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“Most of our troubles come when we have lost contact with our guiding instincts, that energy within each of us that is in service to becoming who we are in the world.” ~James Hollis

It takes courage for us to be who we are so we can live from a place of meaning. We risk disappointing others when we follow our inner guidance. It’s no surprise why this is difficult for most. Embedded in our fear of disappointing others is also a fear of being rejected and abandoned by them. These core fears underly many of our adaptive patterns from early childhood when we adapted in order to survive.  We were required to reject and ignore our authentic feelings as we adapted, as we pleased our parents, teachers and peers and moved further away from our True Nature.  Meaning beckons a return to our true self, our True Nature.  Making this turn requires sacrificing the familiar.  This is what requires courage.

A different kind of fear arises in mid-life unlike the familiar survival fear as our inner voice begins to remind us ever so strongly that we can no longer adapt if we want our life to be authentic. At this point in our life, time has shortened and there is a quickening of consciousness that conveys more urgency.  At this juncture, we must choose self-alignment over adaptation. It takes sustained and enduring courage to face our core fears of survival when we make the turn required to make more authentic choices.  We risk losing relationships that expect us to adapt, but in midlife, this becomes less tolerable. If the quest for meaning is not seized in this gateway, the opportunity for course correction becomes more difficult over time.  As the Deep Self beckons, we must surrender our adapted self.  Carl Jung terms this midlife threshold, ‘individuation.’ My favorite description of individuation can be found in the book by James Hollis,“The Middle Passage.”

For example, take a gifted artist, who instead of pursuing her true calling, adapts to her family’s expectations and becomes an engineer or doctor. If she adapts to what her family wants and doesn’t pursue her passion for art, the split between her True Nature and adapted choices will inevitably cause  emotional symptoms of depression or anxiety, or any number of physical symptoms, when unresolved emotional angst becomes somaticized.  We can see how a loss of meaning resulting from choices that are out of true alignment can manifest in these ways. Symptoms like this are common manifestations in midlife that are meant to signal us to make a course correction. In compromising intrinsic values for externally imposed ones, (over time), the tension between our authentic and adapted self results in multi-level symptoms of many kinds from mild to severe. Medicating them will not heal their root cause but merely subdue their expression and dampen our signal to awaken. True healing is only possible through following a course correction, to pursue our passion through authentic choices in favor of those born from adaptation. This may mean risking rejection by friends or family members who expect us to tow the party line. As you can see, authentic choices require tremendous courage. Opportunities for a course correction like this are not uncommon in the midlife gateway.

Seeking to understand who we really are, and living more authentically can also heal previous damage done to our selfhood while pursuing external values in favor of intrinsic ones. The courage to align with our True Nature rewards us with not only a deeper level of healing and wholeness, but a more meaningful life.

It greatly helps to understand our life process from the context of individuation, (sadly absent in our culture). It requires courage to be who we truly are.  I believe this is the only way we can recover meaning during the second half of our life and beyond. Each one of us is born with deep Medicine within that empowers us to heal the split between our adapted and authentic selves. Individuation requires understanding, intention and guidance. The threshold presented to us in midlife takes courage and endurance to cross.  It requires a dedicated effort which carries the possibility to not only reclaim our authenticity, but also facilitates our ability to heal and mentor others. We were all born to make a genuine contribution to our world. According to indigenous wisdom, our authentic choices can heal seven generations that have gone before and seven after us.  Becoming who we are is a gift we must give not only ourselves but to the collective, a contribution now needed more than ever before.


©September2023 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI.   Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife (2nd Edition), Medial Press, 2014. Dr. Kumar is currently accepting new patients. Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person.

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