Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What’s So Special About the Second Half of Life? Pt 1

September 22nd, 2013 · second half of life

What is it that the second half of life brings to us, that makes us treat it as such a challenge and a gift?

second half of life

Some would say “nothing”.  But the reality of individuals’ experience in the second half of life shows us otherwise.

In the second half of life, the emphasis shifts from the interpersonal or external dimension to a conscious relationship with intrapsychic processes.”  -Andrew Samuels

This sounds great — but what does it actually mean?

Getting Down Beneath the Surface

In the first half of adulthood, externals occupy us pretty exclusively.  The challenges of getting out of the family of origin and out into the world, getting the education we need, finding appropriate work, perhaps marrying and having a family, and finding our way as a contributing member of the community — these are the themes of our lives.

In the second half of life, other considerations often come to the fore.  When Samuels talks about a “conscious relationship with intrapsychic processes”, he is referring to the ways in which we often become more sensitive and aware of the movement of our inner life, sometimes referred to as soul work — what is really going on within us.  Some people are initially disturbed by thinking about this, while others have an absolute need to do so.

Some of the key questions in the second half of life concern identity.  Who am I, really?  Externally-focussed answers to this question that seem deep enough, or individual enough, at age 20 or 30, for instance, may well no longer suffice at age 45, or age 60.

From Ego to Ego-Self Axis

This relates, I believe to what Samuels means when he says that, in the second half of life, dependence on the ego has to be replaced by relationship to the Self.  To find some connection to our deep identity as life progresses means to move beyond the way the ego consciously formulates or constructs a picture of who we are.  It means to be open to insight from the unconscious as to who we are at a much deeper level — to incorporate the elements of our nature that are seen in dreams, and revealed in those moments and experiences in our lives when the ego is not in full control.

It’s as if some parts of our personalities were actors, who had been waiting offstage throughout the entire first half of our lives, waiting for their cue…

second half of life

What parts of you, sure of their lines, and ready to take the stage, have been awaiting the spotlight?

 My Meaning and Values

second half of life

Samuels reminds us that dedication to outer success is often modified to include a concern for meaning and spiritual values, as we move through the second half of life.  The term “spiritual values” may be misleading here, if we take it as referring to religiosity or other-worldliness.  Rather this search for meaning in our lives particularly involves a move from transitory to more lasting concerns, and a move from the superficial to the complete person.

Living Who I Am

Ultimately what is involved is a higher degree of self-acceptance… a sense of life lived in accord with one’s potential.  As a quote I put on Twitter has it:

“Each of us has been offered a journey.  Each of us is responsible for the fullest possible expression of our individuation.” –James Hollis

Individual therapy in the second half of life can be a key step in taking up that offer.

PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike  Some rights reserved by mendhak ; Mosman Council
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


Jungian Therapy “Hope Springs” & the Second Half of Life

August 13th, 2012 · Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

Jungian therapy affirms that there is life in the second half of life; the film “Hope Springs“, portrays one couple’s exploration of that territory.

second half of life

This film seems to be marketed like a fairly mindless broad comedy: a big mistake, in my opinion.   While extremely funny, this is anything but a shallow film.

The story seems to resonate with many in the second half of life.  We empathize deeply with the struggles and sometimes scary awarenesses of Kay and Arnold, the empty nester couple at the center of the film (Meryl Streep;  Tommy Lee Jones).

Perils of the Second Half of Life

We learn very early in the film that life for Kay and Arnold contains very few surprises: they are, to say the least, in a very well-worn rut. The second half of life has brought them to a static, rigid place.  Joy, connection, deep experience and sexuality have very little place in their world — at the beginning of the film, this is so apparent, it’s painful to watch.

second half of life

Could Anything Different Now Ever be Possible?

Throughout the film, the couple struggles in one way or another with whether there can be anything more or new in life, or whether they should just exit their therapy, and return to life as it was.  This latter possibility, what Jungian therapy calls “regressive restoration of the persona” is always waiting in the wings, and both parties flirt with exiting back to past roles and masks.

The Unlived Life

Yet, simultaneously, something draws them on.  It’s what Jungian therapy would refer to as “the unlived life”.  Throughout our lives, we make choices, and live certain options out.  But our very choice of one option excludes the others that we could have lived out.  At some point in life, often, in the second half of life, the unlived life starts to “call to us”.  Those possibilities want to be expressed, to be lived out, to round out who we are as persons.

Into The Undiscovered Self

“Hope Springs” is about the journey of a couple, but fundamentally explores the hope that new possibilities might open up in the second half of life.  Jung continually emphasized the need to explore this “undiscovered self”, especially in and beyond midlife transition.

Depth psychotherapy, and especially Jungian therapy are concerned with the journey to the new territory of the undiscovered self, and allowing new essential possibilities in the second half of life.

PHOTO & VIDEO: © 2012 Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All rights reserved.


Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 6: Mystery

April 23rd, 2012 · Jungian therapy, mystery, second half of life, therapy

jungian therapy

In the second half of life, mystery is more and more our companion, and Jungian therapy urges us to open ourselves to it, rather than run from it.

 The Surrounding Mystery

What does Jungian therapy mean by mystery?  Well, clearly not this:

The kind of mysteries that we’re dealing with in this context are not some hidden facts waiting to be puzzled out by intense investigation.  Rather, we’re talking about those aspects of human life that are impenetrable to the human intellect.  Or better yet: those things in human existence that we can understand and understand more and more about, and yet there will always be profound things about them that the human mind cannot exhaust or fully penetrate.  These things might not always fit neatly into our lives, but they are the things that give human life its real depth.

The Mystery of the Self

Jungian therapy has as its starting point one of these profound mysteries, namely that the ego or conscious mind is not the complete personality in a human being.  Another greater reality is involved: the Self, which Andrew Samuels defines as “the unity of the personality as a whole.”  The Self in us is continually striving to bring together the opposites in our nature.  Sometimes, we’re aware in the second half of life that something in us doesn’t just go along with the direction that our ego may choose for us — it has its own clear direction and sense of where we should be going in our personal journey, and its own greater wisdom.

The Mystery of Life

The course of our life has a definite direction and shape.  The psychological concerns and tasks native to the second half of life are different from the life tasks in the first half.  As we move through life, we are unavoidably confronted with the question, “What is of lasting value?”  The answer to that question is linked to our personal mythology, and it will likely take us into the territory of the mystery in life.


What is it, in this second half of life, that takes on fascination and depth for you?  That really grips you?  As you explore this, you enter into mystery, and also into intimations of deep significance and meaning.  Jungian therapy is concerned to uncover the value and meaning in life through the exploration of its mysteries, and ultimately, the mystery of our own unique and individual being.

PHOTO:  Attribution Some rights reserved by gnews pics ; VIDEO: ©
© 2012 Brian Collinson







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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 5: Freedom

April 9th, 2012 · freedom, Jungian, Jungian therapy, life, second half of life

jungian therapy

The word freedom often appears in discussions about the second half of life, but often the particular depth of understanding that Jungian therapy would attach to the word is lacking.

Not long ago, people talked about “Freedom 55”, the idea that one would be able to retire and leave work behind at age 55.  However, particularly since the economic contraction of 2008, this may seem much less possible.  Yet, this type of fantasy retains its power: we often hear phrases like “imagine the freedom” associated with, say, winning the lottery.

However, another concept much more closely associated with what used to be called spirituality may have more relevance in the second half of life.  Jungian analyst James Hillman once observed,

[W]e haven’t thought about… freedom enough. It needs to be internalized as an inner freedom from “demand” itself… that comes when you’re free from those compulsions to have and to own and to be someone…. [We need a concept] that broadens our current limited idea of freedom: that I can do any goddamn thing I want on my property; that I am my own boss and don’t want government interference; that I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and can’t do…

Externals and Freedom

We easily identify “externals” that keep us from being free, such as my boss, my job or my financial limitations.  It’s true: my external circumstances always limit my freedom – just as they also create my possibilities.  But in our time and culture, is being free from externals the freedom that we really most need?

Freedom from Inner Compulsion

Like Jungian therapy in general, Hillman suggests the greatest restrictions we face may actually be inner.  Yearning for more self esteem,  we may thirst for: respect and approval of others; ownership of house or car that says we’ve “made it”; or, status or qualifications that show that we “are somebody”.  Or we feed addictions, thus avoiding dealing with shame or anxiety.  Could release from inner compulsions make us free?

Free… For What?

We assume we need to be free “from” externals.  But Hillman and Jungian therapy bid us consider what our freedom is actually for.  What do we need to be free to find in the second half of life ?

Authenticity and Meaning

Jungian therapy emphasizes the self in the second half of life: what does freedom mean from this perspective?  Surely letting the self live freely, and finding one’s life purpose in doing so.  Perhaps the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis summed it up best in his epitaph:

“I expect nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free.”



PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Guilliame Paumier  VIDEO: © 20th Century Fox
© 2012 Brian Collinson


Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 4: Truth

March 26th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, truth

Jungian therapy

What can “truth” possibly have to do with Jungian therapy or the major life transitions in the second half of life?   “Truth” can seem very abstract.  Yet, in Jungian therapy, we become aware of the profound power of truth, not as something “flaky”, but as the numinous place where the individual encounters the realities of the deep self, or soul.  We’re talking existential truth.

When It Changes

In the second half of life, there are forks in the road, or turning points — “moments of truth”, some call them.   An individual may follow a certain path of life for all of adulthood, but then discover somewhere in the middle portion of life that this path won’t work anymore.  She simply cannot do the job, or stay in the relationship, or pretend to have a certain identity, any longer.  While it served well in the past, it will not any longer: the second half of life has caught up with her.

Truth and the Unavoidable

Some truths have an unavoidable character, and confrontation with the unavoidable often furthers the individuation process.  It can often be that attitudes or beliefs that we needed in the first half of life fall apart in the second half of life.

second half of life

Lasting Truth about Self and World

In the second half of life, we need to find some stable truth that is ours.  This is not a matter of adopting any old dogmatic belief willy-nilly, but rather finding the deep realizations that accord with the innermost self.  Sometimes this is called a  ” philosophy of life “, but is probably better called a “worldview”, because it has much profounder roots than the merely rational.

So what is my worldview, my deepest realization?  Some find this in organized religion, but today, many find that they need something beyond that, even though our deepest beliefs or sensibilities may well be felt to connect us with God, the ground of being or the universe.  Whatever this fundamental worldview is, it connects or resonates with who we most fundamentally are.

A Fundamental Integrity

This connection is what John Beebe calls integrity in depth.  Today, integrity is much maligned, often associated with conventional conformist “straight arrow” morality, of a puritanical nature.  But there is a way of living, a possibility of living, not rule-bound, that comes straight out of who one most fundamentally is.

The goal of Jungian therapy in the second half of life is to enable the individual to live out the truth that accords with his or her most fundamental nature.

PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Manoj Kengudelu and kevincole
© 2012 Brian Collinson



Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 3: Time

March 14th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy, Time

Jungian therapy

Jungian therapy is shaped and informed by this awareness: no one can avoid the significance of time in the second half of life.  In my earlier posts in this series on the second half of life, I focussed on open-ness and desire.  For this post, I’d like to think about time, and its enormous impact on us

Our Finite Season

We become acutely aware that our time is limited in the second half of life, as Jungian therapy well knows.  This gives a certain type of urgency to living.  We have real choice about whether we will meet it with panic, denial and regret, or a sense of courage, self acceptance and engagement of creativity.

We are Creatures of Chronos

Many traditions have a time deity, to reflect its necessity, like Greek Chronos or Mithraic Aion.  Human consciousness needs duration to even be aware of itself.  We have to spend time to even feel that we are living.  So how will we spend it?

Time, Change, Age

Time, change and aging profoundly affect our relationships

We confront these three in our bodies.  We confront them in the self, as, in the second half of life, we become aware of possibilities that we have not lived out, and aspects of ourselves that we have not yet acknowledged — the unlived life.

However, there is also the possibility that, as we age, we may move towards a certain important kind of freedom.

Courage to “Waste Time”

Growing older, I may find that I am liberated from the tyranny of the expectations of others, and of the need to prove myself to others.  This can be one of the genuine gifts of maturation through midlife and the second half of life.  I may find that I need to have the courage to “waste time”, as the world might think of it, to remove myself from the busy-ness, and just to reflect on my life.

I will never forget a lawyer I know, who through Jungian therapy decided to leave the legal profession, after years of working incredibly gruelling hours.  He told me, “The single most important thing that this experience has taught me?  My time is the single most precious thing that I have.”

Learning how to live in the present, to be with yourself, to listen to yourself, and to foster soul.  These can be key elements of psychotherapy in the second half of life.

PHOTOS:  © Maria Paula Coelho |
© 2012 Brian Collinson




Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 2: Desire

February 27th, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

We tend to think that desire declines in the second half of life, but Jungian therapy challenges us as to whether that is really true.

Jungian therapy

As life goes on, there are actually some things that we yearn for with greater and greater intensity, and they may well have a profound importance for our psychic wholeness.

second half of life

Is Blake a bit extreme here?  Perhaps… but if we are talking about our heart’s real yearning, especially in the second half of life  — is he really wrong?

What We Fundamentally Desire Embodies Who We Are

What we most fundamentally yearn for hugely effects the forward movement of our lives.  Jungian therapy knows that our desires often comes from the deepest parts of the self, including the unconscious, in ways that we may not readily understand.  Our desire powerfully embodies the way we actually are in the world.

Wholeness, Yearning and Desire

In his Red Book,  Jung tells us that desire is “image and expression of the soul.”  (By “soul” he means the essence of who we are, or personality, rather than anything metaphysical.)  If desire is the expression of soul, and expresses our feeling, then it has immense importance for us during the midlife transition and the second half of life.  To explore fundamental desires, and to live them out, is connected with being who we are, in an essential way.

The Unexpected Attractor

The unexpected desire may be the most important.  Sometimes, in the second half of life, the individual finds him or herself attracted to things that seem completely unexpected, even inconsistent with desires at earlier life stages.  Yet, sifting through these “strange attractors” and unfamiliar desires, and possibly living them out, may be essential for the journey towards wholeness.

Hidden Desire and Imagination

Much art concerns yearning, often hidden desire and the ways in which it is fundamentally enfolded in imagination.  An important dimension of growth in the second half of life can be the process of letting desire speak through imagination, and realizing that imagination possesses a fundamental reality.  As Jung says:


Our desire is a powerful thing, and it matters to our lives.  Jungian therapy can be a key part of exploring desire, and entering into the fulness of who we are, and are meant to be, in the second half of life.

How have your deepest desires changed through the course of your life?

PHOTOS:  Attribution  Some rights reserved by worak ; Attribution Some rights reserved by milena mihaylova


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Jungian Therapy & the Second Half of Life, 1: Openness

February 21st, 2012 · Jungian, Jungian therapy, second half of life, therapy

I’ve always wanted to do a series on how Jungian therapy approaches the second half of life.  This is the time in our life from the onset of psychological midlife on.  For the first post, I’ve chosen the challenge of openness.

Jungian therapy

Growing older can tempt us to close ourselves off from new kinds of awareness and new possibilities for living.  How do we avoid this, and stay open, alive and aware?

Below are four insights about openness and the second half of life.

Coping with the Current of Life

Sometimes the current gets rough.  I can easily be overwhelmed with all that life brings over the bow in the second stage of adulthood.  Kids facing the challenges of the teen years, and of moving out into the adult world, and then the reality of empty nest.  Ever-changing and less stable work life.  For many, the end of marriages and partnerships, sometimes of long standing.  Achievement of some dreams, and the recognition that others will never come about.  The feeling of passing time, and anxiety about life slipping away.

The Temptation to Disengagement

As we get older and confront these challenges, there can be a slow, subtle, almost unconscious temptation to pull back from the world.  Without even being aware we’re doing it, we can end up holding ourselves aloof from what is going on around us, sometimes feeling betrayal, disillusion or disgust.  It wouldn’t be “cool” to admit it to others, yet this can often occur.  Which is tragic, because we can miss the real substance of our lives.

Seductions of Rigidity

We can find ourselves slowly taking a more and more rigid stance in life, slowly falling victim to unbending opinions, unwillingness to really listen to others who differ from ourselves, and resisting coping with change and anything new.  This kind of psychological rigidity can amount to a kind of living death.

Open-ness and the Undiscovered Self

To stay vitally alive, I need to respond openly to others, to the outside world, and, above all, to the undiscovered and unacknowledged aspects of my self — the shadow.  Dream images often reflect how unacknowledged aspects of the self are trying to come into consciousness.  There are possibilities in each of us that strive to be lived out, and to bring us into an going affirmation of life.

second half of life

How do you keep yourself open in the second half of life?  I’d welcome your comments.

PHOTOS:  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works  Some rights reserved by BobbiLe Ba Photography & Cards
© 2012 Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Uncle Vanya Midlife Transition & the Second Half of Life

June 24th, 2008 · midlife, midlife transition, second half of life

Anton_chekhov_vanya_blogRecently, I saw an excellent production of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya, presented by Toronto’s dynamic Soulpepper Theatre, which opens up powerfully issues at midlife and in the second half of life.  Soulpepper opened up this play in a particularly insightful, poignant and empathic way.  Their interpretation reveals the importance of this play and its connection with the experience of modern people in the second half of life.Chekhov_house_4

Chekhov’s house


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