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The midlife period in most advanced countries worldwide today the average life expectancy for males extends to their mid- to late seventies and for women to their early to mid-eighties. Of course, this varies from place to place and depends very much on socio-economic factors that fluctuate broadly with world historical events such as revolutions, wars, economic depressions, and so forth. But on the whole and in average circumstances, the midway point of life for both sexes falls in the period between thirty-five and forty-five years of age. Why is this noteworthy, especially for psychotherapists?

Often midlife is a profoundly transformational period in personal identity for both women and men. Sometimes this takes the form of the famous “crisis,” but often it is not something quite so dramatic. I have come to think of it instead as a potential second birth of adult identity, the first having taken place between late adolescence and the thirtieth year. And birth is sometimes traumatic, and so one speaks of it as a “crisis” with justification. But even if not a fullblown crisis, it may signal a subtle transition in a person’s sense of self and identity.

About the timing of this transformation process, one cannot be quite so precisely mathematical. Some people seem to experience this on the early end of the midlife period, and many others on the other end and in their late forties. The timing is quite variable and depends on a number of factors coalescing that bring it to a point. What happened earlier in the person’s line of development out of childhood through adolescence and into adulthood is of importance in this. Generally speaking, the storms of life catch people by surprise, and the midlife tumult is no exception even if people are somewhat prepared to expect something big nowadays due to the extensive press coverage the midlife crisis has received in the decades of the late twentieth century.

It is also the case that some people do not undergo a midlife transformation at any time, any more than that everyone achieves a solid and meaningful adult identity. This is not a given. Some people show serious developmental arrest in early childhood attitudes or in adolescence, for example, and for such people there is no midlife transformation to speak of, but rather a continuous and prolonged identity as a partially adult person with striking childish or adolescent features remaining in place to the end of their lives. For these people, aging is real only in a physical sense but not psychologically, and even at the physical level it can staved off quite well and for a lengthy period of time given enough money for cosmetic surgery and other forms of anti-aging treatment. For people who make the transitions from childhood into adulthood successfully and more or less fully, however, aging is a psychological as well as a physical process. Psychologically, as one gets older one also becomes more complex and – dare we say it? – more mature and perhaps even attains to a level of wisdom in later years. Most importantly, one achieves a defined identity that extends beyond the early one of late adolescence and early adulthood. This later form of adult identity I call the personality’s “imago.” It takes form as the result of one or more transformations in and around the midlife period.

The Two Halves of Life – Achievement of Conventionality, Development of Individuality

The midlife phase of the lifelong psychological developmental process, which in Jungian circles we refer to as individuation, marks the turning point from the first half of life into the second. The lifespan as a whole can be divided into two more or less equal (in duration) parts, a first and a second half. This is an important image to keep in mind when considering the meaning of the midlife transition. Each half of life has its own proper projects, tasks, and challenges, and they are different. The tasks of the first half have to do with growing up physically and mentally and with attaining the social stature of an adult member of one’s community, willing and able to take responsibility for the tasks of adulthood – working, raising a family, paying taxes, preparing to take care of one’s aging parents and able to care for one’s growing children, and so forth. From the psychological perspective, this calls for personal (i.e., ego) development out of a primal state of attachment to mother and parentlike caretakers and and for growing out of a sense of dependency on them in order to gain a felt degree of independence, autonomous functioning, and the ability to contribute to others rather than only to absorb and consume. This has profound moral as well as psychological features.

Blog Posts Essays Individuation Life Cycle Stein, Murray Transformation

Thank you to the Pacifica Graduate Institute for sharing this video of Susan Rowland’s talk “C. G. Jung’s Dramatic and Imaginative Writing”. Subscribe to their YouTube Channel for more videos.

Susan Rowland, PhD is associate Chair of two hybrid programs at Pacifica Graduate Institute: MA Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life MA. Author of seven books on Jung, literary theory, gender and ecology, her latest work is The Ecocritical Psyche (Routledge 2012), which argues for a symbol embodying a reciprocal relationship with non-human nature. Previously Professor of Jungian Studies at the University of Greenwich, London, she was founding Chair of the International Association of Jungian Studies 2003-6.

Links: Susan Rownland’s page and recorded lectures on the C. G, Jung Institute of Chicago Website | Susan Rowland’s Website | The Pacifica Graduate Institute YouTube Channel | The Pacifica Graduate Institute

Blog Posts Rowland, Susan Seminars

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Lucille (“Lucy”) Klein, Jungian psychoanalyst, born on August 31, 1921 in Tupelo, Mississippi, passed away on April 24, 2021, just a few months short of her 100th birthday. A daughter of the South, she retained her charming Southern accent throughout her life, which included: serving as a Navy nurse during WWII; a long marriage to Frank Klein, with whom she had 3 sons; adulthood spent largely in the region of rough-and-tumble Chicago where she held the position of CFO in the successful architectural engineering firm her husband created; and some 50 years of involvement in the Jungian circle, first as gathered around June Singer, then as housed in the building that she and Frank bought and converted into what became the C.G. Jung Center on Callan Avenue in Evanston, and since 1990 as an analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago (CSJA). A long and active and rich life, indeed!

The archetypal essence of Lucy’s personality was symbolized in the choice of her thesis topic for completion of training at the CSJA: the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion, Guanyin. Lucy not only wrote about Guanyin, she embodied the core value of the bodhisattva. For many who knew her even if only at a distance this was true, and the closer into her psychic aura one came, the more convincing and genuine her loving energy was on display. This did not mean she could not show anger and a fighting spirit when necessary – on the contrary! But above all, love permeated her being and radiated constantly from her readily smiling face. For her patients, she was both a loving Guanyin and a challenging inspiration for further individuation no matter what the stage of life they might have been in at the time.

Lucy considerably expanded the concept of lifelong learning and development for many of us: she graduated from the Chicago Institute as a Jungian psychoanalyst at the age of 70! Thereafter, she took her place in the Institute community as an active member into her 9th decade, serving on committees, functioning as a training and supervising analyst for candidates-in-training, and offering energetic leadership and support for the Institute’s educational and training mission. In her late 70’s, she managed to fight off a bout of breast cancer and went on to continue working as an analyst after her recovery. Her enthusiasm for Jungian psychology never waned, and her depth of understanding its intricacies and applying them in her clinical practice continued to evolve until her retirement in her late 80’s.

Not only did Lucy’s passion for learning and analytic practice remain constant even into deep age, her determination and will to live her personal life to the fullest continued unabated every bit as well. Love in Lucy’s life conquered aging and all the body’s challenges that come with it. In the elder communities of Olympia Fields, Illinois, where she spent her last years, she distributed the joy of life liberally and was loved by residents and staff alike. In the archetypal realm of Eros, Lucy shines as a bright star.

Remembering our dear friend of so many years, I couldn’t help thinking of the Beetles’ famous song of the 60’s, and this sentence spontaneously came to me: Lucy’s in the sky, now, a diamond. We who remain here salute you, Lucy, and will always continue to remember you with steadfast love, which, as the poet Dante testifies at the conclusion of The Divine Comedy, “moves the Sun and all the other stars.”

Murray Stein
Goldiwil, Switzerland
May 15, 2021

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Dennis Merritt, member of the Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts, is interviewed on the Image for Hire podcast. It was released on October 30, 2018. From the description:

The Skrauss discusses synchronicity and the I-Ching with Dennis A. Merrit.
Listen up, Cavedweller. Take a plunge into the divinatory system that cracks into the Tao, the binary code of the Universe.

Names dropped and subjects mentioned:
Synchronicity is a Dimension
How Much Is the I-Ching (Unanswered)
Compendium of Chinese Wisdom
It Came From 1050 BCE
Leibnitz
How to Question the I-Ching
Carol Anthony’s 3RD Edition Guide to the I-Ching
Time is Not Just Quantity; It Is Quality
Gausian Curve
The Rainmaker Story
“Black Elk Speaks”
Wolfgang Pauli
Hexagram 42 “Increase”
The Confucian School
Hexagram 23 “Splitting Apart”
Hexagram 24 “The Turning Point”
Yellow is the Color of the Medium
Donald Trump is a Trickster
Cover Story of the January 1976 edition of Scientific America

Dennis L. Merritt, PhD, is a Jungian psychoanalyst and ecopsychologist in private practice in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dr. Merritt is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich and also holds the following degrees: M.A. Humanistic Psychology-Clinical, Sonoma State University, California, Ph.D. Insect Pathology, University of California-Berkeley, M.S. and B.S. Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over twenty-five years of participation in Lakota Sioux ceremonies have strongly influenced his worldview.

Dr. Merritt is the author of Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology: The Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe Volumes 1 – 4.

Links: Dennis Merritt’s Blog | Dennis Merritt’s Practice Website | Dennis Merritt’s Page on the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago Website | Image for Hire podcast on SoundCloud

Blog Posts Eastern Philosophy Individuation Interviews Merritt, Dennis Nature Religion & Spirituality Ritual & Initiation Self and Self-Psychology Synchronicity