Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

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

→ No Comments

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

→ 1 Comment

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

→ No Comments