Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Persisting Imprints of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 16th, 2010 · Anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, psychological crisis, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, stress, Trauma

There has been a considerable amount of valuable recent research on changes to the brains of Americans as the result of 9/11, as a recent article on the Discovery website reports.  The article relies on the research of Judith Richman and colleagues published in 2008 in the American Journal of Public Health , which concluded, among other things, as the Discovery article has it, that:

Nine years later… the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, continue to affect the way we [meaning Americans] think, remember and react to stressful situations. The actual trauma ended long ago, but for many people, measures of brain activity and body chemistry are different than they were before it happened.

What this would seem to imply is that, when large-scale traumatic events occur, the impact is experienced not only by those who are proximate to the events, who may well experience post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.  Also, many in the general population are impacted, who may be caused substantial distress by the events long after they occur, and who may have their reactions to stressful situations changed by their response to large-scale events.  Thinking about this in a broader context, I’m led to wonder what this research could tell us about the impact on people generally of the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

As I suggested in blog posts at the time, my clinical experience at that point strongly suggested that many people were in fact traumatized and subject to great stress as a result of the great financial uncertainties of that time.  Despite the fact that those experiences may not have resulted in diagnosable conditions under DSM-IV, I am still led to wonder about the ways in which those experiences may have changed the ways in which at least some people “think, remember and react to stressful situations”.  It may be important for each of us to ask ourselves how those events have affected us, and to seek appropriate psychotherapeutic help, if we feel that our approach to stress has changed.

I’d welcome your comments and reflections on the impact of intense stress of this kind in our lives.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Ivan Paunovic | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Psychology, Caregiving and the Self

August 31st, 2010 · aging, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, psychotherapist, Psychotherapy, Self

Here is a very striking article by Andre Picard from the Friday, August 27 Globe and Mail.  It is entitled “Caregivers suffering depression, rage“, and it concerns two studies of family members who are caring for those suffering from dementia by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.  I think that it should give great pause to all of us, and particularly those who are middle-aged caregivers.

Jungians tend to be rather suspicious of statistics about human experience, and I think that there are often very good reasons for some scepticism.  However, I think that studies like Supporting Informal Caregivers – The Heart of Home Care  and Caring for Seniors With Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Dementia  show us an important aspect of a social reality that impacts our society, and in Jungian terms, has a huge impact on the individuation processes of very large numbers of individuals.

It needn’t take studies like these for us to be aware that there are some huge problems in this area.  In particular, I’m very aware from my practice of the large number not only of elderly, but also of middle-aged people, often but not always children of seniors, struggling with the demands of elder care.  Those who are trying to assist seniors suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease are finding the burden especially crushing.  The actual care can be demanding, but what is especially difficult for many people are the burdens of stress and intense emotional suffering associated with being this type of caregiver.

However, the new studies bring home the reality of this picture with some cold hard numbers.  In a survery of some 20,000 caregivers:

 

  • 16% of informal caregivers of seniors receiving home care reported distress related to their role;
  • that figure went to 28% if the the caregiver was providing more than 21 hours of care per week; and,
  • to 32% if the senior had symptoms of depression.

 

 

There are an estimated 2 million plus informal caregivers in Canada.  If anywhere near 16% of that number are in distress, that is a huge number of people who are struggling.

Unquestionably, this kind of informal care provision imposes a huge burden, one that is only poorly understood by those who have not had to carry it, and by our society as a whole.  Few who have not had to face the burden of a relative who slowly becomes consumed by delusions and paranoia can have any idea of how difficult that can make relationships with someone who was once a vital family member.  Similarly, loss of memory, language and reasoning abilities can make it impossible for such a person to do even simple daily tasks, e.g., answering the phone.  Generally, grief is thought of as an emotional experience that follows a death.  However, with dementia, grief is attendant upon every loss and just goes on and on.

These elder care situations highlight some enormous questions for the well-being and the individuation process of the caregivers involved.  How much sacrifice can society expect of the family members of the elderly suffering from various forms of dementia?  How much sacrifice should such caregivers expect from themselves?  Is it even in any sense a good thing for physical life to go on, after dementia has obliterated the personality of a person?

There can be little doubt that people carrying the burdens of caregiving for seniors need very substantial support.  They also need the opportunity to explore in depth the emotional issues that such caregiving brings up, along with generally trying to make meaning of the often very difficult situations in which such caregivers find themselves.  Often psychotherapy of a Jungian type can serve as the best possible gateway into exploring and accepting the deep feelings and emotions that occur as a part of this time of life.

Questions to Ponder about Dementia and Individuation

  1. Does dementia eventually bring an end to the individuation process?  Jung apparently thought that it brought the end so far as we could know in this life: was he right?
  2. How might a person’s obligations to the Self and as a caregiver fit together?  How would you fit them together, if you found yourself in such a position?
  3. How do you feel about your own aging?
  4. On an even more fundamental level, what do you believe about the end of life?

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Evgeniya Parfenova | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 3: Through Phoenix Gate

August 11th, 2010 · complexes, depression, depth psychology, guilt, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology and Suburban Life, regret, Shadow, soul, therapy, unconscious, unlived life, wholeness

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on regret, I have tried to portray something of the nature and power of regret as it manifests in our lives.  Hopefully I have succeeded in making one very central thing clear: regret is not some peripheral thing in our lives that is going to be cleared away by simply improving our thinking.  It strikes deeper.  It is much more fundamental.  How then are we to deal with the presence of regret in our lives?

One of the first steps is to frankly acknowledge the danger to us that regret represents.  Regret, truly strong regret, has the power to deprive us of a meaningful life in the present, even though it concerns events in our past.

Neither will regret be skirted.  It often stands in the center of the road of our journey.  The way that it holds our energy can seem hopelessly entangling.

Acknowledging the sheer pain of regret can be very hard to do.  As is often the case with strong negative feelings, we try to deny their existence.  Yet it is only acknowledging the pain that really makes us aware of the life that has been lost, of which the regret reminds us.  And it is only in acknowledging the pain and sometimes the despair that is associated with regret that the energy that is tied up in it can begin to be freed up to move toward something else in our lives.  And that something may have real life and real meaning for us.

Despair is usually the last place we want to go.  The last thing we want to face in our lives.  Yet, it is in our despair that our energy gets caught.

What is it about what we regret that really keeps us from wanting to release it?  Can we face the hurt inherent in failed hopes?  Does regret really move us more deeply into the question of what our life is about, and whether we find it meaningful or not?  As the character Ivan says in the recent film Greenberg , can we really come to accept and cherish a life other than the one we planned?

Carl Jung frequently used a phrase that he took from the ancient world” amor fati .  Literally translated, it means “the love of one’s fate.”  This is not a phrase to be chucked around glibly, and Jung certainly did not do that.  However, the idea of loving one’s fate is the mirror opposite of living a life that is consumed by regret.

When one looks at the painful, and sometimes even horrific events that can be endured by human beings, one can only conclude that it would be a grim mockery to counsel someone to somehow love these actual events.  That would be the bitterest possible perversion of some idea of positive thinking.  I don’t think that is what Jung means when he uses the phrase amor fati. I think what he does mean is that the person who loves his or her fate somehow lives in hope, and sees a meaning emerging in the midst of the fabric of his or her life.  Such a life and such a hope offers the possibility of living passionately into life — beyond the chains of regret.

I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the whole subject of dealing with regret.

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

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: © Guy Allard | Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Trust and Betrayal, Part 2: 4 Simple, Difficult Truths

June 2nd, 2010 · depth psychology, Hope, Meaning, parent-child interactions, psychological crisis, Psychotherapy, Relationships, The Self, therapy, trust

Following on from my last blog post on trust and betrayal, the following are four truths about the experience of betrayal of trust.  They are surprisingly easy to state.  However, really taking in what they mean for our lives is likely a much bigger psychological task.

1. An Experience of Betrayal Can Deeply Impact A Person’s Ability to Trust Others.  Not surprisingly, someone who has had their trust violated in a profound way is wary of giving that trust again.  It may be that they find that it is only with the greatest degree of effort that trust can be restored.  It may well be that, on an unconscious level they withhold trust or sabotage relationships — or they just don’t get into them.

2. An Experience of Betrayal Can Really Impact a Person’s Ability to Trust Him- or Herself.  The experience of betrayal not only impacts a person’s attitudes and response to others.  It can also have a profound impact on the way an individual regards his or her own being.  The reflection that he or she trusted someone deeply, and was betrayed, can lead to profound self-doubt and lack of confidence in her or his own judgment.

3. Experiences of Betrayal Can “Snowball”.  If Someone Has Undergone Betrayal, It Can Be Easy to Repeat the Pattern.  On the other hand, the reverse of point 2. can occur to a person.  An individual who has suffered a deep betrayal may unconsciously seek to get into a relationship of trust with someone who is as similar as possible to the initial betrayer.  They may hang onto a deep hope in the unconscious that they will be able to be in an intimate relationship with one like the former beloved, and instead of having the same tragic outcome as in the first relationship, there is a deep yearning for it to “turn out differently this time”.  Needless to say, such an individual may be unconsciously setting themselves up for a econd, maybe even more devastating betrayal.

4. Betrayal Can Lead to Bitterness, Revenge, Hatred — or to New Awareness.  Probably all of us know someone who has been through an experience of betrayal, who “can’t let go”.  Sometimes people are consumed by bitterness, hatred or an overwhelming desire for revenge, and as a result, that person’s life ends up “on ice”.  They are stuck, and can’t move past what has been done to them.  Such a person needs to find a way to begin to let go of the pain and the outrage, and to find a source of hope, and an awareness of  something that gives meaning and in which he or she can invest themselves.  Something that beckons him or her on, pulling him or her into his or her life.

I am not engaging in uttering some glib bit of fake sunshine here.  Make no mistake: such “letting go” can be the biggest single piece of psychological work that a person may undertake in his or her life.  It is a work that cannot just come from the ego.  It is something that comes from the Self.

In one form or another, betrayal is an experience common to humanity.  To find a way to let go of the experience enough to allow it to be transformed, to move through it and into our lives — is unfortunately not as common.  It can only be accomplished through engagement with the deepest parts of ourselves.  Often this is a place in life where depth psychotherapy can have an important role in the journey toward wholeness.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness — especially if at this point in your journey you are seeking healing around issues of trust.  If you were willing to share any of your experiences around this very important area of life, I would welcome and honour your comments or emails.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ciapix |Dreamstime.com © 2010 Brian Collinson

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When You Hit a Brick Wall

July 9th, 2009 · Carl Jung, depression, depth psychology, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, life passages, midlife, psychological crisis, Psychology and Suburban Life, Psychotherapy, soul, stress, The Self, unconscious, wholeness

Often people get to the point in life where they reach an impasse, and they don’t know how to solve a particular situation in their lives.

Hitting the Wall 1 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

There doesn’t seem to be a way forward and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.  Although this can happen at any point in life, it seems particularly prevalent at mid-life.

Often, the way one becomes aware of this is that you just realize that the way that you have been trying to solve a particular problem or deal with a particular life situation just isn’t opening anything up.  What this tells you, at least in part, is that your attitude is no longer adapted to the realities of your life.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying something along the lines of “If you want it enough, and you’re unfailingly positive about it, what you want in your life will come” — the kind of message that you find in books like The Secret.  I think that approach to life is quite naive, and I have seen a fair number of people come to real harm as a result of trying to live like that.  Such an attitude can be really unadapted, and can lead you into a major collision in reality.  I know of one person who left home and found herself absolutely destitute and friendless in Dubai as a result of that kind of thinking.  From all that I hear, Dubai is not a great place to be penniless, and to try and get by on just a sunny smile.
Having an adapted attitude may well mean that there are certain realities that I have to let in and acknowledge.  That may even mean that there are things that I have to grieve.  What it may mean, above all, is that I have to change.
Let’s say that I’m a true died-in-the-wool “thinking type” person.  So I try to approach all the problems and situations in my life in very rational, thought-out, dispassionate ways.  Then perhaps one day I find myself deep in the grip of a depression that I simply can’t shake.  It might well be that the only way that I’m going be able to come through the depression and feel alive again is by acknowledging my feeling side — all those years of unacknowledged and suppressed feelings.  This is going to require a big change in the way that I see myself, and a lot of open-ness to dimensions of my life that I’ve previously done my very best to cut off.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Parts of me are really going to resist.  But it may well be that it’s the only way that I’m going to get my real, meaningful life back.
Similarly, a person who is all about willpower and control may well have to acknowledge the parts of him- or herself in the unconscious that they can’t control.  They may have to admit that the ego is going to have to acknowledge that it is “second banana” to the Self, and let things emerge from their dreams and from other parts of the unconscious, and take those things into account in the way that they live their lives.  This might be quite difficult, but it might just give them a meaningful life again.
 Hitting the Wall 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Many times “hitting the wall” has to do with coming up against the things that I really refuse to admit to myself.  The key to the lock that I need to open, I hide from myself, because there is some truth about myself or my situation that I really don’t want to look at.
The only way past the wall is to be open to something new: the undiscovered self.
Please keep sending me your comments and your thoughts!  I would welcome any of your reflections on the “walls” in your life, past or present.

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

Brian Collinson

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

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Alexandr Tkachuk | Dreamstime.com ; © Kentoh | Dreamstime.com   

© 2009 Brian Collinson

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