Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

As it often happens in life, once we ask a question, answers start coming from all possible directions. My journey into the basement to meet my shadow led me to often shocking discoveries of the patterns that kept surfacing in my personal life and insights as to how they were shaping my life. Some of those discoveries could have been done much earlier with the help of a professional, I suppose. Nevertheless, here I am, years and multiple sabotaged relationships later and my research on the subject (without looking for anything in particular) led me to mooching the book by Jungian analyst James Hollis “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life“. This just a week or so before my birthday (interesting coincidence). I was saving the book for the week-end. Today, when iTunes started downloading the podcast updates, I opened it up to see who Tami Simon interviewed this time on “Insights at the Edge” and gasped in disbelief when I saw the title of the new episode: “James Hollis: Underneath the Midlife Crises”. Come on!  Now I had both the book and a very skillfully done interview with the author.

So what’s the deal with the so-called “midlife” crisis and how come it seems I’ve been having one for years although I don’t have any conscious fear of aging?

Hollis posits that any crisis occurs when the maps we are carrying (conscious or unconscious ones we adopted from our culture or family of origins) do not match the terrain, when there is discrepancy between “what we sought, served, and accomplished, and what we feel in our private, honest moments”. This occurs when we experience the unavoidable conflict between the natural Self and the acquired “sense of self” (he calles it “the false self”) with “the values and strategies we have derived from internalizing the dynamics and messages of our family and our culture”*.  As children, we adopt certain defense mechanisms to ensure our survival and  we carry those with us into every decision we make as adults. Those unconscious mechanisms often guide our choices in directions quite different from those our soul desires. Most of us experience this identity crisis many times in the course of our lives and as any collision, it’s a painful experience.

As for “midlife” crisis, Hollis does not see it as “a momentary madness” , but an invitation from our soul to a more authentic existence, when something larger is wishing to emerge; an opportunity to radically examine one’s life. We have gathered enough internal material to actually address the critical question,

Am I living my life or somebody else’s?



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Can we see reality as it is? Beau Lotto’s optical illusions point us in the direction that the brain did not evolve to see the world as it is but the way it was useful to see it in the past and the brain is constantly learning. There is no inherent meaning in information we receive from the world. Our brains create meanings based on the patterns they detect, comparing the new information to something we learned before and this is what matters in the end.

If anything, this can give some of us who are a bit too certain something to become uncertain about.

The brain does all this enormous work and I haven’t even asked for it! It’s like I move forward by relating to the past all the time. How do I learn anything new? Introducing some uncertainty, something that was not part of the past experience. Another question: how can I experience the world differently even when I see what appears to be the same thing or the same person? How do I not get stuck in the old interpretations of the world?

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Happy Birthday!

Today I am 26 (some would say 38 but who listens to them? ;-)). This is the first time I don’t feel like saying my age out loud.  It might seem like an accute case of midlife crises but I choose to see it as a crises of meaning. Meaning, I came to believe, is something I actively create and choose to align my life with and therefore there is always hope.

Ideas that I earlier saw as separate projects are now gathering into constallations almost without my conscious participation and tied up around one particular destination which is more about a way to be than a place to go to.  In other words, lots of work and I have no idea where I will end up. 🙂 I started drafting it and will tell more about it here and on Creative Response of course.

I never particularly liked pictures of myself but it can be fun to look back at that frozen in time and space image of now a stranger.

Apparently, I picked up Find-out-for-yourself principle at the tender age of hm… something. Haven’t stopped since then. Sometimes it costs me teeth but it’s entirely worth it.



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On “the arrogance of reason”

Friday dinner/metaphysical discussion with a friend who is currently trying to figure out the answer to the-meaning-of-life question.


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