In this stage of psychosocial development, Erickson talks about Generativity v. Stagnation. When we reach mid-life, Jung says we now have to let go of the ego and old identity to step into our true self which he calls Individuation. We discuss:
- How all the previous stages of development can help or hurt your process of Individuation
- The Great Mother Archetype and her role in your second birth
- The importance of discovering and expressing your true purpose
- Why some people get stuck at mid-life and what they can do about it
- How to avoid despair in the winter of life by being yourself
Debra Maldonado 00:30
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions. I am Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. This is our last of the series on Erickson’s psychosocial stages of development — say that in one word — and Jung’s individuation process, and how they work together. The topic of today is the great mother archetype. We’re going to talk about archetypal creation in the second half of life. Also if you’re new to our podcast, and you’re listening on Spotify, or iTunes, or any other podcast service, don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss another episode. Let’s start off with a quote by Carl Jung. “But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning, will be little at the evening. And what in the morning was true, at the evening will have become a lie.” Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of His Soul, page 111. It’s a beautiful quote about individuation and why we need to live a different life.
Robert Maldonado 01:56
To me, what that says is that it’s a mistake to want to stay young forever, psychologically, emotionally. And if we do, we have to pay the price man. Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development took us up to age 40 last time, now we’re getting into 40 to 60, which he’s considers the stage of generativity versus stagnation. What does generativity mean for us?
Debra Maldonado 02:44
It means that you have to keep creating, and create something new, or you’re going to stagnate in your old pattern. A lot of people at this age want to change careers. They’ve been doing this for a while, they feel the sense of Groundhog Day. My life is stagnating, I’m not really creating anymore. In the early part of life, everything’s new, you’re still making friends, building up career and relationships, having babies. But at 40, it start getting into a routine. You have to ask yourself “What am I creating that’s new and fresh in my life? How can I create differently in my life?” If we don’t, we end up with stagnation. Then if we stay in stagnation too long, it becomes destructive. If you haven’t gone through it in your early adulthood, this idea of the dark night of the soul where something happens that says “You’re going off the rails here, we gotta lift you up and shake up your life a little bit. That’s gonna get you on the right path.” These events that happen sometimes can feel like a curse, but they’re really a blessing.
Robert Maldonado 03:58
I love this idea of a person seeking a sense of contributing to the world. For example, through family and work. Expressions of generativity are: confident, productive work, their own person, willingness to invest in the next generation, achievement of goals, willingness to risk, explore, produce, take charge attitude. On the opposite extreme or on the other side of the spectrum?
Debra Maldonado 04:33
Sitting on the sidelines, you’re stagnant, you’re watching other people. Maybe you’re complaining and blaming the world that you can’t make a change, you’re feeling helpless, but you’re not really actively pursuing. “I hate my job,” but you’re not actually doing anything about it. You’re withdrawing from the world. You’re not giving back. Obesity is actually one of these, it’s about unused energy. A fatalistic attitude. These are again extremes. Dissatisfaction with self, job, life. “Life sucks right now. I don’t know why. I don’t have the right relationship. I don’t have the right job.” Maybe health, maybe I have gained weight, everything in my life is out of order. Resentfulness, bitterness towards life. If you don’t get into generativity, the opposite would be resentment, feeling like life isn’t fair, that kind of attitude. Where the generativity attitude is “The world is my oyster. Let me see what I can make of it.” How does this relate to the mother? Because our mother archetype gives us a template for how we relate to the world. Is the world friendly? Is it abundant? Is it nurturing? Or has it abandoned me? Has it left me behind?
Robert Maldonado 05:59
Here the mother really takes an important role, the mother archetype primarily. Last time, we talked about how the way we related to our mother and the imprint we received from our experience with our personal mother is really a reflection and a projection of that internal archetypal mother we carry around in our psyche and then project onto the world. We experience the world the way we experienced our early mother experience. The material world then becomes our mother.
Debra Maldonado 06:46
But it’s never too late to have a beautiful, wonderful, nurturing mother through healthy relationship with the mother archetype.
Robert Maldonado 06:53
Through individuation, we can transform that, we can change the unconscious set pattern, start to actively cultivate a relationship with that internal mother.
Debra Maldonado 07:07
It’s a rebirth because the material mother, birth mother gives birth to the physical body, shapes us, and we are shaped by the world. Then at midlife, where we have another chance, we get to choose instead of letting the world shape us, we get to shape the world we want to live in. It is such a powerful stage. We can’t really do it much when we’re really young, like teenagers. We could try to, but there’s a rite of passage, you have to build up your ego first.
Robert Maldonado 07:36
You have to get to this stage where you’re ready to transcend your early identification as a social creature. If you think about what all these stages were leading up to, it was the development of the persona, as Jung would say, the development of this identity, this career, this sense of yourself as a competent human being that is able to contribute to society. But now the stages that follow, 40, 50, 60, you’re getting into “What is the true meaning of your life? What was all this for?”
Debra Maldonado 08:21
What’s my purpose? I love the idea of giving back, you’re there to invest in the next generation. It’s not in early life where it’s all about us. Let me take from the world, let me get the money. let me get love. This part of life is what generativity actually comes from, let me give back. We can’t give back if we don’t feel full and abundant ourselves, if we’re still taking from the world or feel like the world is withholding from us. It only comes from that healthy place of “I’m giving out and getting back”. It’s an exchange, it’s just like a mother who feeds you when you’re hungry, makes you comfortable when you are uncomfortable. It’s the same thing, giving back to the world and making the world to your children, to the next generation. I never had kids, so I always feel like people that are affected by our work, it’s my way of giving back to the next generation. They don’t have to be my children by birth but they can be someone who I can help and guide.
Robert Maldonado 09:26
Here the individuation process really takes hold because the first part of individuation is going through the shadow work. Shadow work means the opposite of what your persona has been. If you are the competent intellectual person who is creating a career for themselves, often the shadow would be incompetence, maybe creativity, all the things that did not fit into that persona.
Debra Maldonado 10:00
Something I know for women is that if we’re too attached to our bodies, being young, beautiful, looking a certain way, and then we start getting older, gaining a little weight, start getting wrinkles, if we’re not whole inside, if we just build our whole life on that persona, the shadow, the old unattractive person is going to start affecting us in a deeper way.
Robert Maldonado 10:29
But you notice it is still very personal. At the deeper level of individuation, Jung says, the archetypes start to play a big role. The mother archetype is almost always the central archetype that the person undergoing individuation has to come to terms with. The great mother is the universal mother. We see it in many mythologies, the devouring mother that you have to confront, Kali.
Debra Maldonado 11:11
A dragon is also representative of the great mother archetype.
Robert Maldonado 11:16
A lot of it may be misinterpreted. They think these images of destruction represent nature’s wrath. There is something to that. But really what she represents is our mortality, we have to be able to face that we’re not going to live forever in this body. There’s impermanence to life. If we don’t come to terms with that, we always cling to life. That’s a sad way to live the second part of your life.
Debra Maldonado 11:54
To live afraid. For me, moving to Colorado when I was 30 created another real life. It was such a big risk for me to leave all my friends, my whole life, to be out in this new place, starting over a new career. It brought me so much confidence. Every time you take a risk, every time you move yourself out of the old patterns, you gain a new sense of self. Everything that you built your persona on, if you’re hanging on to the past, it’s very fragile, it’s an illusion that it’s solid. If you hang on too tightly, when those things fall apart in your life, your house, your home, your relationship, your job, all of a sudden you don’t have any ground. When you find that ground within yourself, you can change all those external things. That’s really that mother archetype. Instead of the emotional womb, we have a spiritual womb we’re in. In the early part of life we’re shaped by the mother’s emotional womb, then later in life it’s this other container that we’re in, that’s deeper, more solid, more lasting, universal, unlimited.
Robert Maldonado 14:12
One way to talk about it is coming to terms with, but it’s more than that. Jung says it’s the integration, the full acceptance of your mortality, which liberates you from the prison of your biology. Otherwise, you feel like your life is a tragedy because you have to let go of everything you’ve built. You have to let go of your very body, or what most people consider their life. But the transcendence, the principle of having a spiritual element, a higher element in human nature that you can cultivate, that you can identify with.
Debra Maldonado 15:01
When you think of purpose at this stage, you’re thinking that you’re here for a reason versus “I’m just existing, I’m going to absorb all the resources I can, take what I want”. They’re like “I’ve been given a gift of life, I need to give back to life”, there’s something more profound versus existing. This is where a lot of people create a spiritual practice, or start having a spiritual search. They may have a religion they were raised in, or rebel against the religion they were raised in. This is a time where most people are looking for spiritual resources within themselves and discovering what they believe about themselves.
Robert Maldonado 15:49
It is beyond religion because spirituality is not necessarily tied to a religious practice. It’s also beyond belief. Because as Jung said when they asked him “You’ve worked on these ideas for most of your life, do you believe in God?” He said “I don’t believe, I know.” It’s about knowing yourself, the true self.
Debra Maldonado 16:17
Not saying affirmations, or thinking positive. It’s knowing that doesn’t have any thought, it’s beyond thought. It’s just calm and centeredness that is not easily shaken.
Robert Maldonado 16:29
That’s the true self. We can reach this psychologically, emotionally, developmentally. It’s not just some mystical idea for the few. It is part of our human nature, it’s our inheritance. But we have to understand the psychology of it. That’s where Jung’s work comes in. It gives us a psychology that addresses that question: what is the true self in us?
Debra Maldonado 17:04
Then we’re gonna go to the next level, which is late adulthood, after 65. Most people retire, that’s the retirement age. You’re thinking, you’re more reflecting of life. In the 40 to 60, you’re still reinventing yourself. You feel like there’s a lot time. And this is like “I don’t know how much time I have left, I have to come to terms with my life.” Are you seeing a sense of satisfaction or failure in your life?
Robert Maldonado 17:34
On the positive side of the spectrum, it’s expression of integrity, pride, content with yourself in your life, still actively thinking about the future, healthy interaction with self, improvement, self approving, comfortable living and sharing with others, likes being an example to others, accepts aging process gracefully, and death as part of the life cycle.
Debra Maldonado 18:09
When I hear that I think of the wise old woman, man archetype, that wise mother, the woman who probably has one or two regrets, but on the whole is proud of her life, and accepting her fate and where she’s going, knows that she’s going to die and doesn’t fear it because she has a knowing of her deeper self, she’s not clinging to life, or even clinging to her youth. She’s allowing the aging process to happen and accepting that she might not be able to walk as fast as she used to. The opposite of that is despair and distrust. On the extreme, it would be deep resentment of a life wasted. When we do shadow work with people, we get to the root of what their biggest fear is, they always say, a wasted life. In your 20s and 30s, you’re already thinking, that seed is there, you do not want to get to the end of your life feeling like you wasted it, that there’s nothing left, you’re withering away. Low self-esteem, angry at self and society in the world, closing off to others, withdrawing from the world, even more irritable, complaining. We’ve all been around older people who’ve had that experience, a grandparent or someone who feels like life went so fast, now they’re full of regret. They feel cheated and angry at life. You’ve worked in the hospital, you had said that a lot of people finally get to that wake up point at the last hours of their life, some people are like “Why didn’t I take more risks? Why didn’t I do more with my life?”
Robert Maldonado 20:04
It’s because if you live from the persona level all your life and you cling to that, you always regret losing your career or losing your power to work and to be effective in life. You’re basing your whole existence on this individual persona you’ve created. By nature, it’s impermanent. It’s going to go away, whatever you do, no matter how many face lifts, no matter how much you work out, it’s going to go away. It’s not a very wise approach towards the end of your life or after 40 to depend on that as your sole way of being in the world. You have to cultivate this deeper sense that Jung called the self.
Debra Maldonado 21:06
Think about earlier stages of cultivating intimacy with others, creating relationships. You don’t want to end up at the end of your life alone and isolated, you want to have people that love and care about you.
Robert Maldonado 21:18
I’d say that’s a choice. But it has to be a real choice. You don’t want to be regretting that, wishing you were around people you loved. But if you choose that, if it’s a real choice, that’s okay too. Some people choose that, and it’s fine because it’s a choice they’ve made in a conscious, individuated way.
Debra Maldonado 21:46
When my father was diagnosed with leukemia and was really facing that this could be it, I was talking to him, and he said “I don’t have any regrets. I had a great life.” I didn’t know about him that he felt very satisfied. He was smoked for 40 years, that’s caused the leukemia. He said “I did this to myself, I’m taking responsibility. But I know I’ve lived a full life. If this is the end, I’ve lived a great life.” How many people can say that when they are faced with a life-threatening experience like that? Sometimes it’s a wake up call, people who have a heart attack or get a medical issue happen, they think “I gotta change my life.” We don’t want to wait till late adulthood, until the end of our life to come to terms with it. We want to do as much as we can, cultivate and individuate more when we’re younger.
Robert Maldonado 22:55
There’s some great interviews with Jung himself the BBC did towards the end of his life, he was already in his 80s. You see the wisdom and the calmness about his position in life. He knows he’s lived a good life. He did what he wanted to do, he accomplished the tasks he set for himself. Again, that knowing, they asked him “Do you believe in God?” “I know, I don’t have to believe.” It’s a direct knowing, a direct experience of the true nature of your inner self. That’s real spirituality. That’s not a religious practice, not something you just believe in. It’s an actual experience that we should all have, that should be our goal, especially towards the second half of life.
Debra Maldonado 23:55
I had an interesting dream, talking about Jung, individuation, and the mother. I probably brought this up on one of our other podcasts, probably a long time ago, but I’ll repeat it. I was 29, thinking about moving to Colorado. My older brother had just moved to Florida from New Jersey too. I had a dream that we had both died. My brother and I were laying in our caskets, and there were strings on top of me. I woke up in the coffin, I was like “I’m not ready to die yet.” I was like trying to get out of the threads saying “I want to live”, and my mother was closing the casket saying “Honey, we paid for the funeral already,” she was being the practical one, “It’s your time, you have to go.” I was like “No.” I feel that was my unconscious saying “The mother’s influencing you in a certain way to play it safe, do what you’re told.” Then I moved across the country, it was the transformational experience of lifting out of my little bubble I grew up in, my childhood friends, going to a completely new place, completely new life. The dream was a representing dream. Always, even at a younger age our mind is showing us where we feel trapped. If you have a dream like that, or dream that you’re trapped and need to get out, it’s your psyche saying “Let’s individuate, it’s time to know who you really are. You’re not the little girl you thought you were, this persona you built up. There’s so much more to you.” If you get anything from this series, it’s that it’s never too late to have a good childhood, it’s never too late to start over, it’s never too late to have an amazing life. Nothing in the past can limit you unless you believe it can limit.
Robert Maldonado 25:44
Erickson’s work gives us the psychosocial structure of will development. But Jung’s work gives us the meaning of why we are doing these things, what they mean to us personally. We see that there’s a process of growth, not only biologically and socially, but it takes us into that realm of what most people call spirituality. But it’s really the deeper sense of our true self. That’s all it is. That’s what life is for. It’s to find the meaning and create our own meaning through this experience that we call our life.
Debra Maldonado 26:32
Every stage has its challenge. But it’s beautiful. Even if you went through the first 10 challenges and didn’t succeed, today is a new day, you can start reclaiming your trust, reclaiming your desire to have autonomy, let go of shame, have initiative and start taking chances without guilt, to feel competent in life, feel competent that you can create something and not in your personality, not building up your ego, but competent that there’s this deeper part of yourself you can rely on instead of feeling inferior because you don’t fit in with everyone or the world doesn’t see you the way you want. You know who you are. Then moving into love and having that identity of being lovable, I’m lovable person, I’m in love, I can receive love and give love in a healthy way. Be able to be intimate and have meaningful relationships. Then, of course, giving back to life. At the end of life feeling that you gave it everything you got. I used every gift I received. I found out what the reason I’m here was. I made it mean something. I think that’s the beauty of this work that it’s never too late, wherever you are, to reborn.
Robert Maldonado 27:58
I like that.
Debra Maldonado 28:00
Thank you so much for joining us for this series. We hope you enjoyed it. Please don’t forget to subscribe if you’re on YouTube, this little button here in the corner, click on it, and you’ll get notice of our new episodes. If you’re listening to us on podcast services, such as Spotify, iTunes, and the others, make sure you subscribe and leave an honest review. All those reviews help us generate more listeners and spread the word of our podcast and important information people need to live their best life. Take care everyone and see you soon.