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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  996 ratings  ·  112 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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4.20  · 
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 ·  996 ratings  ·  112 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
John Fredrickson
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cultural, psychology
When I picked this book up originally, I assumed that the "second half of life" was indicative of the retirement phase of life - it is not. The book focuses on the dynamics of who you are/can-be once you move past an ego-based childhood into a mature stance as a responsible and spiritual adult.

A 5-star rating in my own little system is an indication that the book in question is worth coming back to for re-reading again (and possibly again again). This book is definitely in this category.

I found
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Another deep and wise book by Jame Hollis that should be measured by the number of equivalent therapy sessions to receive the same number of insights into your soul: my answer is about 20 fruitful sessions. In other words, reading this book will save you a lot of money as well as rescue your middle age soul--a bargain. The key concept is to truly grow up, stop living through or in reaction to others (whether partners, family members, or others we have become neurotically linked to), establish yo ...more
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
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
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I really should have reviewed this as soon as I read it - I actually read it last month and have had it in my "needs reviewed" pile ever since.

If you've read a lot of Jungian analysis, there's nothing new for you here, though you may find it affirming of things you already believe/know. That being said, this is a good, all-purpose, general guide for anyone middle-aged who is open to the possibility that their true crisis might be a spiritual one. Spoiler: meaning is ultimately made, not found, s
Joshua Lawson
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To say that the message of this book was timely for me is an understatement. I listened to it on audio but will be getting a hard copy and reading it again as soon as I can--it's just that good. At the same time, though, I can see how some people might just pass it by, or write off its content as so much psycho-babble. To each his own, I suppose. The author did such an excellent job of drawing out the meaning of the inner life, in particular the experience of its "second half," that I found myse ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
نه ازین جهت که عیبی در آن نیست( که احتمالا هست) عالی از آن جهت که کمک خیلی زیادی به من کرد.
این کتاب به صورت خیلی خوبی میاد و کمک میکنه به اینکه اولین قدمها رو در خودشناسی بردارین، کمک میکنه که بفهمین چه چیزهایی از بچگی به خاطر فضایی که در آن بودین در شما به وجود آمده. نشون میده که باید برای پیشرفت و جلو رفتن و بزرگ شدن، بهای متناسب رو باهاش بپردازیم، و در عین حال شما را ترغیب میکند که بهای پیشرفت کردن و بزرگ شدن را بپردازید.
ویژگی خوب زیاد دارد،خودم قصد دارم فصلهای متفاوتش رو دوباره بخونم.
Don Heiman
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gotham published James Hollis’ book “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life” in 2005. The book uses reflections of renown thinkers such as Freud and Jung to help readers better understand the ways to best transition the different stages of adulthood from career-family, through retirement, and then to declining health and passage. I highly recommend reading Hollis’s insights while listening to soulful classical and inspiring light jazz music. (P)
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.'
Susan Chandler
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. Stop chasing the bitch goddess of a success you didn't choose and start dialoguing with your own soul. He quotes Jung, rumi, wordsworth, wb yeats along the way and demonstrates that the feelings we inevitably face are timeless. I found it really soothing. Off to read 'why good people do bad things' now.
Degan Walters
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: digital
Excellent reason for anyone in or approaching the second half of life. I have read through it twice already and ordered a copy to mark up. Highly recommended and highly readable, in spite of some of the deep Jungian ideas, as Hollis weaves his own and others' anecdotes throughout.
Yelizaveta Makhatadze
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. some of it went over my head, but I couldn’t put this book down and cherished every word.
The best part of the book for me was about visiting “swamplands” - grief, loss, betrayal, guilt.
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I may have finished reading this book, but it’s not done with me yet! It asks alot of questions that I can’t answer in one reading. I will definitely pull it from the shelf again! It deserves more than one go through!
John A
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very helpful book for those looking to make changes during the middle passage of life. Hollis provides some much needed Jungian perspective and helps you ask the right questions of yourself.
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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.
“What would happen to our lives, our world, if the parent could unconditionally affirm the child, saying in so many words: “You are precious to us; you will always have our love and support; you are here to be who you are; try never to hurt another, but never stop trying to become yourself as fully as you can; when you fall and fail, you are still loved by us and welcomed to us, but you are also here to leave us, and to go onward toward your own destiny without having to worry about pleasing us.” 10 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” 6 likes
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