Jung’s Psychological Types and Midlife

Jung’s Psychological Types and Midlife

C.G. Jung was one of the first psychologists to study lifelong human development. In his article “The stages of life,” Jung differentiated three main periods: childhood, youth (from puberty to midlife), and after mid-life.

To illustrate these stages, he used the analogy of the sun’s journey from the horizon:

“In the morning it rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousness and looks upon the wide bright world which lies before it in an expanse that steadily widens the higher it climbs in the firmament” (C.G. Jung, CW8 par 778).

 The sun thus rises out of the sea in early youth to its zenith, and descends after midlife.

“At the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning”(C.G. Jung, CW8 par 778).

The aim of childhood and youth is to build a strong ego and develop an adequate persona. Young people are expansive and future-oriented. They spend a lot of time in social relationships, studying, establishing a career, and setting up a family. In terms of psychological types, they tend to use their best gifts, relying on the function that is most natural. For example, if a boy is adept at sports, he will tend to do more sports. Because he can use his sensation function well, he will get a lot of recognition for it, building a feeling of identity around it: “I am good at sports.”

In midlife people are confronted with life’s limitations and diminishing physical capacities. Jung saw this time as an important life transition that needed special attention:
“Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and expanding . . . For the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to devote serious attention to oneself” (C.G. Jung, CW8 par 785).

Developing our best gifts in early life is necessary, but it creates a one-sided development. After midlife the process of individuation often sets in, when one comes to terms with this inner split through the integration of the inferior function:“But this one-sided development must inevitably lead to a reaction, since the suppressed inferior function cannot be definitively excluded from participation in our life and development. The time will come when the division in the inner man must be abolished, in order that the undeveloped may be granted an opportunity to live” (C.G. Jung, W8 par 112).

 

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