Some 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.”
“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.
Before we know it, we’re in the autumn or winter of our lives, thoroughly unprepared for the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional shifts that occur …
Education in this would be beneficial. It is widely available as e.g. the books you list in your post.
Thank you for this.
Yes, just reading a couple of the excellent books on this topic can give one a huge shot of energy and direction. It’s not as if our outer and inner lives don’t constantly offer hints and opportunities for growth during mid-life, but we’re usually so busy we rarely stop to listen and ponder. And, of course, there’s always our ever-present fear of change. I was totally unprepared for the turmoil I experienced in my late thirties and forties, but with a lot of inner work I got through In much better shape than when I started! Thank you for writing, Susan
Dear Jean, I loved this post as a 39-year-old woman, who is in the throes of deep transformation, also relating to my animus issues. I think it started much earlier for me – around 26 – but only now am I ready to embrace the complex and drink its contents fully.
Dear Monika, I hope you’re taking notes!! Your wonderful blog is a marvelous educational venue for people of every age. In the section of Volume 8 of Jung’s collected works I quoted above, he talks a bit about the symbolism accompanying the stages of life, especially the sun and its arc in the sky (para 795.) But there are more personal symbols and mythic motifs that enter our fantasies in the late 30’s and 40’s that we would do well to study more thoroughly for the guidance they offer, and you do an amazing job of modeling what that kind of inner work looks like. Thanks for being a shining light in your corner of the internet universe. 🙂 Love, Jeanie
Also – I have a question – do you happen to know of a good book on Animus with a more modern approach? Thank you.
If there is one, I don’t know about it. But in the early 90’s I did get some help from “He,” “She,” and “We” by Robert Johnson, and The Opposites Within by Robert A. Johnson, and I’d recommend them as a starting point. Unfortunately, both are written by men whose insights, while brilliant, cannot make up for the liability of never having been a woman whose experience of the world is decidedly different. My book, The Bridge to Wholeness, offers hints here and there, and there’s a whole section about dreams of the animus in Dream Theatres of the soul, but although I lived the feminine experience of trying to connect with her animus energy, I by no means had a full understanding of it. Hmmm. Perhaps I should consider trying to fill that gaping hole in psychological literature…… 🙂
Yes! I had never thought of it until I began to read your work. But, when the classes start up, I’ll be there.
Opening jeanraffa is like opening a box o’ chocolates. I look forward to laying my eyes on those little nuggets of spiritual knowledge that my friend Jeannie has delivered special delivery right straight to me.
I enjoy the feelings of being loved and being a vital part of this wonderful Cosmos.
Again, I thank you for answering your calling and for just being YOU.
What a sweetheart you are, Cindy! Sending you a virtual box o’ chocolates with many fond and grateful thoughts! Jeanie
The idea of this sounds perfect. My interest is piqued.
I’m feeling inspired myself! This appears to be fruitful ground for exploration. Thanks, Nicole
You said in a comment that, “Perhaps I should consider trying to fill that gaping hole in psychological literature……” Yes, please do! 🙂
I’m relatively new to Jung, since I enter from the balancing of elements within all of life — via Ayurveda — and how ether, air, fire, water, and earth all manifest in different portions within each of us, but am thoroughly loving your writings and perspective. You also provide a fresh lens through which to perhaps see the masculine and feminine in each element, rather than assigning just one i.e. fire = masculine which thereby further limits our understanding of the whole. Thank you!
After I wrote the above comment I was feeling so inspired that I wrote a chapter outline for a new book! At the moment I’m feeling that this is something I can write in my sleep in three months!!
Please forgive a touch of exaggeration! The book may or may not be written, but I’m loving the surge of inspiration that speaks to a renewal of libido. Whether I act on this project or another one to come, I’m grateful for having had the presence of mind to wait for the solution before I wasted my energy on a dead end project that would sap my energy unnecessarily!
I so love knowing that despite the fact that you come from a very different tradition, you see the value of viewing this issue through a different lens. Opening to otherness and change is half the battle (and solution), isn’t it?
Jeanie, I’m tickled pink by your enthusiasm! It’s a reminder of how giddy I often feel in my own writing! 🙂
You said that, “I’m grateful for having had the presence of mind to wait for the solution before I wasted my energy on a dead end project that would sap my energy unnecessarily” …. and isn’t this incredible wisdom to tap into?! When I was recently expending tons of energy writing college papers (thank goodness I decided to set aside that “dead end” phase) I was exhausted constantly … but when I spend the same amount of time and focus on spirit-led, heart-led writing, I’m filled with *more* energy. I simply have faith that this is what I’m meant to do without expectation of where it will end up.
Yes! Paying attention to our energy and enthusiasm is what is meant by the admonitions to listen to yourself and follow your passion. These things truly are our inner guides. Of course there are times in our lives when we tolerate tiredness for the sake of meeting long-term goals that are truly vital to our souls….like waking up at night to feed the crying baby, or going to medical school because all we ever wanted to be was a doctor and we know beyond a doubt that this is our calling. But just as often we waste our selves trying to attain goals that aren’t really right for us. The only thing to do then is listen even harder until we can tell the difference between the two! Many thanks for this insightful comment.
As always, Jean, this is wonderful, inspiring and succinct. Johnson’s and Hollis’ books have been siginificant touchstones for me, as have James Hillman and Jean Shinoda Bolen. I’d now add to that list your ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’.
Looking forward to your new one. Thanks and blessings for all you do.
Wow, Roselle! Being included in the company of these giants is very high praise, indeed! A big, sincere thank you. And not just for that, but for all you do too, especially your wonderful work to help us reconnect with our world. To that end I include this link to your site where readers can learn about your poetry, workshops and books: http://thewildways.co.uk/books/.
Thank you for posting Roselle’s web site. I smiled when I saw her other site called “Fire in the Head” … since moving to the desert, I’ve been inspired to write about how Fire has affected me through the landscape and through creative writing. Magical. Overwhelming at times, but that has only led me into further mysteries to decipher about myself. I’m so happy that I found you, Jeanie, your blog and books. Very Grateful.
And I’m absolutely delighted that you found me too, sweet lady! 🙂
Jean, I’m very touched that you posted that link. How kind of you. I’ve noticed before your generosity; and also in the fact that you reply to every comment – you must know, as I do, how rare that is. Thank you. (Oh and I meant to include Arriens too; and Dolores la Chapelle; and von Franz.)
Darla, delighted with your kind comments, too. Big thanks from stormy Devon, UK, to both of you over there. How lovely to make these ethery connections, knowing that there is a whole community out there trying to ‘live right’ – whatever that means.
Roselle, Thank you from a rare gray morning in Orlando. I love these ethery connections too, and am deeply grateful for my internet community which is, indeed, trying to ‘live right.’ I think we know what that means. 🙂
Dear Jean, I have been enjoying your blogs since 2010. Jung emphasized the need for mid-life schools in the interview “The Art of Living” in “C.G. Jung Speaking.” My wife and I address Monika’s question about the modern approach to the animus in our new book “Into The Heart Of The Feminine: An Archetypal Journey to Renew Strength,Love, and Creativity.” Info. on the book will be on our website budharris.com in December. Thank you for your continuing devotion to sharing your journey. Bud
It’s nice to know you’ve been enjoying my blog. I read “Sacred Selfishness” some years ago and enjoyed it very much.
I didn’t know Jung ever mentioned the need for mid-life schools until I stumbled across the quote I cited just the other day. I was very glad to see it because I’ve often thought the same thing.
Thank you for sharing the great news about your newest book. I look forward to reading it and know a few mid-life women who will be eager to read it too. And thank you also for adding so much psychological awareness to collective consciousness with your other books.
It seems quite an interesting synchronicity that you should publish this article on the Marine Corps Birthday! Was that intentional? Semper Fidelis!
Skip, I had no idea Nov. 10 was the Marine Corps’ birthday! If I had, I probably couldn’t have thought up a story about marines if my life depended on it! As you and I know so well, the unconscious is always receiving messages of which the conscious self is utterly unaware.