Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

“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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

Tending the Soul Through the Holidays

November 29th, 2022 · tending the soul

“Tending the soul through the Holidays” is the theme I’ve chosen for a series of blog posts for the period leading up to the Holidays at the end of December.

We tend candles throughout the Holiday season, and we tend lights... What about tending the soul?
(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Now, for those of us living in 2022, “tending the soul” and “getting ready for the holidays” can seem like complete opposites! I hear many stories from clients about how stressful and anxious it often is to deal with the Holidays. There are plenty of reasons for this.

Not least of these is the huge sense of expectation the Holidays create, in children, certainly, but often no less in adults. Another major issue is around dealing with family members and other relationships during Holiday interactions. For many people, this is all complicated by particularly wounding experiences that may have occurred right at the holiday season. These might include the loss of a loved one; or deeply hurtful experiences with a relative struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. and many other kinds of issue. Additionally, there are a surprisingly large number of people who suffer from religious trauma, and for these individuals, the Holidays can actually be quite triggering.

Also, the Holidays are a period associated with being social and gregarious. People do a lot of socializing during the Holiday period. I’ve recently been told by several clients that the majority of the socializing they do all year occurs within a 6-8 week period around the Holidays. Tending the soul is an activity that we would see as having an inward or introspective dimension. This might seem like swimming upstream during the Holiday period!

The Absence of Soul at the Holidays

This last point brings us up against an important issue. For many people, the Holidays can actually seem to be a time where they experience the absence of soul. By this, I mean something more than simply experiencing the Holidays as hectic and frenetic. For many people, the Holidays can feel artificial and superficial. This is a time when people are looking for something lasting and real, especially given the stressful and unpredictable character of these recent pandemic years. “They” tell us that a deep, solid, lasting reality is what the Holidays are all about. Yet it can seem very hard to find that unshakable, comforting reality.

Soul’s Call, and Tending the Soul

We feel a beckoning in us for something real, something lasting, something that gives our lives solidity. Where can we find that, amidst all the Holiday messaging that saturates us in the media? Jung gives us his assessment:

Who knows the way to the eternally fruitful climes of the soul? You seek the way through mere appearances…. What good is all that? There is only one way and that is your way. You seek the path. I warn you away from my own. It can also be the wrong way for you. May each find [their] own way [italics mine].

C.G. Jung, The Red Book

“There is only one way and that is your way.” Jung is underlining for us the importance of discerning and connecting with the depths of who we are. For Jung, this is a very individual activity. We cannot follow someone else’s formula to do this—not even his.

If we’re going to go our own way, we’re going to have to know ourselves. That means exploring ourselves, and taking the time to understand our genuine reactions. It means understanding our history, certainly, and the events that have really shaped us. It also means understanding, in a compassionate way, our own most fundamental nature.

So, What are We Going to DO About Tending the Soul?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

So, how do we actually do any of the things that involve going our own way? That is going to be the subject of the posts to come in this series. However, one key starting point is genuinely listening to what we can find or see of the voice of our genuine selves. This is deeply connected to value and meaning in our lives, as emphasized by logotherapists like Viktor Frankl. It may appear in the most surprising of places sometimes, and we have to be careful not to dismiss, judge or overlook it.

This voice of the self may take some real discernment to start to locate. Jung indicates that it was a demanding process even for him, We have to try and locate the things that have genuinely lasting value, for us, in our own individual lives.

This time leading up to the Holidays when, surprisingly enough, this search for value and meaning in or own individual lives becomes a matter of great importance. To embark on our own personal journey towards wholeness may be of great healing value at this Holiday season. From the perspective of Jungian depth psychotherapy, this search is of incomparable importance.

With very best wishes 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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

These Things Are On My Bucket List—Or Are They?

November 14th, 2022 · on my bucket list

In recent years the phrase “on my bucket list” has come into popular parlance. This isn’t surprising; it’s a phrase we often find useful!

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

What do we use this phrase to indicate? Well, if something is “on my bucket list”, it usually means that this is something that is so important to me, that I want to be absolutely certain that I do it before I die (or, “kick the bucket”). You now often hear people use this expression when they are describing travel destinations, e.g., “going to the Amalfi Coast is on my bucket list”.

At least in the part of North America that I inhabit, it seems that we are all walking around with our bucket lists. We add items from time to time, perhaps substituting items for others. And marketers are more than keen to tell us what should be on our bucket list!

Well, why do I have things “on my bucket list”? The short answer is because these particular experiences must be of the greatest value and importance to me. I simply must see, do, or experience them while I have life left to do it. Of the endless number of things that I could see, do, or experience during my life, these things top the list. I may fit all other kinds of experience into my remaining life, but, to use my example above—visiting the Amalfi Coast has got to get done!

So, how do things get to be so important that they end up on your bucket list? Well, they must have great meaning and value. And where does that come from?

The Things That Get On My Bucket List

The things that get on my bucket list must be things that really grab me. When I think about having, experiencing or doing these things, it must seem to me that they would be peak experiences. Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow defines a peak experience as follows:

The emotional reaction in the peak experience has a special flavour of wonder, of awe, of reverence, of humility and surrender before the experience as before something great”

This is very akin to what C.G. Jung would call a numinous experience. These are experiences in life of tremendous, incomparable value. To be the experiences that are the most valuable of an entire lifetime, means that we put them at the head of our personal list. The following particularly apt story from the New Testament makes exactly the same point:

…a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value… went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13: 45-46

How Things Get on My Bucket List

Things get on our bucket list through our memories and life experiences, our feelings and anticipations—and in so many other ways. What we have felt, known and been in our past profoundly influences our desires and our hope for future life. Our hopes and aspirations are deeply coloured by our prior life experiences. What we yearn for in the future is definitely a reflection of what we have been, and what we are now.

Here’s something that’ important to be aware of: things may yet get on my bucket list in the future, as a result of parts of myself of which I’m currently unaware. It’s true! I know what I want consciously now. Yet, I also have unconscious needs, energies and aspects of myself that may step into the spotlight of consciousness. These things may change the shape of what I need, desire and aspire to. These yearnings might even be at the root of a current experience of depression or anxiety.

In other words, don’t assume that your bucket list is finished and complete just yet! Your undiscovered self may have much to add to the list. What are the deep desires and yearnings that are unfolding in you?

What are Your Pearls of Great Price?

As long as we are alive, the process of discovering our deepest values and yearnings continues to unfold. So does the process of discovery of our deepest selves. Often the process of working with a discerning and supportive Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist can greatly assist in the process of moving toward what is finally most valuable and meaningful in our lives, and what it is that we most deeply desire.

Wishing you every good thing 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

[cta]

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

→ No Comments

Finding Your Real Life After Retirement

November 7th, 2022 · life after retirement

Real life after retirement?’ some might ask, “Is that a thing?” It most certainly is, but you’d never know it from the messaging we get around retirement!

What can we expect from life after retirement? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

A lot of messaging around retirement in our culture has very little to do with “real life after retirement”. The vast majority of the retirement messaging we get falls into the “freedom after age X” category. “Age X” may vary, but one famous example that permeated the media for a very long time was an insurance advertisement that extolled the freedom that individuals would attain from retiring by a certain age—a very young age by most peoples’ standards. This advertising was targeted at boomers, but this meme or theme of retiring at a precociously young age is still around. A slightly different form of it seems to have captured the imagination of of Generation X and millennials. Now, the idea is often portrayed in terms of accumulating the resources to retire very young, and thus escape the clutches of corporate life.

The overriding theme here seems to be some variant of “retirement as escape”. The idea is that, if the individual can accumulate a certain level of wealth, then he or she can move into a life that has none of the negatives of working life. The individuals’ life will finally be his or her own, and days will be filled with the individual doing exactly what he or she wants, all day long. This sounds idyllic.

The other messaging is at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. It images retirement as a state of lack of direction, and most often imagines that state as associated with a process of decline and atrophy. A process of slow disintegration and disconnection that ultimately ends in a completely dependent state. Needless to say this image is the shadow of the “freedom” imaging described above. Negating all the happy talk, these images float around the edges of our consciousness about “freedom at age X”. But they serve to bring us back to the basic question: is it possible to find real life after retirement?

Real Life After Retirement: Not Into Nothing

At one point, C.G. Jung writes about a man who made the decision to retire, who had a very difficult experience. He found he could not stand the ennui when he retired. Yet, he also found that he could not get re-engaged mentally to his former business when he tried to return to it. Jung relates what he said to the man:

I say to him: ‘You were quite right to retire from business.  But not into nothingness. [Italics mine]  You must have something you can stand on.  In all the years in which you devoted your energy to building up your business you never built up any interests outside of it.  You had nothing to retire on.”

You were right to retire, but not into nothingness. You must have something you can stand on. This idea of “something to stand on” is essential to finding real life in retirement. It’s not enough to just have “freedom” in retirement. There must be lasting meaning and value—something that gives the retiring individual’s life substance. Many people dread the prospect of retirement, because it can feel like a descent into meaninglessness and purposelessness. Is there any way to find underlying meaning and value in this huge life transition?

Individuation and Meaning in Retirement

How to we begin to find what it is that will sustain us through our retirement? Or, for that matter, at any stage in our lives? One important way is for us to understand and appreciate our own life journey, and our own uniqueness.

It can take some real effort to understand the journey that we have been on in this life, what makes our life journey unique and what it is that has particular meaning or value for us in that journey. This really requires that we look at our lives carefully, with compassion and curiosity.

It can be very tempting not to look at our lives this way, and to see our life journey as “pretty much like everybody else’s”. It might be easy from this perspective to be dismissive of where our lives have taken us, maybe even contemptuous, and to see ourselves as simply “one of a million”. From there, it might be easy to feel that the things that have mattered to us in our lives are not really that important. I’m reminded of someone I know, an Albertan, who was asked to comment on a website on what he had done in the forty-five years since leaving high school. His only comment: “In the oilfields.”

“In the oilfields”—OK, I get it. But I’m curious! What happened out there in the oilfields? What was it like? What was my friend’s unique experience in the oilfields? How has it affected him? What matters to him most deeply—now–in the light of his experience, in both his conscious and unconscious selves?

Soul and Real Life After Retirement

This takes us into the territory of what Jung, and people like archetypal psychologist James Hillman would call soul. This is the exploration of what has the deepest and most lasting value in our lives on both the conscious and unconscious levels. The question of how we’re going to connect with that deepest value, and live it forward, is of primary importance in our retirement years. The exploration of that deep identity is the crowning culmination of a life, and it can be of the greatest importance to find an ally who can assist us in this such as a supportive Jungian analyst or depth psychotherapist. This work goes far beyond the work of merely checking items off on a bucket list.

Join me next time for the sequel to this post, “Beyond the Bucket List”!

With every good wish for your personal life journey,

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

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

[cta]

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

→ No Comments