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  • Individual Therapy & Ordinary Life as Remarkable

    Individual therapy is a contradiction: a simultaneous journey into life as both ordinary and miraculous.

    individual therapy

    Last week, I had the opportunity to again visit one of the world’s great art museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  While I was there, I spent a great deal of time with the paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

    Renoir and “Everyday Eternity”

    As in his 1877 “Portrait of Eugène Murer”, shown above, there is a particular quality of immediacy and life to Renoir’s paintings.  There is something about the way he paints that imbues his paintings with an incredible vitality, lifelikeness and significance.  We care about the people he portrays, we’re fascinated by them, and we wish that we could talk to them, engage them — and, in a way, we find that we do, as we engage with his paintings.

    Renoir actively sought to convey this quality of immediacy, life and deep significance in his painting.  As he said:

    “I like painting best when it looks eternal without boasting about it: an everyday eternity, revealed on the street corner; a servant-girl pausing a moment as she scours a saucepan, and becoming a Juno on Olympus…”

    individual therapy


    Renoir’s art reveals the eternity in so-called ordinary life.

    Everyday Eternity and the Art of Individual Therapy

    In a surprising way, the search for the eternal in the ordinary, which is the heart of Renoir’s art, is not all that different from the quest that forms the basis of individual therapy and /a-midlife-transition. Individual therapy is certainly an exploration of the validity, importance and plain reality of everyday, ordinary, individual life. Situations that we find ourselves in, that seem mundane and ordinary are often archetypal.  In the conflicts, transitions, losses and gains of our lives, we share in patterns that have characterized human life right from its distant beginnings. In moments of insight in individual therapy, we can experience both an awareness of our own unique individuality, and a deep sense of connection to the age old experience of the broader human race. individual therapy

    Profound Ordinariness

    It may sound trite, but sometimes the awareness that “I’m real; my life matters” can be a profound realization.  To feel my own uniqueness, and experience that I’m truly alive, that I truly exist — not as a matter of intellectual awareness, but genuinely to feel it —  can be a deeply changing awareness. Jung describes a particular experience of coming to self-awareness:

    Suddenly for a single moment I had the overwhelming impression of having emerged from a dense cloud.  I knew all at once: now I am myself!  Previously I had existed, too, but everything had merely happened to me.  Now I happened to myself.  ~C.G. Jung  [italics mine]

    To genuinely feel and accept my own uniqueness is to find myself in a singular experiment in the history of the universe — my own real life.

    Eternity / You

    The process of individual therapy is a journey into seeing the profundity and importance of my own everyday life.  To feel my own life — and its importance — is a key part of the journey to wholeness. [cta]

    PAINTINGS: © Auguste Renoir, “Eugène Murer”; “By the Seashore”; “Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children”, all from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. 

    © 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

    1. Ruth Martin LMFT

      Ruth Martin LMFT

      August 13, 2013 at 1:32 am -

      That was a wonderful post, Brian! ( I envy your trip to the Met. ). What I liked so much about the post was the feeling of excitement, and the excitement of discovery:my life matters! When a client gets there ! That joyful moment when the clouds part, and the Truth is illuminated! Wonderful!

      1. Brian C
        August 13, 2013 at 7:32 am -

        Thanks very much for your comment, Ruth.

        I agree with you fully: that moment or moment(s) when a client lives in that awareness that their life matters can be a profound thing. I believe that Jung would call it truly numinous. Matching it is that similar sense of awe that the therapist/analyst feels when they start to truly see into the reality of the client–when they begin to get some genuine sense of what the world really is for the client. This often occurs through a perception or comment of the client, through the client’s description of a key situation, or through the client’s recounting of a dream. These are moments that are genuinely humbling. You start to get some perception of the enormity of what a person is, and some glimpse of the wholeness of the self, conscious and unconscious. Exciting is your word, Ruth, and it’s the right word! Thanks again for your comments!

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