“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 email@example.com 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.
Really a thought provoking post Jean. Many thanks ……
As 60 years could be redefined now as the new 40 years I think that’s where we should start.
I’ve read many James Hollis books and found each one intelligent, relevant and inspiring…..
“ There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us. But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try. These reasons seem to protect us, but in truth they imprison us. They hold life at a distance. Life will be over sooner than we think. If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.”
Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Hi Michael, I love the Elizabeth Kubler Ross quote. Thank you for that.
I think some people do start this transformation in their 50’s and 60’s because the feelings of discontent that come from leaving their dreams behind haven’t set in yet. Maybe they’re working so hard to support their families that they don’t have the time to attend to their inner prompts. Or maybe they’re already living some of their dreams and are still enjoying themselves. For many of these, it takes a life crisis of some sort to awaken them to untapped needs and potential that still wants to be lived.
For others, the inner discontent sets in earlier: I was 37 when it hit me and I was totally unprepared. I thought there must be something wrong with me because it didn’t feel like the “Happily ever after” I’d been taught to expect. Nothing had prepared me for this. I It took me years to see that I’d been ignoring some very crucial components of my soul to fit in and please others.
I agree with Ross that “now” is the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should leave everything behind and make a drastic change in the opposite direction. It doesn’t have to be either one thing or another. It can be some of both. In my case, “now” meant committing myself to study Jung’s theories and listen to myself and take tiny little baby steps toward living my dreams of love, life, and adventure, all the while doing everything I could to live responsibly and spare my loved ones from as much pain as possible. It’s a difficult delicate balance. My book is an attempt to help others find their own way.
Thank you for writing. I wish you well on your adventure.
Thank you Jeanie … short answer, yes to schools/guides/discussions! I remember thinking some years ago that we know so much about so much and can e.g. land on the Moon, now Mars, get down into the deepest oceans and so on, but how little do we know about ourselves? I am so grateful that Jung’s work including his peers at the tine eg MarieLouise von Franz and post Jungian works exposed me to a world that meant so much on a soul level. James Hollis is wonderful, I too have read most of his books.
That’s a lovely story about the man who went next door to assist and found his heart growing (paraphrasing) – Love, Susan
Thank you, Susan. I agree. Our egos love our personas, but are terrified of what’s below. Jung bemoaned our lack of self-knowledge many times:
“Today there are a whole lot of things which an adult ought to know in order to be equipped for life. He is supposed to have picked them up in his schooldays, but then he was much too young to understand them, and later there is nothing to prompt him to go back to school again. Usually he has no time for that. Nobody brings him any useful knowledge in this respect, and he remains in a state of childish ignorance. We should have schools for adults, where one could inculcate into them at least the elements of self-knowledge and knowledge of human nature.” C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 189-191.
And we’re still not doing it.
Glad you liked the story. Yes, that’s exactly what was happening to the old marine. His heart was growing. I think everyone there felt that.
In truth, I feel it’s never too late. That’s my view Jean.
Hope you enjoy the following poem…..
By Czeslaw Milosz
(1911 – 2004)
English version by Robert Hass
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget — I kept saying — that we are all children of the King.
For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago –
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef — they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfilment.
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.
Thank you for sharing that poem here, Michael! I like it very much. And I totally agree with you: It’s never too late to awaken to the universe within where there is no time and we are all one. 🙂 Be well. Jeanie
Hello Jean! I have been thinking about that Jung quote for a while and have been contemplating a school for 40 year olds. Lets talk!
Thank you for writing. If you’d like to discuss this you can send me a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org.