Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part 1

June 22nd, 2010 · Anxiety, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, mythology, persona, popular culture, Psychotherapy, soul, wholeness

When I was 9 or 10 years old, I was an insatiable Iron Man fan.  I used to race to the local drug store every day to see if a new issue of my hero’s adventures had hit the stands yet.  I still admire Stan Lee and those who developed the Iron Man character: he was truly an iconic figure for a pre-adolescent boy in the mid-1960s.  Well, it’s 45 years later, and Iron Man is receiving great attention — arguably much greater than in earlier days.  “Iron Man 2” was the lead-grossing movie for much of the 2010 Spring season, and the Iron Man 1 and 2 movies are estimated to have grossed in excess of $935 million.

There is no question that the Iron Man figure captures the imagination of many in our culture.

What is the fascination that Iron Man exerts?  Why is this figure a cultural icon—and not just for 9 year old boys?  What is it that he shows us about ourselves as a culture, and the issues and problems that we collectively face?  Please bear with me as I relate some of this modern myth – for it actually has a surprising amount of symbolic and psychological depth.

According to the story line, Iron Man is the alter ego of the wealthy industrialist Tony Stark (played in the recent movies by Robert Downey).  In order to escape a situation where he is held hostage by some despicable outlaws, Stark fashions a suit of practically invincible armour, and overcomes his foes – all details covered in the original “Iron Man” movie.  Stark then goes on to improve and enhance this very sophisticated flying suit of armour, to the point where it is mighty, mobile, and both beautiful and technologically advanced to an incredible degree.

In Jungian terms, Iron Man as a symbol for our relationship between the social mask, the persona and the inner human.  It represents the yearning that the social mask be smooth and impenetrable: the fantasy of being beyond weakness, mistake and humiliation.

Undoubtedly, we need a social mask – we cannot just “let it all hang out” in social situations.  The result would be chaos, and we would be extremely dangerous to ourselves and to others.

But how devastating must the underlying shame be, to lead me to wrap myself in the fantasy of untouchability, to strive for invulnerability, to ensure that nothing is ever going to touch me.  We have to admit that it is a seductive fantasy–one that we might easily be tempted to try and pull off.  Particularly in a culture like ours that so values external appearances.

We are so utterly afraid of our own vulnerability and weakness.  We can so easily live in terror of our own true nature.  It can be so hard to let ourselves be what we are, to know ourselves, and to let ourselves be known.  Part of us is utterly convinced of the need for the pretense of invulnerability.  Yet part of us knows what we really are.

Stark says, “I am Iron Man.  The suit and I are one.”  That’s great for a myth and a fantasy hero.  Heroes in myth are always something other than simply human.  However, complete identification with the persona,  “the suit and I being one” would be a form of living death for a real human being.  It’s easy for us to live in such terror of our vulnerable selves, those parts of ourselves which are not strong and beautiful.  Yet they are there, and if we cannot acknowledge them, and give them their due, they will surface in very destructive ways, such as anxiety and depression, as symptoms of the underlying shadow self.

Somehow, we’ve got to come to terms with the human inside the armour, and to learn compassion and acceptance for that person, just as he or she is. We have to abandon perfectionism, and get beyond the toxicity of shame.  Often, it’s just at this point that psychotherapy or Jungian analysis is a necessity.

To be continued in “Anxiety Behind the Mask, Part II: Imprisoned in the Armoured Self”.

I’d welcome your reflections on the nature of “social armour”, and the social mask.  Have you ever experieced situations where, to your surprise, someone was suddenly vulnerable?  Where you were?

I wish you every good thing as you travel on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDITS: © Turkbug| Dreamstime.com ; marvel.com

VIDEO CREDIT: ©Marvel Entertainment, LLC  //marvel.com/movies/iron_man.iron_man_2

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Depth Psychotherapy Heals

June 14th, 2010 · complexes, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Science, unconscious, Wellness, wholeness

  The research paper that I have linked to below is both striking and very important.  It provides strong empirical evidence of the effectiveness of “psychodynamic psychotherapy”.  That’s a technical term for those forms of psychotherapy, like the Jungian approach, which:

 

In this study, Shedler’s “Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”, evidence shows psychodynamic therapies to have a treatment effect as large as those reported for other therapies whose proponents stridently proclaim them to be “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that people who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends.  The study also tends to indicate that non-psychodynamic therapies may be effective in part because the practitioners who are the most skilled at using those methods bring techniques into their practice that essentially originated in the theory and practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The researcher makes it clear that any perception that psychodynamic approaches lack empirical support “does not accord with available scientific evidence.”

 

These results, while not entirely new, are very striking.  They are worthy of very careful consideration by the therapeutic profession as a whole.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on any of your experiences with Jungian or other forms of depth psychology.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cristi111|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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The Symbolic Power of Home, Part 2: Where is Home?

June 10th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Halton Region, Home, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, Psychology and Suburban Life, Relationships, The Self, therapy, wholeness

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how the experience of connection to a specific place that is home can be powerful and profound. However, there are also many people for whom there is no connection to a sense of home.  And, for any of us, there can be many times–perhaps long periods–when we feel that we have lost anything that resembles that connection.

There are many real people for whom the experience of not having a place where they belong is overwhelmingly powerful and poignant.  We may not be that sort of person, may not feel that way.  And yet, very often, there is something in the experience of these people that can profoundly resonate with us.

OK, I admit it: I am really dating myself with the video below.  It’s from 1970, but, nonetheless, I’ve decided to include it, because I think that it represents a remarkable musical expression.  The group is Canned Heat, a blues-rock band from California, and the singer/blues harmonica/group leader is a young man named Alan Wilson.  In my opinion, Wilson’s singing here, in his inimitable blues manner profoundly touches on the experience of what it is to feel without a home.  By today’s standards, the video is very rudimentary, and the band seems far from polished in its stage presence.  However, as you watch and listen to Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sing and play “blues harp”, it is hard to avoid the feeling that he is putting the whole of himself, the whole of the pain in his life, into those lyrics of endless wandering, “on the road again”.

“The first time I travelled on, in the rain and snow / I didn’t have no fare, not even no place to go…”

“My dear mother left me, when I was quite young / She said, Lord have mercy, on my wicked son…”

This is really an aspect of all of us.  It’s an archetypal theme.  Homer’s Ulysses on his seemingly endless 10 year struggle — and all he wants to do is get back home to Ithaca.  Aeneas, in Virgil’s Aeneid, sole Trojan survivor and refugee from the sack of Troy, for whom there is no home to which he can go back–he must just keep on moving, that’s all there is.

As good as the human experience of home may be, there are those voices that would remind us that the welcome is never quite complete and total enough.  In the words of the German writer and poet Hermann Hesse, “One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”  But there is always a sense in which we are journeying onward.

The truth seems to be that our deepest yearning for home is something that cannot be fully met by an outer place, however wonderful. We may feel deeply connected to the place of our birth or family life, for instance, and yet something is missing, something for which we yearn.  This is because home, the real home we are seeking is something within ourselves and our own being.  Symbollically, it is the center of the mandala.  Home is connection with the centre of our own being; it is to be accepting of and at home with the deepest part of the self.  But to find that, we must undertake an inner journey.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you yearned for a feeling of security and rootedness?  Do you know what it is to be “on the road”?

Are there people who make you feel at home with their warmth and acceptance, as Hesse suggests?

Have you had the experience of feeling at home in yourself, of accepting who and what you are, and accepting your life?

I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on the archetypes of home and homelessness.  What would it mean in your life in your life for you to truly “come home”?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Teokcmy |Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT:

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Trust and Betrayal

May 24th, 2010 · betrayal, depth psychology, Individuation, psychological crisis, trust, wholeness

In my recent blog post on “Crisis“, I indicated that one of the gravest things that can happen to people is the experience of betrayal in those close relationships with others whom they trust deeply, and upon whom they depend.  I feel strongly that this is an area worth exploring further, and some of my readers have indicated to me that they felt that this was an important topic.

Please consider for a moment the story of Jesus in the Christian New Testament, but with a psychological, rather than a religious perspective.  A prominent feature of that story is the betrayal of Jesus by his own disciple, Judas Iscariot.  This element of the narrative clearly functions to show us that Jesus went through one of the very bitterest things that can occur to a human being, that this was one of the most appalling torments that a human can undergo.  To me, this just seems psychologically accurate.  It doesn’t get much worse than being betrayed by someone that you love and trust.

We can experience the awful bitterness of betrayal in a great variety of ways, and at very different stages in life.  When it is a real betrayal, it undercuts the individual in such a radical way that it can sometimes lead people to even question the worthwhileness of living.

In our culture, we often associate the terms “trust” and “betrayal” with lovers, whether married or not.  Betrayal can appear in the lives of couples through infidelity, through physical, sexual or verbal abuse, through addictions, or through allowing a family to fall into a vulnerable and/or seriously damaging financial position — among various other ways.  When it occurs, it can deliver wounds to the one whose trust is breached that are not at all easy to overcome.

It is perhaps less frequently realized, but, within the family of origin, there are many ways that the family can betray a child in his or her vulnerability.  One of the greatest fears for the child is the fear of abandonment.  This can occur in purely physical ways, that is, through actually leaving the child in his or her helplessness.  It can also occur in emotional ways, through rejection, or withdrawal of love.

There are other areas where children or young people can have the experience of betrayal.  Many have the experience of religious leaders and institutions in which they have put their faith, that become associated with physical, sexual or emotional abuse.  Educational institutions can do the same things, along with other gravely negative things, such as labelling or humiliating the individual in such a way that he or she feels fundamentally violated or devalued as a person.

It is essential to respect the impact of betrayal, if we encounter it in our lives.  It is very likely that it will impact the degree to which we can give ourselves in trust in other situations in our lives.  It may even have an overall effect on what we call “basic trust“: the capacity of individuals to trust that life is good, and to trust that they can make their way and find what they need from their lives.

To come to terms with betrayal can be one of the greatest challenges that an individual will ever face.  It can be a fundamental part of the process of becoming oneself, the process of individuation.  Often the difficult road to moving beyond betrayal passes through the journey of therapy.  At its best, therapy in depth can be a way of renewing the trust in the other, and simultaneously, the trust in myself.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness — especially to those who at this time wrestle with the dilemmas of trust and betrayal.  If you would like to share any part of your journey through a comment or email, I would welcome it.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Eszawa|Dreamstime.com © 2010 Brian Collinson

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Work and the Heart

May 15th, 2010 · Hope, Identity, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, Wellness, wholeness, work

An article from the Globe and Mail of 12 May 2010 , “Working regular overtime linked to increased heart attack risk” raises some very serious questions about the way that we’re living now:

//bit.ly/99TwPg

The article cites a study published in the European Heart Journal, which finds that employees who regularly put in 11- to 12-hour days have an almost 60 per cent greater risk of having a heart attack than those who put in a standard 7 to 8 hours daily.  The scary thing, of course, is that, in our world, that group who are putting in the 11 to 12 hour days is very large.  As the article suggests, “the overtime hours were not, in and of themselves, causing heart problems, but rather that they likely reflect the stress being felt by those who work long days”.  So, to be literal-minded, stress and endless days are making people sick at heart.

What is it about work and the heart?  There is true symbolism here, that comes right out of the midst of flesh and blood.  For events in the body are very often symbols or metaphors of what is going on in the psyche.  Psyche will reflect in the stomach, or in the neck and back what psyche has to bear, or finds unbearable.  Psyche and soma (Greek for body) are a unity, and they reflect each other.

At the risk of sounding childish or naive, this whole area begs our consideration because it draws attention to a huge very personal, very human question: what is our heart’s desire?

Down through the millenia, the symbolism of the human heart has represented that dimension of the human being that interacts with life through feeling.  The psychic reality is that the feeling dimension of life cannot be ignorred.  The overall question of what we want, really want, from our lives is not going to leave us alone, not really going to go away, even if it gets repressed.  Endless work and/or the complete blurring of the distinction between work and home leaves the heart in a desert wasteland.

We have to come to terms with the true depth of our yearning.  The only way to do that is to trust that our deepest yearnings are not meaningless.

How can we possibly find a way to make a living and keep our health?  Only by giving the heart what it needs.  What does your heart need?  Can we dare to even ask that question?  Do we dare to hope for it anymore, or has that hope gotten submerged or lost in the midst of cascading demands and obligations?

Stay with your heart.  Trust that it knows what you need.  Strive to find the ways to get closer to the things that matter to you, and to be less and less driven by urgencies and agendas that have nothing to do with your own real life.  As the Book of Proverbs, that compendium of age-old human wisdom in the Hebrew Bible has it:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

 My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness — and your journey to your heart.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Vladimirdreams|Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Anxiety, Stress and Decisions

May 11th, 2010 · Anxiety, decision, Individuation, midlife, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, unconscious, wholeness

A great deal of stress and anxiety in peoples’ lives is associated with making major decisions that deeply effect personal life.  Very often, people come into therapy because they are hung on the horns of a major dilemma, with a decision to be made between two or more possible decisions or paths to take.

As we all know, making a life-changing decision can be a time of real struggle.  Often the choice may be of a kind from which there is no easy turning back.  In such a situation, if the stakes are high enough on each side, the dilemma can seem insoluble, and the situation can seem absolutely paralyzing.

This is in part because, there is often no easy, logical set of steps to take in making the fundamental decisions in life.  Decision-making is not nearly the logical, rational proposition that it is often portrayed to be, and that we would like to think that it is.  This is true whether we look at individual or group decisions.  I appreciated this article in the Financial Post newspaper of date, which concerned research into the psychological processes around decision-making demonstrates this:    //bit.ly/cd0whp

In the course of an ordinary human life, there will be decisions that will be true forks in the road.  These decisions will not be made easily, and making them may well have a very real personal cost.  As one enters mid-life, the frequency of these difficult, uncharted decisions tends to increase.  From the middle of life on, there will be more and more of an individual character to such major choices.  As one really confronts one’s own unique identity, and one’s own unique values and sources of meaning, conventional cookie-cutter answers to these dilemmas will be less and less readily apparent and less and less helpful.  If an individual is to find an authentic way to move forward at such a point, it will require genuine self exploration, and confrontation with the unconscious elements in him- or herself.

Coming to terms with the unconscious element of ourselves, and becoming aware of its presence and its effect on the direction of our lives is a transforming process.  The self that makes the decision and moves forward will necessarily be somewhat different from the self that originally confronted the dilemma.  Often it is the support provided by the container of depth psychotherapy that can make the difference between an end result that furthers a sense of despair and stagnation, and a resolution to the dilemma that provides a sense of greater unification and integrity of the self.

I’d gratefully welcome your comments on the decision process.  Have you confronted times in the recent past where making a major decision or decisions has been a source of great stress?  Have you ever had to confront decisions that had the feeling of being a genuine “fork in the road” or “crossing of the Rubicon” from which, once made, there was no turning back?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Main website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ffennema |Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Stuck

April 4th, 2010 · complexes, compulsion, wholeness

One of the common experiences that brings people into therapy is the feeling of being “stuck”.  This is an expression that people commonly use to describe the experience of being brought up again and again against some psychological issue that seems incredibly difficult or even impossible to resolve.

Sometimes this sense of “stuckness” can concern some aspect or issue of a person’s life that seems very hard to get a fix upon, or to face squarely.  It may be associated with feelings of boredom, or ennui, or sometimes with feelings that are strong enough that they could properly be called despairing.

It is often the case that the sense of stuckness concerns dilemmas that can’t be solved.  There may be tensions, for instance, between a person’s desire to take steps to pursue his or her deepest and most profound aspiration or dream, and obligations and commitments to people whom the person deeply loves.  Very often they involve values and deep yearnings of the heart, and sometimes there are feelings that it is almost impossible to put into words.  It is most often the case, judging from my experience, that these dilemmas are not something that the individual is going to be able to just “sit down and calmly think their way through”.  They are often just too fundamental to the person’s being to be resolved in such a straightforward, rational way.

That is why people often bring this kind of dilemma into therapy.  And by the way, such dilemmas are not usually brought forward by dull, limited, emotionally truncated people.  Rather, it is precisely the sensitive, aware and intelligent who find themselves “stuck” in this kind of manner.

Often such dilemmas revolve around something that has been a long term issue, possibly even throughout the individual’s life…

Often, it is only by really taking hold of both sides of the dilemma that some kind of a solution can be found.  The only way out may be recognizing that the problem is intellectually insoluble, even though I’m a very intelligent, resourceful person.  And it can take real courage to accept that this situation in my life brings me literally to my wits’ end.

Here are some hard but important questions to ask about being stuck in this way.

Is there something in this dilemma that I just have to face because, whether or not I want to accept it, it is just the way that life is?

Is there something in this dilemma that hinges on whether I am able to accept myself?  Is there some aspect of myself in this situation with which I simply have to come to terms if I’m ever going to find peace around this issue?  Is there something about that self-acceptance that I find particularly hard or offensive?

Is there something in this dilemma that I find hard to come to terms with because it entails a secret suffering, maybe something so painful that I can’t even admit it to myself?

Is there something involved in this situation that part of me knows, but that is “split off”, dissociated and unacknowledged?

The only way through this kind of stuckness involves patience and a great deal of compassion for myself.  Also, paradoxically, often it is only by acknowledging the depth of my suffering that the suffering can lessen.

Often the container of psychotherapy in depth is the most effective, and often the only place to come to terms with, and to begin to find some kind of resolution of the most fundamental dilemmas that we have, the ones that really touch us in the depths of our lives.

I’d gratefully welcome any of your comments on the phenomenon of stuckness or “unmovable dilemmas”.  Have you ever dealt with this kind of an issue in your inner life?  Have you ever found yourself “split right in two” about an important or fundamental life decision?  I would welcome any of your comments, directed either to the blog or personally to me.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Indykb | Dreamstime.com

© 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

PHOTO CREDITS: © Lukyslukys|Dreamstime.com 

© 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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Seeking for Depth

January 18th, 2010 · archetypes, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, Identity, inner life, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, therapy, wholeness

 

Seeking for Depth for Vibrant Jung Thing In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on what are called “brief psychotherapies” by the therapeutic profession.

The emphasis has been on providing very short courses of psychotherapy to individuals, with an eye to providing concrete definable “results” with respect to narrowly defined issues.  In large part, the movement to this type of therapy has been driven by pressure from insurance providers, who have sought to keep costs down by focusing on achieving measurable progress on specific, very focused issues.  By keeping therapy short, the inscos hoped to return people who are off work back to the workplace in the shortest feasible time that is compatible with the safety of the client.

It may well be that the brief therapies and “solution-focused” therapies are quite successful in acheiving their defined goals.  However, that is not the point that I want to pick up in this particular post.  Rather, I want to ask a bigger and more fundamental question, which is implicit in the following quotation from Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby:

 …any psychotherapy founded on depth psychology should focus above all on the question of who we really are above and beyond the distortions provoked by the way we were brought up or by the society we live in.  Becoming conscious ultimately involves an unbiased experience of the ‘true self’. The self in the Jungian sense is rooted in the unfathomable domain that has rightly been termed the unconscious. 

Mario Jacobi, Individuation and Narcissism,

(London; Routledge, 1990), p. 96

 The type of psychotherapy Jacobi is describing is rooted in fundamental questions of depth.  The question that forms its basis is, quite simply, “Who are you?”  It does not accept any glib or shallow answer.  It also recognizes that who we fundamentally are is something that we will never be able to just size up intellectually.  It’s much deeper than that — a matter that we can only experience, and never exhaust.

While brief therapies may provide concrete value, there is a whole other level upon which we need to encounter ourselves, and there be healed.  For many people, it is that deeper level where the need is urgent.

I’d welcome comments from any readers on experiences of their own depth, in therapy or outside of it. Are there moments when you feel that you have really experienced yourself?

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

PHOTO CREDITS: © Gorbovskoy| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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