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on December 1, 2017
This is the third book I read by Hollis, a Jungian psychoanalyst who specialises in the so-called middle passage, psychological true maturity and individuation. Hollis has the virtue to have me to stop and wow quite often, and this book was not different. Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life engaged my head and my soul, spoke to me and my hunger for transcending reality as imposed to me by gender, age, and cultural constrictions.

Because Hollis is a former academic with a background in Humanities who became a trained Jungian therapist later on in life, his writing is colourful, literary, sophisticated and very polished. His discourse goes from the mundane to the philosophical and the spiritual, and he does so in depth, without the usual psycho-babble you find elsewhere in pop-psychology these days. If you have a good level of education or self-education, are familiar with Jungian terminology and Jungian approach to the psyche, and love reading books by people who preach by example, this is your book.

This is perhaps Hollis' most confronting book on the subject. On the one hand, in this book Hollis does not provide you with any shortcut, or present a rosy view of anything, especially of your future in you decide to stay right where you are, doing what you do. Hollis debunks romantic love, traditional family, professional success, consumerism, pop ideologies, the many obsessions and addictions of our daily life (the obsession with health, youth and media included), New Age and herd behaviour, and does so without bitterness. His definition of soul as psyche, his emphasis on the power of myths and symbols for the well-being of society and the healthiness of the psyche, his castigation of major religions as not really spiritual, among other pearls, might be controversial.

On the other hand, Hollis doesn't tell us how to lead our life, how to behave, or how to do things. He tells us that the middle passage will only be successful after going through our suffering and finding out from where it originates, burying our old set of values and ways of being, and giving birth to others that are more in tune with our soul's desire. We have to stop playing the victim, and assign a positive spin to our life dramas and moments of despair.

This book is a call to listening to our deep calling, to taking responsibility for our own life, and to moving past our repetitive patterns of behaviour and personal history. Each person has a journey that is personal to them,so there is no cookie cutter to cut the fat, we have to de-construct our false self ourselves.

Feeling good or getting comfort is not the aim of the advice in this book, nor is numbing your pain, but the aim of enlarging your life and reaching wholeness. Without the suffering, the non-suffering is taken for granted, so suffering has a function, it allows us to grow up and appreciate things more.

According to Hollis, the two major tasks of the grown-up-to-be aren't getting money, position, possessions or medication, they are: 1/ The recovery of personal authority, i.e. to find what is true for us and have the courage to live it in the world. 2/ The discovery of a personal spirituality that resonates with us, that connects with us and is meaningful for us, no matter what other people think, and be willing to stand for what it is true for us. A kind of Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone.

Everything Hollis wants to say is, "If you do not like your life, change it, but stop blaming others, for even if they did hurt you, you are the one who has been making the choices of adulthood." (lcos. 3210-3211).


Hollis has a great compassion towards human suffering, it is tuned to the needs and troubles that one faces when crisis strike in adulthood, because he has been there himself. However, because he's a depth analyst, he won't tell us what we want to hear in if we have depression, anxiety, desperation, a marital crisis, empty-nest syndrome, a professional crisis, and so on. He tell us what we need to know, so we get something out of our pain through your pain, become ourselves, dare to show our self to the world, and become the individual who our soul always wanted us to be: "often, inexplicably, it is the soul itself that has brought us to that difficult place in order to enlarge us" (loc. 212).

Although this is not a how-to book, Hollis presents us with a considerable number of poignant questions so that we can start the inner dialogue and play psychoanalysts with ourselves. The most important one, to me, is: "If I have done the expected things, according to my best understanding of myself and the world, so why does my life not feel right?” (locs. 453-4). I think this is important because it doesn't focus on the world out there, the image we project of ourselves, our achievements, how successful we are, how many houses, cars or jewels we own, but on how we feel inside.

Although I love this book, there are a few things that I consider improvable or points on which I difer.

1/ Tool-less.
Hollis is perfectly aware that most people haven't the means, economical or other, to have therapy or psychoanalysis, even if they need it and want to. On the other hand, psychological blocks are usually black points in our eye that we cannot see because they are right in the middle of the eye. That demands the help of a therapist, analyst or coach. I understand that Hollis doesn't want to provide a cookie cutter of an answer for anybody who is suffering from a personal crisis or wants to enlarge their lives, but I would have appreciated he making an effort, because, after all, he is a therapist and has the tools. It is true that the book has some suggestions about questions to ask ourselves to start a inner dialogue, but they cannot be answered if you are blocked, and some of them are too philosophical for the average John and Jane to be answered. Many people will buy this book because they were expecting practical help, but many of them won't have the intellectual holders to grab everything that Hollis throws at us. I hope that his forthcoming book will be more hands down and address the lack of practical advice that some might find in this book.

2/ Muddle in the Middle.
"Second half of life" is an expression that departs from ontological principles that do not reflect who we are as physical and social beings in the 21st century. It presupposes that we have a certain life span on this planet, that half way there we have a crisis, or that most of us have a grow-up spur at around the same age. I have said it before, my grandma died as an elderly lady at 48 years of age, so her middle age was 24 and she was probably in a corner by then having no way to go and unhappy to the core; there are women and men on this planet, right now, still living that way. Nowadays, 50y.o.a. is the new 40, or the new 35, or just 50 depending on one's level of maturity and physical state, and the culture and part of the world we were born or live in. On the other hand, a period that goes from 35 to 90y.o.a is a bit too vast! Or mid-life crisis being mostly between 35-45, well, it is a bit too precise! My grandma probably had hers at 25.

3/ Mirage.
Hollis says that in the second half of life "We lose friends, our children, our energies, and finally our lives. Who could manage in the face of such seeming defeat?." (locs. 3096-3098). Isn't that a total illusion? The same illusion that generates the obsession with health? There is no guarantee that we aren't going to be killed while young, healthy and beautiful, or that our families and friends will go before we do, or vice versa. In fact, we could be super-fit and super-young and be run over a car when walking on the footpath. We might have to deal with the death of all our family when young, because of sudden illness, accident, murder or suicide.

4/ The Brady Bunch.
At least in the Western World, traditional family is not about a man and woman marrying and having children. There are straight couples that don't marry, live together, de facto. for decades and decide not to have children even if they biologically could. Some uncoupled individuals have parental instincts have surrogate mothers giving birth to children who they parent and love. There are gay couples who live a very traditional life except for the fact that they are gay. There are men and women who decide not to marry or have children, and join a monastery and form part of a bigger family. Others live in hippy communes. Other singles won't join the monastery, but don't need the need to marry or have children to comply with other people's expectations or be content. The examples are endless. I say this because, asking ourselves what values and ways of being we want to pass on to our children, is a question that is a bit obsolete unless you have a child. Sometimes Hollis speaks as if the only mature way of life was getting married and having children. That is a bit of a delusion,no? Very traditional, no? I actually know many married people with children who have no psychological maturity at all. I am not saying that Hollis is not aware of this, he totally is, I am saying that the book does not reflects that.

5/ Tongue Twist.
At the beginning of the book Hollis says that the aim of the book is to present things in a language that most people can understand. However, many times I thought that a 'commoner' would find difficult getting through the book because of the vocabulary, and the high degree of symbolism and/or abstraction he uses. This might be a complicated book for many. I think this is especially the case in the chapter on spirituality and when he speaks about myth and symbolism. His meditations, so to speak, are beautifully written, but very elitist.

5/ The pain of the pen.
When one has remedial massage one learns that we get rid of the pain through the pain, as the treatment inflicts pain on the body. So, in a way, going through our suffering, as mentioned by Hollis here, is a bit like that. However his insistence on the suffering, his exaltation of the suffering, sounds a bit masochist at times. I am not saying that there isn't truth in what Hollis says, because I've experienced that to be true for me, but, hey, he insists too much on accepting the suffering and going through it as only alternative to find meaning and I am not sure that is always the case. Some people won't be able to do that, and will collapse and fail. We cannot condemn them for not being able to suffer or for not having the courage to go through it or getting meaning out of their suffering.

6/ Spirited away.
Hollis' insistence o spirituality starts very well, it is very open and I agree with what he says. But the more the book advances the more fixated Hollis becomes with spirituality and the more he gives, unwillingly, an aura of religiosity. To Hollis there is not growing up without spirituality. To me, that is a statement true for him and for many other people. There are ways of getting meaning out of life that aren't based on spirituality. Non-nihilist atheists I personally know find meaning in knowing that our transience demands living the moment, being fully present, making the most of our time, leading an ethical life for the sake of it, and leaving their offspring, if any, a good legacy. I also know deeply spiritual people whose lives are full of giving meaning to their suffering and they haven't grown much inside and are still psychologically immature.

Individuation is a personal individual thing, so things that constrict an individual won't constrict another, and things that helps to expand a person won't help another. Culture, family history, life circumstances are all impositions on the soul. So, my question is, is individuation easier or more difficult to achieve by members of a given culture, religion or linguistic background than ohers? Does a culture creates more neurosis than another?

This is a beautiful written book, lyric at times, quite hard at others that loves you toughly but also tenderly, and it shows us a way that is not what we might be looking for but it might be our best shot at growing up. The book will certainly satisfy those who love Jungian analysis and ways of looking at the inner and outer world that aren't simplistic, ways of looking at the world that allow for our individuality to be recognised, developed and expanded.

One gets to feel how being a Jungian Therapist is what Hollis was meant to be, because his book oozes passion for his profession, and for the wonders that Depth Psychology can do for anyone, not just if we are in crisis. He sees the Jungian therapist as a mediator with your soul and the self, and that is a wonderful way to put it. There is a lot of soul in this book.

Having said that, this book might not be useful or satisfying to you if:
> You are a convinced nihilist. > You are very religious in a traditional way. > You are looking for a New Age book. > You need a book simply written with everyday vocabulary. > You are looking for a set of rules, step by step DIY system to solve your personal crisis. > You need somebody to tell you how to solve your problems and how to get out of your misery. > You are looking for something that is useful, but not that deep or complicated. > You aren't interested on Jungian depth Psychology and want a behavioural approach.

Great edition! I love when I get a book on Kindle, and I find it to be typo free, properly organised, notes properly linked back and forth, and everything as it should be and as it is in a hard-copy. That demands from the editors caring about us customers, and I really appreciate it!
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on October 20, 2016
It's like he opened my head, crawled inside, and put words to the thoughts and feelings I have had my whole life. I thought I was the only one thinking these things and feeling this way. Why had I never heard of this guy?! Highly recommend to any person, any age who wants to understand himself in a more profound, edifying way. I gave a copy to my 23 year old son. It IS heady and I have to reread some sentences a few times, but I've underlined just about every sentence in the book and that's saying something!! This book is for any person, any age who wants to "get it".
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on February 24, 2015
Wonderful book. Definitely not your typical self help book. Based on Jungian psychology, this book has given me much to reflect upon and goals to strive for outside of the usual "get happy" blather that's out there. If you want to understand more about yourself, your partner and others with whom you have close relationships this is a great book to read. Here are a couple quotes to help you decide if this book might be up your alley:

P 117: "...the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the other is to assume more of the developmental agenda for ourselves. In other words, to have a grown-up relationship, we have to grow up!...When we are sincerely able to ask the question "What am I asking of my beloved that I need to do for myself?" we have not only begun growing up, but may then be expressing a loving attitude toward that other after all."

P118: "Growing up means that we take spiritual responsibility for ourselves..until we accept this responsibility for ourselves, we are asking others to be a shelter for our homeless soul..remember that others will then be asking the same of us as well."
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on April 22, 2017
AmaIng eye opening read. The author spoke to me and brough clarity and light to the confused state I was in as a result of my midlife crisis and depression. Recommended to all of those who feel empty and whose old paradigms and reference points have become meanigless. To those who seek to do away with the superficial and trivial and seek to truly reconnect with the essence of themselves. It will show you the way back home. I liked the concise writing. I chose this rating because it was a superve book that hit the spot.
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on February 25, 2017
My oldest child moved out last summer. That same week my father-in-law and beloved dog passed away. My middle child will be moving out this summer and my youngest will be off to college. Needless to say, my soul has been in pain. But thanks to this book, I have a few new tools in my tool box.
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on April 2, 2018
I'm only on chapter 2, but so far I have found so much that resonates with me. This book does a superb job at explaining how childhood and early experiences shape who we are today and subconsciously affects our decisions and behaviors. Doing nothing is regression and leads to depression, doing something causes anxiety but helps us grow and nurtures the soul. We must break free from the subconscious patterns of our childhoods by first recognizing them.
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on October 25, 2016
This is the book for anyone asking himself or herself what is the experience of living a human life. What is this what we experience as our own lives? And what is the meaning of all this? The author does answer those important dilemmas that we all have. And his answers are full of compassion and wisdom. I really enjoyed reading this book.
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on April 9, 2014
If you're lost and desperate to find meaning in your life and If everything you thought was the answer to life's struggles has let you down, then this book is for you. The answers it gives are not answers or a formula. The book points you back to yourself, to your inner compass which already knows what you value but which you are too afraid to acknowledge. It's up to you to accept this inner challenge, this book will illuminate and confirm that you are not alone. This struggle is the essence of life and every minute we neglect engaging it we are one minute closer to death and further from finding our way home. Start the journey now.
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on December 22, 2017
Good book....I like many of the current Jungian therapists & Hollis is articulate....has a way of taking his professional lingo to make sure the
reader "gets" it.
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on September 26, 2016
A very in-depth study of human development and the varying conditions that affect how we develop. Although it is heavy content, the book is so well written that it is not overly burdensome and I enjoyed reading it very much. I learned so much and it has helped me understand why I have developed socially the way I have, and has helped me to learn how to modify the things that don't work for me.
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