“I write because… well, the best I can say for it is it’s a psychological quirk of mine developed in response to whatever personal failings I have.” ~Zadie Smith, Intimations
When I discovered Jungian psychology in my forties, I knew I’d found a guide to self-understanding. By the time my second book was published, I was fascinated by two themes. First, that every culture throughout history has used “masculine” and “feminine” to categorize pairs of opposites in every field of life — nature, languages, electronics, social roles, leadership styles, etc. Second, Jung’s theories about the qualities he associated with femininity and masculinity. He believed our goal in life is to unite all our psychological opposites— whether we think of them as masculine or feminine — in a sacred inner marriage of wholeness.
As the following quote by Jungian analyst Gary Taub explains, this is a controversial topic:
“Last December I was invited by our local Jung Society to participate in a panel discussion on Jung and gender. I was specifically asked to discuss how I saw Jung’s ideas about masculine and feminine as relevant or out-dated in my analytic work. After giving it some thought, I concluded that my experience over the past 20 years was that Jung’s ideas were both relevant and out-dated.
It is difficult to discuss this topic generally. Some of my clients find Jung’s concepts regarding masculine and feminine extremely useful and enlightening. For example, the notion of an inner man or inner woman is helpful to many of them. This Jungian construct seems to fit their experience and assists them in understanding their dreams. But to others, these ideas about gender are foreign and unacceptable, especially when it comes to the narrower definitions Jung gave to concepts such as the anima and animus.”
I found these concepts very useful and enlightening. A child of the 1950’s, I was aware of the discriminatory attitudes people had toward boys and girls, men and women. I was wounded by them many times and knew they were wrong. Believing like Jung that the soul has no gender, I started work on a book about creating partnership between our masculine and feminine sides.
To gather more information, I created an informal self-assessment tool called The Partnership Profile. I wanted people to see that we all contain the qualities we associate with the feminine and masculine archetypes. My hope is that when we understand that both are essential to a successful adaptation to life, we will stop associating them with binary genders, release our stereotypical thinking, and grow into who and what we were born to be.
Over 700 people from college students to elders took The Partnership Profile. Their answers provided insights about how gender and stage of life effect the journey into wholeness. They also bore out Jung’s findings that everyone has a feminine and masculine side and that our focus on them changes over time. He wrote,
“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
At one workshop an elderly man proudly shared his score which was heavily weighted on the “feminine” side of the continuum and said something like this: “I was a marine for thirty years and I’m proud of it. I’m here to tell you the score I got today is right on. It sure wouldn’t have been then, 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.” C.G. Jung Vol. 8, para. 784
Have you experienced this change? What do you think? Should someone start a school for forty-year olds?
Note: My new book contains The Partnership Profile. If you’d like to receive a free copy of it, click here to pre-order The Soul’s Twins, then send a copy of your Amazon receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll e-mail you a pdf.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, forthcoming from Schiffer Red Feather Mind Body Spirit. For more information, subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.