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.