Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Who are you really? Identity, Vocation and Wholeness

October 24th, 2022 · who are you really

“Who are you really?” is one of those cut-through-the-bumpf type of questions. If you ask it seriously of yourself, it can take you on quite a journey.

Really. (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

“Who are you really?” One of the remarkable things about this question is that it packs a wallop no matter where you are in your life. Whether you’re a young adult or a senior, stable or in transition, male or female—it doesn’t matter. The question is always a powerful one if we ask it of ourselves sincerely. Getting as close as possible to the heart of who you really are is always relevant.

One of the things that happens in human life is that people can lose sight of who they are, or realize that they’ve never really come to terms with who they are. One of the characteristics of being human is that people often face expectations that they will perform a certain role, or show up in social situations in a certain way. The expectations of others can come to us in the context of relationships, family expectations, or the expectations of broader social groups or the society as a whole. These expectations may line up with who a person is, and what they actually want, or they may have nothing to do with a person’s real identity.


“Now, wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “just what exactly is this ‘real identity” that you’re speaking about? How can we even be sure that we have some kind of ‘real identity’? Isn’t the identity that we have created by our social interactions?

There’s truth in this. It’s essential to acknowledge that human beings are fundamentally social beings, and that the social influence of others has a huge impact on who we are as people. Any honest and complete picture of human life has to acknowledge the power and pervasiveness of the social dimension of our reality.

And yet, we also need to acknowledge our fundamental uniqueness. I intuit that there is something about my life that is different than all the others. I’m not special, but I am unique. On some very fundamental level, I am me, and that is different from all others. As C.G. Jung tells us,

Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncracy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination.

At least in seed form, that “innate idiosyncracy” is in us. At times of major life transition, the need to explore that fundamental identity often assumes a great deal of importance.


Nowadays, if you hear the word “vocation”, it’s most likely in the context of career. When we use words like “vocation” or “calling” today, we’re probably talking about what’s involved in becoming an accountant, pursuing a career in police services, or starting a physiotherapy business. And yet, there is a more fundamental possible meaning to the term.

It’s possible to think of vocation in terms of hearing the call of your own most fundamental being and nature. This has implications for “career”, certainly, but at a deeper level it is about accepting, being and expressing the unique reality of who you are. Oscar Wilde once famously advised,

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

We might also say, “Be yourself. There’s a place at the table with your name on it, and no being in the entirety of eternity—other than you—will ever be able to take it.”


How do you start to answer the question, “Who are you really?” There are no instant solutions; it’s a process, and to a certain extent, the answer is always evolving. But that doesn’t mean that exploring this question isn’t worthwhile..

There is value in trying to connect with what is most basically you. Exploring the experiences that make you feel most alive, examining what it was that was most enlivening and engaging when you were young, exploring the voice of your dreams can all be ways to begin to engage with “who are you really?” There are many more

Working with a supportive Jungian psychotherapist or analyst can be of great assistance in getting closer to our real identity. Integrating parts of the “undiscovered self” as Jung calls the aspects of our identity that are in the unconscious can be an essential part of our journey to wholeness. Having an ally and resource in answering the “who are you really?” question can make all the difference.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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People Pleaser Personality Traits and the Call of the Self

October 17th, 2022 · people pleaser personality

People pleaser personality traits are pretty common in our world. Many of us strive to meet the needs of others at all costs, even when we hurt ourselves.

(PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

What exactly do we mean when we refer to a “people pleaser personality”? Well, we’re referring to people who keep the peace and avoid conflict at all costs—even when it really hurts them. People pleasers are usually people who have a fair bit of capacity for feeling and for empathy. Because of that, they often give other people’s needs a higher priority than their own. They are often people who really want to be accepted and approved of, and these characteristics can make them very vulnerable.

Now, the capacity to accommodate the needs of others is a very important part of human life. As a social species, this ability to recognize the needs of others, and to create some room for them, is essential for our survival. But when we let it get out of hand, it can become problematic and self-destructive. At its extreme, it can prevent us from really developing as our unique selves (the process Jung refers to as individuation).

Many of us have aspects of the people pleaser personality. Some of us have so much of it, that it becomes a defining factor for much of our lives.

“I can’t help it. I want everybody to love me and it hurts so when anybody doesn’t.”

Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

What Do People Pleasers Do?

The simple answer is that people pleasers put aside their own desires and often their own needs, in order to win the approval of other people, and/or to avoid conflict. However, this can occur in a wide variety of ways. Consider, for instance, the marriage partner who for years and years continually acquiesces to their partner and continually puts aside their own needs and wishes. Or, similarly, imagine a sibling, who, even as an adult, continually puts aside their own priorities to suit the desires of brothers or sisters. Or there is the family member who continually chases the ever-elusive approval of a family member. And it’s common enough in the work place to find the employee who feels that he or she must avoid conflict with co-workers or management at all costs.

We can probably all recognize the dynamics of people-pleasing as showing up somewhere in our lives. Yet there’s a significant number of people for who these traits are spread broadly enough throughout their lives that it is appropriate to refer to a people pleasing personality. Often individuals recognize that they have these tendencies, but they find themselves unable to change or stop. These tendencies can be associated with a great deal of anxiety or depression.

Rooted in the Unconscious

People pleaser personality traits are deeply rooted in the individual’s unconscious mind, and, very often, are powerfully founded in the individual’s earliest and most important connections to primary family members. We call these connections attachment bonds. Because they are so fundamental, these attachment bonds often have a strong unconscious component, and that can make them very difficult to change.

If a child is confronted with a parent who is very focused on their own emotional needs, who doesn’t adequately take into account the emotional needs of the the child, one of two things often happen when the child expresses a different feeling than the parent’s. The parent may simply dismiss or ignore the child’s feelings, or the parent may punish and/or shame the child for having different feelings. Alternately a parent may take a victim stance, and blame and guilt the child for inflicting pain on the parent by having feelings that are different from the parent’s. Yet another possibility is that the parent places impossible, superhuman expectations on the child, while making the child feel completely inadequate if the expectations aren’t met.

Let’s say that we imagine any or all of the above scenarios as a pattern that prevails throughout childhood. The net effect can easily be that the child ends up feeling that he or she has to take care of the parents’ feelings. The child can feel responsible for keeping the parent in a good mood—and feel a crushing burden of shame and failure if they don’t.

In later life this can translate into an overpowering sense that the individual is responsible for other peoples’ feelings. He or she can be weighted under the burden of needing to taking care of, and be responsible for, other peoples’ feelings.

When the Spirits Come Back

There can come a point in the life journey where something irrevocably changes for the individual with people pleaser personality traits. Sometimes in conjunction with a major life transition or a midlife transition the individual may find that there is some part in her- or himself that simply will not longer acquiesce to denying itself and pleasing others. The individual who has been the completely compliant employee may find him or herself consumed with fantasies of going out to get lunch—and just never coming back. The spouse who has been their partners complete emotional caretaker or compliant servant may find that they simple can’t do it anymore—and something has to change.

Some part of the people pleaser’s personality that has been buried in what Jung calls the shadow suddenly emerges into consciousness, and insists on being recognized. The authentic person, with his or her needs and aspirations, and his or her sense of what is of value and what really matters in life emerges. And this person will not take no for an answer.

The People Pleaser Personality and the Self

It may be a moment of something like crisis for the people pleaser personality when the long-submerged personality, with all its hopes, dreams and yearnings emerges into consciousness. It may be a moment of intense confusion and disorientation, even though something of tremendous importance is happening to the individual. As the individual begins to uncover this part of the long-lost or undiscovered self, this may well be a time when he or she needs the right kind of ally or psychic support. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be of tremendous benefit in finding orientation and validation in this new landscape.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Making Hard Decisions: Through the Fire of Tough Choice

October 3rd, 2022 · making hard decisions

Making hard decisions is a theme that arises often in Jungian depth psychotherapy work. I’ve discussed it before, but it’s worthy of further exploration.

Sometimes we might end up hoping for signs of the right path to take. (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

One of the things that defines the character of our life is making decisions, even making hard decisions. If we didn’t have this capacity, it would be hard to recognize our lives as human. As John C. Maxwell pointed out,

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.

And on the other hand, as theologian Harvey Cox reminds us,

Not to decide is to decide.

On a visceral level, we know that the reality of choice defines a substantial part of the character of our lives. So, when we encounter situations where major, definitive choices are involved, it can feel like a great deal is at stake. Decisions can often define the shape of our lives. They can also often be tied right up with the things that bring a sense of fundamental meaning to our lives…

Can you recall a time in your life when you faced a really difficult personal choice? What did it feel like for you? Did you find yourself trapped in a place of indecision? How did you go about actually making the choice?

Are you confronting one or more major difficult decisions in your life now? If so, what is it about those decisions that makes the choice so hard?

Making Hard Decisions at Key Points in Our Lives

It is very common for hard decisions to confront us at times when we are making major life transitions. Sometimes a decision is what initiates a major transition. Yet, it may also be that other changes in our lives require making hard decisions. The need for this kind of decision doesn’t emerge in a vacuum.

We often find ourselves on the edge of a major decision as the result of a whole process that has unfolded in our life journey. For instance a decision about relationship, such as getting married, getting divorced or breaking up with someone arrives in our lives as the result of the unfolding of a whole relationship story within that particular relationship, and may well have roots in our life which are far more extensive than that! Similarly, a major career decision may have very deep roots into the most fundamental levels of our identity, and perhaps into conflicting aspects of ourselves.

hardest choices: conflict of values

Why We Tend to Avoid Making Big Decisions

On the one hand, it would be easy to say that the reason we avoid making big decisions is because making big decisions is stressful. While that is certainly true, it doesn’t really give us a clear picture of all that may be going on inside of us. Why is it that making big decisions is stressful?

While scholarly studies are never the be-all and end-all when it comes to issues involving the psyche, there is a very striking study by Kate Barasz of ESSADE and Serena F Haggerty of Harvard that suggests that people will even hope for bad news to eliminate the need for decision so that they can avoid the need to take personal responsibility for the outcome. This relates to a key issue with making hard decisions, namely that it can be hard to accept the responsibility for the outcome.

Related to this is the fact that the very hardest of decisions may involve conflict of values situations. In these situations we’re forced to choose between two things, both of which we value. Such choices may force us to decide which of two valued things we value more. This can be incredibly difficult.

Making Hard Decisions and Our Deepest Values

Making hard decisions involves deep soul searching, and also may well involve genuine sacrifice. In order to face the ordeal of making big decisions, it’s essential to get in touch with our deepest values. If we’re truly seeking our deepest values, we may well have to go into the realm of the unconscious mind, to find what it is that we value on the very deepest levels.

It may seem strange, but sometimes the key to what we most deeply value can be found in our depression or anxiety, or in some of the deepest pains that we have experienced in life. In trying to come to a hard decision, it can be essential to be in contact with, and listening to the parts of ourselves of which we may not usually be aware. The unconscious has an attitude toward the decisions we are going to make, and it may be vital to learn what that attitude is.

Working with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist to explore issues surrounding making hard decisions can be a valuable and affirming experience. It can serve to integrate our conscious and unconscious attitudes toward key decisions in a way that furthers the individual’s journey towards wholeness.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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What Does It Really Mean to Live Your Own Life?

September 26th, 2022 · live your own life

“You’ve gotta live your own life” is a trope that might remind you of the 1960s! Yet, there’s profound truth embedded in what might seem like a mere slogan.

What would it mean for you to live your own life? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

We can feel this impetus to “live your own life”, and the ways it has embedded itself in popular culture. For instance, through the time of the pandemic, and now in its aftermath, we have been hearing about “the Great Resignation”. Through the pandemic, many people have been actively leaving jobs where they faced burnout in precarious or stressful work environments. They have simply made the move, and gone on to other things. The popular imagination has been captured by the image of large numbers of people suddenly moving in the direction of what they want in life. As we have gone through this major life transition, it has evoked the question of “how do I go after what I really want?”

The inner urge to “live your own life” can powerfully capture our imagination. We can imagine going with our deepest inclinations, and being captivated by them, finding our lives suffused with meaning and value. There may be part of you that hears that persistent call to “live your own life”. But how do you actually do it?

“‘Live Your Own Life’? Well, Maybe If I Won the Lotto…

In fact, the stock and trade of companies that run lotteries are fantasies that riff on the theme of “live your own life”. In the fantasy space of lottery advertising, people cavort unencumbered by financial and other restrictions, apparently waking up every day to live out whatever whim comes to mind. But is that really what it means to “live your own life”?

For most of us, living our own lives would need to be something more than random cavorting. Questions of meaning and purpose or value are fundamentally connected to what it means to live your own life. What is it that you ultimately value the most, or that has the most significance for you? It might take some genuine inner search, to find the value or meaning that would be central to the feeling that “I’m living my own life.”

What kind of things carry the greatest meaning and value for you? When do you feel that you’re most yourself?

Listening to Your Own Life

If you’re like most people, it may take some genuine effort to properly answer the question of what really carries meaning and value for you. Most of us are so bombarded by the busyness of our culture and the constant din of advertising that we find it hard to get to what really matters to us in a personal way. C.G. Jung writes of how he went through a prolonged period in the middle of his life where he was trying to get down to the depths of himself. My experience working with individuals in midlife transition suggests that many people have an experience that is not all that different.

Part of what makes this process more involved is that each of us has an unconscious aspect of our personality. This is not something broken or pathological; it is part of the overall richness and wonder of who we are. But it does mean that we have to try to understand and explore our unconscious selves, if we are to be genuinely able to truly live our own particular unique life.

Quite often, people will carry awareness of themselves in their unconscious mind that is partially or fully unknown to their conscious personalities. It is only when we start to listen to the voice of the unconscious, in our dreams, in our emotional reactions to others, and by finding ways to express our inner life that we can really begin to meet the challenge to “live your own life”.

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

To live and to live out who we really are is our unique privilege. Seeking to compassionately understand ourselves and to live in accord with what has the deepest meaning for ourselves is one of the most important and valuable things that we can do. It can be of immense benefit to work with a supportive depth psychotherapist on the great journey of “living your own life”.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Here Comes Autumn: Coping with Life Changes in the Fall

September 19th, 2022 · coping with life changes

I write reasonably often on the subject of coping with life changes. In this blog, I’d like to focus on life changes associated with the Fall of the year.

Travelling Fall Roads (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

In North America, at least, Fall is a season when the issue of coping with life changes comes to the fore. In this season, a lot changes in many of our lives in quite a short span of time. Naturally we immediately think of children going back to school, and students returning to university, but the actual range of changes is a great deal wider than that. What is more, those changes are certainly not confined to the youngest among us. Those of any age can easily be subject to major change with the coming of autumn.

The coming of Fall makes us acutely aware of the passage of time. The rhythm of life changes for children and students, as they go back to their studies. Fall activities of many kinds resume, such as sports, book clubs, service clubs, yoga and mindfulness meditation classes, to name just a few.

Fall Changes and the Passage of Time

As we move into Fall in the mid-range northern latitudes where I live, changes in the natural world are very dramatic. Often almost overnight, the trees shift from the richness of lush green foliage, to brilliant yellows and oranges, and then those leaves fall and blow as dried husks across the land. It’s a remarkable change of state, and it presages changes in the minds of those who witness it. We become acutely aware of the passage of time, and not just in the abstract. We become aware of the passage of our own personal time.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.

~Gilda Radner

Changes in nature are mirrored by equally striking changes in human affairs. The young mother watching young children going back to school remembers her own early school years. The middle aged father sees the practice of the high school football team, and remembers the feeling of the helmet and the ball. The grandparent follows the grandchild’s start at university, and remembers sitting in the big lecture hall, awaiting the first lecture of freshman year. There are connections, passages and patterns. Fall is a season that evokes deep feelings and reflections about our lives.

The Changes of Fall Echo Major Life Transitions

As we watch the events of the Fall, we may be brought back to major life transitions from our past. Or the unfolding of Fall may serve to make us more conscious of major life transitions that we are currently undergoing. For instance, it can be a very significant moment when the youngest child leaves for university, and a couple or a single parent is confronted with an empty nest and the the life questions that brings.

Similarly, a middle-aged person may confront poignant depression or anxiety at this time of year and may be confronted by the reality of mid life transition or later life transition. Really, anyone at any age may find that this time of year asks some very pointed questions. They may sound like: “My life is going by. Am I finding meaning and value in it? Time is precious. What do I need in my life now?

Coping with Life Changes and the Path to Wholeness

Fall brings deep changes in weather, light and vegetation. Combined with the whole shift in focus of our activities at this time of year, it also often brings the passage of time home to us in a very visceral way. Autumn can be a season that makes us profoundly aware of the reality of coping with life changes. These changes often affect us profoundly in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. It can be of the greatest importance for us to become aware of these movements and changes in our psyche, and to respond to them in ways that are life-giving.

Depth psychotherapy can often greatly assist the process of coping with life changes, and understanding their deeply personal significance. Jungian therapy has a particular focus on the meaning and importance of such changes, and work with a supportive analyst can often bring deep benefits.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Queen Elizabeth II as Matriarch and Symbol

September 12th, 2022 · Queen Elizabeth II

In the world at large, the great news this week has been of the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Why is this a matter of such importance to us all?

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence in our world for the entire seventy years of her reign. Perhaps we are only now becoming conscious of that reality as we face the final end of all the different forms of her presence. For those of us who live in Canada, or other Commonwealth countries or of course in Great Britain she has been a quiet but continual presence on all our money, our postage stamps, her various addresses and visits in connection with Parliament and our armed forces and in so many other aspects of our public life.

Whether you’re an ardent monarchist or the most fervent republican who ever walked the face of the earth, it’s hard to deny just how much influence Queen Elizabeth II has had as a public figure. As Great Britain, the Commonwealth and the world gets ready to mark her passing, it’s important to make ourselves aware of the remarkable symbolic power she has exerted. In addition to her remarkable personal life, Queen Elizabeth II, as sovereign, participates in what Jungians would call archetypal reality. As a female sovereign, she resonates with deep unconscious aspects of our human experience.

A Stable Presence

Queen Elizabeth II has been an ongoing presence in the fabric of our lives for over seventy years. Through all the enormous life changes which we have all experienced during that time, the Queen has been a stable, positive voice. Regardless of the ups and downs of our collective life, many found the Queen to be a reliable, strong female leader, which is still not a very common experience, even in our “woke” 2020’s era.

The Queen constantly displayed those stable characteristics throughout a great many struggles and vicissitudes in her personal life, something admired by very many people. Queen Elizabeth II had an incredibly strong sense of commitment to her role, which was a very reassuring presence to many throughout her reign. This was embodied in her phenomenal sense of discretion. As Tina Brown wrote in the New York Times,

How we will miss not knowing what she thought! In a time when everyone has opinions, the queen adhered to the discipline of never revealing hers.

Taken in combination with all the symbolism associated with the monarchy, this sense of permanence and stability takes very deep root in our psyche. The Crown jewels, with their abundance of diamonds, those nearly indestructible gems, and all the ancient ceremony associated with rulers from the distant past is meant to connect us to the reality that the monarch is part of something that is an ongoing, timeless reality.

The Impact of the Death of the Monarch

Given this strong sense of permanence and stability, and the impressive way that Queen Elizabeth II embodied this as she carried the Crown, what is the impact when such a monarch dies? Not surprisingly, there is a very deep sense of loss.

For many, the news of the death of the Queen has a deep sense of unreality. Most of us currently alive have never known any other monarch than the Queen. How can someone who has such a presence in our world suddenly be gone? It takes our psyche some time to let in this reality.

When we do begin to let it in, perhaps we find ourselves confronting a deep sense of grief and loss. There is an absence where there once was a vibrant presence. We may resist this reality, and we may even deny that it is a loss or that it has an emotional impact. Yet it affects us both consciously and unconsciously.

Loss, Change, Transition

In our society’s reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we find some of the key characteristics of how we experience grief and loss, change, and the process of transitioning to new realities. There are deep psychic processes involved when we face the loss of something that has seemed to us to be permanent, even—or perhaps especially—if we have never realized that we felt that they were something permanent in our lives.

The process of grieving the loss of those we love or processing change to things that we feel are deeply important in our lives, is a fundamental part of our journey as human beings. Very often, it plays a key role in the process of depth psychotherapy, especially in a Jungian context. When processed in a self-compassionate way that is aware of the deep psychological forces involved, in the company of a supportive analyst, it can lead us to a deeper sense of what is permanent and reliable in our lives.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

CBC Gem has a documentary on the symbolism of the Crown jewels and the ceremony of the Queen’s coronation that is very revealing as to the use of precious jewels

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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How do You Learn to Love Yourself? A Key Question! PART 2

August 22nd, 2022 · learn to love yourself

In my last post, I started to explore the question of “How do I learn to love myself?” This question is vital for our personal journey.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

As we started to explore in the last post, the path to travel to learn to love yourself involves some real joy and liberation, but also involves a demanding process of discovering and acknowledging who we really are. What makes this path so demanding is that most of us have received an enormous amount of messaging about who we’re supposed to be. In a great many cases, these messages, and the childhood, educational and social experiences that led to them have also conveyed the message that we are not really meeting the standard of who we “ought” to be. This is before we even start to discuss the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on advertising yearly in North America. Much advertising conveys the message that who we are and our present way of life doesn’t really measure up, and that we had best hurry up and buy the right things, if we want to be the kind of person we really should be.

We can easily absorb a message of perfectionism. A message that we should be “perfect”—and that we only have the right to love ourselves if we are perfect. This is an external standard, and we will never understand or positively value ourselves until we turn away from such standards, and look for what we really need within ourselves. As Jung puts it,

Looking outwards has got to be turned into looking into oneself. Discovering yourself provides you with all you are, were meant to be, and all you are living from and for.

Bobbing and Weaving to Avoid Who We Are

We can find it very tempting to avoid encounters with ourselves. Rather than facing what we really think or feel, it can be easy to just “go with the flow”. We can easily suppress or ignore our own deepest reactions, values, attitudes and desires, supplanting them with the conventional attitudes of our family, social group, or workplace or with the values of society as a whole. Yet what we really need is to confront and accept how we feel.

To love ourselves involves accepting and being kind to feelings that we may find in ourselves. These may include the “difficult” feelings, such as sadness, feelings of hurt or woundedness, fear and anger. These feelings are a normal part of our human experience, and it can bring great healing to acknowledge them. Sometimes, there can be a powerful connection between unacknowledged feelings and experiences of anxiety and depression.

Similarly there may be thoughts or perspectives on things in our life that are unfamiliar, and that arise when we acknowledge our feelings. It’s important to be open and accepting to these thoughts, too—but also not to be overwhelmed by them.

We need “learn to love yourself” by finding ways to be gentle with unacknowledged thoughts and feelings, some of which can be quite strong. A gentle approach, much like relating to a small, hurt child can help us to acknowledge the feeling, without being completely overwhelmed by it.

As we confront these feelings, we’re in the process of connecting with previously unacknowledged parts of ourselves.

Learn to Love Yourself by Learning to Love Your Journey

There’s a great deal more that could be said about the great and vitally important process through which you learn to love yourself. Much of this is related to the process of accepting and loving the whole journey that is our lives. Jung again captures something vitally important when he tells us

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

By “who you truly are”, Jung is not referring to some idealized or sanitized version of yourself. He is referring to living out with courage and honesty who you actually are, with strengths and weaknesses, beauty and warts—all of it. To be able to embrace that, and, yes, ultimately to love that, is for Jung the true basis of a meaningful life.

In Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy this focus on continually finding and loving who you really are is the very heart of the work. It can be a key step in the process of loving yourself to move in the direction of better understanding and being conscious of yourself. One powerful way to commit to that process can be undertaking work with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist.

With every good wish for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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How do You Learn to Love Yourself? A Key Question!

August 15th, 2022 · learn to love yourself

It’s essential to learn to love yourself. Without that vital affirmation, it’s difficult if not impossible to find meaning or value in life.

Learn to Love Yourself (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

What does it even mean to love yourself? “Learn to love yourself” is a phrase that gets tossed around an incredible amount in New Age, self help and pop psych circles, but what does “loving yourself” actually look like? How can I positively value who and what I am? Does it even matter whether I love myself? Some people might even feel that “loving myself” is kind of…selfish!…

It’s understandable that there are very different reactions to the idea of loving yourself. There is a great deal of confusion between “loving yourself” and narcissism. Many people react extremely negatively to the image or idea of the narcissist. Narcissists are characterized by an inflated sense of their own importance, an over-the-top need for admiration and attention, and a complete lack of empathy for others. We’re all repelled by images in the media of public figures who are narcissists (you know who I mean!), and we’re quite certain we don’t want to be that.

So, what do we want for ourselves? How can you “learn to love yourself” in a healthy way?

We all confuse self love with wanting or needing to be perfect—a desire at the root of much anxiety and depression. This is because it’s all too easy to believe that we’re only lovable and acceptable if we’re perfect or flawless—a message that many of us have picked up from our early life experience! Yet loving ourselves—or anyone else—is about loving ourselves exactly as we are, warts and all. That may seem like a tall, tall order. Indeed as C.G. Jung himself stated in one of his most famous quotes,

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.

What Does Loving Yourself Even Mean?

To genuinely love yourself means, first of all to accept yourself fully. This is no small thing. To be able to look at yourself with honest, open eyes, and first of all, to accept everything about yourself, that, yes, this is the way I actually am can be something at which we have to work intentionally for a long time.

From a Jungian perspective, confronting and accepting the parts of ourselves that we have no wish to be, what Jung called the shadow, is a very large part of the process of individuation, the name Jungians give to the process of discovering and living out who we really are. It’s only when we begin to meet those parts with courage and kindness that the journey of becoming and honouring ourselves really begins.

To be continued…

With best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Summer Can Open Us to Life Changing Experiences

July 25th, 2022 · life changing experiences

Here we are in the middle of summer 2022, and, naturally, many of us are looking for fun experiences. But summer can also bring us life changing experiences.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

(Of course, fun experiences can be life changing! The two things are not mutually exclusive!) But, more generally, what kind of life changing experiences can summer bring? How do we recognize and welcome these experiences? How can we let them grow in our lives?

Often, we are so accustomed to experiencing life in a certain preset way, and so used to seeing things from a fixed perspective, that it can be difficult to let anything else really penetrate our awareness. We can have an experience of something that seems genuinely new and enlivening. The new thing may seem to change us for a week or two, but then we revert to our older habitual view of ourselves and our lives. After a while, the experience of anything other than “the same old same old” can start to seem far away,. It can feel that perhaps we only imagined it.

How can we retain our connection to experiences that seem genuinely life-changing, and life giving?

Summer Brings a Different Rhythm

For many of us, the summer period has a different rhythm than the rest of the year. With summer vacations and more recreational activities on the weekends, time may seem to slow down, in some ways. We’re able to be much more present to the moment, and perhaps much more aware of our thoughts, reactions and feelings.

It may be that, in the course of summer living, we have experiences that really wake us up. We may describe them as “feeling more alive”, or “feeling authentically ourselves”. They may take us beyond anxiety and into presence. Perhaps as we’re doing a recreational activity, or, as we’re pausing and doing nothing, just being here now, we reflect that “Yes, this, right now, is what I really want for myself”. Or, we have some compelling awareness of what we want in our lives, and we feel that there might just be a way to attain it. I don’t mean by this that we see a way to a new house, boat or swimming pool. I’m referring much more to having a sense of how we might be in our lives.

It may be that such an awareness comes in a precious moment where we are alone, but genuinely with ourselves. It may come from a special interaction with family or friends. Or, it might even come as a dream state. It was not by accident that WIlliam Shakespeare wrote a play entitled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“!

Letting In” Life Changing Experiences

The great challenge to new experiences or awarenesses is always our own resistance. The psyche is inherently conservative. If we have a mind-altering or perspective-changing experience, it can be all too easy for the ego to dismiss it as irrelevant, or of negligible importance. Lena M. Forsell of Lund University notes the

affective, cognitive, and behavioral components that create a psychological resistance to making a change in particular situations or overall changes in one’s life

Say we have an experience that seems to point to a fundamentally different way of being in our lives. We can count on the appearance of resistance to pressure us to return to “the way it’s always been”. We may especially note this tendency at times when we’re going through major life transitions.

If we let our resistance stay in the driver’s seat, we may find that something that could be a life changing experience gets turned into “an odd experience that I once had”. It then gets relegated to the dustbin of our lives, as an element of unlived life that never will be.

Letting Go of Past Constraints

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and openness to experiences that seem to offer a doorway to new possibility. We can become more aware of our resistances, to see them for what they are, as we develop our ability to put them aside and explore new possibilities. In this way, as Jung put it, we can work to go beyond the limitations of our ego, and explore the beckoning of our greater Self.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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Should I Quit My Job? Connecting Career Vocation and Soul

July 11th, 2022 · should I quit my job

Should I quit my job? Here we are, on a beautiful sun-filled summer day. Perhaps you’re on summer vacation. Work may be far from your mind! And yet…

Should I stay or should I go? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets).

And yet, there’s something about the summer vacation period that leads us to look at our jobs from a different angle. When we get away from the patterns of daily work routines, we often can see our work or career differently from how it looks when we’re right down in the trenches. Over the years, hundreds of people in stressful jobs have told me how hard it can be to focus on anything other than immediate deadlines when they endlessly keep arising. And in 2022, that’s the nature of many jobs!

Should I quit my job? That question may well come into more focus when I have time off from the regular daily routine. When I’m outside of the regular weekly vortex, I may find myself more in contact with what it is that I really want from my life. I may also find myself more in touch with the whole of my personal journey—and that’s important.

How do you even assess whether your job is right for you? Even more fundamentally, how do you start to figure our what you’re looking for from a job? [Please note – for the purposes of this discussion, I’m including self-employed options as a kind of “job” or career.]

What Do You Want from Your Job?

There are a number of key areas to think about, when it comes to asking whether your job is giving you what you need:

  • Does my job meet my basic material needs? Clearly we want jobs that provide at least a basic living wage, have safe working conditions, and provide sick leave and disability insurance. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, or in continual fear of getting sick, this isn’t the job for you.
  • Can I manage my workload, on an on-going basis? This is a big issue, as many people currently feel that their employers continually ask them to do more with less.
  • Do I have a sense of community or connection with the people I work with? If not, it can be very hard to get a sense that work is satisfying, valuable or meaningful. It’s essential that work feels psychologically safe.
  • Is my job adequately rewarding? I’m using the term here in a broader sense than just salary. Does my job provide other opportunities to develop, both professionally and personally?
  • Is my job actually a fit with my life, and with who I am? Recently, this broad question has been in the background in our culture as we witness what Texas A & M Prof. Anthony Klotz labelled “the Great Resignation”. This huge wave of post-pandemic resignations comes as many workers re-examine their priorities and values.

From the perspective of Jungian depth psychotherapy, it is this last question that is the most important. How does this job align with who I really am? From a Jungian perspective, the key life task we all face is individuation. This is the development of the individual personality, or, as Jung puts it, “the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology” (Jung, CW 6). So, the question arises: is this job making me more or less myself?

The Dangers of Just “Keeping On Keeping On

From this perspective, the greatest danger is that we will never even ask the question of how my work relates to my true identity, to the essence of me. Many years ago, Paul Simon expressed it perfectly in the song Slip Sliding Away:

We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away

It can be very easy to simply let inertia carry us when it comes to our work life. A job may be absolutely soul-sucking, and yet we continue day after day, month after month, year after year. We can suppress our real feelings, and experience them coming back to us in the form of anxiety or depression. We may never get to the point of confronting vocation, or of what it is that we feel we’re meant to do with the gift of our unique lives.

Should I Quit My Job? What Does Soul Say?

I’d like to close this post with three quotes by Jungian analyst James Hillman:

the purpose of life is to make psyche of it, to find connections between life and soul.

Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny.

…you find your genius by looking in the mirror of your life.

On its most fundamental level, how I approach my job, and whether I remain in or leave my job, is a soul question. It has to do with the essence of who I am, and with making my daily life an expression of that true essence.

The expression of that true essence is fundamental to our journey to wholeness. Finding and expressing who we most fundamentally are is the very heart of Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy.

Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

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

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