I have been reading the Jungian analyst James Hollis on and off for a year now, and he’s still my favourite thinker/writer when it comes to reflecting upon growing older, or more specific, what he calls; the second half of life.
The first decades of our life are mostly spent in making adaptations to the world and its demands upon us. The central project of mid-life and beyond is the recovery of a deeper sense of identity, rediscovery of purpose, and the development of a more mature sensibility.
The “second half” of our journey is not a chronological moment but a psychological state of awareness. According to Hollis, the first sign comes when you feel dissatisfied by where you are today—and hear a call from within to live a more purposeful life. This marks the collision between your “False Self,” created from the expectations of others, and your instinctive “True Self.”
What I really like in Hollis’ way of thinking, is that he challenge us to exceed our own expectations of ourselves and of the life we are living. Reading Hollis makes you re-think things, relationships, habits – that is the modes of being you have previously taken for granted. This, obviously, is not a simple and amusing project, rather it can be painful and hard to carry through … and it is a never ending process.
Still reading Hollis, I must admit, is in itself vitalizing (and yes; I am tempted to say rejuvenating).
In life’s many junctures of choice we all have to decide this simple, challenging question: Does this path make me larger, or smaller? We almost always know the answer quickly. Then the summons is to choose the larger, however intimidating it may be, or we live shallow, fugitive lives.
The second half of life is about honestly exploring the questions that bring richness and value to your life, and so presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement.
James Hollis, Ph.D., was born in Springfield, Illinois, graduated from Manchester University in 1962 and Drew University in 1967. He taught Humanities for 26 years in various colleges and universities and trained as a Jungian analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute Zürichfrom 1977-1982.
He is presently a licensed Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. He is a retired Senior Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, was first Director of Training of the Philadelphia Jung Institute, and is Vice President Emeritus of the Philemon Foundation.