Tag Archives: the mid-life transition

Mid-Life: Psychic Evolution

Scan some of the online literature about mid-life, and you’ll be impressed by the volume and variety of signs and symptoms associated with it. Such mild regressions as chasing the gray away, face-lifts and tummy-tucks, sports cars and younger lovers, however, are only surface reflections of what’s happening unconsciously.

One thing is gaining recognition: transitional changes begin in the body but also have profound psychological effects, as mind and body are not separate by nature. Instincts once conceived as physiological for lack of a psychological perspective were euphemized as “drives” by ego-based psychologies unable to deny them — this, despite the sweeping psychic changes attending puberty and young adulthood. It was as if ego’s current state of knowledge relieved any further development save the rote learning of facts.

But, instinctive needs are generated by emotions portending more than just biological imperatives. I know I was raised with the fearful need for security — especially by staid adults whose knowledge and authority masked a deeper uncertainty —  in a world that is as relentlessly irrational and ever-changing internally as it is externally.

Mid-life is a profound test for a consciousness that would know everything but its own nature, and it’s usually repressed to whatever extent possible to mature while still nursing a youthful pose. The mystery of nature requires an increasingly complex organ of perception to manifest itself, and the urge to wholeness will never be fully comprehended by a partial consciousness. Psychic changes merge with physical ones on the smallest scale, however imperceptible to an ego fascinated by its own image.

The processes symbolized in these images, though, must already have attained a high degree of energy-intensity (value and purpose) and complexity to register consciously. How symbols originate and how we perceive them are a great mystery, but the greater confusion may be due to an older, more literal form of perception.

Since Jung began outlining his psychology over a hundred years ago, the mystery of symbols and their effects have been struck a heavy blow by material science. Yet, we’ve been driven by symbols, inspired by them, and instructed by them from time immemorial. This newer knowledge of the profound role they play in our psychology would, with reflection, allow an opportunity to re-connect with them on a more conscious level than the older metaphysical interpretations of who we once thought we were.

Depth psychology is acquainted with the focus and direction of consciousness as against the diffuse and irrational demands of the unconscious. Though the difference between the two ways of perceiving are naturally at odds, they’re also intended as complements.

They attract and repel at the same time, and only the weight of nature’s purposes decides which will prevail. Jung wrote that a very powerful attraction is needed to overcome the often hostile opposition between the sexes. The same is true for the mid-life transition — only here, consciousness is pushed to assume a greater responsibility on a higher level for its inner relations, just as couples adjust psychologically long after the unconscious attraction has initiated the still-sleeping urge to wholeness.

The greater problem of adjusting to the inner opposite certainly has its origin in the dual forces compelling the union of the sexes. Their profound demands for reconciliation find us making concessions we never conceived in our youth. Religious symbols have always drawn upon those analogies to describe their purposes.

Marriage is revered as a religious symbol for that reason, yet how many cling to the old ideal today for unconscious reasons they would rather not concede? We’re being pushed to make concessions to newer values, broader ways of seeing than the conventional, one-sided interpretations of the past. It’s not by choice or accident that old values are losing the efficacy they once had.

Though many contend that our religious heritage has only made for rivers of destruction (as it undeniably has, looked at only through that lens), our history must refer more to our interpretations of ourselves and our ideals than to anything inherent in the values themselves. One need only reflect to see that their intent is far distant from what we’ve achieved. The problem doesn’t lie with values or principles.

Aside from our rational ability to focus on the most minute details (science) to the exclusion of a broader picture (life), there is another factor which exaggerates the rift between the real and the ideal. The tendency of ego to see anything outside its own interests as suspicious and dangerous is an even older part of our natures than the relatively recent Christian precepts of love and acceptance which at least set us a definable task through the latest stages of our evolution.

As I interpret Jung’s efforts, this task is not dissolving as much as it’s changing form due to the growing complexity of consciousness — and an expanding intellect fastened onto images of objectivity unimagined by the emotional cast of previous generations. Yet, this new sense of objectivity must remain compulsively tied to the material world to divert the fear and uncertainty which defines psychic development.

The new intellect is would further refute the primitive animal who lives beneath it. We can see in our history how the religious ideal failed to significantly change it except in our minds: the very illusions which compel its rebellion. Who today would know the spiritual side of this billion year old Leviathan?

This primitive side of our natures is in need of development for us to contend with its destructive power. But, we need examples to learn how to do it. Read more about the process here.


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A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations with the Unconscious

A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciouness

A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

For those interested in new interpretations of old ideas, this post describes a very different kind of book, many years in its development. If you choose to read it, if you’re interested in the relations between conscious and unconscious, between man and nature, science and religion, it will be among the most original books you’ll ever read. It will likely upset your ideas of what your mind is for, just as it upset mine when I was forced by my own illusions (and those I inherited) to come to terms in some way with the unconscious.

It’s well known that new and original ways of looking at things take time to sink in, at least for those revolving around the self-flattering notions of who we think we are — or should or would be. Centuries-old religious ideals convince us even today that we can be who we “should” or would be, simply by believing it. This is the age-old way of ego, and most will remain convinced of its illusion as a defense against the unconscious — or, if you prefer, a God who makes demands on us and not just a comforting image of wishful thinking in times of despair.

The scientific view is equally convinced of this same illusion, having inherited it as duly as one is born with eyes and ears. Though, with no conception of a Deity but only an unconscious will to power, it seeks to “conquer” an external nature without taking serious note that she also works within; and dangerously so, for the double-sided hubris of humanity has been recorded since biblical times. The artificial reality we’ve spent millennia to achieve has become so toxic today, however, the current form of education will not much longer support it…

Based on the psychology of C. G. Jung and inspired by Goethe’s Faust, this book is a poetic description of the change in perspective prompted by the mid-life transition. For many, it will be only an odd curiosity. But for those who are deeply moved by this process, to confront the strange, symbolic figures which lead into the collective unconscious, this book will serve as a living example of the ideas and emotions encountered when an exchange, a dialogue, is entered into with the other side.

The subtitle, A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciousness, reflects the spiritual character of the philosophical depths to which these figures point; for as Jung wrote: because the unconscious consists of a living history of our mental functioning, any serious inquiry into it leads straight into the religious problem.

This problem is grounded in the opposites, and old religious ideas of good and evil still form the foundations of our world-views, whether we accept them consciously or not. They’re how we secretly see ourselves; how we relate to a greater whole both within and without, formed over centuries of intense concentration on the puzzling contradictions of subjective thought.

A major shift in values marks today’s fascination with science and technology, and the spiritual/emotional functions it ignores and represses only multiply the unforeseen consequences they create. The wisdom required to comprehend them is not accessible to the blind quest for rational facts — as if they alone would reconcile the inner division which is our fate.

Lacking an orientation to the inner counter-pole of the unconscious, we can only relate to it through the old concepts. But, these no longer suffice the complexity, the subtlety and diversity, the relativity of the changes taking place today. Without serious re-examination of our repressive view of nature and the psyche, we are only led deeper into the hidden snares which threaten from the dark shadows of an unconscious earthly reality.

Today, information and knowledge have become compensations for wisdom. The paradox is that the wisdom we need is secreted away in the knowledge we’ve repressed: the undeveloped soul of a human animal who yet sees nature as an antagonist and cannot accept the double laws of her demands. As a return for that, we’ve become our own greatest problem — and nature’s as well.

This book isn’t a remedy for this problem. It’s a way to identify and accept it; to find new ways to confront it; to enter a new psychological stage in nature’s ceaseless urge for development.

See Amazon.

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