Journeying Toward Wholeness

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In This Moment: Dealing with Uncertainty & Finding Security

September 13th, 2021 · dealing with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty and managing anxiety have been topics previously in this blog. Yet right now, many of us are dealing with things that make this a very important topic.

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At this point in the pandemic, things continue to be in a great deal of flux. In some respects we seem to be making some good progress. Here in Canada, an increasing number of people are getting vaccinated, which probably bodes well for the future. Yet what will happen in this major life transition even in the short run remains very hard to predict. We are living with a very changeable, fluid situation. The level of uncertainty is very high, in many different areas of our lives.

This uncertainty manifests in ways we may well not expect. As a recent article by Deja Leonard in the Globe and Mail newspaper pointed out, we may be moving back into situations that seem very familiar, and that were very familiar prior to the pandemic, but which have changed in unexpected ways. The article is entitled “Your colleagues may have changed more than you think – here’s how to reintroduce yourself”, and it deals with the uncertainties that can occur when people are called to return physically to the workplace. As Leonard puts it,

So you think you know your co-workers?…

[T]he last two years have changed a lot about who we are, sometimes at a fundamental level…. [C]hild care challenges, health and mental health issues, social unrest and more are affecting the way people will show up when they head back into the office…. [I]nstead of expecting people to follow the same patterns or routines as they did before—be open to the idea that their priorities may have changed [Italics mine].

So here we have an example of a setting that may have been stressful for individuals—the workplace—but where we may have felt that there were certain things, or certain relationships that we could count on to show up in a certain way. Leonard is suggesting that we can’t take that for granted at all, which introduces a whole new level of uncertainty into many peoples’ lives. This is only one example among many where the level of uncertainty is heightened by present conditions.

The Challenge of Uncertainty

It was true before the pandemic that we were living with much uncertainty. What is abundantly clear is that many are living with even more uncertainty since this pandemic began. What is also abundantly clear is that uncertainty is hard to live with. In many ways the human brain is designed to seek maximum security and predictability. In many situations in our world, our brains are having to cope with much less security and predictability than they would like.

One response to these people—and to ourselves—might be, “You don’t have enough certainty in your life? Too bad. Suck it up, buttercup, that’s just how the world is. Forget about it and just keep moving on with your life.” Unfortunately, though, high uncertainty is very often associated with high anxiety.

The answer to this is not urging people in a simplistic way to just “be more comfortable with your uncertainty”. I have heard this pronouncement made by psychologically aware individuals, whom many would rightly look to for leadership in times like these, but it doesn’t really help. The key question is, how can I be more comfortable with my uncertainty?

You Can Never Be Certain Enough

How do you live with uncertainty? The answer is, not very well, if you stay focused on it. In my practice, I have seen many people who are quite capable of understanding that the odds of a bad outcome in a situation were very low, “one in a million”, as they say, and that, rationally, the probability of “the bad thing” occurring was very low. That very reasonable awareness did not keep them from having high anxiety about a negative outcome.

When you’re dealing with raw anxiety, and the brain will not let go of it, it can be almost impossible to get the brain to “turn the anxiety off” by being rational and reasonable about things. This is because the anxiety is centered in parts of the brain and the psyche that are largely beyond the reach of reason, and the ego’s control. There must be some other focus, to help me be free, and to get through my life journey.

Finding Security

How can I find security and freedom from anxiety in the midst of uncertainty? Only by finding something to focus on other than the anxiety and the uncertainty. The individual must find things that are so compelling to him or her that those passions fill his or her life. In many cases the anxiety that the individual experiences is an energy, that really wants to flow into other areas of the individual’s life and to create, to love, to experience and to contemplate. Finding the path to this passion or energy is a very individual journey that may also involve other elements like the release of traumatic experience.

The process of getting to the guiding passion in an individual’s life and freeing the energy associated with it con often be greatly assisted through work with a trusted depth psychotherapist. For many, this uncertain and anxious time may be a call to embark upon that soul work.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Ancestral Wounds: Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma

August 23rd, 2021 · intergenerational transmission of trauma

In recent times we’ve become more aware of intergenerational transmission of trauma, and of how traumatic wounding gets passed from generation to generation.

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What exactly do we mean by intergenerational transmission of trauma? Well, for a long time, we’ve know that the psychological wounding of parents can be passed on to their children. In fact, some of the most important early documentation of this was in the work of Sigmund Freud, the famous Viennese psychoanalyst, who often showed the linkages between the coping issues of parents and children in his writings.

Yet, it’s only in much more recent times that we’ve started to understand the ways in which trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation. One of the most studied groups in this respect are the families and descendants of holocaust survivors. Quite a number of studies have shown that otherwise healthy children of parents who survived the holocaust are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder if a traumatic event occurs in their lives. There seems to be strong evidence that there is a similar effect with grandchildren of holocaust survivors. There also seems to be evidence of an increased predisposition to anxiety and depression in these groups.

Now there is also strong support in the research for similar effects among other groups. The research of Hofstra University Prof. Robert Motta and colleagues suggests strongly that the children of war veterans carry elements of trauma transmitted by a veteran parent and other studies have shown the same. It seems to be that whenever a parent carries trauma, there is a good chance that the children and even the grandchildren will be affected by it.

How Do I Know if I’m Suffering from Intergenerational Trauma?

How would you know whether you’re subject to intergenerational trauma? The first question to ask would be whether you are the child or grandchild of parents who suffer from PTSD, or who have been subject to serious traumatic experiences. This might be something like the Holocaust, being a forced migrant or a refugee, or experiencing a war which would represent trauma connected to a large historical event. On the other hand, a parent who has been subject to trauma such as physical or emotional abuse that has come down through the generations may also transmit that trauma to a child.

Please be aware that the fact that a parent who has been subject to trauma transmits that trauma to his or her child does not mean that the parent can’t also transmit good things. The parent may have many wonderful attributes from which the child benefits, while still also transmitting trauma.

How Can I Get on a Healing Path?

One of the biggest steps to moving toward the healing of intergenerational transmission of trauma is recognizing that a parent’s trauma has impacted your view of the world, and your responses to the world. Often someone who has been subject to intergenerationally transmitted trauma is strongly motivated to make the world safe and predictable, and the individual may notice that tendency showing up in her life in many different ways, such as obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or perfectionist tendencies that are aimed at having things turn out with perfect results. The child of a parent who has suffered trauma may have found that the parent has trouble with regulating their emotions and with soothing themselves into a calm state. This may mean that the child faces similar challenges in regulating their emotions and finding calm. If you experience any of these tendencies it’s important to ask yourself if any of this can have come about as the result of a parent’s trauma.

Intergenerational Transmission of Resilience?

Although the concept of intergenerational transmission of trauma is fairly new, C.G. Jung anticipated some of its key aspects in his writings. At one point in his writings, Jung states,

The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.

In the context of intergenerational trauma, the “unlived life of the parents” is represented by the ways in which the parent’s trauma has gone untreated, and has often dominated the family life of the individual. Depth psychotherapists are aware that, among other things, we inherit our family’s story and perspective about the nature of life. Families that have unresolved trauma, depression or anxiety can easily pass harmful coping strategies and views of life rooted in fear and mistrust onto future generations.

While trauma can be transmitted down the generations, so can the capacity for resilience and for overcoming and resolving trauma. From this perspective, one of the best things and most hopeful things you can do for your kids and for future generations is to work on yourself. Not only does it help you: the intergenerational transmission of resilience to those who follow after us provides a strong sense of empowerment and that can be an important part of our journey towards wholeness.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Finding Your Passion in Life

August 16th, 2021 · finding your passion in life

“Finding your passion in life” sounds like a slogan from a TV ad for new cars! Yet the phrase actually points us in important and life-giving directions.

Vacations are great, but we need a daily life that makes us say “Yes!” (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

Yet, we have to be careful about what we mean by “finding your passion in life”. If we think that “our passion” is out there, lurking behind some bush or cloud, waiting to strike us like a bolt of lightening, we’re probably waiting for something that is never going to occur. Researchers like Professors Paul O’Keefe of Yale and Carol Dweck and Greg Walton of Stanford have shown that “passions are not found full-formed… It’s through a process of investment and development that you develop an abiding passion…”

So, we find our passions in life by investing in them and developing them, and that’s a process to which we have to be open. Does that mean that our “passion in life’ can be absolutely anything, if we just work at it? Is that what we mean by “finding our passion in life”?

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

We have to be careful, here. Someone I know has what must be one of the largest collections of buttons taken from various clothing items that is owned by a private individual anywhere. I find it very inspiring and commendable that she has followed her interest in this way, and that she has learnt and experienced everything that there is to know about buttons in this wonderful way. I find it interesting to talk to her about buttons; she has some wonderful and surprising anecdotes about their history. But do I think that, even if I worked at it for years and years, the subject of buttons could become my passion in life? No, I don’t!

The Call of Life

In a way that was unusual for a psychologist of his time and place, Jung in his writings very often emphasizes the idea of vocation, or call. He acknowledges that this can be a religious idea, that God calls us to do or be something, but he also emphasizes that there is another way of looking at it, in terms of what he would refer to as “the call of life” or “the law of our own being.” His idea is that each of us has our own true nature or identity, and that life has put us here to express or live that out, and that, in a sense, life “calls” us to this identity, and this living out of who we truly are.


Jung didn’t think of “the law of our own being” as something that was going to strike a person like a thunder bolt, zapping you from being directionless to finding your passion in life in an instant. He saw it as a process, which involves uncovering things that have meaning for us over a long period—in many ways, as something that evolves over the whole course of our lives. While it might be a source of anxiety for some, Jung knew that this search for meaning, for what has true value, can genuinely be a long journey. We move into a deeper sense of value and fulfillment, as we do the work of learning more and more about ourselves, and who we really are. As we explore and live our lives, with all of their challenges and surprising turns, we are embarked on the road to finding our passion in life. The ability to find meaning and value in the whole fabric of a lived life—your or my particular unique life—is what Jung referred to as individuation.


This process of bringing together all the various strands and bits in my life, to gain a sense of what really motivates me and what really holds value in my life is what Jungian depth psychotherapists often refer to as the journey towards wholeness. Rather than being struck by a lightening bolt, it involves a gradual bringing together of the different elements in our lives—experiences, interests and values. Some of these may seem almost contradictory, but they are all parts of us. Here are some questions that can help in this process:

  • What do I love to do?
  • What are the causes that really matter to me, to which I would devote time, treasure or talent?
  • What do I feel is wrong with the world, that I would love to see made better?
  • Who are the people I really connect with? And, just as important, who are the people I really don’t connect with?
  • What are the parts of me that I have yet to explore?

Often, a supportive depth psychotherapist can help a great deal in exploring and finding your true passion in life. The process of journeying toward what really matters in life can be greatly aided by a therapeutic space in which a person can examine the whole of their lives.

With every good wish for the journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Making Life Changing Decisions

August 9th, 2021 · life changing decisions

Sooner or later, we all have to make life changing decisions. They might be decisions about a very wide range of things, but they all share one thing in common. They are decisions with the potential to change our experience of living.

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Many potentially life changing decisions are about relationships, e.g. “Should I marry X? or “Should I get divorced?” Many are about career, e.g., “Should I study to be an engineer?” or “Should I stay in this job?” Some are about the stage of life we’re in, e.g., “What are my priorities now that I’m at mid-life?” or “Should we have children?” or “What do I want to do with my life, now that I’m retiring?” And there are many other kinds of potentially life changing decisions.

Often the need to make a potentially life changing decision or decisions can be a source of great anxiety. It may well be that it feels risky or insecure to make a life changing decision. This can often lead us to avoid or procrastinate, rather than looking at the situation in our lives squarely, and then deciding what to do. How can we face the decisions that we have to make, and really come to terms with them?

Knowing a Life Changing Decision When We See One

Sometimes, we have to go through quite a process before we accept that a decision of major importance has to be made. We may live with a situation for many years, and then find one day that it is confronting us in ways that we simply can’t afford to ignore.

How do we know when we’re confronting a life changing or “big” decision? In some ways, it’s fairly straightforward, as UTS Prof. Adrian Camilleri states:

A “big” decision is one in which you intentionally [make] a choice between two or more options knowing that the outcome would have a significant and often long-term impact for yourself or others.

On an intellectual, thinking level, this is fairly straightforward. What makes things difficult, though, is that life changing decisions often have a huge emotional charge on them. For this reason, it’s important to accept that making a big or life changing decision can be genuinely hard. If at all possible, we have to be kind to ourselves and give this kind of decision the time and attention that it deserves. We want to

Stuck and Unstuck

Often, we have to self-compassionately acknowledge that there is part of us that would rather not have to make a life changing decision! This can be about inertia, or emotional denial. It can also be about a part of ourselves that might like to not have to choose, and would prefer to keep all the options on the table—forever—having our cake and eating it, too.

This last attitude may be related to an important part of ourselves that Jungian psychotherapy is particularly aware of: the shadow. The shadow is essentially that in ourselves that we would simply prefer not to acknowledge. It has attitudes, and often wants things that the ego, the major conscious part of our personality, feels are completely unacceptable. To finally reach a real choice in a life changing decision might well require that we look at and acknowledge how the shadow part of ourselves really feels about it. Bringing that awareness into consciousness, admitting all that we really feel, may be a major piece of psychological work.

Choosing to Make a Decision

Sometimes, it can be hard to face our need to make a decision. We can procrastinate and distract ourselves, which may feel better in the short run. But it doesn’t really help us in the longer run if there is a decision that has to be made, for our well-being, or the well-being of those near to us. Also, in lots of situations, as Paul Tillich stated, “not to decide is to decide”—if we don’t consciously make a decision, it often amounts to stumbling into one fateful course or another. It’s often much better to embrace the need to make a decision.

Often, psychotherapy can be of a great deal of help when we have to make life changing decisions, and Jungian depth psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in supporting individuals through a decision-making process. It can be of great value to have a skilled and supportive psychotherapist / analyst who can assist us with extending compassion to ourselves as we grapple with our choices, and simultaneously assist us with staying honest and accountable to ourselves. The choices that we make in matters involving life changing decisions can form the backbone of our journey to wholeness.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

July 19th, 2021 · how to get the most out of therapy

A lot of people wonder if they should go into therapy, and also wonder how to get the most out of therapy, if they do. Can therapy help me, and how can I make the best use of the opportunities therapy provides?

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

The precise answer to these questions is going to vary a bit, depending on the type of therapy you decide to do. To make cognitive behavioural therapy or dialectical behavioural therapy work for you will require some different things than will be needed to make Jungian depth psychotherapy effective. Yet there are a surprising number of things that they have in common. What follows is a list of some of the most important things that you need to really make good use of therapy.

Connect Well with Your Therapist (or Analyst)

This is downright essential. Therapy or analysis is not a cookie cutter thing, where everyone goes to therapy in the same way, has the same relationship with the same therapist, and comes out with the same standardized result. There has to be a “good fit” between the client and the therapist. For instance, if a client wants a very structured experience, with a lot of input and feedback, he or she will probably want a different therapist than the client who looks to the therapist to basically hold space and listen. Finding a therapist whose personality you can connect with, and whose therapeutic and interpersonal style and whose view of the goals of therapy fit with your own is essential to the therapeutic process.

Have a Good Therapy “Container”

Jungian depth psychotherapists, in particular, emphasize that, for therapy to be successful, it needs a good “container”. They mean several things by this. Firstly, the therapy has to be and to feel safe. The client has to feel that her/his personal material is going to be confidential. More than that, the client needs to feel that the therapist will treat their personal revelations with a deep sense of respect that is nonjudgmental, affirming and curious in a way that is positive to the client. It’s essential that the client feel that he or she can be open and honest, and that the therapist will be careful with the precious things that the client reveals. This is especially true where the client is bringing forward material from the unconscious, such as dreams or fantasies, as these need to be handled extremely respectfully.

Maintain the Rhythm

As Emory’s Prof. Jennice Vilhauer asserts, scientific research shows that if therapy is going to be effective, it needs to be relatively frequent, and it needs to go on for a length of time. There’s a clear indication that not much gets accomplished in therapy unless there are about 20 sessions at roughly a weekly frequency, or more, over a longer time. Clearly, for much bigger things, considerably more therapy may be required. And for an ongoing process of comprehensive growth like Jungian analysis when a client is going through a major life transition, a regular rhythm has to be created over a longer time.

Live Out Your Insights; Put Some Trust in the Process

An important learning about how to get the most out of therapy is to take action on the insights that come up for you in the course of therapy. In Jungian circles, the Jungian analyst Toni Woolf, one of Jung’s associates, was famous for this. When people had an insight, or an interpretation of a dream brought a new perspective, she would bluntly ask her clients “Well, what are you going to do about it?”, or words to that effect.

(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

And, in fact, doing something about insights in therapy, or possibilities of action that you and your therapist identify can do a lot to make therapy more effective. Put into action what you learn. Keeping a journey of insights from therapy can be incredibly helpful in this way. To make therapy work, it has to be more than just talking: you have trust the process enough to “translate” the insights into real action steps and attitude changes in the outer world.

Thinking carefully about how to get the most out of therapy can make a very important contribution to your overall growth through therapy and your journey towards wholeness. If you really intentionally engage with the therapy process, it can make a great deal of difference.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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What’s the Best Way to Get Through Depression?

July 12th, 2021 · get through depression

It’s a very common experience. Those who have to deal with it, just want to get through depression. They just want to feel that there’s something on the other side of it. There’s a variety of approaches to depression, but what is the best way to get through it?

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What follows may seem like an unusual perspective, but I would suggest that the way to approach this question most productively is by asking another question, namely, what does the depression have to teach me? Our gut level response to this question may well be, “Nothing! It’s a curse! I just want it to be gone!” That’s a very understandable feeling. Anyone who has had to deal with the burden of depression over time is left with the feeling that it just sucks the life and joy out of experience, and that it’s the very opposite of health and growth.

Ignoring Depression

Sometimes, that life- and joy-suppressing quality leads people to ignore their depression, and to just pretend that it isn’t there. This kind of attempt to get through depression amounts to, “if I just ignore it, maybe it will go away.” Yet often, it doesn’t go away. In fact, it often gets worse.

As Jungian analyst James Hollis reminds us,

When we address why a depression has fallen upon us… or why we repeatedly sabotage ourselves, we have to track the logic of our symptom down to what soul wants from us. Why, in a depression, has [the inner life] withdrawn cooperation from the agenda of the …ego?

The Call to Authenticity

Hollis goes on to emphasize that depression is often calling us to a more authentic life, a life which is a more genuine expression of who and what we really are, and what it is that we genuinely want and need. In this way, depression can often be connected to a major life transition, of the kind that occurs in midlife or at other highly significant milestones in our life journey.

Get Through Depression

If you are struggling with depression, there may be great value in exploring it in the context of a supportive relationship with a depth psychotherapist. This kind of exploration can help us to be aware of both the conscious and unconscious aspects of depression, and to understand why it has appeared in our lives at a given time, or why we fall into patterns of repeated depression. It can also help us, over time, to understand and connect with the aspects of ourselves that want to come out of the shadows and be lived fully and authentically. This is all part of our ongoing journey towards wholeness.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A New Direction for My Life, #3: Is Now The Right Moment?

June 21st, 2021 · a new direction

If we look around at the situation now with respect to the pandemic, the moment seems unique. We feel a sense of possibility, and maybe even new direction.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Our inner cynic might ask, So, what’s really so special about this moment?” Well, throughout this series on finding a new direction for my life, we’ve noted the strong sense with which we’ve all been living that we are hemmed in by limitations that we can’t do much to control. Yet now, there seems to be a different feeling, a changed atmosphere. Some might say that it’s the result of the arrival of the season of nice weather, with people who’ve had too much “cabin fever” desperate to be out and about. Is that all it is?

It might seem that way. It’s certainly true, at least in my part of the world that people are out and about, in very large numbers. As restrictions lift, the highways are crowded, and the stores are packed, and there’s a tremendous sense of energy, bound up for too long. It strongly seems like this energy wants to flow out into the world. That surge in all of us may not know exactly where it really wants to go, or what it wants to do there, but it’s a reality in our collective social lives. It as if the life is starting to flow back into our common life, rather like the blood flowing back into an arm or leg that has “gone to sleep”.

However, saying this is not the same thing as saying that “everything is coming up roses”. While many people are coming back into the public sphere in ways we haven’t seen for quite some time, this is not true of everyone. Just as happens with a limb that has gone to sleep, when the life flows back into it, the sensations at first may not be all that pleasant. There are many people, for instance, who are experiencing a deep genuine reluctance to leave their homes and venture back into anything resembling public space. For people in this position, the anxiety or fear associated with yet “another transition” may be disempowering and overwhelming.

What are we to make of this moment in our lives? What are we supposed to do with it?

What Do You Want Now?

This moment that we’re experiencing may well have some unique characteristics. There’s a strong sense shared by many, whether expert social commentators and academics, or ordinary people, that this is a moment when things are in a highly unusual state of flux. Some, such as Harvard Professor and former U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicolas Burns, have said that the situation is comparable to what has occurred when the world has gone through a world war. Whether that is exactly correct or not, it’s clear that the world has been through, and is going through a lot—and so are individual people.

We have all faced some very unusual, demanding and stressful times. Yet now it seems that things may be making a shift, and that the world, or at least our part of the world, may be moving back toward something that in many ways looks a lot more like pre-pandemic normal. Yet we would be wise to look at the ways in which our current situation isn’t exactly normal.

For instance, if we think about the economic impact of the pandemic, some surprising facts come to light. When the pandemic began, many—rightly—feared its potential economic impact. And for many, there has been a very significant downside in lost jobs, or reduced compensation or benefits. Yet, paradoxically, as a recent CBC article underscored,

Canadians have saved a record amount during the pandemic, resulting from the combined impact of reduced spending and collecting more money from government support programs.

CBC “Average Canadian Saved More in the Pandemic”, 21 June / 21

Similarly, there is apparently strong evidence to indicate that Canadian workers, who have been working virtually throught the pandemic, are not necessarily all that eager to return to working full-time 9 to 5 at the office. A recent study by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies has shown that fully 80% of Canadians have found working from home to be partially or fully positive, and only 20% are looking forward to returning to the office full-time. There is a strong indication that employers may have difficulty finding employees who want full-time in the office, and that employers may be offering a variety of options for work in order to retain and attract the employees that they want.

So, in the near future, many people may be confronted with opportunities to move in some new directions. THe option may be there to reshape their work life, together with the question of what they really want to do with their money to create new value in their lives. In short, we may be in a moment when many people will be confronted with possibilities that might not have seemed viable prior to the pandemic. What will we choose? How will we live our lives?

Visualizing What Could Be

Archetypal psychologist C.G. Jung often used a word that he borrowed from the ancient Greeks: kairos. In ancient Greek, this word means “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” Could this moment of the end of the pandemic be a kairos moment for many of us? A moment when there might be an opportunity for choice that moves our lives in the direction of what we really value? It might be important for us to consider this possibility.

If that is a genuine possibility, this may be a time when it’s essential to approach our lives with some real clear-sightedness. I would suggest that this clear-sightedness might need to take two forms.

First, we need to be as clear-sighted as possible about our outer reality. We need to see clearly what we are up against in terms of our outer situation. What really is going on in terms of our work life or our home life or our social life? And can we get past our prejudice or our habitual ways of thinking a perceiving, and possibly be open to some new options for our lives, options that this kairos moment may have brought to us. Examining some of these options might really increase our anxiety level, initially, but there may be options for our lives and work that we might not have previously considered.

The second form of clear-sightedness is an inner form that stems from our inmost yearnings. Do we have the capacity to visualize what we really want, what we really yearn for? In this culture, it can be easy for us to let advertising and the media dictate to us what it is that we want. If we do, it’s possible that we might end up with a very conventional, rather shallow set of hopes and aspirations for ourselves that doesn’t really reflect our inner uniqueness—the core of who we are. We need to be conscious of the things that attract us deeply, even if the rest of the world is prepared to dismiss them as silly, trivial or impractical. In your heart of hearts, what is it that you really want for your life?

A New Direction for My Life

Life may be calling us to use this unique moment of life transition to move our lives in the direction of our deepest hopes and aspirations. If so, life may be offering us quite an adventure and a challenge!

To move our lives towards our deepest aspirations requires that we know ourselves to an increasing degree. Not only that, it requires that we accept ourselves, and value ourselves—love ourselves, in fact. This requires a dedication of time and energy to observing ourselves, wondering about ourselves, expressing ourselves and exploring our own nature. From this place, we can then make changes in our outer reality, to bring it more into accord with our inner reality and the objects and yearnings that are really the most important to us.

A genuinely open and supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist can often be of great healing benefit on this personal odyssey.

Wishing you every good thing for your journey towards wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A New Direction for My Life, #2: Resilience Amidst Change

June 7th, 2021 · a new direction

This is the third blog in my series on “finding a new direction” as we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic and from lockdown. In this post we look at the importance of resilience as we go through this process of change.

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As with several of the themes in this series, resilience is a matter of great importance at many points in our life journey, but is particularly relevant when we go through major life transitions. Change asks a great deal of us, especially when it’s the kind of change that we don’t initiate, but that originates in the external world, to which we must adapt. For our purposes we can define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress. It matters a great deal to be able to find resilience at challenging times like the present moment.

Whenever in life the situation is constantly changing, it’s easy to feel battered, and like we’re continually on the run. We’re all used to the message now that change is good, that it’s the new normal and that we should embrace it, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. As humans and as mammals, our biology and our psychology are strongly oriented to having some fixed stable things in our environment that we can depend on. When some of those things are called into question by external situations where there’s a lot of rapid change and uncertainty, it can be hard for us to keep our perspective, and to keep moving toward the things that we really value in our lives.

Resilience, the process of adapting well in the face of adversity may well be needed when we face family or relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace stressors or financial strains. All of these things are often part of the regular fabric of life, and if the people I interact with are at all typical, such issues have only intensified as a result of people’s COVID experiences. So life is calling us to find our resilience.

But What Actually Is Resilience?

We gave a working definition of resilience above, but what is resilience, actually? What does it actually look like?

It’s very important to clearly state that resilience is not something extraordinary or heroic. It’s not the few who are capable of being resilient. A person’s capacity for resilience is capable of development, and we see that very many people do develop it, as when people rebuild their lives after a major setback or tragedy. We see this when we see people re-orienting and rebuilding their lives after events like 9/11, or after a flood or a major disaster like the 2016 wildfire in Fort MacMurray, (widely regarded as one of the most extensive disasters in Canadian history). We probably know people who have been able to demonstrate resilience in the aftermath of grave personal setbacks like illness, accident or job loss.

In the course of meeting the many challenges of a lifetime, we probably will all be called upon to find our inner capacity for resilience. For many, as we move forward from COVID-19, that moment might be now.

Running on Empty

Yet, a lot of us don’t feel like we have much resilience at the present moment. For many people in the health care professions, in education, in the performing arts, in the hospitality field, in areas like business to business sales and in many other fields and individual cases, this last year and a half has been an extremely demanding time. People have felt like they’ve had to draw on extraordinary resources to get through.

Consequently, many people are feeling shell-shocked. They feel pummeled, like they’re taken blow after blow. And in many cases, peoples’ anxiety is making them feel like the present situation will just keep going on and on and on—with no end in sight.

The Process of Resilience

It may be our perception that we’re deeply stuck in something that we can’t escape, but that doesn’t mean that our perception is accurate! We can do things to actively enhance our resilience, to increase our capacity to deal with the change and uncertainty, and to “get through”.

One thing we can do is believe in, affirm and use our own power and agency. Resilient people are people who know that their own actions and their own choices have a profound effect on outcomes. They are also aware that we can create or exaggerate stressors in our own minds, if we focus on those stressors, rather than on the places in our situation where we can use our ability to influence outcomes.

The opus consists of three parts: insight, endurance and action.

C.G. Jung, Letters, vol. 1

Another thing that we can do is to strive to appreciate and affirm our own personal worth, while striving to be more in touch with our personal values and the core things that have meaning in our lives. Our ultimate direction in life and our focus, is always home, towards the things that we cherish and value most deeply, and towards the things that make our lives more meaningful. Rather than being completely overwhelmed by the present situation, there is always a sense that we are moving more and more toward what has meaning. This may well involve our highest spiritual, religious, philosophical and/or aesthetic values.

We also need to emphasize being adaptable and pragmatic. It’s important to be able to be flexible and responsive in our approach to things, rather than getting locked into black and white thinking. It’s also important for us to focus on the things that we can concretely change and the problems that we can solve, rather than the things we can’t.

A final and particularly vital attribute of resilient people is that they’re able to extend compassion to themselves. They are kind with themselves when they make mistakes and errors, and they work on avoiding self-critical inner dialogue. They are realistic and practical about their expectations of themselves, and they recognize and give themselves the things that they need.

Resilience and a New Direction

These attributes of resilience are key to having the endurance to find and move in a new direction in a time like ours. We need the flexibility, the personal power and the compassion to move beyond a victim role into the possibilities of the future. One of the best ways of cultivating these personal qualities is through work in a secure trusting, supportive relationship with a Jungian depth psychotherapist.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A New Direction for My Life, #1: What Matters Now?

May 31st, 2021 · a new direction

In my last post, I set out my goal of exploring what it would mean for us individually to find a new direction as we’re emerging from the pandemic.

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There are times in life when we specifically need to search for a new direction for our lives. Often associated with major life transitions , these are times when we quite simply need to find something in our lives that works better for us than what we have been doing up to this point. These are the seasons in our life journey when life presents a different face to us than we’ve previously seen, and seems to expect a new and different response from us.

Often, these major life transitions can come to us because we have aged and matured and come to a new phase in our lives. The transitions into adulthood, through middle age, and into later life are three examples of such age-related transitions. On the other hand, some transitions occur because our individual circumstances have altered. Getting a new job, moving to a new city or having your first child would be examples of this kind.

Then again, some transitions that call us to go in a new direction come to us by means of a society-wide change or changes. This occurred in North America and Europe when World War 2 started, for example, and occurred again when the war ended, just as earlier it had occurred with the arrival of the Great Depression.

We’ve lived through the onset of the COVID-19 period, and its lengthy duration. Now, the end of this period is perhaps in sight, as nations like Canada and the US increasingly vaccinate their populations. As things gradually return to something more like—but not identical to—pre-pandemic normal, I would suggest that the transition we’re all going through is another one of these broad, society-wide transitions. It is likely that, in some respects, this transition will fundamentally alter the way that we relate to our environment, to others and to ourselves.

So, What Does All This Mean for Me?

You might be saying to yourself, “It’s all very well to go on about a ‘society-wide change’, but what does that actually mean for me?” And that is very much the key question!

There seems to be an emerging consensus among experts that society is going to look rather different in the post-COVID world, in ways that will make a difference to each of our individual lives. What follows is a list of some of the ways in which this is true.

Isolation vs. Community. For many of us, the COVID period has been about being isolated or “socially distanced” from others. This lack of interaction has been essential to prevent the spread of a very dangerous disease. Now though, there’s indication that the need for social distancing and the other health measures associated with COVID-19 is gradually going to disappear. So, in the near future, we’ll likely be able to start going to restaurants, or to have people other than family members in our homes. But, as the research of University of Georgia’s Prof. Richard Slatcher suggests, through the pandemic, many people have become more selective about who they choose to socialise with, as they replace casual social contact with stronger immediate family bonds and close friendships. Will this trend continue, post re-opening? No one is sure.

Changes to the World of Work. COVID has unquestionably altered the way that many people work. As indicated above, many people have moved into the mode of working primarily or exclusively from home. But that is not the only change that has occurred. As Linda Nazareth, a Senior Fellow of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa writes in a recent Globe & Mail article:

Is crisis mode our new normal in the work force? As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, it became clear that it was a case of “all hands on deck,” as everyone needed to step up to deal with a disruption the likes of which had not been seen before in our lifetimes. Workers were challenged to give their jobs their all, and many did just that. Now suddenly it is more than a year later, and for some it seems like the giving is never going to stop.
As the pandemic draws to a close, are things really going to go back to the old normal, or even to a new one where work-life balance is more than a phrase you see on communiqués from HR? Or will the reality be that the post-COVID-19 economy demands everyone keep going full-blast…?

Rich and Poor. The pandemic has had a double effect on the economy. There’s clear evidence that many people have been strongly negatively affected economically by the pandemic, while, for a segment of more affluent people has actually been saving more money than prior to the pandemic. Some people are going to be left worse off as a result of the pandemic, while some are actually doing better. What does this mean for our society, and for the individuals affected? As with the questions above, no one is sure.

What Changes? What Remains the Same?

There are clearly quite a number of areas where life is changing for many people. It’s clear that these changes affect different people in very different ways. We have experienced many changes, and we will continue to experience large impacts for quite some time. What will these things mean for our individual lives?

Part of the answer to this question is fixed. Social change, whether to our social interactions, the world of work or our economic situation will happen to us, and will have far-reaching impacts. Yet, there is the equally important question of how we will respond to these changes. Will we passively accept them, or will we make some concrete steps that affect the outcome for ourselves? This process of responding makes up a lot of what we mean when speak of finding a new direction for ourselves.

An important part of responding to change in our lives is, first of all to try and understand what the impact of external change upon us really is. These impacts will be both conscious and unconscious. They will involve concretely understanding what is that the change has brought into our lives. But then, and likely more importantly, we need to understand what the emotional impact of these changes upon us actually is. Are we feeling happiness, relief, sadness, anger or even grief over the things that are coming into being in our lives? To understand these feelings, we may well have to explore our own anxiety and depression, and the feelings that are associated with them. As a way of being compassionate to ourselves, it’s very important that we understand what the feelings are that we are carrying, both consciously and unconsciously about what has come to be in our individual lives.

My Own New Direction

When we really understand how the pandemic’s changes have impacted us, and take them in, we can begin to respond to them in a conscious way. This entails making choices in response to the changes that have occurred. For example, it may be that I recognize in myself a tendency to interact socially with others less, as a result of social distancing and lockdown. Yet if I become conscious of that tendency, I can ask myself, “Look, is this something that I want to occur?” If it is, then I can consciously embrace and accept it. If it isn’t, then I can take steps to counter the tendency, and to open myself up socially. The same is true of many, many different types of change that I might experience. As Jung would tell us, if we become conscious of what has happened to us, then we find new possibilities for responding to it, and for finding a new direction.

Jungian depth psychotherapy can be an excellent way to explore the implications and impacts of changes in our lives, and also of coming to understand the meaning of major life transitions that we are undergoing. It can be an excellent tool for becoming more conscious of the events in your life, and for understanding the meaning and unfolding of your own journey towards wholeness.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Yearning for a New Direction

May 10th, 2021 · a new direction

This is a short post, exploring something of deep importance for us at this unique point in time, namely, the search for a new direction.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Psychologically speaking, the pandemic, the lockdown, and all the related issues have stirred things up pretty thoroughly for the vast majority of people. From a Jungian or depth psychotherapy perspective, we can say that most people are dealing with a strong intuition that whatever happens now, the future will not be like the past.

As has been the case since very ancient times, the anxiety of such times stirs up two conflicting archetypally based images or symbols in the minds of those living through them. These symbols have coloured the way humans have looked at change and the future for as long as there have been humans.

One is the archetype of the apocalypse. This is an image that certainly takes the reality of change seriously. If it could speak, it would say to us “Yes, things are changing dramatically! The whole world is going to hell in a handbasket! Everything good we’ve known is going down the toilet—forever!”

As in previous times of crisis or change, we can find that there are people who are gripped by this picture of total meltdown. In social media, we can certainly find the voices that say that we never will get out of the pandemic, or that, if we do, the world will be so hopelessly broken that it won’t be worth inhabiting. Sadly, many of the voices that are saying such things are young. Those of us who are older need to be particularly attuned to the voices of the young in our time, and we need to be prepared to do whatever we can to keep their hope alive.

While these apocalyptic ideas are circulating, it’s important for us to recognize that there’s a second archetypally based symbol that is stirring among us at this time, and that is the archetype of renewal through death and rebirth. There are very many people who recognize that things are not going to go back to exactly the way that they were before the pandemic. There has been change, and something—a certain way in which we lived and understood the world—has died and is gone forever.

Yet this imagery would emphasize that there is going to be rebirth on the other side of the pandemic. Something is dying, but something is also being born, and is bringing renewal and new life. People who discern this archetype are often very curious about the nature of the new direction in which we might be headed. “What is emerging? How will life call upon us to change and renew ourselves?”—these are questions most often associated with major life transitions of various types and forms.

In the coming weeks, I will be doing a series on the theme, “A New Direction”, asking what it looks like, what are the signs of it in our own lives, and how can we begin to respond to it meaningfully and creatively,

Wishing you every good thing on your journey towards wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

© 2021 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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