Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

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

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

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

Jungian therapy

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

second half of life

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

What We Fundamentally Desire Embodies Who We Are

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

Wholeness, Yearning and Desire

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

The Unexpected Attractor

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

Hidden Desire and Imagination

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

 


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

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

PHOTOS:  Attribution  Some rights reserved by worak ; Attribution Some rights reserved by milena mihaylova

 

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Coping with Change: Archetypal & Individual Therapy

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

Individual therapy

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

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

1.  Endless Demand

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

2.  Anxiety

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

3.  Instinct, Archetype

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

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

4.  The Part of Ourselves that Knows

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

PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by 416style
© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (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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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, 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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Shadow Identity: Inside You Someone Waits to Emerge

February 4th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian analysis, Self, self-knowledge, Shadow

The shadow is the unacknowledged part of ourselves.  Inside you, that shadow someone has been waiting to emerge for a very long time, like a butterfly from a cocoon.  You may well encounter that someone, or aspects of her or him, in your dreams.  That person may be an elusive stranger, or someone who urgently cries out to you to open your doors to her…or him.  The shadow can be many things.

The shadow someone who waits to emerge may contain elements of you which have been forgotten or even repressed since childhood.  Or, that “someone” may appear with elements that have never before been in your conscious mind.  He or she may represent something new in you, a reality about you held in the depths of your unconscious, waiting until now to emerge and encounter you in your conscious identity.  You may well find that you are not always entirely comfortable with this one who wishes to emerge!

Depth Psychology and Emergence of the Shadow

The calling of the depth psychotherapist is to assist in the encounter of the one who wishes to emerge with the already established identity of the person who starts to hear the call of their inner self, in whatever form that call takes.  The depth psychotherapist recognizes that these are elements of one and the same person. and that,  for a person to love, accept and acknowledge him or herself, the known self and the undiscovered or emerging self must embrace each other. Then the person will live in the awareness of his or her true self, and her or his own real life.

Yearning for Transformation

Something inside of us yearns for this. Something in us may also be aware that such a transformation takes effort, and is only acheived if we devote ourselves to the goal, and move past that part of ourselves that would tell us that everything is OK the way it is, and there is no need for us to change or grow.  The part of us that is caught up with inertia, that would tell us that even though things don’t seem the best, and that life is less than satisfying— or even less real — than we had hoped, it is better to let sleeping dogs lie…or sleeping aspects of the self.

Awakening

Depth psychotherapy, especially Jungian analysis, is all about the process of awakening sleeping shadow aspects of the self.  It is opening gates within you, and allowing exiled aspects of your being to walk through those gates.

What will that someone who emerges be like?  The answer to that question will be as unique as you are.  But the encounter with the undiscovered self will ultimately be a homecoming.

Who is Waiting to Appear?

As you read this, there are aspects of who you are of which you’re aware, and aspects that are in the unconscious.  Who is it who is waiting to appear in you?  What is there that is part of your nature that is yearning to reveal itself in you?  What kind of healing would those parts of you bring?

Have you ever had the experience of encountering an aspect of yourself of which you had previously been unaware?  Such experiences can sometimes be profoundly transformative.  If you were willing to share about such an experience either in a comment or vie email, I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you and your emerging self every good thing as you travel on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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PHOTO CREDIT:     Creative Commons  Some rights reserved by Teosaurio

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

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The Self as Hidden Treasure in Jungian Psychotherapy

January 27th, 2011 · alchemy, art, C. G. Jung, collective consciousness, depth psychology, False self, Identity, parent-child interactions, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, Relationships, religious symbolism, Self, self-knowledge, symbolism

Jungian psychotherapy and Jungian analysis put a high value on the uniqueness of the individual, and on the treasure that is the inmost Self.  Jungians see symbolic reflection of the motif of the Self as hidden treasure in many texts from the world’s artistic, religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions.  For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew, and also in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, there is the famous parable comparing the “kingdom of Heaven” to a hidden treasure.  A Jungian psychological interpretation of this saying would portray the “kingdom of Heaven” as, broadly speaking, a symbol of the Self:

‘The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field

which someone has found; He hides it again,

goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

Matthew 13:44, The New Jerusalem Bible

The motif of the Self as hidden treasure also permeates alchemy, that esoteric pre-scientific approach to matter and the world, in which Jung took such an interest in the later part of his life.  The goal that the alchemists sought was not to create ordinary gold from lead, but to create something called “the philosophers’ stone”, an absolutely incorruptible and indestructible substance.

Jung acknowledges that, from a scientific point of view, the way the alchemists went after this goal made no sense, but what gripped him was the underlying symbolism.  Jung saw in the “philosophers’s stone” a potent symbol of the Self, in this case, hidden in matter and awaiting discovery, a treasure guarded in secrecy by the alchemists.  Jung believed that some of the later alchemists such as Gerhard Dorn came to realize that what they were seeking in their alchemical work was not a physical, but a psychological reality, and that it was that reality that the symbol of the philosphers’ stone or “son of the philosophers” as it was sometimes called was pointing.

The Core of the Self

At the base of all this symbolization there lies a profound and precious truth about human existence.  It is a truth about the nature of the human self.  At the core of each of us, there is that element in us, an awareness, that is unique and precious, that defines what we most fundamentally are.  Sometimes that is represented symbollically as a hidden treasure, sometimes as a gemstone, sometimes in a variety of other ways.

This is the core of ourselves, symbollically represented.  And there is a bit of a paradox about its nature.  Certainly, symbollically, it is often presented as something that is so precious because it is incorruptible, even indestructible.  Yet, there is a danger concerning the self to which symbol and myth point.  It seems that it is possible for us to lose this treasure, to have it taken away.  Somehow it needs to be guarded and treated with vigilance — like the individual in the parable who joyfully finds the treasure, but then hides it carefully again, until such time as he can go and buy the land in which it’s buried.

Self Protection, Self Possession

This issue of the core of the self, protecting it and keeping it, is one that I meet with on a very regular basis in psychotherapy practice.  It is something with which, in one way or another, very many people.  It is a sad truth that very many people have learned, one way or another, and very often early in life, that their self — their true uniqueness — can be stolen or devalued by others

Sometimes, people learn this lesson as a result of the guilting, shame or ridicule of those who are close to them.  Sometimes what happens really does look like a theft of the self: for instance, a young person will get the message very directly that a parent or other significant person cannot tolerate or deal with who the young person really is, and so that person (often unconsciously) manufactures a false self tp placate the other.  Sometimes a person will give themselves whole-heartedly in relationships — and then find her- or himself deeply betrayed.

Learning to Hide the Self Away

As a consequence, these people learn — sometimes unbelievably well — that the true self has to be hidden away, that they cannot dare reveal who they really are to the people closest to them.  It is then very easy for this lesson to get generalized out to take in the whole world.  It can be come a reflex to feel that nobody wants me, or wants to know who I really am.  Then the only way I get through life is to “keep my head down”, in despair, and just try and keep my joys, my needs — anything at all about me — from getting noticed, and that any encounter of another with me will only result in guilt, rejection and shame.

As is very often the case, it seems to me, when you are looking for someone to express some aspect of modern consciousness, you very often cannot do better than the Beatles.  Here they are, singing a song that is profoundly “on the money” about the need to hide the true self — “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away“.


Getting the Self Back

For such an individual, getting the self back, and spontaneously living out of it, is a key priority.  The reason for that is that, without that sense of acting and reacting out of our actual self, our life simply doesn’t feel real to us.

Psychotherapy with the right therapist may be an essential part of this self-recovery.  An effective psychotherapeutic approach will allow you to get at the deeper reasons for hiding the self.  Many of those reasons may reside in the unconscious, and it may be that only as a person uses the therapy as a “laboratory” for exploring him- or herself, that they can begin to develop a sense and a comfort for what it is to live out of the self.

Most people at one time or another have had to wrestle with the feeling that who and what they are is not acceptable to others.  Has that feeling ever been a part of your experience?  If you would be willing to share your experiences, either in a comment or an email, I would welcome the opportunity to share and dialogue with you.

Wishing you a fuller and fuller encounter with your deepest treasure, the Self, as you move forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     Rembrandt “Parable of the hidden treasure” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

MUSIC CREDIT:      © Lennon / McCartney, EMI Music, 1965

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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

wealth

riches

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In January, with Mind, Body, and Instinct

January 20th, 2011 · archetypal experience, archetypes, body, Carl Jung, consciousness, cravings, dreams, inner life, instinct, Jungian analysis, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, seasonal affective disorder, self-knowledge, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

This blog post, on our January mind set, and on mind, body and instinct, continues my last post, although it might look quite different.  My immediately previous post was centered around two quotations that painted pictures of the conscious and unconscious brains in relation to each other.  This post is much more directly concerned with the subjective experience of mind, body and instinct.  I include another quotation from Jung, speaking on primal “instinctual” humans and modern “rational” humans.  Jung’s prime concern here is the loss of human connection with nature — primal, fundamental human nature.

The holidays are over; spring is a long time off.  In the post-December winter months, it’s often easy to fall into a kind of robotic “just-gotta-get-through-it” mental state.  In my personal experience, it’s altogether too easy to just go to a kind of  place where we’re mentally divorced from our feelings, and we just stoically keep answering the “call of duty”, withour regard for the instinctual human we all carry within, and his or her needs.

The Instinct-Rationality Divide

Primitive man was much more governed by his instincts than his “rational” modern descendents. who have learned to “control” themselves.  In this civilizing process, we have increasingly divided our consciousness from the deeper instinctive strata of the human psyche, and even ultimately from the somatic [body] basis of psychic phenomena.  Fortunately, we have not lost these basic instinctive strata; they remain part of the unconscious, even though they may express themselves only in the form of dream images.

Jung, C.G., ed.,  Man and His Symbols, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964)

Modern humans can be very cut off from the instinctual basis of life, and even from being aware of our bodily existence.  In my experience, this can be particularly true when you’re bundled up, slogging down an ice-and-snow filled January street at -25 degrees with a high wind chill!

But, even so, as Jung was among the first to tell us, the instinctual side continues to function, along with the whole broad psychic processing of of inner and outer experience.  It’s always with us, and one important way to move closer to wholeness is to work actively to be aware of that.

Ways to Access the Instinctual Life Within You

Here are four questions to ask that can bring you nearer to the instincts and the life of your body.

1.  What is Your Body Telling You?

It is amazing the degree to which many modern people are completely oblivious to their bodies.  As a very simple step, what if you were to become aware of where in your body you carry tension, and when that tension appears?  If really thinking about this is something new to you, I think you would be amazed at the degree of awareness of your own psyche and your own instinctual self that can come to you through continually practicing this one simple step.

2.  Be Honest: How Do You Really Feel About That?

Of course, it’s just about the world’s oldest joke that therapists are always asking everyone, “Well, how do you really feel about that?”  But it can be so easy to drift into a place of non-awareness about your own feelings — particularly if you’re a personality type that leans heavily on thinking as opposed to feeling.  For such people (and I’m certainly a card carrying member of “Club Think”!) it can be a matter of great importance to be asking yourself continually, “Yes — but what am I feeling now?”

3.  What Do I Really Crave, Yearn for?  Why Do I Crave That?

Your cravings are important!  It may seem like a triviality in the midst of the great Project of Individuation to note that when I’m alone I experience a strong craving for Junior Mints, but don’t be too quick to assume that it’s irrelevant!  Try as much as you can to get into the question of “Yes, but why do I crave Junior Mints at such a time?”  Are they a distraction from the feelings, a self-medication?  Do they have symbollic importance in some ways — a connection with a happy, secure time in my life, for instance?  On the other hand, do the things I crave in some way or other symbollically embody spirit, or my deepest aspirations?

4.  What is Emerging in My Dreams?

And one very profound way in which instinctual life expresses itself is in dream images.  This is a big one for psychotherapists, and especially for Jungians, as we undergo a great deal of rigorous training in how to handle dream material.  I’ve written about this quite a bit, and you can expect me to write about it a lot more.  But we can certainly say here that the deepest aspects of ourselves, instinctual and otherwise, can be counted on to show up through our dreams — that aspect of ourselves that Jung sometimes referrd to as “The Two Million Year Old Man.”

What Are You Instinctually Disposed Towards?

Have you ever had times in your life where you have felt strongly that you were doing things by instinct? I’ve heard many stories that, for instance, mothers tell of getting through unbelievably difficult situations on the strength of their mothering instinct alone.   I’ve also heard of situations where something like raw instinct has led people at a certain point to make fundamental and life-changing decisions.  Indeed, I believe that I made such a change at one particular points in my life — that probably saved my life.  Has your instinct or your “animal side” ever moved you in directions that your intellect would have never thought of going?

I would be very interested to hear about your experiences: please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, send me an email!

Wishing you rich growth in your experience of all that you are, on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

If you’d like to receive Vibrant Jung Thing regularly, please subscribe using the RSS feed in the upper right hand corner of this page.

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PHOTO CREDIT:  © Jokerproproduction | Dreamstime.com

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Psychotherapy, the Dream and the New Year

January 1st, 2011 · depth psychology, dreams, Identity, Individuation, inner life, life journey, Meaning, personal myth, personal story

Depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis knows that it’s not at all uncommon for the psyche to be particularly active with dreams at the end of the year, and at the beginning of a New Year.  Years are divisions of time which are artificially and, to some extent, arbitrarily created by humans.  Still they form important divisions in time, that the unconscious often seems to recognize in some form or other.  Individuals can sometimes have astonishing dreams at this time, or other experiences which show that the inner depths of the person are active, as we look forward into the open New Year, which waits like a newly painted room for each of us to fill it with our lives.

I think most of us find ourselves thinking about the year, and in a broader way, about our lives, at this time of year.  I certainly find myself thinking about what’s really important in my own life, what really matters to me as I move forward into the rest of my life.

Finite and Precious

Now that I’ve reached a certain age, each passing milestone, like the successive New Years, is a reminder that life is finite, and that it is precious,  SUch times are a confrontation with questions about what is truly meaningful in my life, and about the nature of my true identity.  As I think back over the year, and over all my years, I find myself asking, “Am I more aware of myself than I was?  Who am I, in the light of what I’ve experienced now?”

The Archetype of Renewal

However, there is even more than this.  As Stephenson Bond has shown in his book The Archetype of Renewal, the New Year’s season is deeply associated with the the archetypal theme of renewal, expressed through the mythological association of the New Year with the death and renewal of the King in traditions such as that of ancient Babylon.  As individuals, at the New Year are confronted with the problem of the death and renewal of our own conscious attitude, with the very deep level question of “What is meaningful for me now?” and “On what foundation can I base my life, as I move forward into it?”

Toward An Individual Foundation

There was a time when the answers to these questions were ready-made for many in our culture.  In our time, for many — and I certainly include myself in this number — pre-made answers of the kind afforded by organized religion or other social institutions will not suffice.  I need my own connection to realities that will sustain me through the journey of the rest of my life.  Often this individual foundation is only found through depth psychotherapy or Jungian analysis.  It’s always found through in-depth confrontation and exploration of the self.  As Jung himself put it:

All coercion ultimately proves to be nothing but an obstacle to the highest and most decisive experience of all, which is to be alone with [one’s] own self.  The patient must be thus alone if he is to find out what supports [one] when [one] can no longer support [oneself].  Only this experience can give [one] an indestructible foundation….  The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere.

C. G. Jung, Collected Works 12, Psychology and Alchemy , paras. 32-33

What Is the New Year Bringing to You?

Have you had a dream this New Year’s? Or another experience in which you really encountered yourself or the unconscious?   I’d be very interested in your experience and would really welcome your comments, either below, or via confidential email.

Wishing you a deep and lasting foundation on your personal journey to wholeness, and a very happy, prosperous and soulful New Year.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:  © Melissa King | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock

December 22nd, 2010 · dreams, inner life, journey, Jungian, Jungian analysis, life journey, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, persona, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unconscious, wholeness

I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”.  Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in psychotherapy, in one form or another.  It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients.  In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.

A Dream Motif

The dreamer is trying to get somewhere.  Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot.  However, there is some obstacle.  She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road.  Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill.   However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens.  Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. 
In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.

The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure.  However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian psychotherapy could say about its meaning.

1.  The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction

Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward.  There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome.  The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work.  The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path.  No matter: the import of the dream is the same.  You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.

2.  To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality

However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past.  He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps.   There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood.  The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either.  The person can’t do what he or she used to do.  Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price.  What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment.  What is the individual to do?

3.  Something New is Needed

A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma.  Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach.  This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”.  The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped.  From the perspective of Jungian psychotherapy, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.

Is There Anything Across Your Path?

Have you ever encountered a dream of this type?  Have you possibly had such a dream recently?  As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon.  With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation.  If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.

Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:      Some rights reserved by lumaxart under a Creative Commons license

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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