Journeying Toward Wholeness

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The Meaning of Summer: Soul and the Solstice in 2020

June 22nd, 2020 · meaning of summer

As we pass the summer solstice on June 21, it’s important for us to reflect on the meaning of summer. This is particularly true, given the challenges we’ve faced in 2020.

Summer Solstice Sunset

The human race has celebrated the arrival of summer at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, since prehistory. At many sites around the world, elaborate structures have been built to capture the sunlight of that special moment when the sun is at its highest in the sky. Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Mexico, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK circa 1000 BC, and the “Scottish Stonehenge” at Callanish circa 3000 BC are all examples of humans building extraordinary structures to capture this unique moment of the beginning of summer.

The solstice issues in the extraordinary days of summer, with their heat. In temperate climates there is often the sense that the world has become fully alive. As the poet William Carlos Williams puts it,

In the summer, the song sings itself.

C. Day Lewis waxes in a similar vein:

Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon.

Summer has this sense about it of the wonderful fullness of life. Especially in the early days of summer, in late June, it’s easy to agree with sportscaster Al Bernstein:

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

Yet this time of the early days of summer in late June, just after the solstice has a dual character. After all, the solstice day is the longest day of the year. From now on, the days will start to shorten, at first imperceptably. Yet, gradually, we’ll head through the “dog days” of summer into the fall, and on toward the short, faintly lit days around the winter solstice in December.

What is the Meaning of Summer for Us?

Very often, these transitory warm days can make us feel that now is the time when we should live our lives to the full. We should be out doing things that are fun, travelling and seeing new places, having new adventures and connecting with the people who matter to us. The impulse is there to just generally live large, to relax and enjoy things and to “get while the getting’s good.”

For just this reason, the season of summer can generate anxiety, or even depression, for some people. It can often feel like there are all these wonderful opportunities out there at in these passing summer days, and that I should be out there enjoying them to the full. Yet, there can be fear that “I’m missing out”, or somehow not getting enough of the wonderful things that belong to this season, as it rushes by us all too quickly.

This Summer: A Particular Sense of Loss

In my opinion, this feeling of “missing out” on summer is something a great many people are particularly feeling at this time. We all feel that this is the season when we are wanting to get out into the world with our summer plans. Yet this year, much more than in the average year, many of us are intensely experiencing the sense that we may not get all the good things from summer–and ultimately from life–that we feel we want and need, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

We feel deprived, and very much as if something has been lost. This feeling may serve to bring some key questions into focus in our lives. What is it that we actually do want in our lives? And how do we go about getting it?

It’s would be easy to get lost in a sense of stuckness about all this. After several months of lockdown, which will still continue in some form or other for some time to come, we could easily be left with the feeling that the situation is too big. We might feel that it’s too overwhelming for us to do anything about it, and so we could end up feeling paralyzed. What can often happen to us in the face of something that feels overwhelming is that we can move into emotional denial that there is even any issue, and then just ignore it. Such denial would make it that much more difficult for us to get what we need from life at this point in our life journey.

Getting Unstuck, and Getting What We Need

The early days of summer are unfolding. As we simultaneously deal with the unusual constraints of lockdown, it can be particularly important not to succumb to a sense of powerlessness and stuckness. It’s important to identify what we really want from summer, and from life. Then, it’s important to think carefully and creatively about how to go about getting it. Travel and hotel accommodation might not be in the cards this summer, but are there other things, such as creative day trips, or experiences at home or nearby, that might bring vitality and enhance the meaning of summer in my life?

Working with a supportive depth psychotherapist can be an excellent way of exploring creative options that make the most of your summer, and that open creative and life-giving doors in your life as a whole.

With warm wishes for your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Major Life Transition: Envisioning the Future After COVID-19

June 15th, 2020 · future after COVID 19

We’re currently undergoing a collective major life transition, due to the impact of coronavirus. We’re all striving to envisage the future after COVID-19.

It’s a big occurence when an individual undergoes a major life transition. What does it mean for us all, when a great many individuals in a society undergo related major life transitions simultaneously?

C.G. Jung was very wary of about using statistics to describe the journey toward wholeness of individuals. Yet there can be a place for statistics in discerning the impact of major events on the lives of many people in a society. A study by Nanos Research for the Mental Health Commission of Canada has indicated that the number of Canadians feeling stressed regularly has increased dramatically in the COVID era. However, it also showed that many Canadians were experiencing a greater appreciation for friends and family, an interest in returning to a simpler life, and less interest in buying and owning material possessions.

In research for the Globe and Mail, Nanos found that most Canadians don’t think that we will simply revert to our prepandemic lifestyle. Also, a great many people feel that COVID has generated a greater appreciation for life, and what is really important in life. Nanos interprets this as a return to self-reflection and “soul searching”–akin perhaps to the experience of “soul making” that I referred to in my last blog post.

Possibility

One of the things that can be very difficult for individuals in dealing with a crisis such as COVID-19 is the sense that the future has been foreclosed. Living with the amount of uncertainty that we are experiencing in many cases, it can easily feel like the door to the future is shut, and that there are no good possibilities open to us. It is very easy to feel powerless, both as individuals, and as a society.

Yet, it’s very important for us to be clear on the difference between actual powerlessness, and a lack of ability to imagine possible directions in which things might move. And, we might add, it’s particularly important to think about what direction we might want things to go, for our personal lives, and for our collective life as a society.

How can we engage or connect with possibilities that we might be able to live out? We’ve been living with a set of assumptions about how our world works that we carry in both our conscious lives, and in our unconscious mind. They condition us, and lead us to feel that they represent “the way the world is” Yet, they actually may represent merely our projections, individual and collective, upon that world. Could a situation such as the one we’re confronting at present possibly change our perceptions–in useful and life-giving ways?

Soul and Envisaging the Future

It can take a considerable amount of courage and strength to envisage a future that could be good for us and that could be well-suited to who we are. It could also require us to know a great deal about ourselves, and what we really want and need–as opposed to what others expect of us.

It can be easy to let ourselves be driven and motivated by the expectations of others. However the net effect of this can be that we get driven further and further away from who we really are. We can end up getting caught in a rut of conformity that feels futile, and lacks meaning. At a time like the present, when the conventional world that we have known seem to be rapidly changing, that could be a recipe for despair.

Envisaging Your Future After COVID-19

To envisage meaningful future possibilities for ourselves, we have to know what we want. This is true whether we are considering our own individual future, or the broader future, that embraces the entire future of our society. This may require exploring parts of ourselves which are not that familiar, and attitudes and feelings that have been in the background for a long time, yet are only coming to the fore in the present. In a huge number of peoples’ dreams at the present time, there is a common theme: something new is breaking in. It’s essential for us to be attentive what that might embody.

In the present time time, we’re called to self-exploration and a self-compassionate acceptance of who we fundamentally are. These things are actually fundamental to a vision of a future after COVID-29. It can be of tremendous assistance in developing that self-knowledge and self-love to work with a Jungian depth psychotherapist, as an individual works toward a viable, meaningful way to move into the future.

Wishing you every good thing on your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Coping with Anger–in the Midst of COVID-19

June 8th, 2020 · coping with anger

Alongside anxiety, one of the feeling reactions that many people are experiencing in the midst of COVID-19 is anger.

We experience this in quite a number of different forms. In fact, along with anxiety, fear and confusion, many of us may experience anger of more than one type, as we’re dealing with the unusual and difficult aspects of the COVID-19 experience.

It’s important to emphasize that anger is perfectly normal. In many cases, it’s a perfectly understandable and justified feeling. Many people feel anger or irritability at situations in their lives, and, usually those feelings are not a problem for us.

Before we look at the specifics of COVID-19 and anger, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the types of life situations where we experience anger. Generally speaking, anger occurs to let us know that something is wrong. Anger can occur: when things feel out of our control; when we feel frustrated or thwarted in reaching a goal or obtaining something that we feel we need or want; or when we, or someone we care about, gets really hurt, disrespected or violated.

Healthy anger has an important part to play in our lives. However, if it comes up for us in ways that are more intense than we might expect, or occurs so frequently that we can’t enjoy our lives anymore, or occurs in ways that injure our health or connections with people whom we love or care about, then we need to take steps to take care of ourselves, or to get the help that we need.

Accepting the Reality of Our Anger

As mentioned above, anger is the emotion that lets us know that something is wrong. Well, for many of us, the COVID-19 situation and related lockdown makes us feel like there is a whole lot wrong.

Many people find themselves confined to home, and unable to go to their workplace. They also find they can’t go to a restaurant, or to any kind of social gathering. Many find themselves with kids at home, whose school year is in jeopardy, or they have elderly relatives whose health they worry about. There’s a whole range of ways in which COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make us feel a very substantial lack of control. This combines with a deep sense of frustration at not being able to achieve desired outcomes or goals, and deep concern about the potential for harm to people whom we care about.

Can We Listen to Our Anger?

Some people are very in touch with this anger. However, there are many people who find the anger very hard to acknowledge. Yet, there may be some real importance in feeling and coming to terms with the anger associated with this COVID-19 time. A part of the messaging in our culture is that “nice people don’t get angry.” “After all,” many of us might tell ourselves, “what’s the use of talking about all this, and getting angry? It’s just getting upset for no good reason.”

Yet, there actually is a very good reason for acknowledging our anger around COVID-19 and related matters. It would be naive to think that, just because we don’t acknowledge our anger, it somehow goes away forever. As depth psychotherapists well know, if we repress something, which means pushing it out of our conscious mind, it keeps on going in our unconscious mind. From there, it can have a whole range of effects on us, many of them negative.

For instance, we can find that our anger “comes out sideways”, meaning that we find ourselves erupting into anger at other people or other situations, where the anger is completely unjustified. Or, we can find that unacknowledged anger leads us to be generally emotionally suppressed or “shut down”, and perhaps even depressed. In addition, anger that goes completely unacknowledged can have serious effects on our health, manifesting in terms of stress-related issues, and also having a strong negative effect on our bodies in areas like our cardiovascular system, or or digestive tract.

As we explore our anger, we may also find that other feelings, such as grief, sorrow, and even fear, hide within it. Acknowledging these feelings, dialoguing with them, and allowing ourselves to hear what they have to say to us may be a very important part of coming to terms with our lives as we move towards the post-COVID-19 period.

Anger and Soul Amidst COVID-19

Jungian depth psychotherapists use the terms “soul” and “soul-making” to refer to experiences that make us deeper, and that give us an enhanced awareness of who we are. In that sense, acknowledging and exploring our anger in the midst of this COVID-19 time can be an experience of “soul-making”. It can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and of where we can find meaning and direction in our lives.

In a time like the present, we are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and difficulty in determining our future direction, both personally and collectively. It can be a matter of great importance to acknowledge the anger that we are experiencing, and to do so in a self-compassionate way.

In coming to terms with anger, the support of a relationship with a depth psychotherapist can be of great value. It can serve us by helping us to feel that we are not alone, that our feelings are legitimate, and that they are part of our overall journey towards wholeness.

Wishing you every good thing on the journey,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Understanding the Meaning of My Dreams During COVID-19

June 1st, 2020 · meaning of my dreams

One of the things that COVID-19 lockdown has led to is that people are dreaming more–and, often wondering “What is the meaning of my dreams?” Do they mean anything?

Surveys that have been done by authoritative sources indicate that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, we may be sleeping less well than we did, but we tend to be sleeping somewhat more. The result of this is that many people surveyed report that they remember more dreams than in pre-lockdown times. What’s more, these dreams tend not to be of the peaceful, relaxing variety.

Harvard psychologist Dierdre Barrett has conducted an international survey of dreams during COVID-19. She has found that numbers of dreams that we would classify as nightmares have increased dramatically. This is consistent with results found in previous times of trauma, disaster or dramatically heightened anxiety, such as in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

Around the time of 9-11, there was a dramatic increase in anxious dreams involving themes such as planes crashing into buildings or terrorist attacks. In the time of COVID-19, not surprisingly, dreams are featuring themes like masses of maggots, swarms of bugs and hoards of cockroaches or worms. As Barrett points out, in colloquial language we often refer to getting a virus as “catching a bug”, so such imagery would very aptly express our anxieties in the current coronavirus-obsessed world. It seems that we’re witnessing a new phenomenon: the pandemic dream.

Focusing on the Meaning of My Dreams in COVID-19 Times

It’s certainly true that many of the dreams that people are experiencing have strong roots in everyday experience. It’s not really surprising that dreams of “bugs” are appearing frequently at this time, when one of our biggest anxieties concerns “catching a bug”. It’s also clear that many of these pandemic dreams reflect our anxiety. However, I would suggest that this anxiety may be about considerably more than just the narrow anxiety around catching the virus.

This may take us back to a fundamental question: why does dreaming exist at all? There have always been those who view dreaming as “the rubbish dump of the brain”, or “the brain clearing its tapes”, but today, there are very many more people who feel that dreaming serves a valuable function for us as we seek to move forward in our lives. Why would we dream, if not to enable us to adapt better?

If we approach dreams symbolically, as depth psychotherapists do, we could see the appearance of bugs, roaches, worms etc. as themselves a symbolic representation of anxiety, or of gnawing thoughts. While it’s true that many people may be currently experiencing fear of the COVID “bug”, what might be less obvious but essential to recognize, is that there are a great many gnawing anxieties in the present situation: the disease itself, for sure; the economic situation; the impact the situation is having on our relationships and families, and many, many more important issues.

Why It’s Important to be Open to Dreams

This is why it may be very important to be attentive to the particulars of the dream. A dream may be pointing to a very great deal of anxiety, but its essential to get a sense of what the anxiety is actually about. Because dreams offer us the opportunity to gain a glimpse of what is happening within us on the unconscious level, they can give us an important “way in” to understand the nature of our anxiety. They may also offer us important clues as to how to move beyond the anxiety, and to enable us to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, meaning and direction in our lives.

This is why it’s so unfortunate if we don’t give our dreams and our unconscious personality the chance to be heard. If we miss out on taking our dreams seriously, we may well be missing our chance at connecting to resources that could actually help bring some sense of forward movement to us at times in our lives when we feel we are completely “stuck”.

In my opinion, the word “stuck” is very important here, given our current situation worldwide. The strong message that I’m hearing from very many people is that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, and all the restrictions, individuals are experiencing a strong sense of being “stuck”. We’re at a time of major life transition. For many people, both individually and collectively, there is a strong sense that things are not going to go back to the way that they were. For many of us, there is the sense that the future will look different, but its hard to get a clear sense of exactly how.

Paying attention to our dreams, and to what they tell us about our current life situation may be an important step in getting beyond our stuckness.

What Will You Do about Your Dreams?

Dreams can be an important source of self-understanding, and they can help us move forward in our lives. This is always true, but it’s especially true during this time of COVID-19.

I would strongly encourage anyone who remembers a dream to keep a record of it, and to reflect upon it, because there can be a wealth of understanding in dreams. It may also be valuable to consult with a therapist who is well-versed in dreams and dream symbolism, as Jungian depth psychotherapists are.

With every good wish that the meaning of your dreams will open itself to you, and grace your own personal direction in this challenging time,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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We Need to Think about Social Anxiety and Coronavirus

May 25th, 2020 · social anxiety and coronavirus

As a society, and as individuals, we’re going to have to deal with the realities of social anxiety and coronavirus.

As the picture above of our individual enjoying his socially distanced day at the beach might suggest, it’s likely that we’re going to be dealing with the effects and after-effects of the COVID-19 “shelter-in-place” policies for some time. How is that going to impact us?

One the things that is having the most dramatic impact is the increase in levels of social anxiety. It may be that some people are bursting at the seams, almost, to rush back into social interaction. However, as depth psychotherapists know very well from experience with clients, there are as many, and quite probably more, individuals who face the prospect of increased social interaction with genuine anxiety and dread.

Coronavirus Heightens Social Anxiety

For two and a half months now, we have lived with the realities of “social distancing” and “shelter in place”. Most of us “know the drill.” We avoid others on the sidewalk, wear face masks; wash hands frequently; submit to controlled passage through grocery stores; and disinfect after handing anything from outside the home. In short, we’ve adapted to a new environment. As we’ve done this, what was once a benign, friendly and inviting world has become, not exactly menacing, but uncertain, and many people find that difficult.

It’s clear that, for some people, going out into the coronavirus world is proving challenging. A surprising number of people have kept almost entirely confined to their homes. It’s not uncommon for clients to tell their analysts or therapists that they haven’t been outside of their homes more than a handful of times since “shelter in place” began. Some people add that they don’t even go to the grocery store, choosing to have all their groceries delivered and/or to have many of their meals delivered.

It’s particularly concerning when you ask individuals who are facing these issues about the future. As one person put it, “I can’t imagine going outside again, when this is all over. Even if there’s a vaccine, I’m going to have trouble getting out there.” There are strong grounds for concern that the impact of the lockdown on our psyche is going to be substantial. As has been said, perhaps the recession we should be most concerned about is not the economic one, but rather the social recession — people retreating into their private spheres, and finding it difficult to emerge.

Our Social Instinct

To be ourselves, to be fundamentally human, is to be social. Although the social instinct is expressed in a different way, this is just as true for introverted folks as it is for extroverts. We may not crave the concert of a pop superstar, or feel a great sense of solidarity with the fans at Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, but even the most inward of us relies on social connection with others to obtain food, shelter, clothing and transportation, to make a living, and to feel appreciated and validated, through interaction with others.

Since our days in Africa’s Olduvai Gorge, and even before, we and our ancestors like the famous “Lucy” have been fundamentally social creatures, who exist in relationship to others. If we’re impaired in our social functioning, we lose part or all of our ability to live a full human life, and, in Jungian terms, to individuate (or, “journey towards wholeness”).

Surveys on mental health and COVID-19, such as that done by the Australian National University have shown that the social disruption caused by the lockdown is substantial. The data would suggest that people are feeling anxious about the prospects of social re-connection. Also, people who fear germs, such as people with obsessive compulsive issues, are concerned about going back into public spaces. It’s also quite possible that people who haven’t really experienced anxiety or depression could actually have a more difficult time than those who have, because they haven’t had to deal with this type of thing before.

It may well be important for people who haven’t had to deal with much anxiety or depression to monitor their own reactions as they go through the remainder of this lockdown process. If people are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression as this process goes on, it could be very important to reach out for help. Fortunately, in the age of online therapy, this can be easily done, even in the midst of lockdown conditions.

Through Social Anxiety Toward Meaning

It’s important for all of us to seek to stay socially connected, and to firmly but gently challenge ourselves to explore our anxieties and fears, as we get back into social interaction. It’s important for us to be kind and self-compassionate, if we notice any linkage in ourselves between social anxiety and coronavirus, but also to not be passive or complacent. Quality depth psychotherapy, such as Jungian therapy, may well be of great assistance in this process, which for all of us is a major life transition.

With best wishes on your journey to wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Extroverts and Coronavirus: Coping with “Shelter in Place”

May 11th, 2020 · extroverts and coronavirus

We started to look at issues around COVID-19 and personality type last week; this week’s post explores extroverts and coronavirus.

There are significant differences between introverts and extroverts when it comes to their experience of the coronavirus lockdown. Granted, it’s true that even strong introverts can have too much social isolation in similar ways to extroverts, and also that both introverts and extroverts struggle with the mixing of private home space and work space. Yet the strong extrovert runs into some issues that are quite unique to her or his personality type.

What exactly do we actually mean when we say that someone is an “extrovert”? It’s not widely known that C.G. Jung actually developed the concept of extroversion. As he described it, an extrovert is someone who seeks to be involved with other people and the external world with “a desire to influence and be influenced by events.” He was referring to the person who is brought to life by social interaction, quite possibly in groups and who is often “the life of the party”, the “people person”. Jung also defines an extrovert as someone who is energized by social interactions.

What Happens When You Lock Down an Extrovert?

If you’re an extrovert, you thrive on engagement with other people and with the wider world. Socializing with others gives you energy and makes you feel good. As an extrovert, you likely value being around different people, socializing with them, and doing a variety of activities.

Unfortunately, being around people, face-to-face socialization, and getting the chance to switch from activity to activity are just the things that the current COVID-19 lockdown situation makes difficult. If we abide with the lockdown restrictions, we can’t mix with people other than our immediate family. Social distancing at 2 metres apart is not the same thing as face-to-face interaction and the brain knows it. In addition, if you have each person in a conversation wearing a protective face mask — well, let’s just say, party’s over.

Extroverts and Coronavirus — and Denial!

One important way in which we see extroverts attempting to get the social connection that they need is by using various technologies to get it virtually. We’re all aware of the advent of online happy hours, Netflix viewing parties, Zoom group meetings, virtual yoga, Tai Ch’i and exercise classes and all the other varieties of virtual interaction which have arisen — including the true heyday of online therapy.

These virtual techniques can offer assistance with the effects of social isolation. They can actually help extroverted individuals to feel a little more at ease and more positive about their life situation during the lockdown period. However, they are probably not providing enough gratification to truly be sustaining throughout an extended lockdown.

The danger might be that outer-directed individuals might not notice the emotional effects of the lockdown. In fact, one of the features of the lockdown that seems very prevalent is a sort persistent tiredness and lack of energy that many people are experiencing. This seems like it might well be rooted in a kind of low-grade depression.

Expressing Extroverted Energy During Lockdown

If as an individual, you are experiencing this, it’s very important to acknowledge this feeling, as it may well be one of the accompaniments of extroversion and coronavirus lockdown. The Washington Post quotes human resources research scientist Dr. Michael Wilmot:

being active, engaging in activities that are new and exciting, and experiencing positive emotions are [all] important for extroverts.

While opportunities to do these things may be more limited during the lockdown than previously, they do still exist. Staying active is something of great importance to extroverts, so, if you live in a place where it’s still permitted, like Ontario, walking, hiking, running and biking are all great ways to do this. It may be, too, that there’s joy and life in dancing or playing “air guitar” while listening to loud music, and if you can do this with someone else over Facetime or another app, so much the better!

Another thing that might have meaning for extroverts in the course of lockdown is doing things that have a positive or valuable effect on the outer world, such as:

  • contributing in some way to your favourite cause or charity;
  • being active in some way such as letter writing for some political or social cause that is important to you; or,
  • expressing thanks in some meaningful way to first-line responders or essential workers.

Finally, it may be valuable and meaningful to extroverts to consider therapy such as Jungian depth psychotherapy to help explore their own feelings, and to discover particular things that each person can do to express their own feelings and to allow themselves to feel truly connected with others and with the world.

With very best wishes to each of you as we make our way through this period towards its hopefully rapid conclusion, and as you move on your journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Inner Life and the Lockdown: COVID 19 and Introverts

May 4th, 2020 · covid 19 and introverts

I’m looking at COVID-19 and introverts this week as part of a two-part series on personality type and the lockdown.

Understanding the ways in which the lockdown situation impacts different personality types is important As introverts and extroverts, it’s essential for us to understand how this strange situation is impacting us. It’s also vital for us to know how we can take care of ourselves, hopefully grow, and possibly flourish, under the present conditions.

This week the focus will be on introverts. Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the impact on extroverts.

Is Lockdown “Introvert Heaven”?

In speaking with quite a number of clients, it’s striking to hear the kind of messages that people recall receiving from the media and other sources back at the start of the COVID-19 period, when we were all just starting to think about lockdown. Many of us wondered, “How are people going to manage all the spare time they will have on their hands?” Often, observers and experts like therapists and psychologists also observed that introverts would probably have less anxiety and an easier time managing a stay-at-home environment than would extroverts.

It seems intuitive that introverts would have an easier time than extroverts with lockdown conditions. With more focus on the inner life, and less need for outer social interaction, wouldn’t a stay-at-home world be better for introverts?

Well, it may be that the lockdown is “better” for introverts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s “good”. There are things that introverts are finding very hard about being locked down.

For an introvert, “home” has typically been a sanctuary from the outside world, a place to get away from all the external social interaction. Yet now, home has become something different. As Abby Ohlheiser recently wrote in the MIT Technology Review, for many people, “[l]iving rooms that were once a sanctuary from people-filled offices, gyms, bars, and coffee shops became all those things at once.” As she goes on to say, people are attempting to virtually re-create what lockdown has taken away, but,

…[t]he new version, however, only vaguely resembles what we left behind. Everything is flattened and pressed to fit into the confines of chats and video-conference apps like Zoom, which was never designed to host our work and social lives all at once. The result for introverts, extroverts and everyone in between, is the bizarre feeling of being socially overwhelmed despite the fact that we’re staying as far away from each other as we can. [Italics mine]

So, it seems as if, under lockdown conditions, introverts may not be getting what they really want or need. So then, what do introverts actually need?

COVID-19 and Introverts: Awareness Needed

Pretty clearly, the capacity to get away from social contact and to relate to one’s inner thoughts and feelings, is fundamental to what it means to be an introvert. Whether you’re out in the busy entertainment district of a huge city, or on your own in the wilderness, the ability to connect with your inner self is the hallmark of an introvert. So, even if we’re in our homes on our own, and ostensibly “in private”, an introvert is going to need self-connection.

What is startling about the COVID-19 situation is the ways in which it can interrupt self-connection. In the midst of “social self-isolation”, the introvert can find him- or herself in the midst of his or her own home, surrounded by technologies that intrude on personal space, together with kids who can’t go to school, dealing with an endless flow of work. As one such introvert working from home put it, “I used to use two hours a day commuting. Now I don’t do that, but that two hours has just become part of the endless flow of work.” In this boundariless space, in the midst of the “privacy” or one’s own home, it’s easy for the personal dimension to get completely lost.

In the midst of lockdown, there is a great need for an introvert to be aware of the things that intrude on the space inside of her or him, and to safeguard that space. It’s a time when, for themselves, and for the people to whom they are connected, introverts have to be aware of, and faithful to, their innermost voices.

COVID-19 and Introverts: Staying Faithful

The challenge for introverts in the midst of lockdown is to connect with their inner life, to stay in touch with it, and to increasingly express that reality in the way they live their lives. This is really the same challenge that introverts face every day of their lives, if they wish to a satisfying life with integrity, that is a reflection of who they uniquely are.

These formidable challenges can also provide an opportunity, despite the fact that this particular period is so demanding. Never has the need been as great for introverts to accept, listen to, and live out who they most fundamentally are. To be faithful to oneself in this period may form the basis of a very significant major life transition.

Psychotherapy in the context of trusting and secure depth psychotherapy can assist the introvert greatly in his or her personal journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Finding Meaning and Resilience in Life (and During COVID-19)

April 20th, 2020 · meaning and resilience

In recent years, Jungian depth psychotherapists have become more aware of how finding meaning and resilience are connected in our lives.

Psychologists have studied the question of resilience in great depth over the last few decades. Although the term “resilience” gets thrown around rather loosely in the popular media, what psychology has learned is extremely important in its implications for our lives.

Among the great names in resilience psychology, one of the greatest is developmental psychologist Emmy Werner of UC Davis. She studied resilience across the lifespan, and was involved in a 32 year long study that followed 698 children in Kauai, Hawaii. As a result of this work, she identified characteristics that enabled some of these children to cope with adverse family situations or great life stressors in ways that some of their peers could not.

Meaning and Resilience Fit Together

Werner found that this particularly resilient group of kids had an “internal locus of control”. In other words, these kids believed on some level that they had the capacity to create their own achievements and to determine the direction of their lives, in important ways. These resilient kids saw themselves as creating their own outcomes by their life choices.

In addition, Werner found that, as they journeyed through their lives, the group of resilient children very often had sources of spiritual, philosophical or religious support that allowed them to make meaning out of events in life, including events that we might call traumatic. This doesn’t mean that they were necessarily “religious” in a conventional sense, but they were able to fit things that happened in their lives into a greater context that enabled them to feel that their lives had direction, purpose and meaning.

Werner’s work focused initially on children. However, the question of meaning and resilience is one that has great importance in the context of our adult journey towards wholeness also. It matters to our lives whether we are able to find a sense of meaning in what we are doing. It makes life much more sustainable, bearable, if we can feel that there is positive value in our actions. Humans need the sustaining sense that life is moving in a direction that has value to us. We also need to feel that we are empowered agents who can make a valuable contribution to some degree in making that occur.

Jung stressed the centrality of this point when he famously stated:

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

Finding Resilience and Meaning in Our Time

In 21st century life, it can be difficult to feel that our individual lives matter. We live in a world where big impersonal forces seem to strongly influence the shape of our lives, and where large organizations like governments and corporations determine much of the shape of our personal worlds, and make decisions about vital interests like employment, education and the natural environment that the individual can often seem powerless to influence.

This COVID-19 period, and the current lockdown, can easily enhance this sense of powerlessness. Confined to home, with very limited interaction with others, individuals can very easily feel that they are disempowered and at the mercy of external events in the world. Many people are currently experiencing a sense of anxiety at this isolation, and quite a number are experiencing some level of depression.

It could be very easy to deny that this is what we’re experiencing, and to try to carry on in a business-as-usual kind of way, as if everything is “just fine”. However, conversations I’ve had with quite a number of people show clearly that this approach is frequently leading to people having unpredictable, out-of-nowhere angry eruptions, bouts of sadness, and periods of despondency. There’s a need to honestly face the particular difficulties of this major life transition.

Finding and Serving Your Meaning

Despite the hardships of the COVID period, this may be an important time in our individual lives. Whatever else this period signifies, it may be a very important moment to think deeply and carefully about what truly brings meaning and value into your life. This may also relate powerfully to the key story that you tell yourself about your life, your purpose and your meaning — what Jung would call your “personal myth”.

It’s true that we’re living in a time of limitation and constraint. There are definite limitations on the things that we can do in the outer world, without a doubt. Yet it may be very important to ask ourselves what we can do that allows us to exercise our power, to have an effect on ourselves, on those close to us, and / or on the outer world that, in some way or other, creates more of “the good stuff” in the world that we really value. To the extent that we can do that, and can contribute to a value that’s greater than ourselves, we are using our power, and contributing to the sense of meaning and value in our lives.

Depth psychotherapy can contribute a great deal to the development of the sense of meaning and resilience in our lives. Particularly now, as we deal with the COVID-19 situation, it may be a source of genuine support, as we look for sustaining depth in our lives.

Wishing you and all of those close to you all the very best during these demanding days,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty and Isolation

April 12th, 2020 · finding hope

For those of the Christian faith, this weekend is the festival of Easter, which, above all, is associated with finding hope, and also with the spring season.

Yet, this year, Easter is falling in the midst of the COVID-19 situation, with all the isolation, uncertainty and anxiety that all of us, of every faith and none, are experiencing. What does hope mean in our present context, and where do we go about finding hope?

Well, one key source of hope may be finding ways to connect with other people in the midst of the current isolation. This may well be a time when it’s particularly important for us to find ways to reach out and be with others, even if we can’t be physically present. It may be a time to celebrate the value that others bring into our lives, and to explicitly tell them that we cherish the connection with them.

This may also be a time when we want and need to think about the future, after COVID-19. We need to envisage what we want from the future when the season of COVID ends, and to actively hope for it. Finding hope will mean actively take steps to make that future happen. At such times of major life transition, as the author Rebecca Solnit tells us in her book Hope in the Dark,

Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future…. To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.

To think about hope that “shoves us out the door” is very evocative in this time of isolation! And where will we find the resources and the inner joy and creative will that are the impetus we need for this? In my opinion there is something of great value to be found in another quote, a famous and beautiful paragraph from Albert Camus:

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back

This “something stronger” to which Camus refers is something beyond our regular ego. It is the greater whole of the personality, which Jungians and some others refer to as the Self. That is the reality which makes finding hope a living possibility.

Depth psychotherapy can be an important vehicle to enable contact with the living reality of this greater personality, and an important place to explore the embers of our own individual hope.

Wishing all of you all the good things of this season of hope and renewal,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Teletherapy: Online Psychotherapy Can Bring Great Benefits

April 6th, 2020 · online psychotherapy, teletherapy

Since March 16, I’ve written 3 posts on COVID-19. This post isn’t exactly on that topic, but the subject of teletherapy is surprisingly closely related — and important.

Why would anyone say that? Well, because one thing that COVID-19 has made clear is that teletherapy or online psychotherapy, if you prefer the latter term, is now an essential part of the way that therapy is delivered.

I’ve used online therapy for quite a long time in my practice, and I believe my clients have found it effective. Yet now, the COVID-19 situation has made it virtually impossible in many nations like Canada for therapists and clients to physically sit in the same room together. So therapists have suddenly found that it’s very important to find ways to connect and be present with clients that don’t entail being in the same room. That means that, for now at least, therapists are finding that teletherapy is the main means of delivering psychotherapy.

Experience has shown me that, for some potential clients, teletherapy seems like something that they could readily imagine themselves doing, and that they feel would be very effective. However, other potential clients might want to understand the whole process a great deal better before they were ready to try it.

Yes, Good Online Psychotherapy is Possible!

You can definitely have online psychotherapy that is actually good therapy. Under many circumstances, the therapeutic connection, and the quality of the actual analytic or therapeutic work can be just as high as it would be if the therapist and client were sitting in a room together.

There is now a strong body of evidence in support of the effectiveness of teletherapy. Nonetheless, there are still voices raised that sometimes call its use into question, or else see it as the “poor relation” of face-to-face therapy.

What about People who Need Psychotherapy, and Who Can’t be Physically Present?

In recent years, I can think of a number of people whom I’ve had as clients, who simply wouldn’t have been able to be physically present to do the work. Some examples of this are particularly striking.

One compelling case involves a client who started to work with me at a time when he was undergoing a major life transition. In fact, he was undergoing a midlife event that challenged just about every aspect of his life. He felt that he was confronted with the very real possibility of leaving both his marriage and his job, and was facing impacts on many major relationships in his life. (Facts have been changed to ensure client confidentiality.)

Exactly as this crisis came to a head, about a month and a half into his therapy, Client, who was a geological engineer, was required to return to northern Ontario to “sit” on an isolated mine site. The site was a “fly in” location, and Client was required to be there for an extended period.

There was no question of Client accessing a therapist in person in his isolated mining camp in the Canadian Shield. Yet there were very major life issues that were unfolding in an immediate way for Client, and he really needed to process fully, as there was a tremendous amount at stake for Client.

If Client had not been able to access therapy via online video, and experienced the kind of support, validation, and encouragement to really explore his feelings and thoughts, he could well have made some life choices that he would have regretted for the rest of his life. As it turned out, Client was able to make choices that really came from the deepest parts of himself, and that he continues to feel good about into the present.

Looking at Some Objections to Teletherapy

There are several objections that are often raised to online therapy. Here are a few of the more common ones.

Online therapy is cold and lacks intimacy. Many people who have not done teletherapy, or who have done it when the equipment has not been properly set up, are left with the impression that it is distant and impersonal. If the equipment is set up correctly, however, and if the therapist in particular knows how to create connection, online therapy can be just as powerful an experience of emotional connection as in-person.

Doing therapy through online technology makes people feel inhibited. This point is similar to the one above. The root objection seems to be that speaking through computers via online link can make people uptight, and less likely to engage in frank self-revelation of the type that is so essential to therapy. Yet, the simple fact is that people form trusting connections with their therapists over online video links every day

There are all sorts of non-verbal cues that get missed in teletherapy. There’s a measure of truth in this. With online psychotherapy, the therapist doesn’t usually see whole body of the client, so she or he may not get the benefit of certain types of non-verbal feedback. On the other hand, any therapist can learn a very great deal about the internal state of the client by asking the right questions about what is going on in their body.

Perhaps the ultimate objection to teletherapy from therapists is in the following paragraph.

Clients don’t value therapy if they don’t do it in person. This sentiment seems to be common among many who have been in the psychotherapy profession for some time. However, my observation would be that it just doesn’t seem to be true. I have spoken to a number of other therapists who have done extensive amounts of online therapy. We all can point to clients who have done work online who value their therapeutic work greatly, and who seem to have had great personal benefit from the work.

The mirror image of this “won’t value if they don’t do the work while physically present is the case described above. What about the people who really need therapy, but who can only access it online?

Teletherapy and the Journey to Wholeness

There are many examples like that of Client above that firmly convince me that good depth psychotherapy work can be done via teletherapy. Online psychotherapy has a key role to play in many peoples’ journey to wholeness. This is more true than ever in the COVID-19 era.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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