Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Can Midlife Transition Bring Renewal? 1: Out of Decay

February 19th, 2013 · midlife, midlife transition, transition

Midlife Transition is a key part of our life journey, but can it bring renewal?

midlife transition

In midlife, often the values and activities that have been meaningful for us to that point, start to die or change.  Could good or life-giving things ultimately come from this transformation?

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Fruitful Exhaustion

We embark upon adulthood embracing key values and fundamental attitudes which carry us up to the second half of life.  They may be around education, occupation, relationship, family… all the things that carry meaning in the first half of life.

But, in midlife transition, those values and attitudes may not carry the same meaning for us.  A career that was once energizing may now feel gray, empty and valueless.  A relationship with a partner or significant other, once full of promise and life, may now be something that we only endure.  Things once full of life, and joy [e.g., “the gang”, “playing hockey”, “working on home improvements”], may lose their magic at midlife.  We may feel plunged us into confusion and disorientation.

day-of-the-dead-mexico-city

When the Past is Dying

When in this kind of midlife experience, it’s easy to feel that “this funny state I’m in” is the culprit, and is responsible for my despondancy.  We can end up trying to eliminate our “messed up state of mind”, and attempting to return to the past.  But we may find that’s impossible.  Often those in midlife transition find themselves trying harder and harder to get back the sense of vitality from things that used to have value or meaning, but do so no longer.  This can bring the individual considerable anxiety and/or depression.

Emergence of the Unfamiliar

Often, the only way forward is to fully understand what is actually emerging from the unconscious at midlife.  It may very well be that shadow aspects of the personality long submerged in the unconscious are now demanding to be acknowledged.  At this stage in life, we may well surprise ourselves!

midlife transition

The Green Man, Symbol of Renewal, Crowcombe, Somerset, 1535

Psychologist Mary Ann Mattoon  notes that the the non-dominant attitude emerges from midlife on.  The person who has been a strong extrovert may find  that the need to turn inward becomes more apparent.  The introvert may experience a strong desire to connect more with others.

Similarly, the complementary functions may start to emerge.  The person whose life has been dominated by rationality may suddenly find that emotion and feeling are coming into her life with surprising force.  The person strongly in touch with feeling may suddenly feel the need for a more rational framework  in his life.

Jung referred to this as the “reversal of values”: values, attitudes, and commitments that once served us no longer do so.  New values are needed.

Renewal Out of Decay

Midlife transition approached with the right attitude contains vitality, even if its onset seems only like collapse and loss.  As a depth psychotherapist, I work with individuals to uncover the seeds of renewal within their own unique experience of midlife transition.

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by Bogdan Migulski ; Jacqueline Ross  

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A Jungian Psychotherapist Respects Midlife Transition 1

July 30th, 2012 · midlife, midlife transition, transition

A good Jungian psychotherapist has great respect for the psychological processes that make up the midlife transition in most people

psychotherapist

This is because, for many, much of the course of life and of the value they assign to it will be determined during the period of midlife transition. Whether we’re aware or not, the middle of life is when we really work out, or determine what our attitude will be toward some key aspects of life.

These attitudes determine fundamentally how life gets lived out.

1. Have I Understood and Accepted My Identity?

It isn’t unusual for people to find that their understanding or sense of themselves starts to change with the midlife transition.  Oftentimes, this entails losing lots of illusions about our identity.  We start to understand that certain dreams and ambitions will never be fulfilled, while possibly other desires and ambitions that weren’t important earlier in our lives come to the fore.

This leads to a related subject…

2. My Attitude Towards the Shadow — the Parts of Myself That I Find Really Hard to Face

We all know that they’re there.  While we may have varying degrees of clarity about these aspects of ourselves that are painful or shameful to look at, they need our attention.  We need to face them as clearly as we can, and to assume responsibility for them.  The only way not to live life through the midlife transition as anything other than a bitter illusion is to let in those parts of ourselves which are exiled, yet contain our vitality.

 3. Open-ness

As life goes along, we can get more and more set into ruts we have travelled for so long. These may concern habitual concepts of ourselves, the rigid rightness of our own views, or the types of experiences to which we’re open.  A Jungian psychotherapist knows from training and experience that if we don’t find ways to stay open, and to experience new things during the midlife transition, we risk falling into greater and greater rigidity, and moving farther and farther from real life as we age.

 4. The Challenge of Accepting Life

In midlife, we face the challenge of moving into a creative acceptance of the totality of life.  This is no idle exercise: our ability or inability to do this may profoundly affect the whole remaining course of our lives.  The privilege and challenge of a creative psychotherapist is to work with the individual to bring a creatively receptive attitude into being.

PHOTO:  Attribution    Some rights reserved by Yellow.Cat

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