Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Do We Need Schools for Forty-Year-Olds? November 10, 2014

ArrienbookSome years ago I was working on a precursor to my latest book, a manuscript about creating partnership between our psychological opposites.  Throughout history cultures have found the categories of “masculinity” and “femininity” useful for designating differences between pairs of opposites in many areas of life, including languages, electronics, social roles, leadership styles and so on.  Curious about the different ways men and women develop psychologically over a lifetime, I used the same categories in an assessment tool I created.  The Partnership Profile estimates the relative weight an individual gives to the masculine and feminine qualities of his or her psyche.  I wanted to use it to help people understand that everyone contains both kinds of qualities, and both are equally necessary to a successful adaptation to life.

As Jung wrote in 1930 when gender and sexual stereotypes were more widely accepted and adhered to than now:

“We might compare masculinity and femininity and their psychic components to a definite store of substances of which, in the first half of life, unequal use is made.  A man consumes his large supply of masculine substance and has left over only the smaller amount of feminine substance, which must now be put to use.  Conversely, the woman allows her hitherto unused supply of masculinity to become active.” Jung, CW, Vol. 8, para. 782

Over the next few years I administered The Partnership Profile to over 700 people in various stages of life, from college students to old age, and used the results to refine my instrument and draw some preliminary conclusions about the natural changes that occur in the psyche over a lifetime.  I’m not sure I agree with Jung’s observation that men have a larger supply of masculine qualities and women of feminine, but my results did bear out his findings that everyone has both, and that our use of them changes over time.  He wrote,

“How often it happens that a man of forty-five or fifty winds up his business, and the wife then dons the trousers and opens a little shop where he perhaps performs the duties of a handyman.  There are many women who only awaken to social responsibility and to social consciousness after their fortieth year.  In modern business life, especially in America, nervous breakdowns in the forties are a very common occurrence….Very often these changes are accompanied by all sorts of catastrophes in marriage, for it is not hard to imagine what will happen when the husband discovers his tender feelings and the wife her sharpness of mind.” Vol. 8, para 783

For a while I conducted partnership workshops at the Disney Institute. At one session an elderly man stood up and proudly shared his score which was heavily weighted on the feminine side of the continuum.  Then he said something like this:  “I was a marine for over thirty years, and I’m proud of it. But I’m here to tell you that the score I got today is right on.  It sure wouldn’t have been when I was a young man, but I’ve changed.  My wife and I live next door to a little old lady whose health is bad and I go over there every day to help out. I cook, clean, buy groceries, run errands, do odd jobs.  My wife won’t go with me.  She says she’s had enough of that and would rather read.” At this point his wife nodded vigorously in agreement.  He continued, “But I can’t get enough.  I love helping her!  That’s a whole new part of me I never knew I had when I was a marine.”

hollisbookJung wrote:

“The worst of it all is that intelligent and cultivated people live their lives without even knowing the possibility of such transformations.  Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world?  No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of our life;  worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto.  But we cannot live the afternoon of life according the programme of life’s morning;  for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” Vol. 8, para. 784

Have you experienced this reality?  What do you think?  Should someone start a school for forty-year-olds?

Note:  For those interested in reading more, I highly recommend The Second Half of Life by Angeles Arrien, and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by Jungian analyst James Hollis.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Original Choice January 11, 2013

enlightenmentIn the instant when our ego is conscious of our shadow we are lifted by grace from the dark realm of blind reaction into the enlightened realm of original choice.”

The above is from my last post about the shadow. Around 22 years ago I read a quote about original choice that instantly switched on some long-unused lights. I think Emerson wrote it. It was something like, “Nothing is so rare as an original choice.” I was just emerging from a lengthy dark night experience and knew that if I’d read it a decade earlier I would have blown right past it, uncomprehending.

Until I saw those words I hadn’t known how blinded I’d been by collective thinking. I’d been so busy being a good girl and pleasing all the important people and looking up to famous authorities and being so proud of myself for doing everything right that it simply hadn’t occurred to me that following outer examples while repressing inner realities is not the way to become who you are meant to be. This is what it means to be unconscious.

It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t until mid-life. And it took a whopper of an inner crisis for me to get it. Luckily, I refrained from doing anything foolish during that time. I was very good at being a stoic little soldier, so I just tolerated the pain. Doing so was another message I had unconsciously absorbed. So much so that around the age of 12 when the dentist said I needed several fillings, I refused Novocain. I still remember the odd way he looked at me after drilling a particularly bad tooth. I had no idea what it meant, but now I think this kind man was feeling a mixture of compassion and pity. He must have wondered why in the world a little girl like me would make such a choice. I had no idea. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.

Wait! I made that decision by myself! Wasn’t that an original choice? Not really. I was proud of myself for choosing to be so brave, but unconsciously I was just following an example. No-excuses, non-complaining, unemotional stoicism was my mother’s drug of choice. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to me. In my mind I had to be like her. It made me feel safe. Special. Worthy. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.
A truly original choice would have been to listen to my feelings and say, “Hell yes, I’ll take Novocain! And anything else you’ve got! I’m tired of pretending! Conforming! Not feeling! Proving something! To whom? For what?” But I didn’t know I had that option. Most children don’t. We teach our kids good manners and appropriate social behavior, but how many of us teach them to trust their inner promptings, especially those that make us acutely uncomfortable? For most children, it’s far easier to conform than risk parental disapproval of their deepest, truest selves.

How do we make an original choice? First, by learning to listen to the murmurings of the pure and loving soul we were born with; a soul whose purpose in life is to bless the world with its unique gifts simply by loving what it loves. Second, when the time is right and we’re strong enough to accept the rejection that some will gleefully heap upon us, by singing our own song. Making our own contribution to the healing of the world is the greatest power and purest joy we will ever know.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Such is the power of cultural conditioning.  When’s the last time you made an original choice?

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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