Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up
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Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  299 ratings  ·  48 reviews
What does it really mean to be a grown up in today's world? We assume that once we "get it together" with the right job, marry the right person, have children, and buy a home, all is settled and well. But adulthood presents varying levels of growth, and is rarely the respite of stability we expected. Turbulent emotional shifts can take place anywhere between the age of thi...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Gotham Books (first published 2005)
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Kris Hintz
When my only son went to college, I was struggling with the common issue of the empty nest, and finding meaning in the new chapter of life that I was beginning. A cynical parent I knew quipped sarcastically, "Get a life!" I've had a life, thank you, I responded inwardly. An all-absorbing, rewarding one. That's why I can't just turn off a switch and disengage.

This woman's trite cliché trivialized the complex process of switching gears when one's kids leave home, glossing over the grief-loss compo...more
The heart of this book could be stated in one short sentence: "The goal of life is not happiness but meaning." (232)

Easily said, but how to find that meaning exactly? That's what the rest of the book addresses. This isn't a "how-to" book, as Hollis explains in his introduction. This book doesn't have any lists to diligently check off on the way to find meaning. Instead, this book is a guide to help the reader to ask the deeper questions of oneself and to have some framework for beginning to unde...more
Christian Dechery
Spoiler: yes, this is a self-help book. I wasn't really in the need for one but a friend of mine recommended me to it and I read it. It is good. It has some profound insights which can help people move out of the things that are keeping them from moving on with their lives and stop living the live they were expected to live for others. It can get boring from time to time, because it feels like you're getting lectured by someone with all the answers, which is common in self-help books. But I was...more
Apr 24, 2009 Stephanie added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seekers, finders, midlifers, career changers
Recommended to Stephanie by: South Austin Spiritual Book Group
With this book, I'm finally giving myself permission NOT to answer the
annoying question "Are you happy?" Now I know why that question has always irritated me. Life is not about whether you're happy--
it's about whether life is meaningful, especially in the second half of life. In fact, meaning is the critical experience to the second half of life.

I also learned that it's better to get comfortable with increasingly
complex and numerous questions rather than to define oneself with definitives and id...more
Katherine Sartori
Author James Hollis claims we will feel anxiety when we take risks to forge new paths in our lives. If we choose not to, he says we will face depression, borne from avoiding the challenges of new activities, relationships, jobs, etc. This was a new concept for me. From now on I won't be as anxious about being anxious. After all, it's much better than being depressed. :)

He also spent a good deal of time explaining in psychological terms all the reasons we humans avoid challenges. This part of the...more
Jt O'Neill
Hollis is a Jungian analyst and scholar who has written an accessible book about the second part of life - after career goals have been met (or not), after children have been raised, when you are asking yourself, "Now what?". I have always been intrigued by the work of CJ Jung but I found the language to be so very foreign to me. Hollis's presentation is more concrete and the language that he uses resonates with me. To be honest, his writing made me feel okay about the current state of confusion...more
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I would list it in my top 10 non-fiction books. I've since read two other books by Hollis and love the way he writes and helps you reflect on important issues of the soul. I've given a copy of this book to my brother who was equally impressed with the wisdom and approach the author uses to to help you explore your past and future paths. It's a book worth reading every few years, and I plan on reading it again in the coming months.
Sophia Dunn
At some point after my 40th birthday, I began to see clearly that life is not a goal-oriented activity. It's process oriented. How and why we do everything matters so much more than what we do. Hollis's work is always personally challenging, sometimes on a 'tectonic plate' level. In this book, like a zen master, Hollis challenges us to grow up and accept life with a full heart on Life's terms, finally, while we still have time to enjoy it.
I cannot get enough of James Hollis. This Jungian analyst is a great teacher and healer. His books are readable and profoundly inpactful. One of Hollis's theses in this book is that young people spend the first half of their lives living out the unlived lives of their parents...WOW! Since historically we have not lived a long second half of life, midlife reflection invites us to imagine and create a few perfect decades for ourselves.
What a horrible title for an excellent book. Great food for thought and encouragement for people who suspect or have discovered that the mainstream path laid out for us is unsatisfying and lacking. I made notes, highlighted and underlined so much in this book, there is little that I did not find applicable or noteworthy.
David Elliott
Superb. Many who have read Jungian-psychoanalyst James Hollis' book have praised it as his best, and as a summation of much of his earlier writing. Hollis draws upon literature (and, occasionally, film) to bring a depth of association to his reflections and clinical anecdotes. Excellent, consistently cited quotes from Jung's writings. A few chapter titles: "The Dark Wood"; "The Collision of Selves"; "The Family During the Second Half of Life"; "Career Versus Vocation"; "Recovering Mature Spiritu...more
Read this book! And you don't need to be old to read it....profound
Apr 22, 2012 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maria Olsen; Lynn Dolven
Recommended to Erin by: Mindy Cooke
Shelves: philosophical
This is the best book I've ever read about negotiating the second half of your life. It's written by a Jungian psychologist who urges us to listen to our souls calling now that we've achieved money, and success by societal terms. He urges us to heed the deeper callings that we once knew as children that we stopped listening to as the obligations of life took over: raising children, mortgages, getting the corner office and losing ourselves along the way. How did we get where we are? Are we using...more
Excellent book full of information for everyone from their 20's into the older years. It isn't just for those in midlife! If I had this information in my 20's and 30's I would be a different person today. Very good information explaining why we think the way we do and do the things we do. Childhood experiences affect each of us significantly and unless we deal with those issues we will carry those negative behaviors into our adulthood, which in turn affects our children. I have seen this in myse...more
Baxter Trautman
This should be compulsory reading for everyone approaching, at, or beyond forty-something. So much of the work we did in the first half of our lives - career, kids, care-taking - loses relevance as we age and discover (hopefully!) what we want to do with out lives as opposed to what we've had to do. The soul's calling grows louder in the second half of life, harder to ignore, and for good reason. To ignore what is in one's heart, what you came into this world to truly do, is dangerous at best. T...more
Sadly, this book didn't deliver what I thought it would. Granted, it offered some nuggets of wisdom here and there but after a very good introduction the book gave no great insight. There could have been some more substance to his material. This novel seemed like alot of "regurgitated" ideas that came from other books by the author and didn't deliver any true answers.

There are other self-improvement books out there that give more suggestions to readers than this one. I'm glad I only got this on...more
It makes sense.

This book is a recommended read for anybody who is in that phase of life.
Having almost everything and yet nothing.
Wondering.. okay.. so what is next?

You wake up one morning feeling an emptiness..
Like.. Where did all the years go? Where am I heading?
You look around and see that you have everything (well almost)..
& yet feel that something is missing..
& you start wondering, is this a mid-life crisis..?

The book will not give you the answers..
It will lead you to answers within...more
This book really changed my life.
The premise is good if you haven't thought about it. When we are growing up we do not spend a lot of time sitting back and reflecting on why we are doing what we are doing. He would say we do not have the ego strength to make the analysis of what is driving us to do what we do. Once you get that premise, you get the whole book. I would agree with another reviewer that if this is your first foray into thinking about this - great stuff. Otherwise kind of repetitive and expected commentary.
The author offers great incite into the quest we all invoke in this journey we call life bringing into focus what can only be understood after much required suffering. For growing our consciousness can only occur through its opposite, suffering, one of the infinite paradoxes we face. His greatest message for me came about when seeing that we focus so much on what happiness is missing from our lives, when all along, as he so eloquently stated... "The goal of life is not happiness but meaning."
My lovely "so much more than a book group" is plowing into this book together every Tuesday evening Jan - March, our 4th winter of book study together. Just getting started, but I'm clearly going to learn much about Jungian analysis....
And much later, we have read and discussed every chapter. Value has come from the reading, but much more from what each member brought to the group and from supplemental materials and poetry. In the end: we aspire to never grow up :)
Sean Halpin
Nothing eye-opening here. Unfortunately this reads as many Jungian psychologist books do. It's a nod to Jung while at the same time written like a self-help book. There are many other books which echo the good advice in this book but go even further by providing concrete scientific examples. Many of the positive psychology books such as Martin Seligman's Positive Psychology and Corey Keyes' Flourishing provide useful information in a more worthwhile package.
Kass Schoenhals-Feigal
I am reading this book while on the eliptical or stair-stepper (I'm not sure what it is) at the gym. It would be good for anyone to read, not just those in the second half of life. Of course, none of us know when that time is unless we're psychic. We always have choices and we can always change our minds. I like how hopeful the book makes me feel. It also keeps me on the exercise machine far longer than I would normally endure.
I’ve been on a diet of self-improvement books for nearly a decade now, and this is easily the richest meal yet, triggering accelerating cascades of insights to the point that I had to disengage thought several times for fear I might reach ground truth. The book raises more questions than it answers. But that is the point…you’re the one with all the answers, if you can slog though your unconscious to find them.
There is much of value here, a well-written Jungian philosophy, a prodding for everyone to lead a more rewarding fulfilled life. The best chapters are those dealing with specific problems: relationship, family, & career problems. I think I would have found it more valuable if I'd read it when I was 40 and needed it more, but it's always good to be reminded of the superficialities in modern life.
Mary Anne
a very interesting book, with many insights. the writing is a bit weighty at times. I saw Mr. Hollis at a speaking engagement last year, and he is a totally engaging person. I think this book will stay by my bedside with the many points that I have bookmarked so that I can continue to draw from it and digest the wonderful insights for a while yet.
Lady Jane
Examines the tendency to live the first half of one's life according to familial and societal expectations, resulting in unhappiness and ennui in middle age. Encourages readers to recognize their true selves and reorient their lives in a manner that gives them fulfillment and purpose. Not helpful if you have already thrown off those bondages.
The author is a Jungian analyst. This book is just what I need to read right now. I am single and do not want to repeat the same mistakes of past relationships in new ones. Mr Hollis explains why you cannot escape the wounds of childhood, even if you moved 700 miles from home (as I did). Not light reading, but worth the effort.
I wish we didn't have to wait until 40 to find meaning, but most of us wake up right around that time. This book is brilliantly written by a Jungian psychotherapist and is a perfect read right along with A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. If we can understand the process maybe we can move through it a little faster toward our North Star.
Lawrence Danks
Dr. Hollis' book is not a quick read. It requires concentration and thought as to how it may impact your own lif or those of others that matter to you. It is a very fine, well-researched book that can be particularly appreciated by any mid-life and beyond reader.
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James Hollis, Ph. D. is Executive Director of the Jung Center of Houston, TX, a practicing Jungian Analyst (psychotherapy developed by C.G. Jung - the eminent Swiss psychiatrist), and author of eleven books.
More about James Hollis...
The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts, 59) Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts, 79) What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts, 73)

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“Those who say that they know what kind of art they like, or what kind of god, or what kind of moral structure are saying that they like what kind of art, god, structure they know, that is that which makes them feel more comfortable. Being pried free of spiritual constraint is the gift doubt brings. The suppression of doubt ensures that we are left with a partial truth, a one-sided value, a prejudicial narrowing of the richness that life has to bring.” 1 likes
“Jung has so eloquently written of this biblical admonition: Acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then?48” 1 likes
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