Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How to Deal with Grief and Loss of All Kinds During COVID-19

September 21st, 2020 · how to deal with grief and loss

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re all struggling with how to deal with grief and loss during this COVID-19 period.

I’ve chosen the subject of grief for this second post in my series on “The Emotions of the Pandemic” because grief is such a pervasive and powerful emotion during this pandemic lockdown. We may well not be aware of all the ways in which it is emerging for us in this extraordinary time.

Perhaps we’re aware of the very difficult circumstances that anyone who has lost a loved one has faced during the COVID-19 period. The hardships have been notorious and very well-publicized, including families being unable to visit dying relatives in the hospital, harsh limitations on attendance at funerals, and a range of other very trying ordeals.

Other manifestations of grief may be less obvious. We experience them without even labeling them as grief, yet we may experience them in ways akin to depression.

The Many Forms of COVID Grief and Loss

In a recent article in the Amplify section of the Globe and Mail, Lara Pingue writes about her experiences with her son’s first day of school this year as a senior kindergartner. She notes how getting him ready with mask and hand sanitizer, “after the longest and least rejuvenating March break in history” left her with a keen sense of sadness. She came to realize that this sadness was a sense of grief, stemming from her lost sense of normalcy as she thinks about her son, going to SK in a mask, “who knows that he can’t hug his teacher or high-five his best friend”, and as she thinks about all the normal experiences of work, home and social life that we’ve all had to leave behind in this pandemic period.

As we noted above, Pingue recognizes that she had previously thought of grief in terms of catastrophic loss: “the sharp pang of a lost mother or father, a job, a home”. But she recognized in her experience that the loss of the small things that make life ordinary and secure can result in very substantial experiences of grief.

Pingue quotes the famous thanatologist and grief expert, David Kessler, writing in the Havard Business Review:

We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving.

Kessler, David, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”, Harvard Business Review

Working Hard to Avoid Grief May Not Help

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are grieving in this pandemic period, in a multitude of small ways. We may also find that we are trying very hard to avoid acknowledgment of our grief as we make our way through so-called ordinary life in the pandemic. We’re experiencing a major life transition, with all the emotional fallout that entails

It’s natural to want things to be normal, to damn well insist on them being normal, even when they clearly aren’t. That’s one way in which we try to cope, and among other things, try to reduce our anxiety. Yet the plain fact of the matter is that grief has a way of being present to us, even when we seek to ignore it, and perhaps berate ourselves for feeling it, because we “haven’t had a catastrophic loss.”

Finding Meaning Amidst Grief and Loss

Kessler emphasizes the importance of finding meaning in our grief and loss, as a way of coping with it. In this, he is very much on the same page as C.G. Jung, who continually emphasized the need to find meaning in life, and especially to find it in life’s dark and hard experiences.

What would it mean for us to find meaning in our experiences of grief and loss during this pandemic? First of all, we would have to be willing to look at those experiences, and genuinely acknowledge our sense of loss, and sorrow, much as Lara Pingue did with her experiences. However, we should be aware that our experiences of loss may well be very different from hers. Someone I know finds it really distressing that the whole experience in grocery stores has become so slow and joyless. I personally can feel a huge sense of loss in the way one day blends into another. How do you experience the pandemic?

Working with a depth psychotherapist to process feelings of grief and loss over the pandemic, or any experiences of grief and loss can be of great value. The process can lead us on the path of finding meaning in our loss.

With very best wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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How to Cope with Anger During COVID-19

September 14th, 2020 · how to cope with anger

This post on “how to cope with anger” is the first post in my new series on “The Emotions of the Pandemic”.

As we all know, the COVID-19 experience is stirring up strong, complex feelings. How do we cope with them? What do they mean? In this series, I plan to look at anger, fear, despair and other emotions to attempt to answer these questions for each emotion—and what they respectively mean for our lives at this point in our journey.

Today’s post deals with anger, and the ways in which we’re experiencing it during the COVID lockdown period. Has anger been a part of your experience during the lockdown? It certainly has been for very many people. It’s important for our health and our growth as human beings that we understand as much as we can about what’s going on with this feeling.

Our Anger Now

Bernice (Not her real name) is angry. “My business is really struggling. We’re way down from last year at this time, because of social distancing, and because my business depends on bringing groups of people together. I’m fed up with all the stores and my favourite restaurants being closed. We didn’t really have much of a summer, because of travel restrictions, and everything being shut down while we were away. Now the kids are going back to school, and I really don’t know what to expect. Is it safe? Who knows? And if one more person tells me that this is ‘the new normal’—I don’t know what I’ll do!”

Many of us can relate to the kinds of things that Bernice, and the many people like her, are saying. For many of us this is a very anxious, painful, frustrating time, and whether we want to admit it or not—we’re pretty angry about it. What can we do about it?

Owning Our Anger

Before we can do anything else to respond to our anger, we have to acknowledge that we have it. A lot of people don’t acknowledge anger, and that failure can have some very negative impacts. Anger which we deny or refuse to acknowledge can come out sideways, leading to passive-aggressive responses to other people. Also. anger can get displaced, so that our anger ends up getting dumped on those who don’t deserve it–a loved one, an innocent party, or even a family pet. Or, unresolved anger can end up coming out in our lives as anxiety.

To feel better about our lives and to get more of the good things we want from our lives will mean that, at some point, we have to come to terms with our anger. Even to move towards becoming the unique individuals that we have the potential to be (to individuate as Jungians say) will require us to acknowledge our anger and to come to terms with, and somehow incorporate its energy.

The Dynamic Side of Our Anger

As anger researcher Prof. Ryan Martin of U. Wisconsin-Green Bay reminds us, anger is

the emotion we feel when we are treated unfairly or our goals are blocked…. Anger can be helpful in that it energizes us to confront injustice or solve problems.

That is, provided we find ways to use that anger that are healthy and constructive. Seeking to find such ways to be creative and life-giving with our anger is particularly important for all of us who are now seeking out how to cope with anger in the midst of these pandemic times

It can be of genuine benefit to both explore the roots of your anger, and discover creative ways to express its energy through working with a supportive depth psychotherapist. What comes out through working on your anger may be of great importance for the whole course of your life.

With every good wish for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Parenting Stress & Anxiety During the Pandemic

August 31st, 2020 · anger management, anger management therapy, parental stress

Parenting stress and anxiety are very often high in September, but this year it’s higher than ever for many parents.

This year, as we all know, it’s not just a matter of the regular parenting stress and anxiety associated with the start of the school year, which can be quite high enough. In addition, parents are dealing with all the uncertainties and pressures from COVID-19 that schools and other institutions are seeking to address with the measures they are taking to attempt to create a safe, non-contagious environment for students and staff.

As is natural and normal for human beings, when we’re stressed and dealing with uncertainty, we seek re-assurance, and we try to look for ways to make the situation more controllable and certain. That’s exactly how many who are parenting now are responding, seeking to learn as much as they can, and arrange things as well as they can, to maximize a sense of stability and control. Yet the decisions that have to be made now, around education, social connection and maintaining health can certainly be challenging. What is more, it’s hard to see any “perfect” solutions. Many parents are feeling forced into difficult choices, trade-offs and compromises.

The Vulnerability of Parenthood–Especially Now

I have no pretensions to being any wiser than anyone else about what the right course of action is for parents who are seeking to do the best thing possible for their children. I know that many parents are weighing big choices, such as whether to send their children back to the classroom with whatever element of risk that entails, or to keep their kids at home for “virtual school” or homeschooling, with all the social, educational and occupational challenges that each choice would imply.

It can feel like there is a very great deal at stake, both for the well-being of children and the peace of mind of parents. How can parents find their way through this exceptionally demanding time, and both look after those whom they love, and simultaneously avoid being overcome by parental stress and anxiety?

At this time, many parents are deeply feeling the vulnerability inherent in being a parent. That vulnerability is always there, because, try as we might, parents can’t control all the ways in which life might impact our children negatively. We’re always trying to make our children secure, and to find paths through life that will enable them to grow as human beings and to have rich and meaningful lives. At some particular times, however, we feel the insecurity and anxiety of this more than at other times. This is particularly true in this time of pandemic, and now of needing to face choices around education in the midst of it.

Smiling Through?

The response of some people to this kind of situation is denial. They just go on as if everything is fine and seamless. They try to convey to everyone that they are motoring along, and coping without any parental stress. They especially try to convey to their children the message that there is no need to worry, and that everything is under control.

Unfortunately, however, it may become readily apparent at some point that everything is not under control, and that these kinds of decisions are hard. If we try too hard to give the sense that we’ve “got it all under control”, things have a way of showing us that they’re not. Things can backfire disastrously upon us when we don’t acknowledge the “shadow” of things, as Jungians say. And what may be in the shadow—and what we may not admit, even to ourselves—is our awareness that all is not under control, that the education options are imperfect, or even, at points, just plain wrong for the situation. And that we as parents are uncertain, scared and unable to make it all alright.

Self-Care and Meaning

An important form of self-compassion is involved in admitting to ourselves that we can’t possibly control all the variables in this situation to guarantee that things will turn out perfectly. This doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us human parents who are dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of a rapidly changing world.

It’s a matter of key importance that we don’t hide this human and vulnerable side of ourselves from our children, as we confront the major life transition of kids returning to school in the midst of the pandemic. While it may not be appropriate to make them party to all of our doubts and fears, it is essential that children get the message that we don’t know it all when it comes to making the choices around going back to school, that we love them, and we’re striving to do our very best to make wise choices.

Given the significance of the choices involved, it’s extremely important to involve children of whatever age in the decision-making process to at least some degree, so that they feel certain that their needs and wants are being taken seriously.

As I mentioned above, confrontation with the vulnerability we face as parents around back-to-school decisions in this pandemic time may well be part of a major life transition that we are undergoing at this time. This whole pandemic situation may well be part of a changing understanding of our place in life and our identity, and our key values and priorities that very many people are experiencing at this time.

It may be of key importance to gain the benefit of good therapy in confronting the parental and other challenges of this time. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in that it is concerned with finding deep meaning in our life situations, combined with a deep level of acceptance of ourselves, in all our strengths, weaknesses and complexities.

With very best wishes for your continuing journey towards wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Why Go On a Journey of Self Discovery? Why Now?

August 24th, 2020 · a journey of self discovery

The phrase “a journey of self discovery” may seem a little over-used and cliche, but the symbol of human life as a journey is as archetypal as it gets.

The idea that humans need to go on a journey where the destination is self-knowledge is also very ancient. Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle all urged their followers to “Know thyself”. The impulse to know and understand ourselves was actually already very old even in their time. What is it about understanding ourselves that is so important?

Well, Jung helps us to understand that self-knowledge is connected to wholeness. Knowing ourselves, being connected to the various parts of ourselves, and fundamentally accepting ourselves, in Jung’s conception are key to having a meaningful life. It’s only when we can start to see all the various parts of ourselves, and meet all those parts with kindness, that we can begin to experience a sense of who we are as individuals, and to live that out in a meaningful way.

The Call of the Moment

Many people are finding that the issue of self-knowledge has become important at this particular time. This is occurring as people encounter various issues and situations in their lives, a good number of which have been intensified by the pandemic. While in some cases the pandemic created these situations, it seems, more often, that people are finding that issues and questions that they have been living with for a long time have been brought into clearer focus by these unusual times.

Here are some examples of situations where people have been finding that the issue of self-knowledge has come into focus.

  • An individual has been confined to home by the pandemic with their spouse, and questions about what he or she wants from the marriage, and from life, have come into the foreground,
  • Pandemic conditions have changed peoples’ work situations in some very big ways, and individuals are asking themselves pressing questions about their work, and even more broadly about their overall sense of vocation, meaning or purpose in life.
  • With the lockdown, people have been spending more time inside, and on their own, and often find themselves thinking about issues from their past, or thinking about previously unexplored aspects of themselves, or about regrets or aspirations.

These are all issues that many people had somewhere in their minds prior to the advent of COVID and the lockdown. Yet, it seems that, for many in this time, the questions and issues have become much more urgent.

But Don’t I Know Myself Already?

Now, many people feel that they know themselves well already, and have no real need to put effort into understanding themselves. They feel quite confident that they see and understand themselves as they really are. Yet there may be some indications that their self-understanding is not as great as they might think.

Often, an individual might be surprised at what others who know them well might be able to tell them about themself, that the person either doesn’t know, or has only dimly suspected to be true about themselves. Jung is far from the only psychologist to note that other people know things about us of which we may still be unaware.

This is because a substantial part of the human mind, and of our personhood, is unconscious. The unconscious mind, and the portions of the brain where it functions, are vast, indeed. A great portion of the operations of the brain occur in the unconscious. While Sigmund Freud was one of the first to refer to the unconscious mind, he tended to associate it with repressed content related to the sexual and aggressive drives. Today, the modern understanding of the unconscious mind has moved beyond this, and researchers such as Prof. Ap Dijksterhuis of Radboud University have shown that much feeling and emotion and much of the intuition and creative activity of human beings is grounded in the unconscious.

It can be of great importance to become acquainted with the unconscious parts of ourselves, for our happiness and sense of meaning and fulfillment. Making a connection with the parts of ourselves that we know less well can lead to an increase in our sense of overall vitality, and our feeling of being genuinely connected to our own unique lives.

Meeting the Undiscovered Self

The journey of self discovery is an on-going process. It unfolds as we meet new stages of our experience in life, and we may particularly gain awareness when we go through major life transitions, such as the midlife transition, or the transition into retired life.

A journey of self discovery can often be enhanced by working with the right type of psychotherapy. Most often, for dealing with issues of meaning, fulfillment or integration of conscious and unconscious elements of the personality, working with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of great benefit.

With very best wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Encountering Major Changes in Life During COVID-19

July 13th, 2020 · changes in life

Major changes in life are some of life’s most important events. Many people are continuing to experience such changes right in the midst of COVID-19.

Often referred to as major life transitions, major changes in life occur as a regular part of our life journey. These types of events or life experiences are often characterized by a strong sense of “before” and “after” when we look back upon them from a later point in our lives. As we tell ourselves our life story, we might say, “Before this event occurred, I was (fill in the blank), but after, I was different”, or, “I changed when I went through XYZ.

The Life Events That Change Us

To what types of life events or life experiences am I referring? There’s a very long list, but it would certainly include the following, for adults:

  • getting married;
  • getting separated or divorced;
  • having a baby;
  • undergoing a miscarriage
  • deciding to change careers;
  • losing a job;
  • major changes in job requirements or the workplace;
  • retirement;
  • moving to a new city;
  • bereavement, losing a close relative;
  • religious or spiritual crisis; and,
  • many, many more.

So, what happens if an individual is going through a major change in life, during this COVID-19 period, when it can feel like so much is changing already? It can be extremely demanding for people to go through a major life event at the same time that we, as a society, are more or less involuntarily going through this other major life event, that we call the COVID-19 lockdown period. How are people who have to go through both at the same time impacted?

Such individuals can certainly encounter a great deal of stress, which can manifest as anxiety and / or depression. If, in addition to the pressures and complications of the lockdown period, an individual is confronting another crisis that they cannot avoid, the demands can seem very nearly overwhelming.

In some cases, the COVID-19 crisis is even triggering other major changes in life. For instance, the experience of lockdown has certainly led to marital tensions, and sometimes, marital breakdown. The experience of isolation has also caused very serious re-evaluations of life priorities, in the form of individuals realizing the need to change career or vocation in some way, and, in some cases, has led to individuals confronting major spiritual, existential and moral awakenings.

Beyond Overwhelm

Individuals confronting major life changes in this time can find it very easy to stay in a state of emotional denial. It can be easy for the individual to tell herself that the major changes in life that she is confronting are not really that significant, and to try and “keep things on the back burner”. This is often the way that the psyche of an overwhelmed individual tries to deal with the situation: it dissociates, or cuts itself off from the emotional impact of the challenge that the individual faces, and tries to “soldier on”.

However, things can easily get to the point where the individual can no longer soldier on without acknowledging the emotional burden created by the marital breakdown, or the job loss, or the feelings of loneliness, isolation and meaninglessness. This can manifest in a crisis where the individual is simply failing to cope, or in substance abuse issues, or it can show up as physical issues, or even as severe illness. To keep moving forward in the life journey, rather than stuck at an impasse, something else is needed.

What Life is Asking Now

One useful way of looking at major life changes is to think about the question that life is asking of us at this particular moment. The questions that life has brought forward for many people in this time of COVID-19 are large indeed.

Depth psychotherapy can be a very effective way to help individuals to face the questions that life asks. It can provide invaluable holding support as they seek out workable ways to move through major changes in life, in a way that has integrity, while remaining true to the fundamental identity of the individual.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Canada Day, Attachment and the Meaning of Home

July 6th, 2020 · meaning of home

July 1, Canada Day, gave us the chance to reflect on the meaning of being Canadian—and on the meaning of home.

Finding a sense of home is something that is front and center for many people at this present time. If “home” is the place where we feel most secure and safest, many of us have found that sense of security to be challenged by lockdown requirements, and the many changes and demands that coping with the pandemic has brought to us. It’s a time when many of the conventional securities that we have taken for granted, such as the ability to go to our workplaces, the chance to go to a cafe or a restaurant, or the opportunity to send our children to school, have all be brought into question. It’s a time when, for many people, many of the most familiar aspects of their home life and community have felt somewhat, well…broken.

Forget Your Perfect Offering…

Against this background, the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper worked with prominent Canadian musicians, singers and dancers to create a unique Canada Day programming offering: a series of interpretations by seven Canadian dance companies of Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s 1992 song, Anthem.

Like much of Mr. Cohen’s work, Anthem is an uncommon combination of a sobering realism about the human condition with a form of surprising yet very vibrant hope. The lyrics are well known to many, and seem to have risen to prominence on social media as particularly speaking to our circumstances in the midst of the pandemic:

Ring the bells that still can ring, /

Forget your perfect offering. / There is a crack, a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Cohen urges us to realize that the world we inhabit rarely, if ever, matches up to our perfectionistic ideals—and that, in fact, we don’t measure up to our own standards of perfection. He bids us to realize that there is “a crack in everything”, yet then he follows up with this remarkable statement, that this broken-ness, cracked-ness, is in fact “how the light gets in”. This light that he refers to is presumably both the light of conscious awareness of ourselves, and of the world, and also the light of hope.

Accepting Our Limitations, and the World’s

How extraordinary that the artistic guiding lights at the Globe and Mail would conclude that this is the right message to deliver on our nation’s founding day! Usually, we would think of nations’ birthdays as times when a nation’s citizens would engage in a considerable amount of self-congratulation for the wonderful contributions that their nation has made to civilization, or their nation’s stirling character, military and economic strength and all-around wonderfulness. Yet, the words of Cohen’s song give us almost the opposite:

You can add up the parts: you won’t get the sum /

You can strike up the march—there is no drum /

Everyone, everyone to love will come, but as a refugee.

There is a very sober, dry eyed realism in these lines. Yet, as mentioned above, Cohen also gives us his deeply courageous hope. In the midst of the fallibility and imperfection that constitutes human life as we all experience it, Cohen affirms that “everyone to love will come”. Opinions might differ as to what he means here, but my view is that this is rooted in Cohen’s deep spirituality, and his conviction that what we need is a deep compassion for ourselves, and for others, who, like us, are dealing with their own woundedness and broken-ness. He expresses the same grounded but ultimately optimistic perspective in another of his songs when he declares that,

Love’s the only engine of survival.

Feeling at Home

C.G. Jung held a similar perspective when he stated that,

The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. 

Jung recognized, correctly in my opinion, that being able to accept and love oneself, in the midst of one’s broken-ness, fallibility and strengths is a key requirement for being able to accept and act compassionately toward others, in their flawed and human state. In fact, Jung tells us that this is “the epitome of a whole outlook on life.” In other words, to be able to accept others, and to feel at home in the world, we must first come to terms with who we are, and must be able to accept ourselves in our entirety.

To be on the journey of self-acceptance, which is the same as the journey toward wholeness is to embark on the work of a lifetime. To come to terms with, and to accept and love who we really are is also to get at the root of many forms of human depression and anxiety.

The work of self-acceptance, and of finding a true sense of home in the world can be greatly assisted by working in a safe, secure, accepting depth psychotherapy relationship, whether in-person or online.

Wishing you the very best on your journey,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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The Meaning of Summer: Soul and the Solstice in 2020

June 22nd, 2020 · meaning of summer

As we pass the summer solstice on June 21, it’s important for us to reflect on the meaning of summer. This is particularly true, given the challenges we’ve faced in 2020.

Summer Solstice Sunset

The human race has celebrated the arrival of summer at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, since prehistory. At many sites around the world, elaborate structures have been built to capture the sunlight of that special moment when the sun is at its highest in the sky. Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Mexico, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK circa 1000 BC, and the “Scottish Stonehenge” at Callanish circa 3000 BC are all examples of humans building extraordinary structures to capture this unique moment of the beginning of summer.

The solstice issues in the extraordinary days of summer, with their heat. In temperate climates there is often the sense that the world has become fully alive. As the poet William Carlos Williams puts it,

In the summer, the song sings itself.

C. Day Lewis waxes in a similar vein:

Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon.

Summer has this sense about it of the wonderful fullness of life. Especially in the early days of summer, in late June, it’s easy to agree with sportscaster Al Bernstein:

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

Yet this time of the early days of summer in late June, just after the solstice has a dual character. After all, the solstice day is the longest day of the year. From now on, the days will start to shorten, at first imperceptably. Yet, gradually, we’ll head through the “dog days” of summer into the fall, and on toward the short, faintly lit days around the winter solstice in December.

What is the Meaning of Summer for Us?

Very often, these transitory warm days can make us feel that now is the time when we should live our lives to the full. We should be out doing things that are fun, travelling and seeing new places, having new adventures and connecting with the people who matter to us. The impulse is there to just generally live large, to relax and enjoy things and to “get while the getting’s good.”

For just this reason, the season of summer can generate anxiety, or even depression, for some people. It can often feel like there are all these wonderful opportunities out there at in these passing summer days, and that I should be out there enjoying them to the full. Yet, there can be fear that “I’m missing out”, or somehow not getting enough of the wonderful things that belong to this season, as it rushes by us all too quickly.

This Summer: A Particular Sense of Loss

In my opinion, this feeling of “missing out” on summer is something a great many people are particularly feeling at this time. We all feel that this is the season when we are wanting to get out into the world with our summer plans. Yet this year, much more than in the average year, many of us are intensely experiencing the sense that we may not get all the good things from summer–and ultimately from life–that we feel we want and need, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

We feel deprived, and very much as if something has been lost. This feeling may serve to bring some key questions into focus in our lives. What is it that we actually do want in our lives? And how do we go about getting it?

It’s would be easy to get lost in a sense of stuckness about all this. After several months of lockdown, which will still continue in some form or other for some time to come, we could easily be left with the feeling that the situation is too big. We might feel that it’s too overwhelming for us to do anything about it, and so we could end up feeling paralyzed. What can often happen to us in the face of something that feels overwhelming is that we can move into emotional denial that there is even any issue, and then just ignore it. Such denial would make it that much more difficult for us to get what we need from life at this point in our life journey.

Getting Unstuck, and Getting What We Need

The early days of summer are unfolding. As we simultaneously deal with the unusual constraints of lockdown, it can be particularly important not to succumb to a sense of powerlessness and stuckness. It’s important to identify what we really want from summer, and from life. Then, it’s important to think carefully and creatively about how to go about getting it. Travel and hotel accommodation might not be in the cards this summer, but are there other things, such as creative day trips, or experiences at home or nearby, that might bring vitality and enhance the meaning of summer in my life?

Working with a supportive depth psychotherapist can be an excellent way of exploring creative options that make the most of your summer, and that open creative and life-giving doors in your life as a whole.

With warm wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Major Life Transition: Envisioning the Future After COVID-19

June 15th, 2020 · future after COVID 19

We’re currently undergoing a collective major life transition, due to the impact of coronavirus. We’re all striving to envisage the future after COVID-19.

It’s a big occurence when an individual undergoes a major life transition. What does it mean for us all, when a great many individuals in a society undergo related major life transitions simultaneously?

C.G. Jung was very wary of about using statistics to describe the journey toward wholeness of individuals. Yet there can be a place for statistics in discerning the impact of major events on the lives of many people in a society. A study by Nanos Research for the Mental Health Commission of Canada has indicated that the number of Canadians feeling stressed regularly has increased dramatically in the COVID era. However, it also showed that many Canadians were experiencing a greater appreciation for friends and family, an interest in returning to a simpler life, and less interest in buying and owning material possessions.

In research for the Globe and Mail, Nanos found that most Canadians don’t think that we will simply revert to our prepandemic lifestyle. Also, a great many people feel that COVID has generated a greater appreciation for life, and what is really important in life. Nanos interprets this as a return to self-reflection and “soul searching”–akin perhaps to the experience of “soul making” that I referred to in my last blog post.


One of the things that can be very difficult for individuals in dealing with a crisis such as COVID-19 is the sense that the future has been foreclosed. Living with the amount of uncertainty that we are experiencing in many cases, it can easily feel like the door to the future is shut, and that there are no good possibilities open to us. It is very easy to feel powerless, both as individuals, and as a society.

Yet, it’s very important for us to be clear on the difference between actual powerlessness, and a lack of ability to imagine possible directions in which things might move. And, we might add, it’s particularly important to think about what direction we might want things to go, for our personal lives, and for our collective life as a society.

How can we engage or connect with possibilities that we might be able to live out? We’ve been living with a set of assumptions about how our world works that we carry in both our conscious lives, and in our unconscious mind. They condition us, and lead us to feel that they represent “the way the world is” Yet, they actually may represent merely our projections, individual and collective, upon that world. Could a situation such as the one we’re confronting at present possibly change our perceptions–in useful and life-giving ways?

Soul and Envisaging the Future

It can take a considerable amount of courage and strength to envisage a future that could be good for us and that could be well-suited to who we are. It could also require us to know a great deal about ourselves, and what we really want and need–as opposed to what others expect of us.

It can be easy to let ourselves be driven and motivated by the expectations of others. However the net effect of this can be that we get driven further and further away from who we really are. We can end up getting caught in a rut of conformity that feels futile, and lacks meaning. At a time like the present, when the conventional world that we have known seem to be rapidly changing, that could be a recipe for despair.

Envisaging Your Future After COVID-19

To envisage meaningful future possibilities for ourselves, we have to know what we want. This is true whether we are considering our own individual future, or the broader future, that embraces the entire future of our society. This may require exploring parts of ourselves which are not that familiar, and attitudes and feelings that have been in the background for a long time, yet are only coming to the fore in the present. In a huge number of peoples’ dreams at the present time, there is a common theme: something new is breaking in. It’s essential for us to be attentive what that might embody.

In the present time time, we’re called to self-exploration and a self-compassionate acceptance of who we fundamentally are. These things are actually fundamental to a vision of a future after COVID-29. It can be of tremendous assistance in developing that self-knowledge and self-love to work with a Jungian depth psychotherapist, as an individual works toward a viable, meaningful way to move into the future.

Wishing you every good thing on your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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Coping with Anger–in the Midst of COVID-19

June 8th, 2020 · coping with anger

Alongside anxiety, one of the feeling reactions that many people are experiencing in the midst of COVID-19 is anger.

We experience this in quite a number of different forms. In fact, along with anxiety, fear and confusion, many of us may experience anger of more than one type, as we’re dealing with the unusual and difficult aspects of the COVID-19 experience.

It’s important to emphasize that anger is perfectly normal. In many cases, it’s a perfectly understandable and justified feeling. Many people feel anger or irritability at situations in their lives, and, usually those feelings are not a problem for us.

Before we look at the specifics of COVID-19 and anger, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the types of life situations where we experience anger. Generally speaking, anger occurs to let us know that something is wrong. Anger can occur: when things feel out of our control; when we feel frustrated or thwarted in reaching a goal or obtaining something that we feel we need or want; or when we, or someone we care about, gets really hurt, disrespected or violated.

Healthy anger has an important part to play in our lives. However, if it comes up for us in ways that are more intense than we might expect, or occurs so frequently that we can’t enjoy our lives anymore, or occurs in ways that injure our health or connections with people whom we love or care about, then we need to take steps to take care of ourselves, or to get the help that we need.

Accepting the Reality of Our Anger

As mentioned above, anger is the emotion that lets us know that something is wrong. Well, for many of us, the COVID-19 situation and related lockdown makes us feel like there is a whole lot wrong.

Many people find themselves confined to home, and unable to go to their workplace. They also find they can’t go to a restaurant, or to any kind of social gathering. Many find themselves with kids at home, whose school year is in jeopardy, or they have elderly relatives whose health they worry about. There’s a whole range of ways in which COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make us feel a very substantial lack of control. This combines with a deep sense of frustration at not being able to achieve desired outcomes or goals, and deep concern about the potential for harm to people whom we care about.

Can We Listen to Our Anger?

Some people are very in touch with this anger. However, there are many people who find the anger very hard to acknowledge. Yet, there may be some real importance in feeling and coming to terms with the anger associated with this COVID-19 time. A part of the messaging in our culture is that “nice people don’t get angry.” “After all,” many of us might tell ourselves, “what’s the use of talking about all this, and getting angry? It’s just getting upset for no good reason.”

Yet, there actually is a very good reason for acknowledging our anger around COVID-19 and related matters. It would be naive to think that, just because we don’t acknowledge our anger, it somehow goes away forever. As depth psychotherapists well know, if we repress something, which means pushing it out of our conscious mind, it keeps on going in our unconscious mind. From there, it can have a whole range of effects on us, many of them negative.

For instance, we can find that our anger “comes out sideways”, meaning that we find ourselves erupting into anger at other people or other situations, where the anger is completely unjustified. Or, we can find that unacknowledged anger leads us to be generally emotionally suppressed or “shut down”, and perhaps even depressed. In addition, anger that goes completely unacknowledged can have serious effects on our health, manifesting in terms of stress-related issues, and also having a strong negative effect on our bodies in areas like our cardiovascular system, or or digestive tract.

As we explore our anger, we may also find that other feelings, such as grief, sorrow, and even fear, hide within it. Acknowledging these feelings, dialoguing with them, and allowing ourselves to hear what they have to say to us may be a very important part of coming to terms with our lives as we move towards the post-COVID-19 period.

Anger and Soul Amidst COVID-19

Jungian depth psychotherapists use the terms “soul” and “soul-making” to refer to experiences that make us deeper, and that give us an enhanced awareness of who we are. In that sense, acknowledging and exploring our anger in the midst of this COVID-19 time can be an experience of “soul-making”. It can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and of where we can find meaning and direction in our lives.

In a time like the present, we are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and difficulty in determining our future direction, both personally and collectively. It can be a matter of great importance to acknowledge the anger that we are experiencing, and to do so in a self-compassionate way.

In coming to terms with anger, the support of a relationship with a depth psychotherapist can be of great value. It can serve us by helping us to feel that we are not alone, that our feelings are legitimate, and that they are part of our overall journey towards wholeness.

Wishing you every good thing on the journey,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

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Understanding the Meaning of My Dreams During COVID-19

June 1st, 2020 · meaning of my dreams

One of the things that COVID-19 lockdown has led to is that people are dreaming more–and, often wondering “What is the meaning of my dreams?” Do they mean anything?

Surveys that have been done by authoritative sources indicate that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, we may be sleeping less well than we did, but we tend to be sleeping somewhat more. The result of this is that many people surveyed report that they remember more dreams than in pre-lockdown times. What’s more, these dreams tend not to be of the peaceful, relaxing variety.

Harvard psychologist Dierdre Barrett has conducted an international survey of dreams during COVID-19. She has found that numbers of dreams that we would classify as nightmares have increased dramatically. This is consistent with results found in previous times of trauma, disaster or dramatically heightened anxiety, such as in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

Around the time of 9-11, there was a dramatic increase in anxious dreams involving themes such as planes crashing into buildings or terrorist attacks. In the time of COVID-19, not surprisingly, dreams are featuring themes like masses of maggots, swarms of bugs and hoards of cockroaches or worms. As Barrett points out, in colloquial language we often refer to getting a virus as “catching a bug”, so such imagery would very aptly express our anxieties in the current coronavirus-obsessed world. It seems that we’re witnessing a new phenomenon: the pandemic dream.

Focusing on the Meaning of My Dreams in COVID-19 Times

It’s certainly true that many of the dreams that people are experiencing have strong roots in everyday experience. It’s not really surprising that dreams of “bugs” are appearing frequently at this time, when one of our biggest anxieties concerns “catching a bug”. It’s also clear that many of these pandemic dreams reflect our anxiety. However, I would suggest that this anxiety may be about considerably more than just the narrow anxiety around catching the virus.

This may take us back to a fundamental question: why does dreaming exist at all? There have always been those who view dreaming as “the rubbish dump of the brain”, or “the brain clearing its tapes”, but today, there are very many more people who feel that dreaming serves a valuable function for us as we seek to move forward in our lives. Why would we dream, if not to enable us to adapt better?

If we approach dreams symbolically, as depth psychotherapists do, we could see the appearance of bugs, roaches, worms etc. as themselves a symbolic representation of anxiety, or of gnawing thoughts. While it’s true that many people may be currently experiencing fear of the COVID “bug”, what might be less obvious but essential to recognize, is that there are a great many gnawing anxieties in the present situation: the disease itself, for sure; the economic situation; the impact the situation is having on our relationships and families, and many, many more important issues.

Why It’s Important to be Open to Dreams

This is why it may be very important to be attentive to the particulars of the dream. A dream may be pointing to a very great deal of anxiety, but its essential to get a sense of what the anxiety is actually about. Because dreams offer us the opportunity to gain a glimpse of what is happening within us on the unconscious level, they can give us an important “way in” to understand the nature of our anxiety. They may also offer us important clues as to how to move beyond the anxiety, and to enable us to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, meaning and direction in our lives.

This is why it’s so unfortunate if we don’t give our dreams and our unconscious personality the chance to be heard. If we miss out on taking our dreams seriously, we may well be missing our chance at connecting to resources that could actually help bring some sense of forward movement to us at times in our lives when we feel we are completely “stuck”.

In my opinion, the word “stuck” is very important here, given our current situation worldwide. The strong message that I’m hearing from very many people is that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, and all the restrictions, individuals are experiencing a strong sense of being “stuck”. We’re at a time of major life transition. For many people, both individually and collectively, there is a strong sense that things are not going to go back to the way that they were. For many of us, there is the sense that the future will look different, but its hard to get a clear sense of exactly how.

Paying attention to our dreams, and to what they tell us about our current life situation may be an important step in getting beyond our stuckness.

What Will You Do about Your Dreams?

Dreams can be an important source of self-understanding, and they can help us move forward in our lives. This is always true, but it’s especially true during this time of COVID-19.

I would strongly encourage anyone who remembers a dream to keep a record of it, and to reflect upon it, because there can be a wealth of understanding in dreams. It may also be valuable to consult with a therapist who is well-versed in dreams and dream symbolism, as Jungian depth psychotherapists are.

With every good wish that the meaning of your dreams will open itself to you, and grace your own personal direction in this challenging time,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

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