Let’s talk about the life cycle of Swiss Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung as he described in his 4 Stages Of Life. These stages have to do with who we are as people and our motivations.
cosmolearning.org: Carl Gustav Jung was one of the greatest explorers of the human mind, his ideas having profoundly influenced such varied disciplines as art, anthropology, atomic physics, philosophy, mythology, theology and parapsychology, as well as the development of psychology and psychotherapy. He was the most enigmatic and controversial disciple of Sigmund Freud, introducing to psychoanalysis crucial questions about religion and the soul which Freud neglected. He was a prolific writer leaving behind 18 volumes of work. His theories of the life cycle, dream symbolism and the collective unconscious, and even his terminology, have entered our language in a way that is only parallelled by Freud. Our perception of Jung today as a quasi-religious sage overlooks the fact that he was primarily a scientist and a scholar, occupied as he was with making objective and knowable to consciousness the inner, subjective world.
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I HEART INTELLIGENCE: As we wander through this journey that is life, we go through fundamental changes. Some people use terms like “quarter-life crisis” or “middle age” to define where it is we think we are in our lives along the way. To me, there aren’t destinations in life. There are milestones for sure, but we can often come back to the same places that we were before.
They have nothing to do with age or accomplishment, and throughout our lives we often move forward and backward from these stages. As Jung once said, “Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
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Religious of the Virgin Mary: While it is true that research on Adult Developmental Psychology is recent, man/woman’s stages of life had always been known and lived as Shakespeare once told us. Modern man/woman, though, is more research oriented now and can look at life and the experiences it offers us in a more scientific way.
Mid-Life Directions Workshop is using Carl Gustav Jung’s psychology, considered the true spiritual father of the life cycle theory. Daniel Levinson with his great contribution in his works, The Seasons of a Man’s Life (1978) and The Seasons of a Woman’s Life (1996) which was put in its final form by the wife after he died in 1994 recognized this.
Purpose Fairy: According to Jung, there are 4 archetypes, 4 stages that we go through during our lifetime, and these stages are:
1. THE ATHLETE STAGE
At this stage, we are mostly preoccupied with our looks, with the way our body looks. During this stage we might stay for hours looking and admiring our reflection in the mirror. Our body, our looks are the most important thing to us, nothing else.
The athlete is the phase in our lives when we are at our most self-absorbed. Of the 4 stages, it tends to be the least mature.
2. THE WARRIOR STAGE
Moving forward in our lives, we reach the warrior phase. This is where we begin to take on responsibilities and get the desire to conquer the world. For some of us, this is when we become more goal oriented. All of the sudden we can see objectives that we want to accomplish and the vanity of the athlete phase begins to fade. Our main concern is to go out there and conquer the world, to do our best, be the best and get the very best, to do what warriors do, and act like warriors act. This is a stage when we continually think of ways to get more than everybody else, a stage of comparison, of defeating those around so we can feel better because we have achieved more because we are the warriors, the brave ones. The warrior phase is also the most common phase that people revert back to throughout their lives as they “re-invent” themselves.
3. THE STATEMENT STAGE
When the warrior phase in our lives is coming to an end, we find ourselves asking: “what have I done for others?” Your focuses shift from your personal achievements to accomplishing goals based on forwarding other people’s lives. This stage is often correlated to parenting, because your focus becomes providing a better life for your children, and what it is you need to do that. The statement phase for many people is much more than a correlation to parenting, and more about leaving a legacy or a footprint in life. The statement phase is a time to reflect on what you have accomplished, and how you can continue moving forward – not just for you, but for the other people in your life. You realize what you have achieved so far is not enough for you to feel fulfilled, to be happy… you are now looking for ways to make a difference in the world, for ways to serve those around you. You are now preoccupied with ways to start giving. You now realize what you chased after until now, money, power, possessions etc. will keep on appearing in your life but you no longer attribute them the same value as before, you no longer are attached to those things because you are now in a different stage of your life, where you know there is more to life than that.
As far as maturity goes, the statement phase is a huge step forward from even the warrior phase.
4. THE SPIRIT STAGE
The last stage of our life, a stage where we realize that none of those 3 stages are really who and what we are. We realize we are more than our body, we are more than our possessions, more than our friends, our country and so on.In this stage, we realize that we are more than what we have accumulated – be it money, friends, possessions, good deeds, or milestones in life. We are spiritual beings. We realize that we are divine beings in a journey of life that has no real beginning and no end. The spirit phase is characterized by a sense of “getting out of your own mind” and focusing on what is waiting for us beyond our physical beings. The philosopher Lao Tzu proposed a question over 2500 years ago that perfectly describes the spirit phase: ““Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”
We realize we are more than our body, we are more than our possessions, more than our friends, our country and so on. We come to the realization that we are divine beings, spiritual beings having a human experience, and not human beings having a spiritual experience. We now know this is not our home, and we are not what we thought we are. We are in this world but not of it. We are now able to observe ourselves from a different perspective. We are now capable of stepping out of our own mind, out of our own body and understand who we really are, to see things the way they are. We become the observer of our lives. We realize that we are not that which we notice but, the observer of what we notice.
Religious of the Virgin Mary: The two main phases of the individuation process correspond to the first and second halves of life.
The first half of life is characterized by expansion of the personality and adaptation to the outer world. The second half of life is characterized by a restriction or reduction which signifies an adaptation to the inner life. Schopenhauer said: ‘The first forty years of life furnish the text, while the remaining thirty supply the commentary; without the commentary we are unable to understand aright the true sense and coherence of the text , together with the moral it contains.”
CosmoLearning Psychology:His family, although limited in means, were deeply concerned with medicine and religion. When aged 11, he had a personal experience of the negative powers of the unconscious mind. Carl hated school. One day he was knocked down by a fellow student, and knocked his head when he hit the ground. He began having fainting spells and had to stay at home; doctors thought he had epilepsy. One day he overheard his father expressing grave concerns about his future. This galvanised Carl into action and, feeling somewhat guilty, he set about the task of ‘curing’ himself through hard work, becoming a solitary, bookish, intellectual youth, who continued to puzzle over religious and philosophical questions.
Around the same time, Carl had a mystical experience. Walking home from school, he suddenly felt he had emerged from a cloud, and had a feeling: ‘Now I am myself’1. This strong sense of ‘I’ had imparted a sense of ‘authority’ in him. Thereafter, Jung (aged 12) became aware of two distinct personalities within himself. As number one personality he perceived himself as a moderately gifted young man with vaulting ambition. Conversely, his number two personality was someone in high authority, a wise old man who lived in the 18th Century.
Despite an intense interest in philosophy and archaeology, Jung (influenced by a dream) decided to study natural science, then medicine, at Basel University. Graduating in 1900, and having decided to specialise in psychiatry, Jung was appointed as an assistant physician at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital, a public psychiatric institution in Zürich, of which Eugen Bleuler was then director. Five years later, in 1905, Jung was appointed senior physician at the hospital and lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Zürich.
Jung was interested in dreams from early childhood, considering his inner life more eventful then his outer one. This interest in dreams increased with his psychological studies and practice. Another lifelong interest was the occult, which was aroused following his father’s death in 1896, and continued during his student years. While studying at home one day, he heard a loud noise like a pistol shot coming from the dining room. On entering there, he found that the 70-year-old, solid walnut table has mysteriously split in two. No explanation could be found for the occurrence. Another incident involved a bread-knife in a drawer which shattered into several pieces. Jung took these experiences to be poltergeist phenomena.
Taking an active interest in mediumistic activity, Jung began attending family seances over a four year period (spiritualism was commonplace in Basel during this period and, indeed, many of Jung’s relatives were said to be clairvoyant). Observing the manifestation of ‘split-off’ unconscious processes, the subject of occult phenomena became the subject of his doctoral dissertation in 1902. It was said that he liked reading about exotic Oriental religions, in particular studying pictures of Hindu gods.
Though valuing his family, as an introvert, Jung had a great need for solitude. In 1922, following the death of his mother, he bought some land at Bollingen, beside the upper lake of Zürich, and began to build a primitive stone dwelling that was to become his ‘Tower.’ This was his spiritual retreat, a place where he could escape the demands of his worldly life and spend time in great simplicity. With no electricity, telephone, or central heating, and with water fetched from a well and food cooked on a wood-burning stove, it put him in touch with nature. At Bollingen, he loved to sail his boats on the lake, carve inscriptions in stone, chop wood, paint murals and entertain close friends and family. It was also a place where he could pay homage and commune with his ancestors.
Over a 12-year period he added three more sections to this ‘maternal’ building until it became a representation in stone of his inner understanding of the psyche’s structure (ie, a quaternity as symbol of psychic wholeness). The second storey was added after his wife’s death in 1955, when he was 80. This symbolised an ‘extension of consciousness achieved in old age’, a feeling of being reborn in stone as his own individuation progressed along the path from the ego to the Self, and towards death.
In 1928, Jung received from the eminent Sinologist, Richard Wilhelm, a manuscript of a Tao-alchemical treatise entitled The Secret of the Golden Flower3. He found in the text confirmation of his ideas about the mandala and the circumambulation of the centre4. Further, he began experimenting with the I Ching or Book of Changes, the ancient Chinese oracle dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Finding ‘meaningful connections’ between the psychic and physical sequence of events, this led to the formulation of his theory of synchronicity.
Several crucial dreams, which typically followed such events, stirred in Jung a desire to become better acquainted with alchemy, in which Jung found the historical equivalent of his own psychology. He made alchemy accessible by showing how its symbols were similar to archetypal dream and fantasy material and began to collect alchemical works and, though struggling to decipher them, eventually came to realise that alchemy was the historical counterpart of depth psychology rather than a precursor of modern chemistry. The alchemist in attempting to transmute base matter into gold, was really working symbolically on the transformation of his own psyche. Jung had discovered in alchemy a metaphor of individuation.
As he got older, Jung’s interest in the world expanded rather than contracted. Though originally eschewing the idea of disciples or any ambition to start a school of psychology, Jung helped found the CG Jung Institute in Zürich, in 1948, and was its first president, serving until he retired in 1950.
After 1945 and until his death in 1961, Jung did, however, see fewer patients, concentrating instead on his alchemical work. This profound interest in alchemy culminated in the publication of ‘The Psychology of the Transference’ (1946; In: The Practice of Psychotherapy, 1954; CW 16); Psychology and Alchemy (1953; CW 12); Alchemical Studies (1967; CW 13); and his magnum opus Mysterium Coniunctionis (1955-6; CW 14). Containing dream commentaries and amplifications on the images and symbols of individuation as portrayed in alchemy, these works provided his followers with alchemical insights into the analytical process and relationship.
In an effort to ‘popularize’ his work, and with the firm conviction that it would be the ordinary people who would carry on his psychology, Jung decided (in his early 80s) to write and get published his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, as well as a collaborative work entitled Man and His Symbols. Explaining his psychology in a most fundamental way was an appeal for the public to realise the reality of the unconscious and, above all, to take their own souls seriously. To this end he needed to reach a wider public and, in 1959, he agreed to be interviewed by John Freeman for a BBC series about famous living people, called Face to Face. The interview was a success, with his much quoted remark about the existence of God – ‘I don’t believe, I know’ – arousing a storm of comment at the time.
Jung had many premonitions of approaching death, and he took these as both a preparation and a reassurance. In one impressive dream he saw the ‘other Bollingen’ bathed in a glow of light, and a voice told him that it was completed and ready for habitation. The golden tower (as vessel of the Self) on ‘the other shore of the lake’ was now ready for him to move into.’
Jung died in Küsnacht, near Zürich, at a quarter to four on Tuesday afternoon, 6 June, 1961. It was synchronistic that about an hour or so afterwards, lightning struck a tall popular tree in his garden at the lake’s edge.
Jung himself saw death as paradoxical, an event that had elicited contrasting emotions of grief and joy. He further said that death was ‘a fearful piece of brutality… not only as a physical event, but far more so psychically: a human being is torn away from us, and what remains is the icy stillness of death’.
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