts on relationship and "the other", and I look forward to dialoguing with each of you.  

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

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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The Mirror of Relationship

May 18th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, life passages, Meaning, midlife, Psychotherapy, Relationships, soul, The Self, unlived life, wholeness

Mirror of Relationships for Vibrant Jung Thing He woke up one day, and realized that he didn't recognize his marriage, his partner or himself.  He realized that things had gone on in a certain way for years and years, but that for a long time now, he had just been going through the motions.  

Certainly, he loved his kids, now in their early teens, and was a very giving parent.  He knew he wanted good things for them, was prepared to make all kinds of sacrifices for them, and could not bear the thought of hurting them.  Outside of the relationship with the kids, though, what was there that remained positive, or that had any life in it?

He thought of his wife and felt that he had nothing in common with her anymore.  It was almost painful these days to spend time together.  She seemed so different from the woman that he had been in love with, all those years ago.  He could remember how thrilled he had been to be with her, to share things with her, and just to talk early in their relationship.  It had been so intoxicating!  But now there was little that they enjoyed doing together.

With pangs of sharp feeling, he realized that he himself had changed.  The young adult "keener" who had worked so hard to supply all the material things, and who had sought to advance himself any way he could had disappeared now.  In that person`s place was someone who among other things, realized that he was not immortal, and who wanted the things that he did with his life and his time to count — to be meaningful to him.  And right now what he was experiencing in his relationship was not meaningful, and was not making him feel good that he was alive.

The experience of this man is not uncommon.  He could just as easily be a woman, or a partner in a gay or lesbian relationship.  In our current world of shifting relationships, people are now often much readier to acknowledge when relationships and marriages are no longer working.  This is not to say that such awareness comes easily: it may often be a very difficult matter for a partner when they finally have to admit to themselves that their relationship, once so full of hope, is now a shell of its former self.

When such awareness dawns, there is usually no going back from it.  It may be that the couple concerned will end their relationship, or it may be that the relationship will change dramatically  One thing that you can be very sure of: the relationship that used to exist has outlived itself, and is dead and gone. Something new, either within or without the relationship, must now emerge.

QUESTIONS FOR WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE RELATIONSHIP CRUCIBLE:

1.  Who has changed in the relationship?  Me?  My partner?  Both of us?

2.   How did I see my partner when we first got together?  What attracted me to my partner?  How do I see my partner now?

3.  Do I see my partner realistically?  What are the aspects of him/her that I don't acknowledge, or that I don't understand?

4.  Are there aspects of myself that I see in my partner.  Are there aspects of anyone else that I recognize in him or her.

5.  What am I really yearning for in relationship.

Dreamstime_573697 The journey of therapy very often starts in the crucible of relationship, or leads through it.  In many different ways, relationship can catalyze a deeper connection with the depths of the self.

Thank you to clients and readers alike who have shared with me aspects of their lives in relationship over the years.  As always I welcome readers comments ànd I thank you for taking the time to read.

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

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Playboots | Dreamstime.com © Kristian Peetz |  Dreamstime.com

© 2009 Brian Collinson    


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Fantasies

May 3rd, 2009 · archetypal experience, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, soul, The Self, unlived life

Fantasies for Vibrant Jung Blog So often the word “fantasy” is treated as a negative term.  After all, aren’t we supposed to be realistic, and practical, and down-to-earth?  How can our fantasies possibly help us to live our real lives?

 Well, Jung has some interesting things to say on this topic, including the following, which is about the role of fantasy at mid-life and later:


“Then, with the beginning of your life’s second part, inexorably a change imposes itself, subtly at first but with ever-increasing weight.  Whatever you have acquired hitherto is no longer the same as you regarded it when it still lay before you — it has lost something of its charm, its splendor and its attractiveness.  What was once an adventurous effort has become routine.  Even flowers wilt, and it is hard to discover something perennial that will endure.  Looking back slowly becomes a habit, no matter how much you detest and try to suppress it…

“The backwards look will not fail to show you sides and aspects of yourself long forgotten and other ways of life you have missed or avoided before.  The more your actual life becomes routine and habit, the less it will be satisfactory. [Italics mine]

“Soon unconscious fantasies begin to play with other possibilities and these can become quite troublesome unless they are made conscious in time.  They may be mere regressions into childhood, which prove to be most unhelpful when one is confronted with the difficult task of creating a new goal for an aging life.  If one has nothing to look forward to except the habitual things, life cannot renew itself any more.  It gets stale, it congeals and petrifies, like Lot’s wife who could not detach her eyes from the things hitherto valued. Yet these insipid fantasies may also contain germs of real new possibilities or of new goals worthy of attainment.  There are always things ahead, and despite all the overwhelming power of the historical pattern they are never quite the same.  [Italics mine]”


So, for Jung, our “insipid fantasies” are not at all devoid of value — if we really work with them to make them conscious.  They may in fact contain the vital clues for us to the way to move forward in our lives.  Sometimes these fantasies can seem childish, or useless — so much so that we dismiss them.  Perhaps we have been told, or have told ourselves, that our longing or our fantasy has no value, that we are silly even to entertain it.  We may have gotten this message so strongly that we even find it difficult to find our fantasies or to experience them — so rigourously does the internal schoolmaster/critic discipline us to “keep out nose to the grindstone.”


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