Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Lockdown, Soul and Marking The Passage of Time

August 17th, 2020 · passage of time

Marking the passage of time in important ways is a quintessentially human activity. However in these COVID times, it’s become a great deal more difficult to do.

I don’t mean that we can’t tell what time it is: of course, the clocks still work! But that’s something different from being aware of the passage of time in a psychological sense.

Yes, you can still watch the hands of the clock go around during the time of COVID. But the problem for many people is the endless sameness of each day, when work occurs in the same space as homelife and relaxation, when there are limited destinations outside of the house, and when few people can gather at any one time and place.

Our human life depends greatly on indicators that map out the passage of time as we experience it subjectively. A great deal of research in modern neuroscience has emphasized that there are strong linkages between our emotional state, and the ways in which we subjectively experience the passage of time. Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to use the term “flow” for the way time passes when we’re caught up in pleasurable, engaging experiences where all distractions are shut out. In recent years, research has also done much to confirm and explain our felt sense that time passes quicker as we age as individuals.

The marking of personal time, of the passage of seasons and the occurrence of significant events and major life transitions in our lives is a matter of the greatest importance for meaningful human life. It’s not overstating things to say that it is key to having the sense of being truly alive.

Loss of Soul

Loss of awareness and failure to observe the special, meaningful character of time is strongly connected with the loss of awareness of key aspects of our inner life, sometimes referred to as “loss of soul” by depth psychotherapists. This is something we can experience powerfully during times of lockdown. The days drift into one another, when weekdays can seem just the same as weekends, when cherished regular activities have been put on hold, and when even family routines have been disrupted (e.g., taking the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house).

As a result of this “flattening out”, our lives can begin to lose the dimension of soul, as Jungians and other depth psychotherapists would say. The deep human significance of human events gets lost. We see this loss at its most extreme, when we see what happens with some of the turning points or very special major life transitions during the lockdown. One hears of couples getting married, and of almost all the guests only being able to attend virtually. The same has been experienced by a substantial number of people around funerals of family members. And the most extreme example has occurred when people who are fatally ill with COVID have been forced to leave this life without being able to see any family members. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how dreadful such an experience would be.

Flattening Out, Dampening Down

Denial of the need to acknowledge the special moments in our human life results in a loss of our connection to meaning and to what has lasting importance—a loss of connection to the archetypal dimensions of human life, as Jungians refer to it. As Jung and Viktor Frankl and many existentialist and humanistic psychologists have pointed out, one of the key things that human beings need to survive and thrive is a sense of meaning. We strongly need to feel that there is a significance to our lives, to feel that what happens to us matters.

The purpose of ritual, celebration and commemoration in human life is to make us conscious of the connection between what we’re doing or living and some bigger, more fundamental story. Whatever form it takes, we need this connection back to the meaning of the passage of time—in order to stay human.

Creativity and the Passage of Time

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel to the City of Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is famous for the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest Shakespearean festival. This year, because of COVID-19, the regular season of plays, all held in indoor venues, had to be cancelled. To its credit, though, the City didn’t respond to these events by lapsing into despair or passivity.

When you walk on the streets in Stratford this summer, you get the sense of a great deal of life! A large number of the restaurants in the central part of the city have created patios, so that, even if people cannot be in the restaurants for dinner, they can be out enjoying meals on the streets, which are full of life and pedestrian traffic. None of the Festival’s plays can currently be performed indoors, but various theatre groups have created plays that you can watch out of doors—or seated in your car, as if for a drive-in movie. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, they’ve created a marvelous little music barge with a good sound system, which enables some fine musical artists to perform out-of-doors while travelling up and down the Avon river, which runs through the centre of town. It’s all quite impressive!

It seems to me that Stratford has done something that we all need to do in the face of the sense of shut-down and restriction that we have faced as a result of COVID-19. The CIty has found ways to acknowledge and show that this summer period is something special, even if people can’t do the “normally special” things that are usually associated with Stratford in the summer. The people and organizations of Stratford have used their various creative abilities to mark the passage of this summer season in some valuable, meaningful ways.

I believe that essentially all of us are called by the Self to use our own individual creativity to achieve similar kinds of result, which acknowledge the passage of time in meaningful ways during this time of COVID. It’s very important that each of us find good, personally fulfilling ways to acknowledge important events in our own lives, and to understand the movement occurring in our own lives and of those who are close to us.

An important part of the work of depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis is to find connection with the deep meaning and significance of the events of our own lives, and to identify ways to honour the meaning we find in our own journey. This is always important, but in this time of COVID-19, it takes on an even greater value and meaning.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


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

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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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© 2009 Brian Collinson

 

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