The Survival Papers:

   Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis

   By Daryl Sharp

   ISBN 0-919123-34-1

5 star must reading.   [The following is what I highlighted during my read of this excellent book -- I recommend it on my List of Peace resources.  My purpose in providing them is to interest you, the reader, and hope that you will obtain and read the complete work.  To properly understand the highlights, you need to read the book to put them in the proper context.]

   Preface

 

·         A midlife crisis, like an acute neurosis, is characterized by conflict, depression and anxiety.

·         …they are attempts at self-cure –manifestations of a basically healthy psyche trying to find a proper balance.

·         …the moment when a new psychological adjustment, that is, a new adaptation, is demanded.

·         ….a breakdown of the personality has a purpose:  to force a person onto a new level of awareness.

 

 

 Introduction

 

·         …..neurosis as a prerequisite for the individuation process.

·         ….neurosis as disunity with oneself,  individuation as the conscious movement toward psychological wholeness.

·         ….our miraculous human nature enforces the transition that leads from the first half of life to the second.

·         The disintegration of the personality sounds much less ominous if it is understood as an opportunity for new life rather than the end of the line.  Such an attitude is more than mere consolation for the person going through the experience, it can mean the difference between life and death, for it offers the possibility of meaning in what would otherwise be pointless suffering.

·         A midlife crisis is marked by the sudden appearance of atypical moods and behavior patterns.

·         …the aim of analysis is to bring to light the psychology of the individual.

·         ….motivation and innate potential.

·         The most noticeable, and potentially valuable, symptom in a midlife crisis is conflict.  “The apparently unendurable conflict”.  ‘is proof of the rightness of your life.”

·         The more intense the conflict, the more pressing is the need to re-establish a vital connection between consciousness and the unconscious.  The struggle to effect this is the path of individuation.

·         If we could always know  what is ‘right’ for us, our ‘true’ direction, then we would live in complete inner harmony, always at peace.

·         This is the goal, essentially, unattainable.

·         ….the essential thing is the opus (the work on oneself)…

·      ….not to overcome one’s personal psychology – to become perfect – but to, become familiar with it.

·      Wholeness……

·      …is only achieved through self-examination, and unless there are acknowledged problems there is nothing to examine.

·    Those who have a midlife crisis are caught in the grip of an inner necessity – a psychological imperative to embark on the journey of self-discovery.

·      ….really have only two choices: to be a willing and conscious participant in our own individuation process or a hapless victim.

·      …..an outbreak of neurosis is an opportunity to become conscious, that is, to wake up to who we are as opposed to who we think we are.

·      ….in a psychological crisis unconscious contents are automatically activated in an attempt to compensate the one-sided attitude of consciousness.

·      ….the problem of  opposites – the disparity between conscious ego attitudes and what is going on in the unconscious.

·      ….imagos…

·    …traditional psychoanalytic reductive view, …that psychological problems are primarily sexual in nature and stem from Oedipal conflicts in childhood.

·     ….the individual psyche knows both its limits and its potential. 

·     If the former are being exceeded, or the latter not realized, a breakdown occurs.

·     Subjectively and psychologically, this energy is conceived as desire.

·      I call it libido, using the word in its original sense, which is by no means only sexual…….

·      From a broader standpoint libido can be understood as vital energy in general, or as Bergon’s elan vital.

·      …neurosis..

·      ….a blockage of libido…

·      …a primary cause….

·      …what is the intention of the psyche as a whole, where does the energy ‘want’ to go?….

·     ….when libido ‘disappears’, as it does in depression, it must appear in another from,  for instance as a symptom.

·      Every time we come across a person who has a “bee in his bonnet” or a morbid conviction …….there is too much libido, and that the excess must have been taken from somewhere else where, consequently, there is too little…..

·      ….The hidden place is the “non-conscoius”

·     ….The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm which is not easily disturbed, or else a brokenness that can hardly be healed.

·    Conversely, it is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed  in order to produce valuable and lasting results.

·     “The libido has, as it were, a natural penchant: it is like water, which must have a gradient if it is to flow.”

·     The question, again, is where does it naturally “want” to go?  “What is it”. Asks Jung, “at this moment and in this individual, that  represents the nature urge of life? That is the question.

·     …it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind…This involves bringing to light psychic contents that have been repressed.

·     Life is born only of  the spark of opposites.

·     …if the obstacle seems to be insurmountable and the individual abandons the task of overcoming it, the store-up energy regresses, that is, reverts to an earlier mode of adaptation.  This is turn, writes Jung, activates infantile fantasies and wishes:

·    Remove the obstacle from the path of  life and this whole system of infantile fantasies at once breaks down and becomes as inactive and ineffective as before.

·      ….establish a connection between the conscious mind and the unconscious.  Only in this way can the split-off energy become available for the accomplishment of the “necessary task” the person balks at.

·     “psychoanalysis no longer appears as a mere reduction of the individual to his primitive sexual wishes, but, if rightly understood, as a highly moral task of immense educational value.

·      ….to find out what is going on inside.

·      ……..introspect, to stay with the mood, to go into it rather than try to escape it.

·      Prominent aspects of the psyche that one needs to become aware of in such a situation are the persona….and the shadow.

·     “A real solution” …”comes only from within, and then only because the patient has been brought to a different attitude.”

·      …the conflict must be solved on a level of character where the opposites are taken sufficiently into account, “and this again is possible only through a change of character…..

·      Integration of unconscious contents.  The process of individuation.

 

 

1.      Difficulty at the Beginning

 

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happen outside, as fate

                                                                                        (C.G Jung, Aion)

 

·         Times of growth are beset with difficulties.  They resemble a first birth.  But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form.  Everything is in motion: therefore if one perseveres there is a prospect of great success….

·         Likewise, it is very important not to remain alone, in order to overcome the chaos he needs helpers.

·         …life as he has known it is finished.

·         He has to suffer until he finds, or there wells up in him, an attitude that is better adapted to who he is and life as he finds it. 

·         For this he needs time.  For this he needs time.  His suffering is the result of the conflict he not yet conscious of.

·         Just suffering, however, is not enough – you have to be willing to do something about it.

·         …conflicts with other people, especially one’s mate, are really externalizations of an unconscious conflict within oneself.

·         Perhaps the most painful conflicts of all are those involving duty or a choice between security and freedom.

·         Life naturally involves the collision between conflicting obligations, incompatible desires.

·         …what do I want?” This question aims to constellate the function of feeling – which evaluates what something is worth to us – since a serious conflict invariably involves a disparity between thinking and feeling.

·         If feeling is not  conscious participant in the conflict, it needs to be introduced.  The same may be said for thinking.

·         If a person can hold the tension between the conflicting opposites, then eventually something will happen in the psyche to effectively resolve the conflict. 

·         The outer circumstances may in fact remain the same, but a change takes place in the individual. 

·         This change, essentially irrational and unforeseeable, appears as a new attitude to both oneself and others.

·         …the transcendent function……

·         This process requires patience and strong ego, otherwise the tension cannot be held and a decision will be made out of  despera-tension, just to escape the tension.  Unfortunately that changes nothing…..

·         …there was no “me” – when I was in a complex…..

·         Whenever a strong emotion is present …..a complex has been activated. 

·         When we are emotional  we cannot think straight, we hardly know how we feel.

·         ….they drain our energy.  Instead of sound judgment and an appropriate feeling response there is a void.

·         Something – or someone, …..-is preventing his from making a decision that would change his situation and restore his peace of mind.

·         What is the task Norman will not, or cannot, accomplish?

·         …we must be able to drop our persona in situations where it is not appropriate.  This is especially true in intimate relationships.

·         From being a useful convenience, therefore, the persona easily becomes a trap.

·         A man cannot get rid of himself in favor of a collective identity without some consequences.

·         There is so much repressed energy that has nowhere to go that he is ripe for an explosion.

 

 

2.      The Serpent Wakes

 

·         …closeness became a hindrance to what we were there to do: to confront ourselves, without support or judgement from another, to deal absolutely on our own with the impossible conflicts and contradictions we were experiencing.

·         …is a measure of his attachment to her and his need for approval – their shared participation mystique.

·         They hide themselves to protect their men from the pain of growing up.  They live tormented, schizophrenic lives, close to the brink, until they relinquish their identification with the mother.

·         Norman is suffering because he is emotionally committed to a woman he experiences as unloving.

·         That is the difference between individual analysis and working with couples

·         ….interfering with his own process

·         ….he is  not ready to hear it….

·         …initial dream…..

·         …is of special significance…underlying factors….

·         …problems that need to be worked through.

·         Jung: he believed the purpose of dreams was to monitor and regulate the flow of energy in the psyche.

·         In order to know ourselves we need both relationships with other people and the mirror of the unconscious.  Dreams provide that mirror.

·         It takes hard work to understand dreams. We aren’t used to their symbolic language.

·         …a midlife crisis, when a change in conscious attitudes is imperative.

·         …problematical, for at least two reasons: 1) it is characteristic of the neurotic mind to note its suffering and take no action, and 2) Norman has no container independent of his wife and family.

 

 

3.      The Unknown Other

 

·         When a man is full of life he is “animated” The man with connection to his soul feels dull and lifeless. 

·         Nowadays we call this depression –prime symptom of a midlife crisis 

·         The primitive mind called it loss of soul.

·         Jung distinguished four broad stages of the anima in the course of a man’s psychological development.

·         In the first stage, Eve, the anima is completely tied up with the mother.

·         In the second stage, personified in the historical figure of Helen of Troy, the anima is a collective sexual image.

·         The third stage of the anima is Mary.  It manifests in religious feelings and a capacity for genuine friendship between the sexes.

·         In the four stage, as Sophia (called Wisdom in the Bible), a man’s anima functions as guide to the inner life, mediating to consciousness the contents of the unconscious. 

·         Sophia is behind the need to grapple with the grand philosophical issues, the search for meaning.

·         She is a natural mate for the “wise old man” in the male psyche. The sexuality of a man at this stage is naturally exuberant, since it incorporates a spiritual dimension.

·         …the transition from one stage to another seldom happens without a struggle –if it takes place at all – for the psyche not only promotes and supports growth, it is also, paradoxically, conservative and loathe to give up what it knows.

·         …people frequently turn out to be completely different from the way we thought they were. 

·         If it’s an intimate friend, we are devastated.

·         …Jung calls synchronicity…..

·         There is a very thin line between empathy and identification.

·         Jung insisted that those training to be analysis must have a through personal analysis before being let loose.

·         Only through an intimate knowledge of my own complexes and predispositions can I know where I end and the other begins.

·         In relationships, identification…..spells trouble.

·         …between grownups it is in the long run unworkable.  Neither can make a move without double-thinking the effect on the other, this greatly inhibits the self-expression of both.

·         Process is called withdrawing projections.

·         …married to woman who no longer embodies  what  he fell in love with…

·         …he has a projection on his wife,   something in him is pushing for that realization.

·         In the meantime he’s suffering , as I did, from loss of soul. 

·         The only antidote to this is to become aware of what he saw, and still sees, in his wife, and to measure this against his current experience of her.

·         ..stop expecting his wife to be what she isn’t.

·         ..a man under the thumb of a positive mother complex is vulnerable to women.

·         A man of this kind needs some conscious contact with his shadow, invariably a ruthless knave…

·         He could also use a rather tougher persona…..

·         A positive mother complex inclines a man toward the ideal of togetherness.  Although individual psychological development – individuation is not possible without relationship, it is not compatible with togetherness.

·         Individuation offers the basis for healing to another  from a position of personal integrity.

·         …the ideal of togetherness.  Norman identifies with his wife, his devotion to her is so strong that he sometimes forgets that he himself is dying.  

·         At the same time he is beginning to resent her.

·         They don’t fight or quarrel, not because they have no problems but because they don’t reveal their true feelings to each other. 

·         They cannot do so because neither  can stand disharmony.

·         …see his wife more realistically – if he can withdraw his projection-  it might save their marriage.  It depends on whether or not he likes what he sees, and if she can stand what he sees.

·         …whichever way he turns.  I’ll be the devil’s advocate for the other direction.  My job is to keep the conflict alive until he knows what’s he’s doing and why.

·         ..a woman’s animus is more like an unconscious mind.  It manifests negatively in fixed ideas, unconscious assumptions and collective opinions…

·         An unconscious woman is always highly opinionated……

·         ..coldly emasculate him on….

·         …a woman must constantly question her ideas and opinions, measuring these against what she really thinks.

·         …four stages of animus development in a woman, similar to the stages of the anima in a man.

·         He first appears dreams and fantasy as phallus, the embodiment of physical power, for instance an athlete or muscle man.

·         For a woman with such an animus a man is simply a stud….

·         …second stage, analogous to the anima as Helen, the animus possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action

·         …he is the generic husband-father….

·         ….next stage ……Mary, the animus is the “word”…..She is able to relate to a man on an individual level as a lover.

·         ….fourth stage, the animus is the incarnation of spiritual meaning  a Ghandi or Martin Luther King.

·         Sexuality for such a woman is more than just an enjoyable physical act, it is imbued with spiritual significance.

·         …if Norman did not fit Nancy like a glove she’d already be long gone – or he would.

·         …wife’s animus hovers between stages two and three. It depends on who she’s dealing with. On the one hand she has an image of Norman as husband-father, on the other, she has a lover who embodies her own unlived creative life.

·         Relationships thrive on feeling values, not on what is written in books.

·         That is how you establish a container, a personal temenos.

·         On the whole, you work on a relationship by keeping your mood to yourself and examining it.

·         The merit in this approach is that it throws us back entirely on our experience of ourselves. 

·         It is foolish to imagine we can change the person who seems to be the cause of our heartache.  But with the proper container we can change ourselves and our reactions.

·         …the major battles in relationships happen because the man projects his anima onto the woman and the woman projects her animus onto the man.

 

 

4.      The Hero’s Journey

 

·         …make for some healthy conflict.

·         …present Norman with a image so different from the way he sees himself that he will seriously consider his conscious attitudes and where he stands.

·         ….integrate

·         integrate  his shadow….

·         Everything about yourself that you are not conscious of is shadow.

·         …the shadow is a hodge-podge of repressed desires and uncivilized impulses.  It is possible to become conscious of these, but in the meantime they are projected onto others.

·         …responsible for much acrimony in personal relationships.  On a collective level it gives rise to political parties, war and the practice of scapegoating.

·         We do many things under the influence of a shadow fed up with the persona.

·         Responsibility for what the shadow does rests squarely on the ego. 

·         That is why the existence of the shadow, once acknowledged, is a moral problem.

·         …around the world, the unacknowledged shadow is having its say, destroying lives.

·         Ironically, the man his wife is having an affair with is really none other than Norman ’s shadow.

·         There is no generally effective technique for assimilating the shadow. It is more like diplomacy or statesmanship, and it is always and individual matter.

·         First one has to accept and take seriously the existence of the shadow.  Second, one has to become aware of its qualities and intentions. 

·         This happens through conscientious attention to moods, fantasies and impulses.  Third a long processes of negotiation is unavoidable.

·         …there is a positive side to the shadow…

·         …unlived life..

·         …often releases a surprising amount of energy.

·         A midlife crisis constellates both sides of the shadow: those qualities and activities we’re not proud of, and new possibilities we never knew were there.

·         “The positive mother complex,” I pointed out, “ties a man to, among other things, the known and the familiar, in other words what he has always felt secure with. For example, he will continue in a certain lifestyle long after ir has ceased to feed him simply because he fears what might happen if he stops, which may be exactly what he needs in order to realize his potential”.

·         …puer psychology…

·         …older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level, usually coupled with too great a dependence on the mother.

·         Many midlife crises arise from the inner need to grow out of this stage of development.

·         …is prone to do what “feels” right.

·         The puer has a hard time with commitment….

·         The typical puer acts spontaneously, often to the detriment of himself or others, or both.

·         …the puer lives a provisional life.

·         The provisional life is a kind of prison – the death row of the soul.  The bars are parental complexes, unconscious ties to early life, the boundless irresponsibility of the child. 

·         The dreams of puers are full of prison imagery: chains, bars, cages, entrapment, bondage. They yearn for independence, they long for freedom, but they are powerless to pull it off.

·         It is the picture of a man who is really free to come and go as he pleases, but unable to make a move….

·         Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man, if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. 

·         To become strong,  a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. 

·         The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.

·         …the need for a well-controlled person to get closer to the spontaneous, instinctual life as it does the puer’s need to grow up.

·         It is a hero’s task  to do something out of the ordinary.  For Norman this means trying to understand why he acts and reacts the way he does.

·         The hero’s goal is to find the treasure, the princess, the golden-egg.

·         Psychologically these all come to the same thing: himself – his true feelings, his unique potential. You either win the princess or you stay in the basement, there’s not in between.

·         The hero’s journey is a round, the pattern is well known, as illustrated in the diagram below.

·         Norman did not choose the hero’s journey.  It chose him.  He would avoid it if he could.

·         But something in Norman demands the journey and he us obliged to live it out whether he likes it or not.

·         Norman is gripped by an inner imperative that must be allowed to run its course.  The most I can do is sit with him and alert him to some of the dangers.

 

 

5.      Reality As We Know It

 

·         In the struggle to understand yourself, there is no substitute  for prolonged self-reflection.

·         You can’t say, think or do anything that isn’t colored by your particular way of seeing the world.  That’s your typology.

·         Jung’s typology is a way of putting these differences into some order.  It’s helpful in understanding yourself and it’s a godsend in relationships.

·         “The sensation function is concerned with tangible reality, the physical senses, it establishes that something exists.  Thinking tell us what it is. Feelings tell us what it’s worth to us, and through intuition – which Jung described as perception via the unconscious – we have a sense of what can be done with it.”

·         “Sensation excels at details……intuition doesn’t – it’s more interested in possibilities.  The thinking function is concerned with ideas, and feeling focuses on relationship”.

·         For complete orientation all four functions should contribute equally.

·         “Part of the problem leading up to a breakdown is that some of the functions have been neglected, they finally demand to be recognized.  That’s painful. It’s usual then to project the cause of the pain onto somebody else.

·         Making it conscious often brings  a new lease on life.

·         .. …Confusion is the beginning of wisdom…

·         …the unexpected consequences of getting to know your shadow and including it in your life. Once this process is underway it’s difficult to stop.

 

 

6.      Toujours Grimace

 

·         Living in the gray zone, holding  the tension between opposites, does not come easy to the puer.

·         Unless I commit myself to one relationship, I’m lost.

·         She may depend on him for her survival…..

·         …what was required for a man to grow up was “a faithless Eros, one capable of forgetting  his mother and undergoing the pain of relinquishing  the first love of his life.”

·         I could hardly believe what I’d been. Page after page of pain and self-pity.  It was a shameful chronicle of the puer,…..

·         They eyes are the windows of the soul.

·         …negative inflation  - identifying with the things you don’t like about yourself.

·         “This man is human.” …”That is his only crime.” …”Go, leave this place. Do your work and stop feeling guilty.”

·         A man can’t change himself by reason, or sheer force of will, he can only become what he potentially is.  And even when change does take place, the old ways continue to exert a powerful attraction.  

·         Differentiating the opposites and learning to live with them.

·         “It’s a healthy clearing of the air.  With your feelings now out in the open, anything is possible.”

 

 

7.      The Middle of  Nowhere

 

·         …she has as much invested in her life with Norman as he has with her.  She doesn’t want to risk losing it…..

·         …she has no experience of her actual father after an early age. That’s very significant.  She has no on-going, balanced animus-model that would let her move on psychologically, be more tolerant of men, accept Norman as he is. 

·         The void in her experience of the personal father is filled with fantasy – expectations derived from the archetypal father.

·         …the father archetype.

·         ……move gracefully into the senex, once he’s had his fill of the puer.

·         Because of her tie to the father, Nancy ’s a little girl at heart.  She can’t respond to Norman sexually because he’s still identified in her mind with the idea of father.

·         …her reality was different….He doesn’t see her any more than she sees him.

·         “There’s nothing unusual about Norman and Nancy. 

·         Once they had a good fit, and now they don’t.  The problem is what to do about it. 

·         I suppose the bottom line is that they both have potential, sexual and otherwise, that they  can’t realize with each other.

 

 

8.      The Transcendent Function

 

·         The opus consists of three parts, insight, endurance, and action.  Psychology is needed only in the first part, but in the second  and third parts moral strength plays the predominant role.

·         In fact, being crippled, unable to function in one’s usual way, is an apt metaphor for those in a midlife crisis. 

·         A person with a broken spirit is in effect crippled.  People go into analysis ‘on their knees” They want to get “back on their feet”.  A person who has exhausted the superior function  ‘limps along”.

·         I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself.

·         His inner analyst was constellated.

·         Impatience is symptomatic of puer psychology.

·         …had to come  to terms with loneliness.

·         He needed time alone, time to discover the potential companions in himself.

·         Loneliness feels like one has been abandoned.

·         …abandonment as a “necessary condition….of the potentially higher consciousness.

·         A man in the process of  becoming independent must detach from his origins:  mother, family, society.  The same is true for a woman.

·         The conflict is the price that has to be paid in order to grow up.

·         Higher consciousness ……is equivalent to being all alone in the world…

·         A knowledge of archetypes and archetypal patterns is a kind of blueprint which can be overlaid on an individual situation.  It is an indispensable tool.

·         Knowledge is one thing, but true healing does not happen in the head:  it occurs through experiential  realizations based on feeling

·         Such ‘thoughts in the form of an experience” have a transforming effect  because they are niminous, overwhelming. 

·         They lead to a more balanced perspective: one is merely human – not entirely good (positive inflation), not entirely bad (negative inflation), but a homogenous amalgam of good and evil.

·         The realization and acceptance of this is a mark of the integrated personality.

·         The process of assimilating unconscious contents does not happen without work.  It requires discipline and concentrated application and a mind receptive to the numinous.

·         …four characteristic stages of the analytic process:  confession, elucidation, education, and transformation.

·         In the first stage, you get things off your chest, in the second you become aware of unconscious contents, in the third , you learn about yourself as a social being, and in the fourth, you change –you become more that you were always meant to be.

·         That is more or less the progression of what Jung called the process of individuation.

·         “Only what is really oneself” …has the power to heal…

·         What is really oneself can only be discovered through holding the tension between the opposites until a third….

·         ….manifests….

·         …the transcendent function…..

·         …it always represents the creative intervention and guidance of  the Self, the archetype of wholeness,  which in Jung’s model of the psyche functions as the regulating center of the personality.

·         Change is possible.  It takes time and effort, and it involves some sacrifice, but it can happen.

 

 

9.       The End  of the Beginning

 

     When you are integrated you are perhaps as unconscious as you ever were, only     

      you no longer project yourself.  That is the difference.  The aim of the individuation

      process is not perfection but completeness, and even that is well beyond the reach   

      of most mortals.    C.G Jung, Letters.

    

·      …he took his plight seriously and he worked on himself.

·      “The term “religion” designates the attitude peculiar to a consciousness which has been changed by experience of the numinosum”.

·      …..a man in a conflict situation has to rely on “divine comfort and mediation….an autonomous psychic happening, a hush that follows the storm, a reconciling light in the darkness…..secretly bringing order into the chaos of his soul.”