Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Defining the First Half of Life

In his essay "The Stages of Life" (1931) Carl G. Jung defined the three stages of life now taken for granted in the Jungian community. The first is Childhood, beginning at birth and continuing until puberty or adolescence. The second, labeled a bit misleadingly as it precludes the first fifteen years or so, is The First Half of Life, lasting from adolescence to mid-life. The third stage, most focused on in Jungian psychology, is The Second Half of Life, classically believed to begin at the mid-life crisis, sometime in one's late thirties or forties.

The path of individuation, the genuine relationship between the ego complex and the archetype of Self, is generally believed to only be available for people in the second half of life. I disagree. Based on my own life experience, my observations of peers surrounding me, and my research into the topic, I believe individuation is available and calling to individuals of varying ages all over the world today, as long as ego is independent enough from Self to be in relationship with it.

Edward Edinger wrote in his book Ego & Archetype (1973) about the development of the relationship between ego and Self (the undefinable "everything" out of which we are all birthed). While I'll be writing a lot about the dialogic relationship between ego and Self on this blog, for starters, here's the diagram I recreated from Edinger's book, found on page 5 of my copy. Figure 3 refers to the second half of life in Edinger's mind, when ego is independent enough from Self to engage in relationship with it. I doubt that biological growth is as relevant to the ego-Self relationship as Edinger and others believe, but that inner development, inner trials and growth, are what brings one to the stage of individuation or not. Figure 1 defines birth, Figure 2 the growth of ego as an independent entity from immersion in Self, Figure 3 the relationship between ego and Self (the path of individuation), and Figure 4 the seemingly unattainable state of a totally individuated psyche--not synonymous with the concept of enlightenment, but similar enough to be relevant for comparison.

The importance of individuation, the relationship between ego and Self, and everything to do with psyche, is the topic of this blog.

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