One of my favorite authors is the Jungian analyst James Hollis who wrote The Middle Passage. But I do not recommend that you give his book to your MLCer—or any other books on MLC for that matter. Why? Because MLCers twist what others say to support their agendas or skewed world view.
My wife thinks what Dr. Hollis says in this video supports her stance.
(This is a long video, but I highly recommend it.)
The cause of MLC could be traced back to one’s childhood, we’ve been told. But Dr. Hollis seems to say MLC is a symptom when one’s soul is in conflict with his life.
Those two issues are not separate. The depth of the conflicts within a person’s life can be traced to childhood.
Dr. Hollis talked about how we have to bring balance to our life regarding how our lived affect those around us.
…there’s a paradox here while trying always to bring no harm to others we also have to try to live our life as fully as possible. And that’s not selfish that’s bringing a gift to others. It’s bringing a more achieved personhood into a relationship. –James Hollis
So, does living an inauthentic life do a disservice to those around you?
But the paradox of trying to live one’s own life while trying to bring no harm to others is the great challenge isn’t it? Dr. Hollis states that it is not selfish to live life as fully as possible; it is rather bringing a gift to others. I agree up to the point where it becomes the harmful paradox. Following your bliss is not harmful to others unless those others choose to feel hurt and damaged. But action taken at the obvious expense of others is not part of following bliss or, as Dr. Hollis says, living life to its fullest.
How do you deal with your spouse’s MLC?
Ask yourself if in fact this relationship is not allowing both of us to grow. If it’s not serving as a kind of platform for enabling who we really are to come into this world. Then either it has to be changed radically or perhaps discarded. Not lightly, not at all. But one has to say many times the choices of the first half of life are governed by those complexes are governed by those old parental imagos and by cultural imperatives as well. And so the question is what is life asking of me really? What is life wanting me to be in this world? And that sounds kind of simplistic but it’s an extremely complicated question. And I do believe that we spend the rest of our life trying to sort through that because it’s an ongoing and evolving answer. –James Hollis
It is easy to see how an MLCer can take Dr. Hollis’ words as being supportive of leaving their marriage and certainly in many situations I believe Dr. Hollis would validate a person’s desire to leave their marriage. But the story of a marriage has at least two sides and more when children are involved.
Standing isn’t still. We are not Standing in the past waiting for our spouses to join us in unfulfilled lives. It is not our job to prevent our spouses from growing and evolving and embracing authenticity. It is our job to embrace life with them. No, I’m not suggesting you have your own midlife crisis. But I am suggesting you look at yourself and your spouse and ask whether their journey is a crisis of avoidance or a transition which they are embracing.
If it is a transition they are embracing, ask yourself why they feel you cannot be a part of that transition. Ask yourself what do they see that is resistant in you to make them feel the path forward must be without you? And what can you do about that? What can you do to embrace your journey? It is not your job to change your spouse’s mind. But it is your job to embrace your journey and live your life to its fullest potential.
The beauty of life is that this is what you need to be doing as a Stander or if you are choosing not to Stand. Embracing life and choosing joy is an attractive force. There are no guarantees that your spouses will change their minds. But the odds of reconciliation are much lower for those who do not embrace their journey and choose joy.
What is the difference between narcissism and trying to find your authentic self?
Well narcissism is a kind of self-absorption that’s in service to the avoidance of conflict, so it’s for pleasure, often at the expense of others of course. What Jung called individuation is anything but narcissistic, it’s actually, as I mentioned, a form of service. It’s in a sense asking me to relinquish my own ego needs for comfort, for approval of others, perhaps in order to make the choices I need to make for myself. –James Hollis
Dr. Hollis talked about the purpose of the middle passage being a search for the Self.
…Who am I apart from the roles I play…parent, work, marriage…? I have to have a relationship to myself because that’s what I’m sharing with everyone else in all of these other arenas. It’s that which will either further the development and growth of our mutual journeys together, or impede them. –James Hollis
This is the purpose of Mirror Work. It is the most important aspect of Standing. There can be no mutual journey with your spouse in the future if you do as they are doing and escape, avoid and resist. Marriage partners should complement each other, not complete each other. A successful marriage is made of two people who are complete within their selves. You must love your Self, honor your Self, believe in your Self…to have a full marriage and the same goes for your MLCer.
But that can be scary—for MLCers and Standers alike. Hollis says that become intimate with ourselves and others is “to risk being who you are even in the face of potential rejection.” He says that our growth comes from examining our fears. It is our fears that keep us from authenticity.
Your MLCers are letting their fears control them. Are you doing the same? That’s what your mirror work is about; facing your fears so that you can blossom into your full Self.