Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 2

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

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

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

3.  Often Growth is Preceded by Depression

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

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

4. Everyone Needs an Individual Way Forward

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

individual therapy

 

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

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

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved Sony Pictures Classics 2011

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

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Jung Freud Individual Therapy & Major Life Transitions 1

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

individual therapy

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

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

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

1.  The Power of Acceptance and Listening

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

individual therapy

2.  Even Brilliant People Hit Impasses During Major Life Transitions

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

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

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

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

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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)

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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

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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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Jungian Psychotherapy Symbol Book: A Personal Journey

November 23rd, 2010 · journey

The other night I watched the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” again.  It’s one of my great favourites, for any number of reasons: it’s the directors, the Coen Brothers, at their finest; I think it’s as funny as can be; the music is wonderful; the cast is as talented as it gets; and, it’s — loosely — based on one of the greatest works of the human poetic imagination, Homer’s Odyssey.  But the number one reason I appreciate this movie is that it’s based upon the symbol and myth of the journey, which is one of the greatest of all human archetypal patterns, and one that is of great importance for psychotherapy.

The Journey Symbol

Artistic and religious symbolism worldwide reflects the archetype of the journey.  It’s one of the most universal expressions of the human condition and development of the course of human life.  It is central to the Hebrew Bible (Exodus), the Christian Bible (journeys of St. Paul), Islam (the Haj) and countless other religious traditions.  A vast amount of literature, poety and art reflects this theme.  Jung himself, when he sought to characterize the two great movements in human life, referred to them, by using this symbol, as “the hero journey” and “the night sea journey”.

Destination

The whole point of a journey is that it has a destination.  In both the Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou? , the whole process may seem chaotic, but the process is actually moving somewhere, toward a specific end — imaged as the journey home.  That is what the journey symbol conveys to us: if life is imaged as a journey, it is going somewhere.  It has a specific end.  Our lives are capable of having a meaningful direction, even if the present circumstances are completely disorienting.  This is a constant theme in human myth, and it embodies a psychological truth.  There is something in us that knows the way, even when our conscious ego does not.

This can be a very important thing to know in therapy, and in human life in general.  But it must be something other than a glib platitude.  Vague assurances that “it’s going to be OK” will acheive very little for suffering, struggling people.  What people need is assurance, as they struggle, often with very deep, dark things that may have surfaced in their lives.  They need to know that, out of real chaos, something meaningful and healing can emerge.  The real therapist is someone who can go with the client on her or his journey, who can be right with the client, because the therapist knows, in some way that is deeper than merely intellectual, that this process has an inner meaning in the end.

Just for fun, here’s the official trailer from O Brother, Where Art Thou?:

What About Your Journey?

Do you ever think about your life in terms of it being a journey?  Are there times when you’ve been particularly aware that it is a journey?  Have there been times when it really feels as if you’ve lost the way?  If you have, or you are, I would welcome hearing from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT: © Holger Karius | Dreamstime.com

TRAILER CREDIT:  © 2000 Touchstone Pictures and Universal Studios.  This trailer is the property of Touchstone Pictures and Universal Studios and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

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

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Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 2: Getting Real

October 25th, 2010 · Anxiety, depth psychology, Existential crisis, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, stress, therapy

Recently, I started a series of posts about the growth of resilience, which is a very key part of the work of psychotherapy.  I’d like to share a personal experience of mine through which I became changed, and, I believe, much more resilient.  It’s not that I’m trying to suggest that I’ve “got it all figured out”, or that this set of experiences gave me “the key to life” — mine or anybody else’s.  But I do believe that this was an experience that affected me deeply, that it cost me a great deal, and that I genuinely grew through it.

Resilience is directly connected to our convictions at the deepest level about our lives — our basic trust.  And sometimes life can shake what we believe about our own individual lives to the very core.  I had occasion to learn this in a period between my mid-20s and early 30s.

The Journey to Upside Down

At the time this experience occurred, I was a  highly religious person, in a liberal Christian tradition.  I had a very clear conception of my life: how things had unfolded according to plan, and how they would continue to do so into the future.  I was recently happily married, and my wife and I had a baby on the way.

Then the baby arrived, and we learned that he was born pretty close to about as deaf as a child can be.

Suddenly, everything that I thought I knew about my life was turned upside down.  Through this crisis, everything I had hitherto believed about the nature of God, the world, suffering, even evil, and what was meaningful in life was shaken to the core.

Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that having a deaf child is the worst that can happen to a person.  Far, far from it.  It can get unbelievably more painful and difficult than that, I well know.  Nonetheless, when this happened to me, I was completely devastated.  I literally did not know which way to turn, and, for a long time, I seriously doubted that I would ever be happy — or even ever smile — again.

Life Crisis

I also know that, as the years went by, I was also plunged into a more and more  profound crisis of faith and life — an existential crisis, as they say.  It was not so much a question of “why me?”  With the crisis around my son’s deafness, it was as if scales had fallen from my eyes, and I was finally seeing for the first time the depth of the suffering in the world.  In fact, I was seeing it very clearly and close up in the very people with whom I was working.  It was deeply apparent to me now how many people were struggling with so very much more than they knew how to handle, or felt that they could handle.  The question I found myself struggling with on the deepest level was much more, “How can there be a loving God, if this kind of thing happens to any one at all?”

By the time I was 30, I was completely shaken out of the very comfortable life path that I had seen mapped out for me.  Nothing was left of it.  It was apparent to me that life was never going to be possible with the old outlook I had once had.  At about that time, I made some very major changes in virtually every aspect of my life — faith, career, relationships — and moved in a new direction.

Rash, Raw, Risky … Lost

I didn’t know what was waiting for me, and I was making all kinds of rash decisions, without regard for the risks.  In many ways I was raw, and I wore my anger, my pain and my sense of betrayal on my sleeve, often for all to see.  My despair and cynicism were probably at their height at this point.

What I didn’t know, and couldn’t see, was that something was changing inside myself.  At the time, I could not have described to you what this change was, but it was real and it was deep.  It would take years for me to even begin to understand what was emerging in my life.  In my next blog post, Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 3: A Story of My Own, I’ll attempt to share with you something of what that change really meant.

Have You Had This Kind of Experience?

I am sure that many of my readers have had to confront real adversity or real crisis in their own lives.  I would respectfully welcome any of your comments on what it was like to cope with such things.  How did such experiences change you?  As always, I gratefully welcome any of your reflections.

Wishing you peace and resilience on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Elena Ray | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 1

October 10th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, depth psychology, Hope, Meaning, mythology, Oakville, power, Psychology and Suburban Life, resilience, stress, trust, work

Some of the greatest stressors that people experience in the second decade of the 21st century stem from the things which people feel powerless to control.  At times, individuals can feel like life is a dice-roll.

I think that’s why a lot of people in Oakville are so happy about the cancellation of the Oakville Power plant.  Here in Oakville, the mood almost borders on euphoria.  It seems that the feelings are associated with a sense of release, though.  I think that this may be due to the fact that many in Oakville felt that the Power Plant was something close to an an inevitability because of the array of formidable powers (Ford, Trans-Canada and the Premier and Provincial Government) that apparently wanted to see it come to completion.  Fortunately, there were many in Oakville, in organizations like Citizens for Clean Air, who kept up a formidible fight.  And they succeeded, to their very great credit!

There are many things in the 2010s that can easily make people feel powerless.  Many of those things have to do with economics.  It is not that long since the 2008 market meltdown and the Great Recession which followed it, and the recovery which is underway can certainly seem precarious.  Many people have had to contend with job loss, and many more feel that their jobs–and the lives that they have built around those jobs–are precariously balanced.  To a lot of people, dreams that seemed readily attainable for their parents’ generation do not seem at all easily attainable for them.  And many worry about their children’s education and future — and their own later life.

In addition, the majority of us struggle, or have had to struggle with our own inner wounds.  For many people, there can be a strong sense that their experience growing up has not equipped them to feel strong and confident in meeting the challenges that they are facing in their lives.  It can be very hard to the people who feel that “something fundamental  was missing” in the kind of love and affirmation that they received from those who were supposed to love them.  For others, it can feel that events in their lives — loss of love, marital breakup, personal tragedy, trauma — have deprived them of the wherewithal to meet the challenges that life is putting in front of them.

What we each need to meet our lives is what psychologists increasingly refer to as resilience.  Simply put, resilience is the power to “roll with the punches” that life throws at us, and to “have the stamina to go the distance” in our lives, and to “hang in”.

What psychologists and sociologists have noticed in their study of the coping patterns of people, even people dealing with some of the most difficult situations imaginable, is that there are huge differences in how people respond, and whether they are able to cope and endure.  Even in appalling situations, there are some people who have the capacity to overcome their circumstances, and to find the courage to live meaningful and courageous lives.  Resiliency has been defined by psychiatrist Steven Wolin as:

the capacity to rise above adversity—sometimes the terrible adversity of outright violence, molestation or war—and forge lasting strengths in the struggle.

Clearly, we all need resilience.  But we have to be careful that the resilience that we seek is the real thing, not the fake kind.  I think most of us have had some experience with this less-than-authentic resilience.  The fake kind is kind found in the “you can do anything, rise above anything” variety of pep talk, that unfortunately is often found in self help literature.  Regrettably, it is also espoused by some psychologists and therapists.  This heroic version tends (consciously or unconsciously) to over-emphasize will power, and it papers over the cracks and the pain that often run unbelievably deeply in peoples’ lives.  This emphasis on “where there’s a will there’s a way” (a phrase Carl Jung hated) will not sustain when the chips are really down in life.

Mark Bolan’s Cosmic Dancer , which many of you may know from the movie Billy Elliot, itself an incredible celebration of resilience, uses the metaphor of dancing for resilience — “I was dancing when I was 12 / I danced myself right out of the womb / I danced my way into the tomb” :

So, how do we get to the real thing — to a resilience that is rooted in our own real lives?  This is a subject I’ll be pursuing in the next part of this series on “Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth”.

What are your “impressions” on the whole subject of resilience?  What is it for you?  What is it rooted in?  I’d welcome any of your reflections.

I wish you every good thing as you make your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Lawrence Wee | Dreamstime.com

MUSIC CREDIT: Mark Bolan and T Rex performing “Cosmic Dancer” from the album “Electric Warrior” © 1971 Warner  This music is the property of Warner and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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What Do You Think About Therapy?

September 27th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, therapy

What is your attitude towards doing therapy?  Is it something that you would ever consider?  Is it something only for severely damaged people, or “sick” people?  Or is it something that may be of importance for ordinary, everyday people?  In recent years, many peoples’ attitudes have changed — a lot!

There was a time, not so many years ago, when going to a psychotherapist would have been a major stigma.  If people knew that someone was going to see a “shrink”, to use that term, there would have been an attitude toward the individual which would have been positively demeaning.  There would have been a whole series of conclusions drawn — many of them not very savoury — about the individual’s competency, maturity, “well-adjustedness”, and possibly even his or her sanity.

But now times have changed, and attitudes have changed with them.  While you can certainly still find many people whose attitudes towards those who go to therapy would be miscoloured by prejudices and stereotypes, for most this is not the case.  A lot of people are coming to realize that therapy — of the right type — can lead to a much more complete and fulfilling life, for people in general who are struggling with some of the normal processes of what Jungians call individuation, or the journey to wholeness.

I believe that this is particularly true of that form of therapy known as Jungian analysis.  One of the characteristics of Jungian analysis is a fundamental affirmation of the uniqueness of each individual, in combination with the belief that each individual is on a unique journey to become the whole person that they carry as a latent potential within themselves.  From a Jungian perspective, a great many people, perhaps the majority, could benefit from a thorough experience in therapy to help them clear away the roadblocks to becoming, and also to get a much clearer sense of who it is that they are, at the most fundamental level.

Certainly people come into Jungian analysis, often, because they have certain specific issues with which they want to deal.  It is characteristically true that every human will encounter situations of wounding or conflict or loss of direction or orientation.  That is simply part of the human condition. But what emerges in therapy, what constitutes the healing factor in it, is a growing awareness of the individual’s fundamental make-up, and of the journey upon which they have been embarked, all this time.  Therapy, and Jungian analysis in particular, has the power to give a person a perspective that differs fundamentally on all kinds of levels from that with which the individual entered the therapeutic work.  For many, therapy brings a depth to ordinary life that cannot be reached in any other way.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on the role of therapy in our lives today.  The position I’m taking is that therapy at the right time can benefit almost everyone.  Do you agree with me, or do you have different perspective?  Have you had any experiences with therapy, whether good or bad?

Wishing each of you the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga psychotherapy practice:

www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cenorman | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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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

PHOTO CREDIT: © Dmitry Maslov | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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