“Unless you come as a child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus
“Those who think they know do not know, those who do not know, know.” The Iching
There is no better way to write of the inner journey then to quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
"When Love beckons you follow him, though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; and then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”
My own inner journey began consciously on December 7th, 1970 with a spiritual awakening. Then true to Gibran’s words above, the crowning, the love, was followed by the years of pruning; the descent to the roots of my psyche, the threshing, the grinding, the kneading, and then the thrust into a fire of transformation. My own journey has led me, through dreams and guidance, to the work I now do with others that their unique journeys may be safer and easier. Not all are called to undertake the kind of journey I made at midlife and so psychotherapy meets each individual where they are, allowing each persons unique unfolding to be honored and respected.
MID-LIFE AND THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS
The second half of life, which usually begins between 35 and 50 years of age, makes demands for radical change requiring that the ego be willing to undergo the journey passage necessary for a person to become psychologically and emotionally mature. The ego tends to defend against the process initiated by the Self as the mid-life descent can feel like a disorienting death.
Whereas the first half of life demands development of the ego with adjustment and adaptation to outer life invested in the world, ones culture and the tasks of career, marriage and children the second half requires individuation. At mid-life that which gave meaning before tends to fade away, there is regression into deeper layers of the psyche providing images and access to archetypal patterns in the collective unconscious as well as constellation of childhood memories and insight into unconscious complexes.
Regression is often experienced as depression as ones energy turns inward to open doors in the unconscious structures of the psyche. When understood one sees that regression is a call for the deep introversion needed for transformation. Transformation is an archetypal process, a pattern hard wired into the psyche analogous to the caterpillar dissolving to become a butterfly. The process is guided from within by the Self, an archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the psyche.
The suffering of this stage, which one must bear, rocks one out of set places as can love, thus this stage is sometimes initiated by deep spiritual experiences which then ask for the unwinding of the false self. Our true identity is not equivalent to biography; the real self is connected to infinity so tribal and family identities begin dissolving at mid life and we become ever more conscious that we see nothing as it is. Often a person, if not aware of the value of the mid-life descent, will try to escape the suffering and emptiness it brings through love affairs or other radical outer changes. This is a mistake. One must move through this period and not cling to outdated concepts employed by the egos resistance to change. The ego is used to the drives of the false self with its demands for power and control, affection and esteem, and security and is frightened by the sense of dissolving and feelings of liminality occurring at mid-life. This is the very process, however, through which the ego sacrifices power and control to awareness of the infinite.
The mid-life journey of individuation is the process by which we strengthen the Self and through which the ego comes into relationship with the Self. One begins to pay attention to the messages which come through dreams, through active imagination and experiences which awaken one to awareness of a greater reality. Through individuation a person becomes a whole human being acknowledging and living the full range of who one is called to be by the Self.
The journey of mid-life is lengthy but as it ends one returns to the world with the Self as partner. There is rising emphasis within on the need to co-create the redemption of the world and the narcissism, which is so apparent at the beginning stages of mid-life and necessary to attend to the inner work, disappears.
Jung’s work focused on the development of the internal Spiritual Self. He wrote, “...the main interest of my work is not concerned with the treatment of neurosis but rather with the approach to the numinous...the fact is that the approach to the numinous is the real therapy and inasmuch as you attain to the numinous experiences you are released from the curse of pathology. “ Inner descent brings a corresponding ascent.