Tending the Soul Through the Holidays
“Tending the soul through the Holidays” is the theme I’ve chosen for a series of blog posts for the period leading up to the Holidays at the end of December.
Now, for those of us living in 2022, “tending the soul” and “getting ready for the holidays” can seem like complete opposites! I hear many stories from clients about how stressful and anxious it often is to deal with the Holidays. There are plenty of reasons for this.
Not least of these is the huge sense of expectation the Holidays create, in children, certainly, but often no less in adults. Another major issue is around dealing with family members and other relationships during Holiday interactions. For many people, this is all complicated by particularly wounding experiences that may have occurred right at the holiday season. These might include the loss of a loved one; or deeply hurtful experiences with a relative struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. and many other kinds of issue. Additionally, there are a surprisingly large number of people who suffer from religious trauma, and for these individuals, the Holidays can actually be quite triggering.
Also, the Holidays are a period associated with being social and gregarious. People do a lot of socializing during the Holiday period. I’ve recently been told by several clients that the majority of the socializing they do all year occurs within a 6-8 week period around the Holidays. Tending the soul is an activity that we would see as having an inward or introspective dimension. This might seem like swimming upstream during the Holiday period!
The Absence of Soul at the Holidays
This last point brings us up against an important issue. For many people, the Holidays can actually seem to be a time where they experience the absence of soul. By this, I mean something more than simply experiencing the Holidays as hectic and frenetic. For many people, the Holidays can feel artificial and superficial. This is a time when people are looking for something lasting and real, especially given the stressful and unpredictable character of these recent pandemic years. “They” tell us that a deep, solid, lasting reality is what the Holidays are all about. Yet it can seem very hard to find that unshakable, comforting reality.
Soul’s Call, and Tending the Soul
We feel a beckoning in us for something real, something lasting, something that gives our lives solidity. Where can we find that, amidst all the Holiday messaging that saturates us in the media? Jung gives us his assessment:
Who knows the way to the eternally fruitful climes of the soul? You seek the way through mere appearances…. What good is all that? There is only one way and that is your way. You seek the path. I warn you away from my own. It can also be the wrong way for you. May each find [their] own way [italics mine].
C.G. Jung, The Red Book
“There is only one way and that is your way.” Jung is underlining for us the importance of discerning and connecting with the depths of who we are. For Jung, this is a very individual activity. We cannot follow someone else’s formula to do this—not even his.
If we’re going to go our own way, we’re going to have to know ourselves. That means exploring ourselves, and taking the time to understand our genuine reactions. It means understanding our history, certainly, and the events that have really shaped us. It also means understanding, in a compassionate way, our own most fundamental nature.
So, What are We Going to DO About Tending the Soul?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
So, how do we actually do any of the things that involve going our own way? That is going to be the subject of the posts to come in this series. However, one key starting point is genuinely listening to what we can find or see of the voice of our genuine selves. This is deeply connected to value and meaning in our lives, as emphasized by logotherapists like Viktor Frankl. It may appear in the most surprising of places sometimes, and we have to be careful not to dismiss, judge or overlook it.
This voice of the self may take some real discernment to start to locate. Jung indicates that it was a demanding process even for him, We have to try and locate the things that have genuinely lasting value, for us, in our own individual lives.
This time leading up to the Holidays when, surprisingly enough, this search for value and meaning in or own individual lives becomes a matter of great importance. To embark on our own personal journey towards wholeness may be of great healing value at this Holiday season. From the perspective of Jungian, this search is of incomparable importance.
With very best wishes for your personal journey,
© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario