Jung was particularly interested in the second half of life, perhaps because after his own midlife crisis he found himself so surprisingly generative. We tend to spend the first half of life oriented to familial values and cultural norms for success.
Education, work, partnering and child rearing are some of the mile markers for speed and distance on the road of life—until midlife strikes. We may then discover that worldly successes feel flat, or blame discontent on bad breaks.
Although dramatic lifestyle changes at midlife are the stuff of story, malaise at the midpoint is psyche’s signal to attend to unlived inner life. It is time for meaningful encounter between ego and unconscious, worldly rewards and true fulfillment, obligation and freedom. Midlife crisis is a call to deepened feeling and the unique meaning of your life.
“I am walking with a group of my “clients” (developmentally disabled people). I have to work to keep the group together as some straggle here and there. I’m responsible for their well being so onward we go. I look on the ground/sidewalk and see a small round brown object which looks like a tree nut. I pick it up and upon closer inspection realize that it is of animal nature rather than plant – and alive. As I hold it in the palm of my hand, it morphs into a tiny creature, tinier than my pinky finger. I can’t just leave it there so I slip it into my pocket and keep walking, trying to keep my rag-tag group together. After a while I look into my pocket to check on it and it has grown some and looks a bit like a fetal kitten. It looks unwell and I think it might not live. We continue to walk. The third time I look into my pocket, the creature has turned into a baby bird with black, red, and white feathers. The bird is in tremendous suffering with its stomach cut open and a look of horror, pain and grief on it’s face. I feel these emotions too and think, “Oh no! It’s going to die.” I keep it in my pocket and try to soothe it, but still we keep on walking. Toward the end of our escapade, I look into my pocket a fourth time. This time the bird is fully grown and leaps out, startling me. Now the bird is pure white, luminous with three round feathers on slim stalks atop its head. Among its body feathers are multicolored zinnia flowers sprouting along with the feathers. It hops into a landscape planter along the sidewalk and establishes itself amid the vegetation. I back away in shock, completely amazed. I pull out my cell phone to try to take a picture of it but can’t because a survey keeps popping up on the screen of my phone, preventing me from using the camera. I curse and search my bag for another phone and finally do manage to snap a pic, but I still don’t know what to make of it.”
When I am old I shall wear purple, Jenny Joseph, Selected Poems, 1992