Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Jungian Therapy for Anxiety & the Overly Driven Person

January 26th, 2012 · Anxiety, driven person, Jungian, Jungian therapy, therapy, therapy for anxiety

Jungian therapy

It’s actually painful to be an overly driven person, as both Jungian therapy and therapy for anxiety in general recognize.  When we allow ourselves to get caught in this way, we run a great risk of chronically devaluing our inner life, and our true worth.

The overly driven person :

1. Never Relaxes or Feels Secure

The overly driven person can’t afford to lower his or her level of alertness, or level of effort, for fear of being overtaken or overcome.  She lives by the old sports maxim: “You’re Only as Good as Your Last Game”.

For the overly driven person links self-worth and specific achievements.  Now, Jungian therapy would acknowledge that we should have particular achievements of which we are proud.  But if our sense of identity is built around socially recognized achievements, then we are on very shaky ground.

2.  Fears Chaos; Continually Struggles to Maintain Control

Often the driven person strives to fend off their greatest fear: the collapse of a situation into chaos.  Often that fear is rooted in experiences of chaos in their past at some point, or in a fear of chaos inherited from the family of origin.  Therapy for anxiety knows that the response to this threat is to strive for greater control — of others, of ourselves, of the environment.

3.  Thinks in Absolutes

In Steve Jobs’ biography, I was struck by the fact that he had only two attitudes to the work of others.  He would either say “This is excellent! Amazing!”, or else he would say, “This is s–t!”.  Excrement or excellence: no in-between.  Overly driven people are often locked into perfectionism in their demands and expectations of themselves and others.  So if a thing isn’t perfect, then it’s a complete miss and worthless.

4.  Pushed by Unconscious Factors

Jungian therapy would emphasize the unconscious forces at work in the overly driven person.  They may be rooted in past traumatic experience, past emotional dynamics in the family of origin, or overidentification with an archetype.  Often, if a person is to gain freedom from  driven-ness, she must become more conscious of what’s doing the driving.  Therapy for anxiety includes healing around basic issues of self acceptance, satisfaction in what has been accomplished, and security.

 “Is It Ever Gonna Be Enough?“…  Metric – Gold Guns Girls

Often depth psychotherapy can assist greatly in untangling the knot of drivenness.

PHOTOS: ©  All rights reserved by ray_wilson_jr
VIDEO: © “Gold Guns Girls”  ©  2009 Metric
© 2011 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

 

 

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Individual Psychotherapy & Hope: 4 Jungian Truths

November 10th, 2011 · Hope, individual, individual psychotherapy, Jungian, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy

individual psychotherapy
Hope is key to individual psychotherapy — especially for the Jungian therapist.  It is always true that the hope of the client is going to be essential to the healing process of the psyche.  But, especially in an age like ours, with the continual struggle that many face to keep hope alive, hope becomes even more crucial.

1)  Hope from Within, Not Without

We tend to look outward for hope, to external realities.  However, the truth is, that we will not be able to experience a sense of hope from outer events, unless we first experience hope within ourselves, in the form of some new possibility for being.  If we can meet possibilities in ourselves — for real feeling, for love, for a deepened sense of self-esteem, for living some hitherto unlived form of life — then we can begin to trust and hope outwardly.

2)  I have a Unique Individual Identity; Others See That I’m Real

One of the deep changes that can come through individual psychotherapy can come from the reality of feeling listened to, and truly “seen” as we are.  As we experience ourselves through the other, we can come to realize that what we are is unique and unrepeatable.  I realize that “I” exist: that there is a wholeness, a reality and a persistence to me.

3)  The Self is Greater than the Ego

Not only is there a reality, a substantiality to me, I am also greater than I know.  I am greater than my idea of myself.  Outside of my conscious self  is the vastness of the unconscious self, full of aspects of my being that are yet to be explored, the realm of dream, myth and symbol.  When I can enter a dialogue with this vast inner sea, and discover how it responds to, and is connected with, my conscious self, there is a sense that, as Walt Whitman put it, “I am large; I contain worlds.”

individual psychotherapy

4) The Psyche Has the Inner Wisdom to Heal Itself

The vast reality of psyche is revealed in dreams and other manifestations.  In ways often unknown to me, psyche is striving to solve its own dilemmas, and to heal itself.  Part of me, hidden from consciousness, knows how to begin to heal itself, and knows where it is going.  The challenge of individual psychotherapy is to unlock that inner wisdom of the self, and to move in harmony with it.

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

 

 

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9/11, 2011, & Jungian Bereavement & Grief Counselling

September 14th, 2011 · bereavement, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

Ten years on, changes in the ways 9/11 is commemorated can teach us a great deal about bereavement, about grief counselling, and about transformations and processes in grief.

The Globe and Mail article “After 9/11: for some it’s time to move on” highlights ways in which, 10 years on, the grief of relatives and survivors is undiminished, yet undergoing transformation.

  • Grief Changes

Grief counselling teaches us that grief evolves.  Particularly where loss is sudden or unexpected, it can result in feelings often as overwhelming as complete despair and hopelessness.  But the feelings can and do change, as the work of grief gets done over time.  The loss is not felt any less, but felt in a different way.

  • Experiences of Grief & Bereavement Differ

Interviews with 9/11 survivors show that grief is experienced differently by different people.  For some, the grief reaction is as keen and raw as on the original 9/11; for others, not.  Grief counselling shows no one “right way” to respond to grievors: we have to listen to their stories, and respond individually.

  • There is Healing in Grieving, but It’s Not the Same as “Getting Over It”

For some 9/11 grievers, a kind of healing has come with the passage of time.  The impact of their loss has not diminished.  But, there is some way in which they are starting to come to terms with it, and to find ways to move back into their lives.  They have found some kind of meaning and life energy that draws them.

  • Grief Counselling Lesson: Re-Traumatization is Not Grieving

In his 9/11 address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said,  “We can never unsee what happened here.”  That’s true.  No one who has seen them will ever forget the dreadful images which the media with seeming relish keeps unrelentingly inflicting on 9/11 survivors and bereaved loved ones.  One clear lesson: that’s not the way to help anyone heal from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jungians recognize that, if a grieving individual can put the loss of the loved one into a meaningful context, and find a way to relate to the memory and personal reality of the lost loved one, life can go on.  Often, this return of life is experienced as the re-awakening of the desire to be in life.

I wish all of you, and especially those who may currently be carrying the burden of grief, the gift of meaning on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved Brendan Loy
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Consciousness, Unconscious Mind & Neuroscience

January 14th, 2011 · consciousness, neuroscience, unconscious, unconscious mind

This is a brief blog post on a couple of quotations relating to the whole mushrooming area of  the science of consciousness and the unconscious mind, as it is being approached within the rapidly expanding new experimental fields of neuroscience and cognitive science.  These fields are growing in a rapid new ways,  and shedding a great deal of new light on the view of the human psyche which CG Jung wrote about in his works.

One of these quotations I have already used in a comment on a previous blog post.  However, I feel that it is important enough that it should be featured in its own posting.  The other is a very complementary quotation from CG Jung.

“Most of Our Thought is Unconscious”

Here is the interesting neuroscience quotation.  It seems to me to be very challenging in what it suggests that modern neuroscience research is showing about the fundamental nature of the brain and the psyche:

Cognitive science…the scientific discipline that studies conceptual systems…has made startling discoveries.  It has discovered, first of all, that most of our thought is unconscious, not in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but in the sense that it operates beneath the level of cognitive awareness, inaccessible to consciousness, and operating too quickly to be focussed on…. To understand even the simplest utterance, we must perform… incredibly complex forms of thought automatically and without noticeable effort below the level of consciousness.  It is not merely that we occasionally do not notice these processes; rather, they are inaccessible to conscious awareness and control.

Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark,  Philosophy in the Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, (New York: Basic Books, 1999) pp. 10-11

Jung: “Consciousness is Like a Surface or a Skin…”

There is very strong evidence that Jung anticipated these discoveries of neuroscience in the way that he conceived of the human psyche. In the 1930s, Jung had an intuition of the human psyche that now seems remarkably akin to the insights emerging from the frontiers of neuroscience:

 Consciousness is like a surface or a skin upon a vast unconscious area of unknown extent… we need a laboratory with very complicated apparatus in order to establish a picture of that world apart from our senses and apart from our psyche… very much the same with our unconscious — we ought to have a labouratory in which we could establish by objective methods how things really are when in an unconscious condition.

Jung, C.G.,  Hull, R.F.C., trans., ” Tavistock Lectures: Lecture 1″  in Collected Works, Vol. 18, (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1977) par. 11

Surprising as it would seem to observers in the 1930s, the understanding of consciousness and the unconscious mind which has started to emerge in cognitive science and neuroscience has many affinities with the conceptions of C.G. Jung.  As paradigms shift, in many ways, Jung’s understanding of the psyche and of what it is to be human seem to have grown in stature and explanatory power.

Are You Aware of Your Unconscious Mind?

Have you ever had experiences where you have become strongly aware of the existence of your unconscious mind?  Sometimes such experiences can be dreams, or they can be other psychological events in which you’re just very aware that something other than your everyday waking consci0us mind is at work.  I would be very interested to hear about your experiences: please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, send me an email!

Wishing you rich growth in your experience of all that you are, on your personal journey to wholeness,

 

PHOTO CREDIT:  © Oleg Nesterkin | Dreamstime.com

© 2011 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Psychology Looks at Leslie Nielsen

December 2nd, 2010 · analytical psychology, Current Affairs, Jungian, persona, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, Shadow, unconscious

“Surely you can’t be serious!”

“I am serious.  And don’t call  me Shirley.”

On Sunday last, comic actor Leslie Nielsen died at age 84.  Like many Canadians I felt a special tie to Nielsen, because he was “one of us”.  I especially enjoyed him in his comedy roles in Airplane and Naked Gun.  From the point of view of Jungian psychotherapy, Nielsen’s characters played in some hilarious ways with what Jungians call persona and shadow.

Serious… but Absurd

It’s as the character of police Lt. Frank Drebin that most people will remember Nielsen.  Drebin always presented with absolute deadpan seriousness, completely the stereotypical image of a serious policeman while surrounded by situation after situation of the most gobstopping absurdity.  His good looks and serious, professional demeanour enabled him to pull this off, at least until we are caught right up in the situation — and then the clown comes out.

Roger Ebert called Nielsen “the Olivier of spoofs” and said of his deadpan antics, “You laugh, and then you laugh at yourself for laughing.”  That was always my experience of Nielsen, too.  I found myself laughing almost in spite of myself during his movies, but also, as in all great comedy, finding something in him that was familiar, something that made me feel “at home”.

The Inner Frank Drebin

I know Frank Drebin.  Part of me feels that I know him very well.  I know that there’s a Frank Drebin in me.  It’s that part of me that stays invested in my outer social role, even when the whole situation is falling apart.  That part of me that continues to desperately try to believe in fictions when everything shows me that my fiction is not the case. That part of each of us that wants to look oh-so-competent when there’s actually a 3 ring circus going on around us — and it turns out that we are in the spotlight at center ring!  We all have that part in ourselves that so desperately wants to “believe our own propaganda” about being totally good and competent and in control– and somehow deep down, knows it’s not true, and is damned if it will admit it.

Surprised by the Shadow

There are all kinds of parts of us that go into making up our shadow, as Jungians call it.  That’s the entire dimension of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge exists.  Part of that is the morally unacceptable parts of ourselves and part of it is those weaker, inferior or just less socially desirable aspects of ourselves that cause us to feel vulnerable or ashamed or just plain clown-like.  But they are all aspects of us, and we need to accept and acknowledge them.

That’s where the Leslie Nielsens — and the Charlie Chaplins, Laurel and Hardys, Roberto Benignis, Robin Williams, John Candys and Jack Blacks — all come in.  They help us to accept and even be kind to those parts of ourselves that we have trouble acknowledging.

Poor Old Persona

Sometimes our poor old persona goes on bravely, day after day, waving its flag that tells everyone that we are doing fine, and that everything’s under control — even when that’s sometimes the very last thing we feel, if we are honest with ourselves.  Rest in peace, Leslie Neilsen, and thank you for helping us to laugh at our pretensions and our obliviousness, and to be kinder to our struggling selves.  Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Nielsen — and we love you for being anything but.

Caught in Our Own Schtick?

Have you ever one of those “Frank Drebin” moments?  When all your seriousness and self-importance just comes apart?  I remember once having to give a talk at a hospital.  I bent down to pick up my projector, and –with a big audible rip! — the entire seam in the middle of the back of my pants split, from top to bottom!  Shadow time!  If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d welcome hearing from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

1-905-337-3946

PHOTO CREDIT: © David Fowler | Dreamstime.com

TRAILER CREDIT:  © 1988 Paramount Pictures .  The Naked Gun series is the property of Paramount Pictures  and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson
Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

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Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 2: Getting Real

October 25th, 2010 · Anxiety, depth psychology, Existential crisis, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, Psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, stress, therapy

Recently, I started a series of posts about the growth of resilience, which is a very key part of the work of psychotherapy.  I’d like to share a personal experience of mine through which I became changed, and, I believe, much more resilient.  It’s not that I’m trying to suggest that I’ve “got it all figured out”, or that this set of experiences gave me “the key to life” — mine or anybody else’s.  But I do believe that this was an experience that affected me deeply, that it cost me a great deal, and that I genuinely grew through it.

Resilience is directly connected to our convictions at the deepest level about our lives — our basic trust.  And sometimes life can shake what we believe about our own individual lives to the very core.  I had occasion to learn this in a period between my mid-20s and early 30s.

The Journey to Upside Down

At the time this experience occurred, I was a  highly religious person, in a liberal Christian tradition.  I had a very clear conception of my life: how things had unfolded according to plan, and how they would continue to do so into the future.  I was recently happily married, and my wife and I had a baby on the way.

Then the baby arrived, and we learned that he was born pretty close to about as deaf as a child can be.

Suddenly, everything that I thought I knew about my life was turned upside down.  Through this crisis, everything I had hitherto believed about the nature of God, the world, suffering, even evil, and what was meaningful in life was shaken to the core.

Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that having a deaf child is the worst that can happen to a person.  Far, far from it.  It can get unbelievably more painful and difficult than that, I well know.  Nonetheless, when this happened to me, I was completely devastated.  I literally did not know which way to turn, and, for a long time, I seriously doubted that I would ever be happy — or even ever smile — again.

Life Crisis

I also know that, as the years went by, I was also plunged into a more and more  profound crisis of faith and life — an existential crisis, as they say.  It was not so much a question of “why me?”  With the crisis around my son’s deafness, it was as if scales had fallen from my eyes, and I was finally seeing for the first time the depth of the suffering in the world.  In fact, I was seeing it very clearly and close up in the very people with whom I was working.  It was deeply apparent to me now how many people were struggling with so very much more than they knew how to handle, or felt that they could handle.  The question I found myself struggling with on the deepest level was much more, “How can there be a loving God, if this kind of thing happens to any one at all?”

By the time I was 30, I was completely shaken out of the very comfortable life path that I had seen mapped out for me.  Nothing was left of it.  It was apparent to me that life was never going to be possible with the old outlook I had once had.  At about that time, I made some very major changes in virtually every aspect of my life — faith, career, relationships — and moved in a new direction.

Rash, Raw, Risky … Lost

I didn’t know what was waiting for me, and I was making all kinds of rash decisions, without regard for the risks.  In many ways I was raw, and I wore my anger, my pain and my sense of betrayal on my sleeve, often for all to see.  My despair and cynicism were probably at their height at this point.

What I didn’t know, and couldn’t see, was that something was changing inside myself.  At the time, I could not have described to you what this change was, but it was real and it was deep.  It would take years for me to even begin to understand what was emerging in my life.  In my next blog post, Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 3: A Story of My Own, I’ll attempt to share with you something of what that change really meant.

Have You Had This Kind of Experience?

I am sure that many of my readers have had to confront real adversity or real crisis in their own lives.  I would respectfully welcome any of your comments on what it was like to cope with such things.  How did such experiences change you?  As always, I gratefully welcome any of your reflections.

Wishing you peace and resilience on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Elena Ray | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth, Part 1

October 10th, 2010 · Anxiety, Carl Jung, depth psychology, Hope, Meaning, mythology, Oakville, power, Psychology and Suburban Life, resilience, stress, trust, work

Some of the greatest stressors that people experience in the second decade of the 21st century stem from the things which people feel powerless to control.  At times, individuals can feel like life is a dice-roll.

I think that’s why a lot of people in Oakville are so happy about the cancellation of the Oakville Power plant.  Here in Oakville, the mood almost borders on euphoria.  It seems that the feelings are associated with a sense of release, though.  I think that this may be due to the fact that many in Oakville felt that the Power Plant was something close to an an inevitability because of the array of formidable powers (Ford, Trans-Canada and the Premier and Provincial Government) that apparently wanted to see it come to completion.  Fortunately, there were many in Oakville, in organizations like Citizens for Clean Air, who kept up a formidible fight.  And they succeeded, to their very great credit!

There are many things in the 2010s that can easily make people feel powerless.  Many of those things have to do with economics.  It is not that long since the 2008 market meltdown and the Great Recession which followed it, and the recovery which is underway can certainly seem precarious.  Many people have had to contend with job loss, and many more feel that their jobs–and the lives that they have built around those jobs–are precariously balanced.  To a lot of people, dreams that seemed readily attainable for their parents’ generation do not seem at all easily attainable for them.  And many worry about their children’s education and future — and their own later life.

In addition, the majority of us struggle, or have had to struggle with our own inner wounds.  For many people, there can be a strong sense that their experience growing up has not equipped them to feel strong and confident in meeting the challenges that they are facing in their lives.  It can be very hard to the people who feel that “something fundamental  was missing” in the kind of love and affirmation that they received from those who were supposed to love them.  For others, it can feel that events in their lives — loss of love, marital breakup, personal tragedy, trauma — have deprived them of the wherewithal to meet the challenges that life is putting in front of them.

What we each need to meet our lives is what psychologists increasingly refer to as resilience.  Simply put, resilience is the power to “roll with the punches” that life throws at us, and to “have the stamina to go the distance” in our lives, and to “hang in”.

What psychologists and sociologists have noticed in their study of the coping patterns of people, even people dealing with some of the most difficult situations imaginable, is that there are huge differences in how people respond, and whether they are able to cope and endure.  Even in appalling situations, there are some people who have the capacity to overcome their circumstances, and to find the courage to live meaningful and courageous lives.  Resiliency has been defined by psychiatrist Steven Wolin as:

the capacity to rise above adversity—sometimes the terrible adversity of outright violence, molestation or war—and forge lasting strengths in the struggle.

Clearly, we all need resilience.  But we have to be careful that the resilience that we seek is the real thing, not the fake kind.  I think most of us have had some experience with this less-than-authentic resilience.  The fake kind is kind found in the “you can do anything, rise above anything” variety of pep talk, that unfortunately is often found in self help literature.  Regrettably, it is also espoused by some psychologists and therapists.  This heroic version tends (consciously or unconsciously) to over-emphasize will power, and it papers over the cracks and the pain that often run unbelievably deeply in peoples’ lives.  This emphasis on “where there’s a will there’s a way” (a phrase Carl Jung hated) will not sustain when the chips are really down in life.

Mark Bolan’s Cosmic Dancer , which many of you may know from the movie Billy Elliot, itself an incredible celebration of resilience, uses the metaphor of dancing for resilience — “I was dancing when I was 12 / I danced myself right out of the womb / I danced my way into the tomb” :

So, how do we get to the real thing — to a resilience that is rooted in our own real lives?  This is a subject I’ll be pursuing in the next part of this series on “Stress, Power, Resilience — and Myth”.

What are your “impressions” on the whole subject of resilience?  What is it for you?  What is it rooted in?  I’d welcome any of your reflections.

I wish you every good thing as you make your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Lawrence Wee | Dreamstime.com

MUSIC CREDIT: Mark Bolan and T Rex performing “Cosmic Dancer” from the album “Electric Warrior” © 1971 Warner  This music is the property of Warner and is used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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A Video Portrait of Jung

October 1st, 2010 · archetypal experience, Carl Jung, consciousness, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, personal story, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, soul, therapy

Here is a video which I re-tweeted recently on Twitter. I decided to post it on my blog because I think that it gives a particularly revealing portrait of the psychiatrist CG Jung in his latter years.  The video is taken from “Face to Face”, an excellent interview program hosted by John Freeman of the BBC in 1959.

In this interview, with the stage artfully set by Freeman, Jung describes something remarkable that he would later write about in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections .  This was a sudden experience that came upon him in his 11th year, when he suddenly came to a simple, but remarkable awareness: “I exist“.

…and then I found that I had been in a mist, and I stepped out of it, and I knew that Iam.  I am what I am.… Before I had been in a mist, not knowing to differentiate myself from things…  As far as I can tell, nothing had happened beforehand that would explain this sudden coming to consciousness….

I find this remarkable.  In relating this incident, Jung describes a very fateful moment in his life.  Jung would spend the rest of his life, effectively caught up in the mysteries of consciousness, self-awareness and individual identity.

There is a great mystery here, something about which we take so much for granted.  What is it to exist, as a person, as an “I”?  What is it to be aware?  Just who is this I, who is aware, and how is this I to relate to the rest of the universe, both externally, and in our boundless inner being?

It seems to me that this little snip of video, a fine example of the art of the interviewer, does exactly what a portrait should do.  It opens up a window on the mystery and intricacy of the person portrayed.  And it leads us on, to reflect on the nature of the unique mystery that is our own unique identity.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on either Carl Jung or the whole subject of being aware of our own existence.  Did you ever have a similar moment yourself, when you were suddenly aware that “I exist”?

Good wishes to all of you on your own personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Biletskiy | Dreamstime.com

VIDEO CREDIT: © British Broadcasting Corporation, 1959  These images are the property of the BBC and are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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What Do You Think About Therapy?

September 27th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Mississauga, Oakville, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, therapy

What is your attitude towards doing therapy?  Is it something that you would ever consider?  Is it something only for severely damaged people, or “sick” people?  Or is it something that may be of importance for ordinary, everyday people?  In recent years, many peoples’ attitudes have changed — a lot!

There was a time, not so many years ago, when going to a psychotherapist would have been a major stigma.  If people knew that someone was going to see a “shrink”, to use that term, there would have been an attitude toward the individual which would have been positively demeaning.  There would have been a whole series of conclusions drawn — many of them not very savoury — about the individual’s competency, maturity, “well-adjustedness”, and possibly even his or her sanity.

But now times have changed, and attitudes have changed with them.  While you can certainly still find many people whose attitudes towards those who go to therapy would be miscoloured by prejudices and stereotypes, for most this is not the case.  A lot of people are coming to realize that therapy — of the right type — can lead to a much more complete and fulfilling life, for people in general who are struggling with some of the normal processes of what Jungians call individuation, or the journey to wholeness.

I believe that this is particularly true of that form of therapy known as Jungian analysis.  One of the characteristics of Jungian analysis is a fundamental affirmation of the uniqueness of each individual, in combination with the belief that each individual is on a unique journey to become the whole person that they carry as a latent potential within themselves.  From a Jungian perspective, a great many people, perhaps the majority, could benefit from a thorough experience in therapy to help them clear away the roadblocks to becoming, and also to get a much clearer sense of who it is that they are, at the most fundamental level.

Certainly people come into Jungian analysis, often, because they have certain specific issues with which they want to deal.  It is characteristically true that every human will encounter situations of wounding or conflict or loss of direction or orientation.  That is simply part of the human condition. But what emerges in therapy, what constitutes the healing factor in it, is a growing awareness of the individual’s fundamental make-up, and of the journey upon which they have been embarked, all this time.  Therapy, and Jungian analysis in particular, has the power to give a person a perspective that differs fundamentally on all kinds of levels from that with which the individual entered the therapeutic work.  For many, therapy brings a depth to ordinary life that cannot be reached in any other way.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on the role of therapy in our lives today.  The position I’m taking is that therapy at the right time can benefit almost everyone.  Do you agree with me, or do you have different perspective?  Have you had any experiences with therapy, whether good or bad?

Wishing each of you the very best on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga psychotherapy practice:

www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: © Cenorman | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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The Not-So-Simple Task of Simply Being Honest, Pt 2: Shadow

September 14th, 2010 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, Shadow, soul, The Self, unlived life, wholeness

As I indicated in Part 1 of this post, if we really get serious about the task of being honest with ourselves, sooner or later, we are going to run into what Jung calls the Shadow.  The Shadow represents all those parts of ourselves that we do not, or do not want to, acknowledge as being parts of ourselves.  As Jung himself puts it:

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.

If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that “they” do this or that, “they” are wrong, and “they” must be fought against.  Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.

CG Jung, CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. pp. 131 – 140

So a person’s shadow will often have a large element of moral difficulty attached to it.  It may be that I have certain strong ethical standards for instance, which I not only feel that I adhere to, but which I also proclaim to the world.  But it’s often the case that, underlying such a position, I in fact do not really act in a manner consistent with my conscious convictions — and, what’s more, I even hide the fact that I do so from my conscious awareness.

The above is the aspect of the shadow that preachers or moralists might easily pick up on, but there is more to the shadow than that.  For the shadow also contains those aspects of our personality associated with feelings of weakness, inferiority or shame.  These may be elements of our personality that we do not hide or fail to acknowledge for moral reasons, but more because we simply resist showing them to the world.  These shadow contents may often concern the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, including parts of ourselves that have been deeply wounded or shamed by others, or which we simply cannot accept about ourselves.  They may well have hidden themselves, not only from the view of the world, but also from my own view.  Remarkably, many memories may have been repressed and split off.

And this is certainly not all that there is to be said about the shadow.  There could easily be another 50 posts like this one on the subject!  But it’s important to recognize that the undeveloped potentialities in my personality reside in the shadow.  For instance, if I’m a fairly introverted person, in the way I present to the world, I may have a fairly extroverted shadow… or vice versa.  There are very likely aspects of myself in my shadow that I find very difficult to face or acknowledge — but it may also be that a great amount of undiscovered life is there in the shadow as well, waiting to be uncovered and encountered.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Shadow

  1. What do I have the hardest time admitting to be true about myself?
  2. Where do I feel weakest and most vulnerable in my innermost self?
  3. What kinds of people, or what individuals, do it have the hardest time putting up with?  If I’m really honest with myself, is there anything at all about them that I envy, or even admire, however grudgingly?  Is that which I envy a quality that I might find somewhere in myself?

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and your reflections on the whole subject of the shadow.

Wishing you every good thing on your  personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Dmitry Maslov | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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