Canadian Mental Health: Jungian Depth Psychotherapy Perspectives
The 66th CMHA Mental Health Week begins Monday, May 1, making this a prime time to reflect on Canadian mental health from a Jungian perspective.
There’s real value in looking at the central message of this week from the viewpoint of Jungian /a-midlife-transition. What does a /a-midlife-transition perspective make of our current deep societal concern with issues of mental health?
What’s So Important about Canadian Mental Health?
On the CMHA Mental Health Week website, the Canadian Mental Health Association states:
This year during CMHA Mental Health Week, Canadians are speaking up: we’ve been in line for mental health care for way too long…. We are literally sick of waiting. But we’re not only waiting for mental health care. To be truly mentally well, Canadians also need case studies, counselling and community-based mental health services and programs; we need acknowledgement and respect; and we need adequate housing.
Canada (like other nations) has enormous mental health and mental wellness needs, and there are huge gaps in the provision of vital services. This is particularly true for the young and the elderly, but the need extends through all ages and social strata in our society.
Canadian Mental Health: It’s Close to Home
This is not some abstract issue. If it doesn’t affect us personally, it affects people close to us in our lives. Psychotherapists are well aware that almost everyone knows and cares about someone who is wrestling with a mental health issue. It could be a spouse or partner, a relative, a friend, a co-worker, or one’s own children. Looking at people in our lives, we see the huge cost that mental health issues exact on good, worthwhile human beings.
The Wounded Parts Within Ourselves
If we need more reasons for solidarity with those struggling with mental health needs, we could look within. If we’re radically honest with ourselves, we realize that, within each of us, there are deeply psychically wounded and unadapted parts. As C.G. Jung stated long ago,
If we feel our way into the human secrets of the person… we recognize in the mental illness merely an exceptional reaction to emotional problems which are not strange to us.
C.G. Jung, “Content of the Psychoses”
This is clear when we consider depression and anxiety, for instance, which almost everyone has experienced to some degree.
Mental Health and Jung’s Idea of Shadow
Jung often spoke of “shadow” which he defined as “the thing which one has no wish to be”. Jungian Andrew Samuels interprets this as “the negative side of the personality, the sum of all the unpleasant qualities one wants to hide”. This certainly includes those parts of the personality that are not adapted to our lives, and/or that represent areas of weakness for us.
From 1913 to 1917, Jung went through a profound inner exploration later communicated in his famous Red Book. He encountered what he regarded as profoundly unbalanced and unstable elements in his own personality. Jung became convinced that every human personality has such elements, and that the only way to deal with them is to get to know them as much as we can, and to meet them with an attitude of profound acceptance and deep compassion. This can only have good consequences for our attitude to Canadian mental health. As he puts it,
If people can be educated to see… their own natures…. [a] little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance towards oneself can only have good results for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to [others] the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures.
Mental Health: Our Own, and Others’
Only greater self-understanding and acceptance lead to genuine compassion toward the Other. Beyond terrifying stereotypes and myths of mental illness are profound truths of human living and suffering that we all share.
It’s the task of /a-midlife-transition to not only make us more aware of our unique individuality, but to heighten awareness of our profound connection with all other people in our shared human nature and experience.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst