Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

I've had the pleasure and privilege to hear James Hollis' lectures at the U. of Oregon during his visits to Eugene over the past several years. Hollis, a Jungian analyst and executive director of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Houston, is an engaging speaker who always offers insights that are thought-provoking (and often, disturbing to one's habitual patterns of behavior!).

In my reading of his book, "Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up," I found his views affirmed my experience during my years as a counselor (and my own life experience). His clarity is startling:

"The chief disorders of our time are the fear of loneliness and the fear of growing up. The flight from loneliness drives people to mill amid malls, to stay in bad relationships, to abuse substances and worst of all, to avoid a relationship with the self. How can we ever have a good relationship with another when we cannot have a good relationship with ourselves? The flight from ourselves will always mean that we will be uncomfortable with another. What we fear in ourselves we will fear in the other; what we avoid addressing in ourselves we will avoid in the other; where we are stuck with ourselves we will be stuck with the other."

Hollis goes on to say that "Growing up means taking psychological responsibility for ourselves, and not just economic and social responsibility -- that is the easy part. Growing up means taking spiritual responsibility for ourselves. No other can define our values, become our authority, or protect us from necessary choices. Until we accept this responsibility for ourselves, we are asking others to be a shelter for our homeless soul. As understandable, and universal, as that desire may be, remember that others will then be asking the same of us as well. How ingrown, and stagnant, such a relationship will prove to be. The immense soul that dwells within each of us will in time, chafe and fret, and produce symptomatic messages of dismay. And in time, whether or not we stay outwardly bound together with a partner, we will psychologically leave the relationship by the diversion of Eros's energy to work, to another, to other projective possibilities, or invert it as depression or somatic illness."

Brilliantly said. I can certainly attest (or is the better word, "confess") to what happens when the soul begins to "chafe and fret". My experience in my late 30's was to "invert it" to become depressed. And later in life, to somatic illness. In myself and people I've counseled, I've seen excessive busyness, workaholism, work avoidance, romantic dalliances, multiple addictions, and projections of every imaginable variety ("it's all your fault!").

If any of James Hollis' words ring true for you (or sufficiently disturb or annoy you!), I suggest you read his book. Sooner or later, your soul will summon you to "live a larger life."

NOTE: James Hollis is scheduled to return to Eugene-Springfield on October 3-4, 2008. His most recent book is titled, "Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves."
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