Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Psychotherapy for Spiritual Crisis 1: Yearning

October 6th, 2012 · Jungian psychotherapy, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, spiritual crisis

In describing Jungian psychotherapy for spiritual crisis, it would be easy to succumb to “foot-in-mouth disease”!

psychotherapy for spiritual crisis

The word “spiritual” can be hard to pin down.  As I use it here, I’m not necessarily meaning something heavenly or other worldly, nor something confined to organized religion.  I’m referring, broadly to all those desires in a human being to connect with something bigger and more lasting than one’s own ego.

To understand spirituality, we have to start from our yearning.

 Archetypal Yearning

“Yearning” evokes a sense of deep longing…the deepest longing.  And often the baseline sense of the word “spiritual”, at least today, in the western world, relates to a kind of very deep, possibly only partially conscious longing.

For many of us today, spirituality actually entails a yearning for something hard to tightly define.  But it entails a sense of connectedness, of belonging, and of finding meaning and value in life.

Is it OK to yearn? Or, should life solely be concerned with going to work, and paying the bills?  For the vast majority of the human race over its entire existence, yearning to be connected to something greater than the ego has been an essential part of life.

Yearning for Something Lasting

We humans yearn to find something lasting and permanent in our lives, the value of which is not going to disappear with the chances and changes of life.  We need to feel that we are somehow at home in our place in the universe, and that our living has meaning.

Change & the Death of Symbols

But we also live in an era of massive continuous change.  Things seemingly stable and permanent even 50 years ago now seems far more temporary and subject to change.  This pertains even to some of the key symbols in our lives.  Forms of religious and cultural symbol and story that spoke to earlier generations often seem to have lost the power to ground the lives of modern people.  This realization leads many on a spiritual search — and, at times, to spiritual crisis.

An Individual Way: Your Personal Myth

In our era, psychotherapy for spiritual crisis entails helping individuals to move forward on their own spiritual paths.  This means helping the individual to find symbols that connect him or her in a meaningful way to her or his own personal life.

Bruce Cockburn, “Understanding Nothing”

 
In C.G. Jung’s terms, this means that I must discover my own personal myth — the story and the symbols that give meaning to my individual life.  This is the primary focus of Jungian psychotherapy for spiritual crisis.

PHOTO:  AttributionSome rights reserved by jurvetson   VIDEO: Bruce Cockburn, “Understanding Nothing”

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Mother, Father, Family

September 13th, 2009 · archetypal experience, complexes, father archetype, feminine, masculinity, mother archetype

Here’s a quote from Jung on the key importance of the mother, father and family archetypes:

Other Father Family for Vibrant Jung Thing BlogHow is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all, whose ceaseless activity is everywhere apparent even in a rationalistic age like ours…. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery of father, mother, child, husband and wife… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles of religious and political life, in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.

Clearly, Jung thought that coming to terms with the mother, the father, and the family was very important psychologically. How does our experience of father and mother impact us? What is its particular significance?

As with most things in the realm of the psyche, the answer to that question varies immensely from individual to individual. However, we can be sure that a person’s individual experience of parents and siblings–their family–is going to have an immense impact on how the individual feels about her- or himself, the world, and his or her place in it. That experience is going to have a profound effect on everything from very mundane, ordinary, every day events right up to and including a person’s deepest and most expansive religious and philosophical convictions. Because, among other things, it is going to have an immense bearing on what the psychologist Erikson referred to as basic trust.

It can require a very major effort in a person’s psychotherapy to understand the impact of that person’s father and mother on their psychic development, in all its complexity and dimensions, positive and negative. We can’t open all that up in one blog post. But here are a few questions to be thinking about:

The Mother and Father Archetypes in the Psyche

  • The bond with the mother is the earliest bond, and the one with the greatest impact on a child. It has a great deal to do with the feeling of belonging in the world, and feeling good about oneself, about one’s own being. How has your experience of your mother left you feeling about your life, your value, and how welcome you felt in your family — and in the world?
  • The bond with the father is deep, but has a rather different character than the bond with the mother.  At its most fundamental, it has to do with how we feel about ourselves, also, but it has an aspect to it of how we feel about our ability to be effective and capable people who can get what we want and need from our lives.  How has your experience of your father left you feeling about yourself as an agent in the world?  How has it left you feeling about your own power and ability?
  • If I am a woman, how did my relationship with my mother make me feel about myself as a woman? If I’m a man, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about women?
  • If I am a man, how did my relationship with my father make me feel about myself as a man? If I’m a woman, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about men?
  • Was I able to be myself in my family?  Or did I learn I had to be someone else, someone more acceptable, perhaps?  Someone tougher, or more capable?  Or “less emotional”?  Someone invisible, or someone “who doesn’t have needs”?  Or more “masculine”?  Or more “feminine”?  Or did I get the message that I could just relax and be myself?

 

These are very emotional questions for people. Not without reason did Jung call these “the mightiest archetypes of all”. Exploring the painful territory around this part of one’s life has led to many a journey to healing in therapy. I know that to be true of many of my clients, and I know it to be true in my own life.

I’d be interested in your comments about the impact of the parental archetypes in your life. How did you internalize your parents and your family?

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

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville & Mississauga Practice:  www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS: © Gary Woodard| Dreamstime.com

© 2009 Brian Collinson

 

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