Before getting into the four areas of being the connecting link which my life has been, I want to add a couple insights.
I am married to a Jungian psychoanalyst. As she has entered and navigated this world of Jungian psychology I have learned hugely! Attending a Jungian lecture the other day I was struck by some psychological insights which shed light on where I view myself today.
Carl Jung himself, of course, coined the term “Individuation” to describe the process or state of reaching relative maturity. This is when a person has reached a place of having separated from parents, from culture, from society’s norms. They have become their own person, in their own right. They have individuated. They are competent and comfortable in who they are. They feel accepting of the stage of life they find themselves in. And all this as they continue to grow and expand their horizons, as they continue to learn new understandings. This is not a stagnant stage, but a dynamic, evolving stage of life.
Other psychologists have added their own insights to this stage of life, most often occurring in the latter stages of life. Maslow has his famous hierarchy of needs. His understandings conclude that all humans go through various stages of life, meeting certain needs. One stage of needs must be met before a person can fully enter the next stage. The final stage of life, when all other needs in their life have been met, is the stage he called “Self-Actualization”. From a limited understanding of Maslow I believe he was describing a state somewhat similar to Carl Jung’s “Individuation”.
Erik Erikson became famous for describing the development of the individual through various stages of life. These stages are most obvious when describing the stages children go through as they enter life and grow up. But Erikson said that development does not stop with the end of childhood. Humans continue to develop throughout life. His final stage, Stage 8, he labelled “Wisdom, Ego Integrity vs Despair”. Wikipedia describes this stage: “It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life. If we see our life as unproductive, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness. The final developmental task is retrospection.”
All three of these giants of psychology contribute to my own understanding of where I find myself today, in my late 60’s. I think these various descriptions of this stage of life all help me understand myself, understand what I am experiencing, what I am going through today. I am experiencing “ego integrity”, “individuation”, and “self-actualization”. And all of this is leading me to more wisdom and insight as I look back on my life so far. I wanted to add these insights before expanding them into my own “wisdom” about my life. What I am experiencing is not in a vacuum. I am totally in line with what other, wiser observers of life have described.