Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life, 6: Cars

May 5th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

The symbolic may be the commonplace, as a Jungian psychotherapist well knows; other than pets like dogs, what could be more commonplace in suburban life than cars?

jungian psychotherapist

Not only are cars commonplace in suburban life; they are common in our dreams.  The ancient gods had their vehicles or mounts that they typically rode; so our vehicles often appear in dreams as representations of our “way of getting through life”.

Automobile as Possibility

When Henry Ford mass produced the automobile, he created a world of transportation possibility that had been previously unimaginable.  So often the auto represents a real dimension of freedom in the lives of individuals.

The Car and Our “Drive”

It’s not accidental, in our culture that we refer to a highly motivated individual as “driven”.  We can easily relate driving to a way of being aggressively in control: driving can be a direct expression of aggression.  This association with aggression is at the root of many road rage incidents.

The Car and Persona / Identity

in North American society generally, and in suburbia in particular, the car that a person drives is seen as directly connected to a person’s social mask or persona.  In modern suburbia, the car one drives can easily mark one as an estimable, successful person… or not.  So one aspect of car ownership is that it can become something that we hide behind — as something that hides a person’s individuality.  A Jungian psychotherapist knows that cars in general, and especially in suburbia, are part of personal identity, and also hide it.

The Isolating Container

Most cars constitute a sealed off vessel that travels down the road.  This can lead to a sense of being cut off from the external environment.  What happens in the world outside the car is something that doesn’t affect me, and from which I’m disconnected.

One complaint that Europeans often have about North American cities and suburbs is that they are “60 Kilometre / Hour Cities” where we whizz by things in our cars at 60 KPH, and we are disengaged from the outer world outside our automobile containers, except for the endpoints of our journeys.

Does our car dependency symbolize disconnection from other people and the world; life in a world of isolation, tunnel vision, alienation from nature, as John Brack’s painting seems to portray?

Jungian psychotherapist

The Car in Your Dreams

As 21st century people, and especially as suburban folk, we often find ourselves in our cars in our dreams.  Often, there can be a lot to be learned from these dream car journeys.

In your dream, where are you going?

How are you getting there?

Who’s driving your car?  You, or someone else?

The images of car travel in our dreams can often tell us a great deal about our lives, and the needed direction of our journey towards wholeness.

Does Hermes Drive A Mercury?

 

When a Jungian psychotherapist works in individual therapy with a client, material objects from our everyday lives can take on great symbolic importance, and reveal much about our individual lives.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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PHOTO: Attribution Some rights  reserved Hugo90 ; 
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Counselling for Anxiety & Depth Psychotherapy, 3: Enough

June 11th, 2012 · Anxiety, counselling for anxiety, depth psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

counselling for anxiety

Depth psychotherapy concerns self-acceptance, and counselling for anxiety emphasizes that we are “enough” to deal with the situations of our lives.  So, what does it mean to to feel that we are “enough”?  How do we gain that level of self acceptance?

The Sense of Insufficiency

To answer that question, we must probe the roots of our self-doubt and self negation. This is a step that many approaches to counselling for anxiety unfortunately often neglect.  Nonetheless, the deepest sources of self negation and self-doubt are rooted in the unconscious. They are also rooted in the unique experience that the individual has had with life.

Tree of the Self

One of the most frequent symbols of the Self in the depth psychotherapy of Jung is the tree.  It’s a fascinating and powerful symbol: the roots of the tree extend so firmly into the earth (matter), while the trunk and branches of the tree extend upward into the sky (spirit).  A tree is wonderfully, totally “enough”: it is planted and grows according to the laws of its own being — as should we.

Too Much… and Too Little

Contrary to the emotional meaning of the symbol of the tree, many of us, in our early lives, experienced that, in some area or areas of our lives, we suffered from radical lack or insufficiency. We got the sense that we were too weak, too intense, too rowdy, too unusual or too something to meet the challenges that life was putting before us. The other part of the message was that, because we were too [fill in the blank] we would have to strive absolutely heroically just to measure up — at all.  It’s this poisonous burden, counselling for anxiety knows, that stokes the fires of anxiety.

Life in Myself and Being Enough

Within us, there is a part of us that feels sufficient, and has never forgotten who and what we really are.  In most lives, there have also been special people who were outward mirrors of this inward awareness.  In serving as these precious mirrors, these people also often hold for us the power of the archetypes that reside deep in the human soul: the positive father or mother archetype; the wise old man or wise old woman archetypes; the psychopomp, or guide to the true self.  Their names are unfamiliar, but we experience their reality.

The experience of depth psychotherapy is a journey into that archetypal reality, and into connection with the reality that we are enough.

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Individuation, Our 40s & 50s, & Major Life Transitions

December 2nd, 2011 · Individuation, life transitions, major life transitions

major life transitions
At a time in our culture when people are focussed on the individuation process, in their 40s and 50s, major life transitions seem to now be occurring with ever greater frequency.  How can we cope?

At a stage in life that once would have been a time of consolidation and reflection — the essence of individuation — people are encountering circumstances that are impinging on their lives.  Workplaces are nowhere near as stable as they were even 30 years ago.  Neither are family units.  Major life transitions are often making people less willing to connect, and much more isolated and alone than in previous times.

Stress from Imposed Change and Demands

Greatly increased levels of stress are the result.  People are often feeling trapped in their situations.  For instance, they feel work related stress resulting from needing to continuously adapt to change.  They often feel, overall, that they are facing their lives with too few resources, and considerable economic uncertainty.

It’s Different than it was Even 20 Years Ago

The rapid pace of change in our lives means that many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have no effective role model or mentor for a phase in their lives that is often of great importance for individuation.  Individuals often feel that they are dealing with situations for which they have no effective roadmap.   They feel that they confront more and more that is uncontrollable and unpredictable, and this can easily result in individuals making their lives smaller and smaller .

It’s the Same as it was 100,000 Years Ago

Yet for all of us, there are certain common elements to the human journey.  As for our distant ancestors, there is a need deep in us for meaning, and for a stable sense of self.  There is an overwhelming need for a sense of being rooted in the cosmos, and for a sense that the journey each of us is on in our lives is one that truly matters to us personally.  In our time, the search for this kind of meaning, the process of individuation, involves encounter with the depths of the self.

Often the best way to further that process is through entering into depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis.  The resilience needed to survive creatively through the major life transitions of our time stems from the awareness of the solidity and rootedness of the self, grounded in the truth and hope of our own personal myth.

PHOTO: © Alon Othnay | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga

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Individual Psychotherapy for Relationships… Say, What?

October 14th, 2011 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Relationships

individual psychotherapy

Getting individual psychotherapy often can be the best thing for the relationships in your life, and especially for relationships with lovers and spouses.

But isn’t getting individual therapy for yourself and hoping for improvement in key relationships a little bit like, well… “Dancing with Myself”?

Billy Idol humour aside… there’s truth here.  Learning to “dance with yourself”, and learning to dance with others are intimately related.  Jungian psychotherapy stresses that our individual “stuff” can profoundly affect intimate relationships — and vice versa.  Here are 4 important ways that can occur:

1) Identifying Projections

Projection occurs when I unconsciously see people through the lens of my past experience, and when “difficult emotions and unacceptable parts of the personality are located in a person different from the subject” (Samuels).  So, for instance, I may perceive my partner as being controlling when I’m the one being controlling in the relationship — but it would distress me greatly to acknowledge that.  Individual therapy work can help me to take back projections, and to have a more accurate picture of what is going on in the relationship.

2) Others’ Projections onto Me

Also, people close to me may put their projections on me.  They may unwittingly perceive me in ways related to their own history that really have nothing to do with who I actually am.  If I’m not conscious of how this is occurring, it may distort communication and relationship.  Or I may even act in ways that resemble the other person’s projections — what is known as projective identification.

3) Recognizing Shadow – the Unacknowledged Self

Individual therapy often reveals the ways in which the shadow, the unacknowledged aspects of ourselves, affects a relationship.  Shadow may be very active.  For instance, we may feel that striving for power in a love relationship is the last thing we would do — until we recognize ourselves doing it in the mirror held up by individual psychotherapy.

4) The Contrasexual

This is the inner image and form of the opposite sex that we carry within us, referred to by Jungians as either the anima or animus.  That particular entity strongly influences our feelings about the ideal mate, and more especially in the inner story that we tell ourselves about “how guys / women are.”  If we are unconscious of our anima or animus in our relationship, we probably have a tiger by the tail.

PHOTO:  Copyright All rights reserved by diogoflopes
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 


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Stress Therapy & Making Difficult Decisions

September 22nd, 2011 · difficult decisions, making difficult decisions, stress, stress therapy

stress therapy

Stress therapy reveals that major life transitions are often fundamentally linked with the necessity of making difficult decisions — and with intense anxiety and stress.  When one is confronted with major, potentially life-changing decisions, it can seem very fateful indeed.

Relationship Choices

Stress therapy shows it’s common for crises or major life transitions to be mixed right up with the process of making difficult decisions about key relationships in our lives.  Decisions about whether to stay in marriages or relationships, or possibly difficult choices about who to love are frequent.  Sometimes these feelings are occasioned by major life transitions; sometimes they force us into the crisis of a major life transition.

Career Transition

It may be that a career path that has been pursued ends or starts to feel like it simply can’t or won’t work anymore.  An individual must face whether to stay in the old career, or else find some new way to move forward.  Often there can be intense stress in deciding what to do — or how to do it.

Changes in Philosophy, Spirituality or World View

Changes in the fundamental way  a person views the world can lead toward making difficult decisions.  The reverse can also be true.  A change in a fundamental aspect of belief, or a spiritual crisis can be a real earthquake in a person’s life, and it may require a very individual solution, and also the right kind of help to work it through in a way that is authentic for that individual.

Patterns of Behaviour that Don’t Work Anymore

We adapt to situations in life with patterns of behaviour.  For instance, the person who grows up in an incredibly chaotic house may learn to be incredibly rigorous and methodical, as a way of “getting through”.  Such attitudes may serve a person incredibly well — until one day life calls for change.  Transitioning to a new attitude may require skilled help through stress therapy.

A Whole New Way of Making Decisions — and Living?

At crisis points, the challenge of making a particular major decision may lead to a transformed way of making decisions, and, in fact, to a whole different outlook on life as it is worked through.  Often, depth psychotherapy such as Jungian analysis can be of tremendous help in the decision process.

I wish each of you the gifts of insight and clarity in the decisions on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: © Laqhill | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

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Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock

December 22nd, 2010 · dreams, inner life, journey, Jungian, Jungian analysis, life journey, Mississauga, Oakville, Peel Region, persona, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, The Self, therapy, unconscious, wholeness

I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”.  Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in psychotherapy, in one form or another.  It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients.  In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.

A Dream Motif

The dreamer is trying to get somewhere.  Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot.  However, there is some obstacle.  She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road.  Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill.   However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens.  Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. 
In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.

The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure.  However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian psychotherapy could say about its meaning.

1.  The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction

Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward.  There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome.  The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work.  The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path.  No matter: the import of the dream is the same.  You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.

2.  To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality

However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past.  He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps.   There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood.  The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either.  The person can’t do what he or she used to do.  Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price.  What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment.  What is the individual to do?

3.  Something New is Needed

A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma.  Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach.  This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”.  The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped.  From the perspective of Jungian psychotherapy, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.

Is There Anything Across Your Path?

Have you ever encountered a dream of this type?  Have you possibly had such a dream recently?  As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon.  With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation.  If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.

Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT:      Some rights reserved by lumaxart under a Creative Commons license

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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

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