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  • Searching for Meaning and the Journey to the Holidays

    Jungian depth psychotherapists emphasize that searching for meaning in our lives is a central life task. As Jung emphasized in his famous quotation,

    The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

    Photo by Firaz Ali 

    This dimension of finding meaning in our lives is a matter of continual importance throughout the course of our human existence. However, there may be times when this issue of meaning carries a particular salience and importance. We may experience this as we go through times of particular significance in our individual life journey, such as major life transitions. However, there are other things in life which may also bring the question of meaning front and centre for us.

    Searching for Meaning and the Holiday Season of December 

    The issue of searching for meaning can be constellated for us by other events that are more collective and in some sense external to our personal lives. Holidays based in a religious or faith perspective can often be important in this way. 

    There are a significant number of such holidays in the December period, such as Kwanzaa in the African culture,  Hannakah in the Jewish faith, Eid al-Fitr in the Islamic calendar or Christmas in the Christian tradition. Such events have a community meaning, and also can carry significance for the individual in her or his particular life journey.

    There is no question that religious holidays (and some “secular religious” holidays) carry meaning for the community which they spring from. These holidays exist to bring their respective faith communities into connection with elements of the faith and their particular narrative about what is most important and meaningful for human life. However, such holidays may also pose important questions for us as individuals.

    The Questions the Holidays Ask of Us

    One primary question is whether we accept the meaning or narrative that underlies the particular religious observance or holiday. There are many in all faith traditions who go through the motions of participating in holidays, but who remain largely untouched. Whether we accept these stories, or find some alternative source of meaning in our lives which we experience as more fundamental is an important question.

    However, even if we do find meaning in the faith tradition, that is not the end of the matter. There is still the question of what meaning the holiday and its underlying message carry for the individual personally, in her or his own unique and particular life. How do I make meaning of the holiday, and what difference does that make for me?

    In the Midst of Our Lives, What Do We Do with All of This?

    So, if we suppose that you’re someone from say, the Christian tradition, and you’re aware that the Christmas season is coming, what does that mean for you? What is the implication for your own real life?

    At this point, we touch on the paradox of the holiday season. It is a time of year which very many people imbue with a special meaning, and yet we are often so busy, frenetic and distracted in the lead up to the festivals. As a result, we find it very difficult to enter into their real significance when they actually arrive.

    Now, many individuals may feel that being caught up in the busy-ness is just part of the holidays. “That’s just how it is,” they may say, “I just accept it.”

    Yet the holidays bring us the challenge of making contact with what carries meaning in our lives. If Jung is correct as above, when he asserts that finding meaning in our lives is one of the very most important aspects of life, this is a centrally important question.

    Searching for Meaning Right Where We Are

    The December holidays offer us an opportunity to explore what carries meaning in our lives. This can seem like an invitation, but it can also seem scary, if we’re at a point where we feel uncertain as to what is most meaningful in our lives. However, there is some truth in what Dr. Juanita Gomez asserts:

    Finding meaning in your life is not a difficult thing, but it is harder than living a numb, fast-paced superficial life.

    It does take some real effort to look at our lives, and ask the question, “What genuinely carries meaning for me?” It can also take courage. But the benefits of this kind of exploration can be truly life changing. In the exploration for personal meaning, the support of a compassionate and affirming Jungian depth psychotherapist can be of immense benefit.

    I wish you a wonderful entry into the Holiday season, and every good thing on your personal journey,

    Brian Collinson 

    Registered Psychotherapist and 

    Certified Jungian Analyst (IAAP) 

    Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

    © Brian Collinson, 2023