Journeying Toward Wholeness

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A Creative Life: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

March 20th, 2023 · a creative life

The expression “a creative life” can seem wonderful and romantic, but can also seem far away from our own real lives. Why is living a creative life important?

A creative life can include many things… (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

To answer that question, we probably need to look first at what a creative life is. That may require us to put aside some preconceptions. For many of us, the first place we go when we hear the phrase “a creative life” is to think of the lives of great artists, or other individuals who have performed great, culturally recognized acts of creativity. Perhaps we think of Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, or even the Beatles! Yet, it might be important to give that idea a second look.

Is creating a major work of art the only way to live “a creative life”? Moreover, is it even the most important thing to do to live a creative life? In fact, if we think about some of the creators of major works of art, we start to realize that their actual daily lives were pretty desolate, characterized by depression and substance abuse. Is that what we mean by living “a creative life”? Or is there something different, and very important for us, that we’re trying to move towards?.

Just What Is a Creative Life?

Jung offers us a different perspective. As he states,

The creative mind plays with the object it loves. Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable. But, if you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself [Italics mine].

I think that the last part of this quotation is perhaps the most important. I would read it in the sense that the most important and fundamental thing that you have to create is yourself. Jung is encouraging us to bring our imagination to ourselves, and to imagine possibilities for ourselves. He sees this as the most fundamental form of creativity, and the heart of leading a creative life.

Opening the Door of Possibility

Jung stresses that without play and fantasy there is no possibility of any kind of creative work. So what does it mean if we think about being creative with our lives? Can we bring play and fantasy to bear on what our lives might look like?

There is probably a part of each of us for whom the answer to that question is “No!” “Are you kidding?” that part might tell us, “Look at my life! Look at my responsibilities! I have kids! I have a mortgage! I have bills! How can I possibly be creative or playful about that?” And in fact, there are many people whose outlook is probably dominated by the view, held consciously or unconsciously, that “my life is just the way it is”. Or as John Lennon simply and eloquently put it, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” There may well be elements of anxiety and depression that keep us locked in such an outlook.

For many of us, it’s easy to feel that our lives are driven and determined by external forces. At this point in North America, many people, including both younger and older adults, feel that way about their career or work life. For many, career determines their daily schedule, consumes the vast majority of their energy, seems to establish what is possible and impossible, and, in many cases, leaves people feeling that they are living with a high level of uncertainty about their future. Others may feel similarly about the economy, about family issues or many other things.

Unconscious Wisdom and a Creative Life

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.

~Henry David Thoreau

Yet, is there a possibility of playfully imagining something different in our lives? For instance, as a starting place, is it possible to imagine what we would like our lives to look like, or imagine if something in our lives changed? Is there some step, even a small one, that we can take toward “creating ourselves”, as Jung urges? Such a thing might initially seem very hard. Often, a supportive connection such as a Jungian depth psychotherapist can begin to open some doors that might have seemed unavoidably closed.

The unconscious mind is often more aware of our playful, creative and soulful elements than the conscious mind. Do you ever wonder about the creative elements in you, and where they might lead you in your life? Or, do you ever feel “stuck”? Maybe now is the time to get better acquainted with your creative self.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Feeling Alone in the World: A Major Issue of Our Time

February 27th, 2023 · feeling alone in the world

Feeling alone in the world is a very common experience in these times. We’re surrounded by technologies that enable social connection, yet many feel very isolated.

PHOTO; Stock Photo Secrets

Why is it that so many are feeling alone in the world? There are many factors that contribute to this. One of the more recent and obvious contributors is the pandemic. In many ways, perhaps the worst of the pandemic is behind us, yet its social impact is immense. Certainly during the pandemic. research appearing in the Harvard Business Review strongly indicated that social connections had diminished. What’s more, there are strong indications that this reduced social interaction persists right into the present. However, that’s far from the only thing.

Social media are another factor. Touted as a source of connection with others, they do bring a certain form of social interaction. However, evidence suggests that they actually make us less socially connected.

Work and the North American corporate lifestyle also leave us more isolated. Work and commutes demand a great deal of our time and leave us with a very limited amount of time to connect with other people. In fact, overall, the truth is—as a society we don’t give priority to social connection.

The Essence of Feeling Alone in the World

However, there’s an even more fundamental issue. There is a big factor that limits our intimacy with others. Simply put, it’s that we’re not very intimate with ourselves. We simply don’t know what’s going on inside us, and that can keep us from having the capacity to relate to the inner life of others.

It’s possible to use interaction with other people as a distraction from our own sense of not being at home with ourselves. We can laugh and joke with others in superficial ways that don’t involve any intimacy or real connection. Certainly, this might distract us from our isolation and sense of inner lack, but it isn’t really healing our inner loneliness. It’s only when we’re willing to go deep within ourselves, find what we feel and share it, that we can start to replace our loneliness with genuine intimacy. It’s also then that we start to transform what is locked in anxiety and depression.

To encounter your own deep, genuine feelings gives you something valuable and meaningful to share with others. Of course, it may well also lead to an encounter with your own deeper self that may do a lot to alleviate the sense of inner emptiness.

This may all run counter to a certain way of looking at ourselves that our society fosters. Our society worships at the altar of individualism. Individualism exalts the ideas of independence and self-reliance, and can often de-emphasize the importance of intimacy and connection.

Individualism and Individuation are Not the Same Thing

We come from a culture that greatly values and exalts individualism. “The individual” is often viewed as something discrete and autonomous, that exists in its own right, independent of relationship and connection. It’s interesting that C.G. Jung is often seen as a champion of this view of the individual, but Jung actually had a rather different view of who we are.

“You cannot individuate on Everest”, Jung reminds us. The process of identifying what is unique in ourselves has an inherently social or relational dimension. The principle of relationship, eros, is one of the fundamental elements of the individuation process for Jung. He tells us that, “where love [eros] reigns, there is no will to power.” For Jung, relationship and connection is an inherent part of the individuation process. We need to relate in a truly conscious way to become our true individual selves, and conscious relationship is an essential part of that process.

To give oneself over in relationship to others, even consciously, may not fit very well with an absolutely “self reliant” individualism. Certainly, the impetus to genuinely connect in relationship comes from a place in our psyche deeper than the ego. It’s a fundamental human need, though. It’s essential for us to find a way to connect and be related.

Finding a Way to Authentic Connection

The path to authentic connection is a journey toward the other that is profoundly connected to the journey toward ourselves. It’s essential that we explore the path of relationship, if we’re to have the sense that we’re becoming who we most fundamentally really are. If we are feeling alone in the world, it may be a call from the deep self to move more in the direction of connection and relationship.

Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy can be of great help in moving our lives toward relationship. A connection with a supportive ally as we simultaneously explore the depths of the unconscious side of who we are, and the potential within us for connection. A supportive depth psychotherapy relationship can help us to move beyond lack of relatedness and fear, and more and more toward our capacity to stand as our unique selves in relationship to others, and to the whole of life.

With best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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The Unconscious Anxiety in the Background: A Very 2023 Issue

February 13th, 2023 · anxiety in the background

It might seem odd to think about partially or fully unconscious anxiety in the background of our lives and minds, but it’s definitely a real thing.

Anxiety in the Background (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Not surprisingly, we tend to think of anxiety as something conscious—something of which we’re just fully aware. Yet the fact is that we can have anxiety in the background of our psyches. It may be powerfully influencing us, and yet we may be partially or fully unaware of it. This seems counterintuitive! How can we have anxiety, and not know that it’s there? Nonetheless, our experience of the last three years has shown us in spades how anxiety powerfully affects us, even if we’re not aware of its presence.

Our experience in those years since the beginning of the pandemic is very instructive with respect to anxiety in the background. We need only think of some of the examples we see in public spaces to illustrate the ways in which people are carrying unconscious or semi-conscious anxiety. These days, if you sit in your local Tim Horton’s, Starbucks or other coffee place, it probably won’t take long to see several instances of people going off on the staff behind the counter, sometimes for the most irrational things. Not so long ago, it wasn’t like this. Public space has become much less courteous and people have become much more self protective.

As Globe and Mail writer Marcus Gee observes, since the beginning of the pandemic, peoples’ anxiety seems to be much more intense, and spills over in public places:

Cars and motorcycle race and weave around the streets of many cities, filling the night with the scream of their engines. Clashes among people over parking or driving seem angrier and more common. You took my spot! You cut me off!

Marcus Gee, Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 11/23

This trend in our public life, and the way we treat each other is deeply concerning. Hopefully our leaders and proactive individuals in our communities are going to take substantive steps to reverse this trend. However, I bring it up here primarily to point to another important reality that we all really need to notice. We are all subject to the spirit of the times. We all tend to carry our own background anxiety, and it can be very important for us to become aware of it, and how it affects us.

Becoming Aware of Our Anxiety in the Background

Unconscious anxiety in the background can have an enormous affect upon us. Certainly it’s true, as Freud asserted, that people with anxiety can live in a state of anxious expectation. Yet, even if you’re not aware of having social anxiety, or anxiety about driving, financial anxiety or any of the other big anxiety provokers, anxiety can still have a very big impact on your life.

Sometimes, we can experience anxiety as an ever-present, hard-to-pin-down sense of nervousness, that is a kind of stream that runs throughout your day. Or you may find yourself restless, tense, jumpy—even irritable at other people. Perhaps you find yourself unable to relax, or only able to relax if you distract yourself, perhaps through your cell phone or gaming online.

Anxiety? What Anxiety?

We tend to think of anxiety as a condition that involves a lot of conscious worrying. Something that involves clearly conscious thoughts about what could go wrong, that keep recurring. Viewed from that perspective, it may be easy to tell ourselves, “I don’t have any anxiety!” Yet, that may not be the entire story.

Anxiety in the background may show up in any of the following ways:

  • I’m having trouble paying attention, and I’m disorganized;
  • I have “brain fog” and/or trouble making decisions;
  • I get overwhelmed, and it shows up as frustrated, angry or tearful outbursts;
  • I have intrusive thoughts, or the same thoughts keep occurring over and over;
  • I struggle with perfectionism, or the need to get everything just right;
  • I feel like I always have to prepare for the worst; or,
  • I experience physical pains, insomnia, shortness of breath, or other physical manifestations of anxiety.

We may not have consciously anxious thoughts, and yet our anxiety may be having a substantial effect on our lives. Moreover, this anxiety may have a substantial unconscious dimension. It may be very important to become as conscious as we can of this anxiety in the background.

Our Background Anxiety Has Something to Give Us

If we find a way to pay attention, the anxiety in the background of our psyche has the potential to reveal a great deal about what we’re currently dealing with in our lives. It can show us a lot about our vulnerabilities and wounds, and also about our deepest needs and aspirations. We live in a time when unconscious anxiety is very widespread, and has deep effects on our collective social life.

A supportive and insightful Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist can be of great assistance as we seek to understand our anxiety, and the wounds, aspirations and deep yearnings that underlie it. As we work on our anxiety in the background, the result can often be a greater level of compassion for ourselves, a greater understanding of ourselves, and a greater sense of what is trying to emerge in our lives. How does your anxiety in the background manifest? What might it be indicating about what is of deep importance in your life?

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”: Our Yearnings

February 6th, 2023 · I still haven't found what I'm looking for

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a pop song of enduring popularity. Released by U2 in 1987, it resonates powerfully, even now.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

The phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” seems to strike a chord with many people in our era. For many of us, there is a sense of feeling deeply unfulfilled, and of looking restlessly to find what can meet the need. There’s a strong sense that there’s something, right now outside of our reach, that we need to quench a kind of thirst in our soul.

In our culture, advertisers are constantly using our deepest yearnings to try to motivate us to purchase their wares. What lurks behind many advertisements is the subtly implied promise that the advertised product will bring us the kind of love that we really want and need. Other advertisers implicitly offer the sublime peak experiences we’ve been waiting for all of our lives. Yet others quietly offer us the sense of inclusion and belonging that we’ve always sought. The phantom offering of other products is just plain old ageless immortality!

However, make no mistake. All of these beckoning offers are playing deeply on the sense that some kind of fulfillment is missing, i.e., “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

What Exactly Are We Looking For?

One quick answer to that question is that we’re actually not all looking for the same thing. In fact the thing that we yearn for most deeply is probably highly individual. Also, a Jungian depth psychotherapy perspective suggests that there is also a large unconscious component to what we’re looking for. Our ego, what we normally think of as “I”, may not completely know what we’re really after. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not deeply yearning for something.

It may seem hard to get a fix on what we really yearn for. It may seem incredibly elusive. In the words of the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi,

Longing is the core of mystery.

It would seem that he’s right. And his insight complements that of Jung:

The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely [her or his] own.

C. G. Jung Man and His Symbols

The humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow states something very similar, in slightly more homey language:

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.

Our yearning is a mysterious and very individual thing. It moves us to discover and explore aspects of ourselves of which we were previously unaware. We need our yearning: it leads us into life.

Jung clearly asserted that yearning is what spurs the great artists of the world to make their monumental creations. He also saw yearning as enabling each of us to create the unique masterpiece that is our individual life.

What If We Ignore Our Yearnings?

Now, we don’t have to pay attention to our yearnings. We can often just ignore them. But what happens when we do?

We may be able to choose to simply focus on the needful things of every day life without awareness of any greater desire for fulfillment. We might even tell ourselves that it’s virtuous to ignore our “frivolous wishing”. That we should just get on with the business of humdrum life. Suppose we’re successful in completely repressing the sense that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What then?.

If we are successful in driving out our yearning and our spontaneity, we are probably also driving out our individuality. We are probably also courting depression and anxiety. Huston Smith, the famous scholar of comparative religion, put it this way:

With mind distracted, never thinking, “Death is coming.”To slave away on the pointless business of mundane life, And then to come out empty—it is a tragic error.

Huston Smith, trans. Robert Thurman

The weight of this tragedy may already be felt by the time we start to undergo the midlife transition.

We may not have found what we’re looking for, yet. But our yearning is one of the most profoundly human things about us.

The Unconscious Side of Our Yearnings

Much of our sense of yearning or lack of fulfillment may have to do with aspects of ourselves of which we are only partially conscious, or perhaps entirely unconscious. It may be important to explore that part of ourselves that feels that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” There may well be treasures of self-knowledge at the root of that yearning. There may be a source of deep meaning for our individual lives.

It may be of great importance to work with a supportive Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey.

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Personal Mythology: the Deep Importance of Your Own Story

January 30th, 2023 · personal mythology

The story you tell yourself about your life journey is a matter of vital importance. Jungians refer to it as your personal myth or personal mythology.

Personal mythology is the deep story of your life journey (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

The phrase “personal mythology” may seem pretentious, yet we all have stories that we tell ourselves about who we are, and what our individual life is like. This includes stories about our important relationships, our family of origin, our career, our school and post-secondary years—an immense variety of things. Human beings are creatures that need stories—narratives—that tell us who we are and who we have been. They indicate the significance of all the important relationships, things and events in our lives. Stories give us our orientation to our lives and the world. They also provide meaning, and as Jung observed,

The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

However, we can tell ourselves all kinds of stories! Some of those stories connect us to reality, and to a sense of value and meaning. Some stories do the exact opposite: they diminish us. We need to be aware of the immense power of story to both help us and to hurt us. We need to find the stories that convey the truth of our lives. We also need to connect with the overarching story that reflects the meaning and value of our lives.

Do you have a sense of the stories you tell yourself about who you are and your life journey? If so, do those stories actually ring true? And do they capture the essence of who you really are? Or do they work to feed anxiety and depression?

What are the Stories You Tell Yourself?

Have you ever reflected on the stories you tell yourself about your own life? If you think about the stories or narratives that have defined you, and that have set the tone for your life, what are they? Is there a story that you can think of from your life that is “pure you”?

If you’re like most of us, there will likely be a collage of stories. Some of these will feel good and are enlivening or empowering. Some of them may be stories of sadness, defeat or shame. Are there any “threads” or themes that run through all these stories, that connect them, and that may point toward a deeper and underlying story?

One way of looking at the myths of gods, goddesses and heroes of old is that they capture some element of our own individual story. They show who we most basically are, and what the human story is most fundamentally about. The same may be said of fairy tales, and even of modern day comic book heroes like “Batman”, “Spiderman” or “Wonder Woman”!

Embedded in Debilitating Stories

Sometimes it’s easy to get locked into stories that make us seem small and that are defeatist. Or we can just completely deny that we have a story. Sometimes we can end up sharing the sentiment that Shakespeare puts in the mouth of MacBeth:

Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing [italics mine].

Shakespeare, MacBeth

Yet the drive to find meaning in our lives is profound and fundamental. Something deep within us seeks to find and enter into the central story of our lives. This drive is at the heart of human religion, philosophy, literature and drama.

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz says that humans are ‘symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking’ animals. In our species, he says, ‘the drive to make sense out of our experience, to give it form and order, is evidently as real and as pressing as the more familiar biological needs.

Robert Fulford, The Triumph of Narrative

The drive to make sense of our experience is as urgent as Geertz and Fulford assert that it is. That is at the root of our search for our personal myth.

Toward Your Personal Mythology

Yet the story of our lives is not something that we can just diligently work on and arrive at. It is something that emerges from the whole of our living, and from the dialogue between our conscious and unconscious selves. Yet it’s only when we actually focus on, and seek to understand our lives, that the true sense of our personal myth will emerge. Often, work with a supportive depth psychotherapist can facilitate the process, and a sense of our own deepest story starts to emerge.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Our Inner Wise Old Person: Can We Access Him or Her?

January 23rd, 2023 · wise old person

The wise old person is an image or symbol found deep within human culture. Does this represent something real in the human psyche? Can we access it?

Is there an inner wise old person? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Nearly every culture has some version of the symbol of the wise old person. These figures appear in myth, folk tale and art, and throughout the holy texts of the human race. We can conclude that , down through the millennia, humans have regarded this image of the wise old person as pointing to something real in the human psyche. Whether it’s called the voice of the ancestors or inner divine wisdom or the voice of the Self, humans until very recently in human history did not question the existence of this inner wisdom.

But does it really exist? Is the “wise old person” something that speaks to us or that we can draw upon or rely upon? This is not just an academic question , but a matter of great importance for self-aware people. When we face important decisions, or when we have to find our way through difficult, ambiguous and confusing times, is there some kind of resource of inner wisdom that will help us to cope or to find a path?

A question of equal or greater importance is, if it does exist, how do I access it? It’s all well and fine to say that this inner wise person exists, but, if it does, we still need to know how to hear from it! Our ego, that “nervous Nellie” in James Hollis‘ famous phrase, is always trying to manage the circumstances of our lives. It exerts itself continuously to map out a way through the sticky, ambiguous and formidable situations that we find ourselves in. Sometimes, its resources seem exhausted and unequal to the task. Is there any other wisdom in us that can help us find the way?

An Inner Inherited Wisdom?

Together the patient and I address ourselves to the two million year old man that is in all of us. In the last analysis, most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us.

C. G. Jung

Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.

C.G. Jung

We live in an age that highly values rationality, science and education. It’s understandable why we do: the rational scientific outlook has brought us so many good things that are part of our current day life. Without science and our rational problem-solving approach, our quality of life would be greatly diminished. Yet it may be very important for us to realize that not all of life’s problems can be solved by scientific rationality.

Long before the scientific revolution, our forebears lived lives of complexity and challenge. When they met difficulties, or when they were looking for guidance, they would turn to an inner wisdom that was often described as “the voice of the ancestors”. We can think of this as an inner instinctively-based wisdom. This is what Jung was alluding to in his reference to the two million year old person within each of us.

It’s easy for our modern minds to balk at such an idea. After all, it might not seem quite “rational”! Yet, if we look at the rest of the animal kingdom, the power of instinct is quite awe-inspiring. Snakes, not raised by mothers or fathers, know how to hunt instinctively. Monarch butterflies migrate unbelievably vast distances guided by instinct. Dolphins are imbued with an instinctive curiosity and a predisposition to help others—dolphins, whales and sometimes humans.

When we see these examples of instinctual “wisdom” in other species, it might make us curious about our own instincts. Human instincts exist, even though they may not be as immediately apparent as they are in other species. A depth psychotherapy perspective is open to the ways our deepest instincts, as symbolized by our inner wise old person, seek to manifest in our lives.

Often, it’s in situations of crisis or major life transition where we most clearly meet our instinctual wise old person. Our rational, problem-solving intellect is very capable, but there are situations in life where that intellect hits a dead end. Sometimes our usual way of dealing with life runs out of answers. It may be then that our inner wise old person steps in to assist, through dreams, hunches or intuitions, or in other ways.

Denial of the Wise Old Person

It’s possible to live in a way that denies the existence of any inner wisdom. We can choose to try and problem solve in our usual “common sense” way, and circle around a problem or life situation endlessly, trying to “figure it out”. For instance, an individual may be deeply frustrated by her or his work situation. He or she may be endlessly trying to figure out how to get to that next right job, with its promise of fulfillment and balance, and may be mired in anxiety or depression. The individual may strive for years, with some element or perspective on the situation that is just out of reach.

[inner wisdom] comes from quieting the mind, setting aside the ego, setting aside one’s ideas of how things should be, and listening and feeling for what feels truly right.

Brian Leaf

We can be so rational in approaching our lives that we miss out on the possibility of connection with the wise old person who resides in our psyche. This can lead us to miss out on the inherent wisdom that we carry, inherited from the sum total of our ancestors. How can we avoid this, and make this inherited wisdom a part of our journey to wholeness?

Open Listening to the Inner Wise Person

Connecting with our inner wisdom can sometimes bring a different, and even life-altering perspective. Finding ways to effectively listen to what the inner “wise old person” has to say about our lives, through our dreams, hunches and intuitions can be a very healing endeavour. Often, work with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of great help in this process.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Am I Making the Right Decision?

January 16th, 2023 · making the right decision

Over my years as a Jungian analyst / depth psychotherapist, I’ve heard a lot of people ask “Am I making the right decision?” It’s often a crucial question.

Am I making the right decision? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

When we find ourselves asking, “Am I making the right decision?” there can be a great deal at stake. We may find ourselves looking very closely at a life choice we have to make. In fact, we may be on the cusp of making a choice that will affect the whole rest of our lives. Such choices may arise when we are in the midst of a major life transition, or when we are confronted by unexpected changes in the lives of those closest to us.

We may find ourselves asking “Am I making the right decision?” in many different contexts. It may concern a romantic relationship. Or, it might have to do with key job or career choices. Or it might be around moving, or retirement. There is an endless scope for key life choices that may have huge consequences for our lives.

Often, major decisions confront us with the raw nature of human choice. We can’t get all the information we’d ideally like to have. We can’t possibly know the ultimate outcomes of all the choices before us. Sometimes, amidst the uncertainties and unknowns, we just have to choose. And, as the old existentialist saying reminds us,

Not to decide is to decide.

~ Harvey Cox

What IS the Right Decision?

Does it even make any sense to talk about the “right” decision? What could a “right” decision possibly be?

Well, let’s at first make clear what it’s not. In the vast majority of situations the right decision is not, and cannot possibly be, a “perfect” decision. In a great many situations, I simply cannot be absolutely sure of the ultimate outcome of my decision. With many important life decisions, it’s difficult to “tick all the boxes”, and feel that “I’ve done it absolutely right”. When we’re dealing with big choices, and with the future, we often don’t have a crystal ball, that shows us what will be when we make a choice.

Well, if that’s true, how do we go about making the best decision that we can? Well, here’s one thing we can say for sure. When we make a decision about a matter of great importance in our lives, it’s essential that it be an authentic decision. That is to say, that it’s a decision that emerges from who we really are.

There are numerous ways in which it’s possible for us to sidestep making an authentic decision. For instance, we could let a decision be determined by peer pressure, or the need to “look good”, rather then by what we actually feel we should choose. Or, we could let an attitude that we inherited from our family make the choice, rather than really listening to our own instinct or “gut” reaction.

Perhaps the most serious way to avoid making a decision with integrity is to not really listen to ourselves. We have an idea of who we are, and a way that we present ourselves to the world. This is what Jung called persona. The trouble is, this way that we present to the world, and who we think we are, may not be who we really are. It can easily be that there are feelings, attitudes or thoughts of which we are unaware. These are semi-conscious or unconscious elements of our psyche.

The Dangers of Unconscious Decision Making

The unconscious mind is alive and well within each of us. It can profoundly influence our choices without our being aware. It can also react to decisions we make in surprisingly strong ways! Jung tells us that,

The great decisions of human life have as a rule far more to do with the instincts and other mysterious unconscious factors than with conscious will and well-meaning reasonableness.

Elsewhere he states,

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

It can be easy to be carried along in decisions we make by all kinds of influences that stem from the unconscious. If we stay unaware of them, we end up having our lives run by unconscious factors that take us in directions that the conscious mind would never wish to go.

We probably all know the incredibly sad stories of unconscious factors in decisions. For instance the story of the good, kind person who is on their third or fourth marriage to a severely alcoholic or abusive partner, and who just can’t understand how they could have such “bad luck” in choosing partners.

It can be very important to understand as much as we can about all the feelings, intuitions and motivations that get triggered by a major life decision. Otherwise we may have little or no understanding of the ways that we are pushed and pulled by any major decision in our lives.

“Am I Making the Right Decision” is a Question of Soul

Clearly, there’s a lot involved in answering the question “Am I making the right decision?” Often, if we wish to really understand what’s involved in making a key decision, we may need to look at ourselves in depth. We may well need to understand as much as we can about what the particular decision brings up for us on both unconscious and conscious levels. This can take us into the realm of what Jung and James Hillman refer to as soul, the deep part of ourselves where images emerge from the unconscious.

Working with a supportive Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist can often lead to vastly greater clarity about decisions. If you’re facing the question of “Am I making the right decision?”, it’s essential to be very compassionate to yourself; and, to be willing to look into yourself in depth.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Hope for the New Year: Finding Your Own Unique Way

January 9th, 2023 · hope for the new year

It’s natural, and almost a truism to speak of finding hope for the New Year. But how do we actually do that? And what should we put our hope and trust in?

Hope for the New Year (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Hope in the New Year is no pie in the sky or academic issue. Especially at this moment in time, many struggle in a fundamental way with the question of where to place their hope. At this moment in time, we are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty in our world. This comes from sources as diverse as the pandemic, which still lurks in our background, the economy, which is remains very uncertain, and our changing climate. There seems to be so much transition and uncertainty in our environment.

A great many people people today are living with the direct impacts of this uncertainty. It is affecting the fabric of their lives as individuals, and their relationships and family lives. It’s hard to predict exactly how things will unfold. It’s very easy to project our pessimism and worse case outcomes on this blank screen. How can we get to a hope that will be sustaining? How can we find our way through the challenges of the New Year, and of the future as a whole?

We Need the Most Basic Kind of Hope and Trust

The possibility of hope for the future is linked in the most fundamental way to a basic trust in life. A basic trust is fundamental to human existence. As psychoanalyst Erik Eriksen writes,

Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded…

Erik Eriksen

“If life is to be sustained hope must remain.” This is a view to which C.G. Jung also vigorously subscribed. For Jung, as for Eriksen, hope, and the sense that there is the possibility for good things to develop out of the present. They saw it as an absolutely essential aspect of what it is to be—and to remain—human.

Yet, what really is hope? One of my favourite quotes about hope gives a fairly surprising description:

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

Hope “sings the tune without the words”! Wow—what does that mean? Apparently, this hope is not some form of rational deduction or calculation of the odds, because such things would be rooted in words. The hope that Dickinson is referring to must come from some place entirely different. The most basic level of hope that good things are possible in our lives stems from our earliest relationships, especially from the bond with the mother. And at an even more basic level, hope emerges from something beyond what James Hollis has labelled our “nervous Nelly” ego. Hope is rooted in the broader personality, in the Self.

Hope versus Denial

Sometimes, we don’t operate from a place of hope. It’s common enough for people to get caught up in a place of “just going through the motions”. Instead of having an activating and enlivening sense of possibility for the future, we can keep operating, and getting through our days performing by rote, just carried along by routine.

It’s possible for people to have little or no hope, and to go through the motions in their daily life in complete denial. It may be that people in this situation are actually stuck in the opposite of hope: despair. Despair is that state where individuals lack the sense of possibility for their lives. It can be a very debilitating state of mind. Very often, it is rooted in early life experience of physical or emotional neglect, or in later traumatic experience.

For a fulfilling human life, it’s essential that we find our way to hope. How can we do that?

Hope for the New Year, Hope for Ourselves

This early part of the New Year strongly highlights our need for hope. As we pass the winter solstice, with its shortest day, and its minimal light,, and the calendar changes to a New Year, it’s natural for us to turn our minds to the future. It’s also natural to seek to increase our capacity for hope, and for a sense of possibility for our own lives, and for the lives of those who are closely connected to us.

Often, an exploration of our lives, and of our deepest selves can lead to connection with those parts of ourselves that carry hope. Working with a Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist in a secure and supportive relationship can often be of great help in this process, as we explore past wounds, but also the elements of psyche that draw us forward into the possibilities in our lives.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Coping with Uncertainty During the 2022 Holidays

December 12th, 2022 · coping with uncertainty

Coping with uncertainty is a theme I’ve explored before, but it seems to have a lot of relevance for the end of our current year, 2022.

(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

As we come to the end of this year, we certainly seem to be coping with uncertainty. In our post-modern world, things often seem pretty precarious, Yet, this year seems to take the cake! We seem to have just barely cleared the pandemic. We have a very strained medical system, and a crisis situation with children in need of care for respiratory diseases.

We also seem to have an economy that is giving very mixed messages. We still have high inflation. We also have interest rates that are going up to attempt to counter it. Due to the inflation, and the aftermath of the pandemic, many people are finding it tougher to make ends meet.

In addition to all of this, the pandemic’s aftershocks continue to be felt. Many social events that flourished with large attendances in 2019 can’t seem to get the same numbers of people out in 2022. Restaurants and coffee shops that bulged at the seams a few short years ago seem sparsely populated. A great many people seem quite tentative about their Holiday plans.

Just at the moment, we seem to be in a world where people hedge their bets far more than they used to do. At the end of 2022, there is a potent feeling of uncertainty in the air.

Coping with Uncertainty Affects Us

When we seek to cope with an environment that has a heightened level of uncertainty, we experience a heightened level of stress. This is something that we carry in both our bodies and our minds. The experience of stress associated with matters of importance in our lives can easily lead to anxiety or depression. It’s important that we understand in a self-compassionate way when we’re under stress, and that we have ways to deal with it that are healthy and good for us.

Holiday anxiety can have some very dramatic effects. The Holidays may foster love, generosity and kind-heartedness in many ways. However, they can also bring a heightened sense of obligation and expectations. Add this to the kind of uncertainty many are experiencing in the present time, and it can result in difficult anxiety-related symptoms. These could include:

  • Excessive worry, that doesn’t go away;
  • Physical anxiety symptoms (e,g., shortness of breath, shaking, dizziness, upset stomach, or dry mouth);
  • Social withdrawal and isolation due to anxiety;
  • Changes in appetite and weight, in either direction;
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless; or,
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances.

The Questions That Uncertainty Asks

Uncertainty can ask us deep and difficult questions about our lives. It asks us to take in the chances and changes of life. It asks us what remains stable and retains its value, given the flow of life. How can we respond?

One possible response is simple denial. We can just ignore the reality of uncertainties. We can act as if everything is secure and stable. Or, engage in a range of distractions to keep from focusing on the uncertainty. Yet it’s likely that the effects of the uncertainty, and the anxiety associated with it, will creep into our lives.

This Holiday season can be a time of joy, but it can also highlight the precarious nature of our lives. What kind of answers can we give to the unknowns and anxieties that we experience? How do we manage coping with uncertainty?

Answers That Sustain Us

[T]he point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Where can we focus, to sustain us in our own personal journey? Certainly, we need to look at how to take care of ourselves through the Holiday season, and into the New Year. We need to identify ways to be compassionate to ourselves, and to practice self-care. We also need to set appropriate boundaries with respect to time, commitments and expenditures. We also need to find ways to maximize our sense of personal power, and of being in control of our lives. And we need to find what carries meaning in our individual lives. Where do we find what has value for us personally, and where do we touch the reality of our own unique souls?

Work with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist or Jungian analyst can assist us greatly with all these areas of focus. With its emphasis on the unique importance of each of our individual life journeys, and the ways that the Self is seeking to express itself in our unique lives, a Jungian approach can open us up to the value and grace of our own individual life journey. At the Holiday season, this may be the gift for which we most deeply yearn.

With every good wish for the Holidays, and for your unique personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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Tending the Soul and the Passage of Time in the Holidays

December 5th, 2022 · passage of time

The yearly arrival of the Holidays reminds us of both continuity and the passage of time. What does this mean for tending the soul, the essence of ourselves?

(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

As we go through the repeated cycle of the year there is something that is comforting and reassuring in its recurrence and stability. Yet, there is something else as well. As we see the years go by, we are reassured to see the seasons pass in their regular ways. But then, we are also haunted by an awareness of something else. That is the passage of time, and its meaning for our particular, individual lives.

The seasons, and particularly the Holidays, come back to us in their endless repetition. In many ways, with their traditions and patterns, they stay the same, recurring again and again. Yet what happens to us as individual humans, is different. We find that we change, and we age, in many ways. Each of us is a somewhat different individual every time that the Holidays come back to us.

With each year, we have had a little more experience, a little bit of change in ourselves. We notice this particularly as we get near to the midlife transition, and then travel on in the second half of life. These life stages draw our attention more and more to the passage of time and the changes in ourselves.

These types of realizations can evoke very strong feelings. The Holidays are a time when we might feel them particularly strongly.

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, [whatever they do, whoever they are].

~C.S. Lewis

It All Passes By!

In many ways, it’s very good news that we experience the passage of time through the return of events like the Holidays. As a culture, we experienced an unbearable sameness of time in the lockdowns of the recent pandemic period. I wrote about this in my 2020 blogpost Lockdown, Soul and the Passage of Time . We need some ways to mark and measure the passage of time, in order to feel that life has momentum and meaning—in essence, to keep it human.

The Holidays appear and then reappear in our lives, with something of the same feelings associated with them every time they make their return. Often this adds to the sense of meaning in our lives. We are connected, to our earlier and later selves, to family, friends and everyone who is celebrating the same season, and to previous and following generations. This connection with the fabric of the human race, and to the flow of the human story, is of great importance to us.

The Passage of Time in Our Individual Lives

Yet this same awareness of the passage of time associated with the Holidays may lead us to reflect on our lives as individuals. Each passing Holiday season may remind us of the passage of time in our individual lives. As another year goes by, we may well reflect on what the year has brought for us as individuals. It may lead us to ask ourselves whether we’re getting the things that we want and need from our lives. These questions may be particularly acute if we’re going through a major life transition, or are dealing with grief or major loss.

Our awareness of time may lead us to the question of individual identity and meaning. For human life to stay viable, we have to have some sense of meaning connected to our individual existence. What we find meaningful varies greatly from individual to individual. That we need something meaningful in our lives for us is a basic fact of each of our human lives.

Who am I? The question I had my whole life.

~Kim Namjoon, BTS

The passing seasons and years make us strongly aware of the passage of time. That may give a sense of deep importance and urgency to the question of what has deep meaning and reality in our lives. As the unique individual that I am, what, for me, carries the deep sense of reality and value for which I yearn?

Meaning and Reality for Me, In the Passage of Time

The search to discover what has meaning and reality for each of us, in our uniqueness, is a key part of the individuation process. It’s an essential element in the unfolding of our unique selves. Another way to look at this is to view it as a fundamental kind of compass. It gives us the ability to know to what we wish to say yes to, or no to, on the journey of our lives.

Working with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist or analyst can be of immense help in furthering our search for meaning and reality. It can be of great value as we seek to unfold the majesty and mystery of the passage of time in our lives.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner


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

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