In this chapter (chapter two) Kornfield likens the war in our head between all the ego voices to the wars in the world. He suggests the way to have peace in the world is to stop the war inside. He suggests that adapting to our society leads one into denial and addiction saying
We use addictions to support out denials.
To wake up to these voices can be overwhelming and depressing, but if you persist you will eventually find peace inside. The most important thing to remember when you begin to pay attention to the voices inside is to simply notice without judging. It’s important to NOTstart a war with these voices for that only exacerbates the war.
In Jungian terms the process of paying attention and accepting “what is” is called taking back one’s shadow because what gets denied gets repressed into our unconscious. It distorts reality. So to take back one’s shadow is to see wholly.
Another important point in this process of “stopping the war” is to NOT identify with the voices. You are the observer of the voices; that is your true self. The voices have created the false self or what Jung called the persona.
In the next several blog posts I am adding an audio note. My intention is to take you through a book I consider to be fundamental to spiritual development. Each blog post will cover one chapter in the journey. I encourage you to read or re-read my blog post called Reading with Soul in Mind before getting started with this series of blog lessons.
The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?
The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.
It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.
So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?
The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.
Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:
Encounter with the Shadow
Encounter with your Soul-Image
Encounter with your God-Image
Emergence of the Self
I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:
We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)
In the last essay entitled “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung wrote that Freud’s theory of sexuality and Adler’s theory of power are “hostile to spiritual values, being, …, psychology without the psyche” (1933, p. 228). His claim is that the psychology built on the medical model focuses on psychopathology following the experimental findings of neurology which gives little to no credence to the reality of psyche in its own domain. Instead they reduce everything to biology — chemical processes and hormones.
As a depth psychologist my training, education and experience is in “psyche.” I am not trained in psychopathology. To be licensed as a psychologist you must know the manual of psychopathology — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – now in its fourth revision. Depth Psychology is for adults without mental illness, and I do not work with people with severe mental illnesses.
“All creativeness in the realm of the spirit as well as every psychic advance of man arises from a state of mental suffering, and it is spiritual stagnation, psychic sterility, which causes this state” (1933, p. 225).
He observed over the many decades of practicing psychiatry a common origin of neurosis – spiritual emptiness.
Jung was the first to require his analysts to be analyzed before they could become analysts themselves. He asked,
“How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive, and perhaps also suffer from the morbus sacer [holy disease] of a neurosis” (1933, p. 236)?
Interestingly there are no requirements stated, other than what is required by the accredited doctoral psychology school one attended, about the number of hours one needs to have undergone in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. My school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, required 50 hours. I have participated in over 5,000 hours of psychodynamic analysis, a much more intense and deep psychotherapeutic treatment.
The question I am left with, also the point, albeit subtle, Jung made in his essay, is — are licensed psychologists trained to heal neurosis? If they are trained and tested in psychopathology how does this lead to healing? Doesn’t one have to be trained in healing to be a healer? Shouldn’t one be healed themselves to be deemed a “healer?” Perhaps this is why psychiatrists are mainly pushing pills these days. I believe it is nearly impossible for licensed psychologists to heal neuroses if they have not learned about “psyche.” Perhaps this is why most of their treatment modalities, i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy and skill building, never really touch the depths of your soul, the originator of neuroses.
All ye with weary hearts and neurotic symptoms are welcome to my consulting room. Let it be known, I will not diagnosis you with a psychological illness; I will, however, tend your soul.