Your Midlife Opportunity: Where To Start

If you’ve made your way here, and you’re somewhere around the midpoint of your life, you’ve no doubt already experienced some major changes. You might be noticing that this transition feels different – more urgent, and scarier somehow, than past transitions.

Maybe it’s because transitions such as getting married, leaving home, having a baby or becoming an adolescent, while obviously extremely challenging, seem to be more connected to beginnings, the future, something new.  Midlife, on the other hand, can conjure up images of the proverbial midlife crisis or just coasting aimlessly into later life. Which sounds depressing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Midlife does not have to be a crisis. In fact, it can be an opportunity for profound meaning, joy and excitement.

Carl Jung considered the midpoint of life not only important and necessary but also arguably the most rewarding life transition. This is because we’re moving from consciously building our outer world – family, career and identity – to exploring our unique and individual inner world.

With the strength and knowledge of the first half of life, we can now go inward and downward, getting to know ‘lost’ parts of us, experiencing deeper spirituality, and ‘individuating,’ or finding balance between all the aspects of who we are.

Your forgotten inner parts

If you are somewhere around midlife right now, you can probably relate to being parented in a way that was much more focused on compliance and a more intense kind of socialization than seems to be the case today. There are parts of you that led this effort and you probably recognize a few of them as being, for example, very critical of yourself or judgmental of others.

This might be why it’s hard to know exactly what you want or move forward without being stopped in your tracks by fear and self criticism. It’s understandable to try to get rid of these parts of us, but they actually played a critical role in helping you navigate your past world, and continue to be accepted by your ‘tribe’, e.g. family.

Inviting all your parts to the table

You may have dreams and passions that feel out of reach, forgotten, or lost along with entire parts of you that are have ended up in the same place: your shadow.

When we grow up we have to shut down and exile parts of ourselves to the proverbial dungeon to please our parents, be a functioning member of society, and often to keep ourselves safe. So we push away parts of us that do not fit the expectations of our environment, whether good or bad. Your loud, boisterous, messy angry selves might be part of your shadow alongside your confident, strong, playful and trusting parts.

Each part of us, whether seemingly positive or negative, has an opposite, which is often not available to us. A major task at midlife is to reconnect and be able to know, work with and accept all the parts of who we are. Otherwise, these parts, rather than your core self, are essentially running the show.

As you’ve likely noticed, the habits we learned when we were much younger and even before we could speak don’t easily just go away when we no longer need them. In fact, we often automatically default to the ways we learned to be, since it’s been so instilled in us. At some point you’ve most likely realized that these old and rather outdated ways of being are not exactly helping you connect with others, or be your best self as an adult.

But it’s not like you can just stop responding to life the way you’ve learned to. That would be like telling someone to ‘just relax’ and not react to the extremely loud noise that just happened (and that no one else seemed to hear).

So you go along through life doing what you need to do, taking care of your kids, working, being a “good” parent, partner, employee, you name it.

But there’s also the part of you that wants something more, something meaningful, something purposeful, waiting to get beyond survival mode so it can come out and play.

So where do you go from here?

You’ve reached this point called midlife and you’d like to reclaim and connect with all the parts of who you, but you’re feeling stuck in the past with a program running your brain that was created before you could speak and that you really had nothing to do with?

The best place to start is to begin to recognize and get to know all the parts of your self, and invite them back to the table, with all their gifts and frustrations and reclaim the ways they are “not you”, a process with Jung called individuation.

Our shadow parts may seem out of reach, undesirable or scary, but we need to reclaim them in order to be our full selves, experience our deepest feelings and passions, know what we want and move forward to make it a reality.

So how can you begin this process?

Click here to download my free resource,getting to know your inner parts>, which provides all the steps you need to begin exploring and reclaiming all of who you are in a fun and creative way!

The secret to this work – or as I like to call it play – is that we’re accessing the right side of our brain, where images, dreams and imagination live. In the past decade or so, we’ve discovered that working with the right side of the brain and connecting both sides of our brains is now a scientifically proved path growth and healing.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the role our whole brain plays in the process of our unfolding. Stay tuned.

5 Paths To Growth: Working With The Brain

Last post we reframed midlife as an opportunity for spiritual growth, self discovery and meaning, and how we can start to know what we want, be all of who we are, and create a life of choice and purpose. A great first step on this path of self discovery is getting to know and reclaim all the parts of who we are. Working with parts allows us to bring together missing parts of ourselves that, if not claimed, tend to do their own thing, sapping our energy and causing us to live in reactive and often unproductive ways.

What our brains need: the whole picture

Thanks to research and science, we’ve gotten to know a lot more about what we’re working with physiologically when it comes to change, growth and transition. Over time we’ve learned that we need to involve our entire brain in the process, starting on the right side (creativity, imagination, intuition, feelings and the body), since past events that shaped the way our brains are wired, and the ways we still react to the world, are stored there.

If we can access the core of our experiences from the right sides of our brains, we can then connect with our left brains to create a whole and meaningful ‘story’ of our past and future lives.

Traditionally, we’ve focused on the left sides of our brains (logical, linear facts, language and reasoning) as a first step of healing and growth via talk therapy and language. Recently we realize that in order to work with our pre-verbal and earliest influences, we need to take some right brain routes first.

I’ve found that working with the right brain can be fun, playful and creative. It get’s you out of the ‘working on and talking about my problems’ mode and into ‘playing with and expressing what’s authentic and happening right now.

The importance of integration

However, we don’t want to focusonlyon the right side of the brain. A health brain is one that’s integrated, bringing together and connecting both sides. While need the right side to access ideas, past memories, emotion, intuition and creativity, we equally need the left side to organize and make sense of it.

5 paths to the right brain

Here are some ways to work/play on the right side of your brain:

  1. Visual expression: You may not consider yourself an ‘artist’ and that’s completely fine. It’s even better sometimesnotto worry about ‘being artistic’ to be able to express yourself authentically. Working with collage is an excellent way for anyone to start using their creative imagination self expression.
  2. Writing: This may actually seem like a left brain activity since it involves language. Writing is an example of an activity that needs the integration of both sides to work. The right brain provides the creative side of writing with images, ideas, feelings and creative expression while the left side is needed to provide form, flow and understanding. Journaling, free writing and writing with your non- dominant hand are great way to start playing with words.
  3. Mindfulness: Being in the present moment, observing what’s happening now, letting thoughts go and being an observer starts on the right side of the brain.

Besides meditation, tracking is a way to practice mindfulness as you go through your day. When you feel an emotion, notice where you feel it in your body and track where it goes observing without judgment.

  1. Dreams: Our nightly dreams have been termed the “royal road to the unconscious” by early psychologists since they connect directly to our unconscious. Dreams provide a connection to our deepest and often inaccessible selves.

Recording and drawing your dreams: get in the habit of capturing dreams as soon as you can after experiencing them. In addition to writing, try drawing them in any way that feels right to you (stick figures and simple shapes are fine!)

  1. Movement: Express ourselves with physical movement is another way to connect with the unconscious, since truly ‘the body does not lie’.

Authentic movement: as with art, don’t think of moving as a performance or ‘dance’, but as allowing your body to express itself in any way it wants. Put on music without words and see what your body wants to do. Alone in your room is just fine!

I’ll be going into more detail on all of these paths to the right brain in future posts. In the meantime, have fun exploring!

Engage in right brain approaches, such as creativity, imagery, imagination, the body, mindfulness and movement.

My Path To Movement: The Things I’ve Learned