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Episode 197 – The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul

Jan 13, 2022

Dr. Connie Zweig, Ph.D., retired Jungian-psychotherapist and author, joins us to discuss her new book, The Inner Work of Age. She extends her well-known work on shadow into midlife and beyond and provides a map for uncovering obstacles to aging consciously. The transition from Hero to Elder, or role to soul, begins with releasing the ego’s identification with doing and reorienting toward the transpersonal center that Jung called the Self.

As we let go of outworn personas and roles, harvest the wisdom of our long lives, and break free of unconscious shadows, the Elder’s gift of authenticity naturally emerges. In this way, individuation, the deeper dimension of age, can be expanded along with our expanding longevity. This renewed purpose is the hidden promise of late-life. 

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I was sitting at the front of a moving bus that was full of a friend’s family after a ceremony, maybe a wedding or a funeral. I was sitting facing backward so I could be part of the congregation. They announced they would shortly bring out my friend’s grandmother’s exhumed body for the dancing ritual. I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to take part but wanted to wait until I saw her grandmother to make my decision. She was brought out in a sheer black veil, through which I could see her body had shriveled to a tiny frame, almost a skeleton but preserved as if she had been embalmed. Her family took turns joyously and carefully waltzing down the aisle of the bus with her, and everyone gazed upon the ritual with loving delight. I decided I would just watch this time. My friend was gently handed her grandmother’s corpse whilst sitting in her seat behind me. She held her in her lap and we had a conversation, during which my friend’s face and her grandmother’s became indistinguishable. My friend appeared both living and dead at the same time, her face hollowed and decomposed but animated and lively.”

REFERENCES:

Connie Zweig. The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1644113406/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ZCW0Z73PAQTREBXS1206

RESOURCES:

Learn to Analyze your own Dreams: https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/

3 Comments

  1. Mamie Allegretti

    Good morning Joseph, Deb and Lisa,
    I’m really looking forward to reading Dr. Zweig’s book. I think the real task of mid-late life (perhaps even all of life) is preparing to die and to discover whether we are “related to something infinite of not” as Jung said. It seems as though two processes are going on at the same time. The first is to explore one’s ego consciousness (stories about ourselves, interests, traumas, relationships, problems, etc) and consciously see one’s life from a broader perspective. The second process is the mystical EXPERIENCE of knowing one is infinite, absolute, divine, one – whatever name you want to give it. There’s a lot to talk about in the first process and our rational, analytical minds love to chew on it all. But the second process gets us to the rest, the silence that underlies it all – the silence and pure awareness that we are. All the mystical traditions and even Jung’s psychology as I see it try to help us get there in the end. It’s the more difficult process by far especially considering the world in which we live and the pressures put on us to live an extraverted, crazy life of constant doing. This is one of the points that Peter Kingsley was getting at in his book Catafalque. He criticizes Jungian analysis as a block to this unitive experience of the divine (God, the Absolute, Buddha-consciousness, etc) because we are always conceptualizing, rationalizing and trying to figure it all out with out thinking mind to the detriment of seeking or realizing or practicing the experience of this awareness. Jung said all great truths are paradoxes, and this is a paradox, too. We need both processes. The problem is that the rational, conceptual has taken over pretty much all aspects of our lives along with the constant distractions with which we are all bombarded on a daily basis. Interestingly, for some of us, it may be that reading, seeking outside ourselves, learning from the different traditions eventually leads to it’s opposite (enantiodromia!) in starting to actually practice the experience of the oneness. It’s kind of like that whole process of learning was like an initiation and now one is ready to seek the actual experience. Of course, it can work the other way around, too. Some people may have a mystical or numinous experience and then seek to understand what it was through learning, reading, etc. Anyway, thank you for your podcast! And I hope you discuss the dream that you posted for this episode.It sounds so interesting! It reminds me of the “danse macabre!”

    Reply
  2. Mamie Allegretti

    Hi again,
    I just wanted to clarify that the first process that I mentioned above is not just about the ego but also about uncovering what is in the unconscious through a variety of methods and then coming to understand who we are through integration of what we discovered there. Interestingly, this imaginal realm of the unconscious (not imagination) that Jung accessed is the crux of the Sufi tradition and also in ancient theurgy. In this realm, we meet entities who have a reality in their own right (hence Jung’s experience that this is real domain). We meet guides, teachers, what might also be called angels. These are the “Gods” but what lies beyond them is the Absolute which we can never know. That’s why Jung said that he could not say what God was because it’s unknowable. So this middle realm of archetypal images is kind of like the bridge world to the Absolute. But again, paradoxically, we can have a direct experience to some extent this Absolute. So, again, our rational minds kind of block us from direct experience of awareness and also experience of the imaginal realm. This is why the mystical experience is so hard to grasp with the rational mind. It’s paradoxical , contains it’s own reality and images which we don’t usually experience and have trouble understanding. This is why Henri Corbin and Jung understood each other so well as Kingsley discusses in Catafalque. Corbin realized the imaginal realm that Jung was talking about. Anyway, just some musings.

    Reply
  3. Mona

    What a soulful discussion. I’m so deeply moved. Thank you.

    Reply

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