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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,473 ratings  ·  175 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
Paperback, 276 pages
Published March 16th 2006 by Avery Publishing Group (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  1,473 ratings  ·  175 reviews

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Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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. ...more
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
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! And you don't need to be old to read it....profound ...more
Jt O'Neill
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Actual rating: probably 2 1/2 stars since my response was not quite "I liked it," but two stars seems a little harsh.

Hollis quotes a lot of Jung and a lot of Rilke. He clearly disdains anything remotely "new age" (which he seems to use a very large umbrella to cover) and most of modern society. I don't necessarily disagree with him, but I found a couple hundred pages of his tone wearing. He reminded me of the head of a corporation who pontificates on everything and is happy about nothing.

At th
Christian Dechery
Aug 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Maria Grigoryeva
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
absolute must read
Agatha Glowacki
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Very dense and psychological, full of lovely quotes and references. A lot of Jung. Good reminders that resonated deeply.


"Daily confrontation with fear and lethargy"

Only boldness can deliver us from fear. And if the risk isn't taken, the meaning of life is somehow violated - Jung

Humbling wisdom and tragic sense of life

Wound of overwhelmment
Wound of insufficiency

Trauma of overwhelment leads to learned response of accommodation. We ignore our inner life
-learning to find ones truth requires su
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: unfinished
I am sure this book has its audience, but I had trouble connecting with it. If I had read this in the 1990s, I think it would have worked better for me. It has a lot of Jung / archetype theory underpinning it's outlook, but I connect more with mindfulness now. ...more
Apr 03, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: self-help
Mentioned in Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong.
Mary Karpel-Jergic
I have no idea how I found my way to James Hollis but I am so glad that I did. For a while now (years) I have found myself asking the questions "what does it all mean?", "what's the point?" "are we just random cells assembled in a random universe?", but I had not voiced these questions to anyone except my husband. Let's be fair, not easy questions to grapple with. However, this book does just that. If I said that it provided answers, I'd be lying but what I can say is that it offers a framework ...more
Stephanie Barko
Jan 30, 2009 added it
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
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Lady Jane
Jan 08, 2010 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Some problems I see with the author's point of view:

1. He thinks everyone's goal in life is toward self-realization. I wonder if he ever came across the argument espoused in Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, where the author says that this goal toward self-realization is more common among certain types of people (NF/Idealist), which also happens to be the personality most common among psychotherapists. In other words, just because he, James Hollis, had this need, and
Professor Weasel
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
Good but intense. Will try to type of my notes for this later.
Evan Micheals
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I heard James Hollis on the Art of Manliness. Hollis is a Jungian psychotherapist interested in the second half of life (what I want to be when I grow up). The book references depth psychology and psychodynamic theory in working with people in the second half of life who have followed their Super Ego and find themselves with grief and loss, betrayal, doubt and loneliness, addictions, depression, anxiety, and guilt. At the basis of these existential crisis is suffering. We all suffer, and at the ...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
Ivy Weston
Apr 04, 2021 rated it did not like it
The title is so promising, but it’s really just a way to draw you in to a Jungian psychology book. The author says the same thing 8 bazillion times. A few interesting parts but not enough to keep my interest.
Hillary Anderson
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly an amazing book but have your dictionary ready. Dr. Hollis has a vocabulary that will have you hopping. It has been a long time since I read this book but it really opened up my eyes to what it means to develop as an adult. Our culture has given lots of attention to human development UNTIl adulthood but not much to what it means to live a life full of meaning and authenticity embracing all aspects of what it means to be human. Our culture is hyper-focuses on finding 'happiness', comfort an ...more
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Sean Halpin
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure whether it was simply a matter of good timing, but I found this book to be one of the best I'd ever read. Every word spoke to me, so much so that I'm going to reread it as there was too much to properly absorb the first time. While reading, all the feelings I've been having recently began to make sense, and questions to which I never thought I'd receive answers were answered. I'd recommend this book to anyone in midlife, especially those going through the 'dark night of the soul.' ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Good excerpt:
A woman was asked by her therapist, "How come, despite these voices (you hear), you are generally in a good mood?"
She replied, "I was just thinking that it is better to hear frightening voices than to be deaf."
Robin Petty
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
This review is going to sound like I didn't like the book, but, broadly-speaking, I did. There are some really insightful chapters and quotable paragraphs that I have, genuinely, shared with others. I'm not actually crazy about the impression that the title and cover-blurb give - that this is somehow, primarily, a solutions-based book. I didn't find it to be. For me it's more a 'Don't fall into these traps' cautionary tale, than a methodology for how to practically do 'soul work'. And it's super ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
11/3: updating my comment: I do find the questions in the last chapter useful. Answering them is a helpful practice.

In one of the final chapters, “Recovering Mature Spirituality in a Material Age”, Hollis implies that the need for transcendence, or meaning, can only be found by searching for religious symbols that resonate for you personally. I don’t disagree that, in our age at least, the search for meaning is a personal journey but I don’t believe it can only be found in religious imagery. Wh
Duncan Kipngetich
James Hollis takes you from voyaging through the darkwood (uncertainties in life) and ends the journey with a visit to the swamplands (Grief, guilt, anxieties, depression, betrayal..etc) . Various concerning topics including intimacy, family's role in the second half, careers & vocation are covered in the book. A lot of psychological vocabularies used in the book; a dictionary/google beside you whilst reading the book would be ideal. The second-half doesen't only imply the mid-life crisis but ra ...more
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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.

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