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Thread: Jung's Stages of Life

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    Default Jung's Stages of Life

    One of Jung's lesser known works is an article about the progression of individuals through life. He never made much of a fuss about it; it's primarily a general reference tool for analytical psychologists.

    (there are excerpts from the article here:

    Jung made several propositions in the article:

    * A person differentiates themselves from their parents by developing their own ego at puberty.
    * A person's task in young adulthood is to make a place for themselves in the world.
    * Life climaxes at 35~40, followed by a mid-life crisis period.
    * Mid-life crisis is resolved by allowing oneself greater acceptance of other's views in one's own life. (e.g., greater appreciation of culture or politics)
    * Late adulthood is a time of working to develop culture/politics
    * The dying individual must develop a means of extending themselves psychologically into the world around them

    ...Admittedly I'm a bit skeptical of the first hypothesis because it does not conform to my own experience of childhood. I've had a well developed sense of "self" from as far as I can remember. Most of my early self was defined by a conflict between what I was supposed to do and what others wanted me to do. I had my own idea of what I was supposed to do in a situation, and this led me into what conflicts I had with authority figures. Perhaps this "supposed to" mentality is viewed by some as lacking self-concept. Obviously I had no understanding of my self-concept in my childhood, but I still understood that I was "me" and "me" alone.

    Earlier childhood though -- indeed, before I concluded by some primordial subconscious correlation of events with causalty that I had a self, -- is a different story, and in that respect Jung is probably correct.

    Empirical research has backed up the basic ideas underlying Jung's propositions. Erikson had a similar theory, one that differed from Jung in that it made less ideological assumptions and provided more generalized specifics. For this reason Erikson is held in higher regard than Jung by lifespan psychologists in general.

    Jung makes the point that women turn more masculine and men more feminine in the second half of life. He believed that this was represented by a greater cooperation between consciousness and the unconscious. (the transcendental function)


    As regards model-A, the four life stages correspond to a conflict between specific functions. To make a life for oneself one needs to be in touch with one's instincts, so as to find an appropriate niche and too, to defend oneself from predators and competitors for one's own niche. This means the base ego function (#1) must work with the limiter id function (#7) as a means of reconciling one's instincts with one's own psychology. The second half of life is a time ; what is immediately required as a better means of functioning in society, so that one is not targeted as a problem, and also a means of producing for society in a way that can trump the contributions of a younger person, thus affirming one's own role despite one's biological unfitness. This is possible by allowing the role superego function (#3) to work with the suggestive super-id function, allowing the creation of content that society needs while simultaneously covering for one's own social debts. (#5)

    The final stage, preparation for death, is a time of providing elderly advice that can calm the tempers of the young. It is also a time of contributing to culture and to political values. To reconcile the disparately oriented strategems invoked by the id into a working culture or stable politics, it is necessary for the individual to set the vulnerable superego function (#4) to work with the agenda super-id function (#6), thus allowing the individual to understand how they are shaping the political and cultural norms of their world. It is a time of caution, reflection, and great harmony between themselves and the very values they once detested. It is a time of meeting one's opposite as an equal, and not as an adversary.

    The final "vanishing", in Jung's words, of the individual into unconsciousness is allowed by allowing the creative ego function (#2) to cooperate with the determining id function (#8), thus allowing oneself to shape a lasting legacy. The question of how one would live as the architect of their own role is perhaps the penultimate question of human philosophy. The ultimate question, that of what a fully self-reconciled, totally transcended personality could do... is something worthy of consideration by all of us.
    Last edited by silke; 02-19-2014 at 08:38 AM. Reason: fixed link

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