"Normal development involves to a large extent the surrender of creativity in favor of a recognition of generally accepted cultural values and the sacrifice of individuality to an adjustment to the requirements of the collective...yet the survival and the creative endurance of this sacrifice provides the indispensable basis for the individuation process of the second half of life, which is world embracing in the true sense of the world..."
- Erich Neumann, Creative Man p. 212
When entering the autumn and winter of life, we often experience a profound lack of orientation. So many of our meaningful accomplishments from the first half of life now begin to lose their luster, and those aspirations and dreams that had set our hearts on fire are now eclipsed by these new and strange emotions and desires, which are suddenly emerging from the shadows.
The needs and emotions of this autumn and winter of life speaks to us in a foreign tongue. The fires and passions of youth and the middle years are now reduced to smoldering embers, and with these, the hunger for so much of what we wanted in life quickly fades into the domain of memory. These embers no longer warm our heart and soul. The only truly accurate rendering and intimations of this life now calling us is found in our dreams, our frustrations, symptoms, and those cravings for what Rabbi Heschel calls “the ineffable.”
And then there is the role of psyche and soul in this aging process, wherein the voice and needs of the Self now speak louder than the youthful chorus still clamoring for an outdated way of life. In Hemingway’s last major work of fiction, The Old Man and the Sea, we find this dialogue between ego and Self, and those yearnings of our younger self confronting the reality of who we are now as an older person. Through the old man’s journey and reluctant recognition that he now must view his life against the backdrop of a life vastly different from what it once was, he now has to make a number of crucial and life threatening decisions. And it is this old man's refusal to respond to the call of the ineffable, and the consequences of his actions, that actually teaches us a profound lesson about the aging process.
Standing face to face with the reality that we have aged and now face certain limitations, and also, opportunities we never imagined, we are challenged to hear those painful lamentations of ego and youth as we move into this later and eventually final stage of life. Now it is imperative to know what it is that we so deeply love and cherish, need to preserve, and then recognize those aspects of life that we need to relinquish, as they no longer satisfy the mandates of the Self.
Perhaps here we will see how those roaring fires of our earlier years are transformed by the richly grained oak and maple woods whose warmth provides us with a sustained heat. Perhaps now this new perspective of life's journey, and where we are on this road, allows us to finally take that winter house rental overlooking the Aeolian sea.
* I want to thank Loralee Conforti for this Neumann reference
Michael Conforti, Ph.D., is a Jungian analyst and founder of the Assisi Institute. He has been a faculty member at the C. G. Jung Institute in Boston, the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York, and for many years a Senior Associate faculty member in the Doctoral and Master’s Programs in Clinical Psychology at Antioch New England. A pioneer in the field of matter-psyche studies, Dr. Conforti is actively investigating the workings of archetypal fields and the relationship between Jungian psychology and the New Sciences. He is the author of two books, Threshold Experiences: The Archetype of Beginnings and Field, Form, and Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature, and Psyche. He is currently working on a new book, Hidden Presence: Archetypes, Spells, Possessions, and the Complex. Dr. Conforti maintains a private practice in Mystic, CT, and consults with individuals and corporations around the world.