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  • Life Crisis, Meaning and Psychotherapy

    When a case studies, and especially a Jungian analyst uses the expressions “life crisis” and “meaning” today, he or she means something specific.  It’s something different from a “major crisis“, which might be some major change and disruption in a person’s life due to changes in external events or relationships.  A life crisis is a crisis about the roots of a person’s life.  Some people might call it a spiritual crisis or crisis of meaning, and others, an “existential” crisis.  The things that characterize such an event are often deep emotional distress accompanied by persistent questioning about whether life is meaningful.  A person may, at times, even look at his or her life and ask her- or himself questions like, “Is it worth it?  or “What’s the point?”  As such, it’s something very fundamental in a person’s life, and something that she or he simply cannot ignore.

    A Life Crisis is About Meaning

    It’s very easy for helping professionals to look at someone suffering from this kind of crisis, and to simply conclude that the individual is suffering from some variant of depression, or possibly that he or she is having a grief reaction.  And what makes it complex is that there may well be depression that the person is experiencing.  Or else, it may well be that the person’s life crisis has been triggered by a major grief event of one kind or another.  However, if the person is simply treated for the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root causes, it will not lead to a complete resolution.  Putting an individual who is suffering from this kind of life crisis on anti-depressants, for instance, might “take the bottom out” of the depression, so that the individual won’t feel quite as low.  But if the individual is not helped in a very personal way to find what is meaningful in his or her life, nothing fundamental will have changed.

    Life Crises are Very Individual

    People who are confronted with life crises have to be helped in a very individual way to discover meaning and value to their lives.  This can only someone who has the necessary skills and depth to help the suffering person find the very personal, individual resources within her- or himself to move back into a place where he or she can gratefully and passionately embrace his or own particular, individual life.  This is the particular kind of thing that a therapist with extensive training and personal experience in depth psychology and Jungian analysis can provide.

    Have You Ever Experinced a Life Crisis?  Are You Facing One Now?

    Although “life crisis” moments can often come at the middle of life or later, they can come at any point in life?  Have you ever had a crisis of meaning, when it “just didn’t feel worth it”?  It’s amazing how many famous and very gifted or capable people have been through this kind of experience.  If you’ve had a similar experience, and you were willing to talk or write about it, I’d welcome the chance to hear from you via  a comment or through a confidential email.

    Wishing you meaning and vibrant inner life on your personal journey to wholeness,

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst



    PHOTO CREDIT: © Franz Pfluegl |

    © 2010 Brian Collinson

    Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)
    1. jamenta


      December 11, 2010 at 2:28 am -

      I believe one of the more powerful aspects of Jungian analysis, and perhaps one that Jung emphasized more in his later years – was the independence and living reality of the unconscious, and the value of an individual becoming more aware of this reality not only in their dreams within, but by synchronicity without. I believe it is easier to accept that the spontaneous events we experience each night we call dreams are meaningful and goal oriented – but a more difficult step to take that outward events can be just as meaningful as our dreams from which Jung developed his theory of Synchronicity.

      In Jung’s address to a Yale audience in 1937 “The Terry Lectures” – Jung felt one of the great shortcomings of the West was the “highly structured” religious symbols and rituals – whereas his analytical psychology emphasized spontaneous, religious experience – or the “warm red blood” of “immediate experience” – which IMO if one makes oneself aware enough, can reveal itself in the numinous events of synchronicity, and also awareness of the powerful symbolic activity of one’s dream life – THAT IS NOT INDEPENDENT of our outward reality but intertwines in highly personalized – meaningful, goal oriented manner.

      I believe this is the answer Jung provides to those who are in a deep “life crisis” as you write Brian. He assumes the objective independent existence of a living unconscious reality, that exists and upholds the ego (and indeed all of nature) – that spontaneously reveals itself in our dreams, in our thoughts, and in synchronicity in our lives. Becoming aware of this unconscious reality, and the autonomous activity that is the strong irresistable undercurrent of our lives – that even gave us birth, and will also determine our death – is one step toward relieving the ego from it’s burden that so many today are falling victim to: a sense of isolation, lack of value, lack of direction, a “life crisis” that life itself makes no sense and all is just random, including all the events in one’s life.

      Jung was aware that his new psychology could end up being a substitute or even replace to some extent the fading established symbols and traditions of religions and their institutionalized symbols and dogma. I can understand how plenty of scientific men and even those with an academic background might easily just dismiss Jung as just another misguided seeker of spirituality and God. For afterall, it would very much appear the Unconscious has some very godlike qualities discovered by Jung – including meaning, goals, personal awareness of each of our unique destinies, the origination and destination of our ego. But Jung’s new religion avoids the pitfall of setting up some profit or Christ like figure, and rather points to the obvious immediacy and observable meaning of our symbolic dreams – and if one does look closely enough, the clear synchronistic events many have testified too in their lives, much has been written down of – and of which bespeaks IMO the lie that all experience and reality itself is just fundamentally random in nature – the myth of our times.

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