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  • Individuation, Individual Therapy & Work Related Stress

    individual therapy

    People expect work related stress to be a subject for individual therapy, but think less commonly about work and individuation — especially for today’s pressurized workers.  Individuation is the term Jung used to describe “the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.”  Particularly in the last 10 – 15 years, as anxiety has crept more and more into the work place, the experience of work for many people may seem to be about anything but genuine individual development.

    Yet… Something in Us Seeks Wholeness — Even at Work

    For Jung, the human psyche is always in process, seeking to bring all the parts of our self into relatedness with each other.  Even at our work.  In our work experience, with specific tasks, co-workers, clients, etc., some aspect of our self is confronting us, trying to come into awareness.  There’s truth about ourselves that we need to take in — even in work related stress.

    Vocation — What if It’s Not Just a Word?

    Vocation can be overly spiritualized and dramatized, or trivialized, as in the so-called “vocational test”.  But what if there actually is something specific that life and my own nature has suited me to do?  That may be a matter of the job I do, or a vocation that I live out over and above my job.

    Connecting Point recorded archetypal psychologist Jame Hillman on the subject of “What is Your Calling?”

    Work Related Stress: Message from My Deep Self?

    The fundamental question for individual therapy is, “What does my work stress tell me about my true self?”  Perhaps in relation to fellow workers?  Or about my trouble with saying “No” or setting boundaries?  Or the ways that I have been kidding myself about the type of work that suits me, or about my own true abilities or inclinations?  Or maybe my own deepest motivations, or compulsive need for success or status?  Or my driven-ness or workaholism as avoidance of life?  Or my fear to move on?

    The Shadow in Working Life

    My work may express who I really am, and allow me to give from my deepest self to the world.  Alternately, it might be that I’m really alienated from myself at work, unable to show anyone who I really am or what I really care about, and that this disconnect is a real source of work related stress.

    If shadow is the unacknowledged part of the self, what is in your shadow that concerns work?


    PHOTOS:  © Maria Paula Coelho |
     © 2012 Brian Collinson


    1. jamenta


      March 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm -

      Hi Brian – Thanks for yet another excellent post. I’ve been in the process of reading James Hillman’s “The Force of Character” for the first time – and being introduced to his particular viewpoint of Jungian psychology via the book. I find his writing and points are powerful and convincing.

      Your clip above about Hillman & “What is your Calling” sparked my interest to view other clips by him available on youtube. I did not realize that he had branched off from mainstream Jungian analysis into what he founded (I suppose) as the Archetypal school of psychology. What so far I am reading – seems to correspond very closely with the majority of Jung’s original ideas – but there are seems to be some marked differences as well.

      Such as the role dreams play i.e. all dreams as compensatory, Hillman appears to disagree with. He also seems to dismiss Jung’s prescriptive or call for our responsibility to fulfill and strive for our “wholeness” via individuation. He seems not to deny that there is an acorn – and individual blueprint “unique potentialities” that our psyche’s/souls seem to want to bring to fruition in life – and I especially like his approach that even the neurotic aspects, the failures etc. play a role in our unique development/destiny (although Jung also saw this no?)

      So – I find myself a bit confused here. I am curious what your thoughts are here – between the differences of thought/paradigm between Jung & Hillman – and where do you yourself stand between the two?

      1. Brian C
        March 8, 2012 at 3:51 am -

        Thanks very much for your comment, John. I think that there are certainly distinctions to be made between Jung and Hillman, but, in my opinion, the similarities and connections between them are much greater and more substantial than the differences. Hillman would not place the same emphasis on the psyche moving towards wholeness as Jung, it’s true. At least, that’s what he seems to be at pains to say in various places. However, as this clip shows clearly, he does seem to have a very strong sense of the individual’s unique potentialities latent within him or her. He seems quite happy to use the metaphor of the acorn and the oak, which is one that Jung used frequently to describe the individual containing within her- or himself potentials that are to come to fulfilment. He is also quite happy to talk about the individual’s development and exploration of their potentialities as being his or her “calling”.

        Hillman doesn’t seem to share Jung’s sense that dreams are compensatory to the stance of the conscious ego. At least, that is what he says. Yet, in his book The Dream and the Underworld , he does seem to have an understanding that, to enter “the underworld”, the realm of dreams, and thus of the unconscious, is to enter a realm of experience that relativizes the ego, or that show consciousness that it’s perspective is inadequate, or is missing some key dimensions. Like you, I appreciate the attention Hillman gives to the way in which even the neurotic aspects of the personality, and the difficult or debilitating aspects of the personality play a key role in the person’s development as the person that they potentially are. His example, for instance, of Martin Scorsese and the asthma shows that he has a particular sense that such occurences have a real and definite meaning in the development and unfolding of the individual. I don’t think that Jung would find anything in this that he disagreed with, at all, but, personally, I really like the way that Hillman says it.

        If I had to come down somewhere, I would say that I’m mostly with Jung on many of the issues where he and HIllman disagree. Most importantly, my dream work with people continues to show me the ways in which the dream compensates for, and is in dialogue with, the conscious stance of the ego. That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate Hillman: I most certainly do. When you hear and see him in clips like this one, he clearly is in a place of having some very powerful and important things to say about “the soul’s code”.

        I hope that this is at least some help, John. If there’s more that I can address about this, I’m more than happy to do so. Thanks again for your very interesting comment!

    2. jamenta


      March 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm -

      Thank you Brian for your in-depth reply. I find myself in agreement with your assessment and less “befuddled”. Perhaps the confusion lies with how Hillman might define “compensation” versus Jung’s definition. Although, as you say, Hillman’s example of Scorcese’s youth seems to coincide with Jung’s own views on compensation etc.

      In addition, Jung’s theories on synchronicity & individuation really depend on a “corrective” element coming from somewhere outside of the ego – with a “direction” and a go.

      Perhaps the confusion comes with “direction” and goal. Is there meaning without a goal? Is that what Hillman is arguing? At one point he disagrees with Jung’s theory of the Self – an inner guiding/organizing element within the psyche – the Self archetype. Apparently he believes in many Gods – not one “God” or “Self”. Perhaps he is arguing that many goals come from many sources within the psyche, and not just the “Self.” Not one over-arching goal.

      But then again his example of Scorcese makes it clear (in the clip you provide) that he believes in a kind of potentiality we grow in. Yet he argues against the extreme interpretation put on by psychoanalysis for a dream – reductive in some ways if you will, using the limits of language to interprete the symbolic meaning of the unconscious. He appears to want to avoid that – along with one singular interpretation of the direction of the soul?

      In any regards, thank you much for your response. I enjoy these questions as I hope you do.

      1. Brian C
        March 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm -

        Hillman would definitiely describe his psychology as “polytheistic”, in the sense that he acknowledges a plurality of archetypal forces in the psyche that the individual has to come to terms with in the course of self-realization, or “following the calling of soul”. He would de-emphasize, however, the archetype of the self, in Jung’s sense of the word, and so wholeness is not the same compelling goal or endstate that psyche is drawing us towards as it is for Jung. I think that it’s important to remember, though, that Hillman does place this emphasis on the individual following his or her calling. He wouldn’t talk about wholeness in that context, but I wonder if it really looks all that different from the way that Jung would describe the individuation process. I would bet that they’re quite similar — that would be my take, at least.

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