Jungian Psychotherapy & Major Life Transitions: 4 Truths
Major life transitions are a primary concern of Jungian case studies and /a-midlife-transition, because they matter so much to human beings. Such transitions include: movement from one stage of life to another; major illnesses or injuries (great piece from Globe & Mail on this) ; career change or job loss; and, changes in key relationships.
There’s much to be learned about transitions from the archetypally based initiation rituals of aboriginal peoples. From that perspective:
Life Transitions are Journeys
Life is a journey, composed of a series of journeys. The journey is a fundamental human metaphor, but life transitions have a particular character. As in initiation rituals, there is a phase of disorientation, what anthropologists call the liminal phase. In this stage, we don’t see the way forward, and we have to rely on something we don’t understand to pull us through.
Life Transitions Involve a Death
In a key transition in our lives, something must die. Our old relationship to ourselves and the world must pass away, to make room for something new. This is the pain in major transitions: something within us screams in protest that this can’t happen, that our old way of viewing our lives is the way. We may deeply grieve its loss, yet the old way must and does die.
Something is Trying to be Born
In every life transition, no matter how painful, something is trying to be born in our consciousness. There is a different understanding of life, self and others that is pressing forward. It may be something we are extremely reluctant to let be born, yet it is pressing forward, wanting to exist in us.
Receiving A New Name
In initiation ceremonies among aboriginal peoples, the initiate will often receive a new name upon completing the transition of initiation. This reflects what has occurred: the person who was has died; in his or her place, someone new exists. So it is in our transitions: we are no longer who we were. We have a new consciousness and new relationships. We move forward into a new, unfamiliar world, with a new awareness.
One of my most profound transitions resulted from the birth of a child who was deaf. It has taken me a very long time to understand how this has changed my whole approach to being myself and being alive.
What have been the profound transitions in your life? I’d welcome your comments or emails.
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville and Mississauga Ontario
PHOTO: © Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com
© 2011 Brian Collinson
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