Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Therapy, the Self & the Christmas Tree

December 20th, 2011 · christmas tree, Jungian, Jungian therapy, The Self, therapy

Who would think that the familiar Christmas tree is an ancient symbol of the Self, in the way that Jungian therapy uses that term?  Yet the evidence shows that Jungian therapy is correct about this.

The symbol of the Christmas tree is quite unusual.  For one thing, it’s quite unclear how it fits with traditional Christian narrative about Christmas.

Jung on the Christmas Tree

Jung whets our appetite with some striking commentary:

…Everyone decorates Christmas trees or hides Easter eggs without ever knowing what these customs mean.  The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean….  What the Christmas-tree might be, our forefathers knew even less than ourselves, and it is only quite recently that we have bothered to find out at all.  The archetype…causes man to utter words and perform actions whose meaning is unconscious…

 C.G. Jung, Collected Works, v.v. 8 & 9.1,

Christmas Tree as World Trees,

The unusual tree in our living rooms at Christmas actually represents the “World Tree”, the tree containing the universe in many mythological traditions.  In particular, this tree is really the Yggdrasil from Nordic mythology of the pre-Christian era.  In Nordic myth, the universe is formed of nine independent worlds, each part of the great Yggdrasil — a vast “Forest Ash”  or yew tree, growing in Ginnungagap (“the great emptiness”).

Roots: the 3 Legged Christmas Tree Stand

Traditional Christmas tree stands had 3 legs.  This isn’t accidental: in Nordic myth, the Yggdrasil tree had 3 roots, associated with the three Norns, the Nordic goddesses of fate, and with past, present and future.  The threefold Christmas tree stand symbolizes the rootedness of the World Tree.

Jungian therapy

Who knew?

Tree Symbolizes the Self in Jungian Therapy

Jung thoroughly studied the tree as a symbol of the Self, which is to say, the whole of the personality.  With roots in matter, in the earth, and branches in the sky, gaily coloured ball decorations which symbolize stars and planets, shiny tinsel garlands that represent the rainbows that connect together all the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, it is a marvellous symbol of the wholeness of psyche.  As the poet Walt Whitman says, for all of us, “I am large, I contain worlds”  And so each of us does in Jungian therapy.

Very best wishes for the holidays,

PHOTO: © All rights reserved by Forest Eyes
VIDEO: “Worlds’ Largest Tree”, by cannibal17
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)




Jungian Therapy, Individuation & Dealing with Feeling

November 24th, 2011 · Feeling, Individuation, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy

Jungian therapy

In Jungian therapy, discovering feeling is often a key to individuation, the discovery of our individual identity.  What we feel is part of what makes us human; discovering our own unique feeling is often an important path to ourselves.

Feeling gets a bad rap in our culture.  We see reason as more dependable, consistent, even, dispassionate.  But without this dimension, would we even be human?

What is feeling, really?

  • A Unique Way of Taking in Reality

For Jungian therapy, one of the basic ways that we take in both internal and external reality is through what we feel.  We often devalue it.  Nonetheless it is real, and impacts our lives at a very deep level.  Some of the most powerful things that can happen to a person happen through what is felt.

  • As Important and Real as Thinking

Feeling and thinking are both fundamental ways in which we take in, and interact with, the world.  Thinking evaluates things rationally, or logically.  Feeling evaluates things in terms of our judgement of “how we feel” about things, whether we are positively or negatively disposed toward them, and why.

  •  Broader than Just Emotion

However, what we feel is not identical with affect or emotion.  We can feel something without having an emotion, although emotion itself contains feeling.

  • Non-Rational

That which is felt is not irrational, as if it were an illogical argument.  You cannot evaluate it using thinking, or vice versa.  For Jungian therapy, feeling brings a whole different type of understanding into the picture than does thinking and rationality — a whole new colour.

William Blake (1757 – 1827) was a profound poet and artist of imagination and depth.  His poem “And did Those Feet in Ancient Time” proclaims feeling and soul in the midst of the British industrial revolution, a time that,  like ours, denied the value of what we feel and exclusively exalted reason.  When he writes of England’s “dark satanic mills”, he is not referring to manufacturing, but to the inhuman character of reason cut off from felt reality — a real and present danger in our own time.  Blake yearns to be in touch with its power and reality:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!


May we live in the reality of feeling and of our own “arrows of desire”, on our personal journey towards individuation.

PHOTO: © Senai Aksoy |
MUSIC: “Blake’s Jerusalem”, Billy Bragg © 2006  Outside Music  All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga





Jungian Analysis, Analytical Psychology & Staying Real

September 8th, 2011 · analytical psychology, Jungian, Jungian analysis

analytical psychologyCG  Jung invented the method of Jungian analysis and founded the school of psychology known as analytical psychology.  He was brilliant; many would say a genius.  That doesn’t mean that he didn’t make some mistakes, or leave a lot for others to discover, as time would tell.

However, there’s vitality in Jungian analysis as an approach to psychotherapy.  It profoundly affected people in his time, as it still does.  The unique strength of Jung’s approach is best lived out when we can stay grounded in the real wisdom that he brought to psychotherapy work, while keeping open to the best of other influences.

Some Jungians want to assert that Jung had it all sewn up, that you don’t need to go beyond what he said.  But Jung himself was surprisingly open, always sat loose to his theories, and welcomed new insights, sometimes from surprising sources.

This single-minded approach was Jung’s greatest contribution, and is the most important emphasis in Jungian analysis to this day.  His ability to sit with people, and to make them feel that they were heard, and that their lives were unique and important, was legendary.

  • Jung Emphasized the Vitality of the Unconscious

Similarly, Jung saw the unconscious as a living reality, not full of only repressed materials, but also of elements that are seeking to help us to come to a more complete and fulfilling understanding of our lives.  This remains a formidible and lasting contribution to psychotherapy.

  • Keeping the Unconscious Connected to Real Life

Whatever your psychological theory is, it’s not enough if it doesn’t meet people where they live, and if it doesn’t make a concrete difference to the story of their lives.  Modern neuroscience has only served to confirm the reality of the unconscious, and modern Jungian psychotherapists like Michael Fordham, Mario Jacoby, Donald Kalsched, and Andrew Samuels have helped to further develop a Jungian understanding of personal and social life that keeps things real.

  • Connected, Growing and Knowing

A Jungian or “analytical psychology” approach has a lot to offer 21st century people.  But those of us who practice this type of psychotherapy need to have the knowledge to be open to the perspectives of others, and to keep analytical psychology a growing, vital discipline.  It’s also essential that we stay connected to the lived reality of people in 21st century North America.

Here’s hoping that your journey toward wholeness will bring you something living, unique and real.

PHOTO: © Boris Zatserkovnyy |
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)


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