Mothers & Mid Life Crisis


Men's Health
Author Peter O'Connor

In his final piece on mid-life crisis, Peter O'Connor suggests that sorting out things with your mother can be critical in making a successful mid-life transition to mature consciousness.
....A mid-life man during his descent must both face, sort out and acknowledge his feelings towards his own mother.

Sometimes I think that this is the first step, since it is the first place where the splitting of opposites occurs. As a working principle it often occurs to me that if a man wants a shopping list of what his own feminine self, his anima, needs to deal with at mid-life, then he would do well to reflect upon what his mother couldn’t deal with in real life.

At times it has seemed to me from my work with men that this is a reasonably reliable shopping list. So, for example, if a man’s mother had been very uncomfortable with her own body and sensuality, then a man’s anima, his feminine self, will need to face this task. So initially he may well lust after and have an affair with a women who personifies for him these sensual qualities. But in the long run he needs to sort out his own feelings about his own body beyond narcissistic concerns of how it looks.

He needs to explore his feelings about his body, about being in the body of the world and his relationships to the tangible, physical reality. This can include an exploration of the aesthetic and sensual aspects of both his physical body and the physical world, the environment. It is the anima, the feminine images in his psyche and dreams, that will draw his attention to these previously repressed issues, often repressed in adolescence.

In Jungian terms one would be referring here to the sensate function ( physical senses of touch, taste, etc.) and hence the personal anima will be characterized by these qualities. Thus a man may well be prone to falling in love with either a very sensual, whole-earth type of woman, for example, or the sensuality of the earth itself, thereby initially only knowing his feminine self through projection - that is, attaching himself to what he feels is missing. But by bringing logos to bear upon these projections, a mid-life man can use the discriminating quality of the enabling father within to transmute the projections into self-awareness and result in a re-collection of an aspect of self from the world.

Likewise a man with a mother who eschewed all intuitive matters and prided herself on being a down-to-earth, no-nonsense sort of woman, may well find that his anima drives him to explore the very opposite qualities, those concerned with the inner life, spirituality and other esoteric matters. This sort of man, in projecting out his anima, or feminine self, will be very prone to falling into ‘isms’ of all sorts. Thus the offerings of the New Age from shamanism, African drumming, tantric yoga, breathing, and astrology, through to Jungianism, will attract him, each offering him his form of falling in love, exacerbated should the guru be female!

Again in time he may well come to begin the process of consciousness and discrimination and take what is of value and leave the rest behind. However, as we saw with Oedipus, abandonment by the father as an enabling figure leads more often to blindness than to insight. But at least the falling into something is a beginning in the process of acknowledging one’s feminine self, and often can bring into consciousness the existence of opposites.

These preceding examples are not meant to be exhaustive, but merely meant to serve as possibilities of the descent and ascent process that a man at mid-life is called to in the company of his anima.

It is through the process of reflection and discrimination that gradually a measure of consciousness can be found in mid-life amidst the chaos of feeling five, 15 and 40 years old simultaneously. This measure of consciousness does not manifest itself in intellectual knowledge of one’s personality type or characteristics, or other such ego-based activities. On the contrary I believe a measure of consciousness is revealed in an increase in the tolerance of separateness, the tolerance of difference and ambiguity and a noticeable decrease in the tendency to divide the world and its inhabitants into good or bad, black or white. These tendencies reflect an increasing sense of wholeness derived from the holding together of opposites, a struggle we saw is both permanent and clearly evident at the Oedipal, adolescent and mid-life periods.

It is the coming and holding together of opposites that conceives the child of consciousness, wholeness, whether we symbolize this child as a UFO, a city in the sky, a mandala or whatever.

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