Creating a Life

I’ve been reading Creating a Life by Jungian analyst James Hollis and Jung’s Symbols of Transformation at the same time. Hollis is the head of the Jungian studies program I’ll undertake over the next two years. Creating a Life is the book a person should read after reading about (and hopefully undertaking) the developmental tasks of middle age (40+ years), for it points you in the right direction after the razed earth policy mid-life seems to demand.

I appreciate Hollis’s honesty about the work of a therapist, because it made me feel much better about having quit my work as one. He writes:

“Were therapists required by “truth in advertising” legislation to tell their reality, then virtually no one would ever enter therapy. The therapist would be obliged to say at least three things in return to the suffering supplicant:

First, you will have to deal with this core issue the rest of your life, and at best you will manage to win a few skirmishes in your long uncivil war with yourself. Decades from now you will be fighting on these familiar fronts, though the terrain may have shifted so much that you may have difficulty recognizing the same old, same old.

Second, you will be obliged to disassemble the many forces you have gathered to defend against your wound. At this late date it is your defenses, not your wound, that cause the problem and arrest your journey. But removing those defenses will oblige you to feel all the pain of that wound again.

And third, you will not be spared pain, vouchsafed wisdom or granted exemption from future suffering. In fact, genuine disclosure would require a therapist to reveal the shabby sham of managed care as a fraud, and make a much more modest claim for long-term depth therapy or analysis. “

Hollis concludes this topic by suggesting that depth therapy or analysis will not cure anyone, but will, at least, make life more interesting by helping one discover the “complex riddles wrapped within” and thus, hopefully, bring them and other inner contents into consciousness.

A Bloody Blundering

My 12-year-old daughter asked me the other day whether I’d choose to go back in time if I could, if I’d want a “do-over” for any part of my life. I imagined being 12 or 16 or 28 or 36 again, mulling over the mistakes and blunders I’ve made, the people I’ve hurt, those I’ve mistakenly trusted, the stupid decisions I’ve made. Did I want to go back and change something, anything? After awhile I told her that I wouldn’t want to go back under any circumstance, for in spite of these mistakes and regrets, the first half of my life was, as Hollis writes, “a great and inevitable mistake, a bloody blundering.” An inevitable mistake, a mistake that had to be made.

To be young is to be a fool living among fools, no matter how wise we imagine ourselves to be. The wisest old folks you know (if you can find any) will tell you they were fools when they were younger; the trick is to learn from having been one and to press on toward wisdom and clarity. This is how it is with me; I’m pressing on, creating a life for myself. As it says in Proverbs, “if you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you are foolish, you alone will bear it.” Having carried the results of my own follies for all the years since I did them, I’m wiser for having carried them. I’m lingering in a place where I am happy and miserable, content and full of yearning, clear-eyed but stumbling blindly, sane in the craziest way possible, grateful to be where I am at this moment in time, this ripe moment, this beautiful, pregnant moment.

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