Finding meaning: chapters 1 and 2

by Don  

My friend Jim recommended to me James Hollis's book “Finding meaning in the second half of life.” It's rare that I enjoy a book recommended to me, but the last book Jim recommended I liked quite a bit, so I thought I'd give this one a go. I've made it through the first two chapters, and here are my thoughts so far.

The first chapter made me wonder whether the book was going to be not particularly interesting. The kind of self-contemplation he discusses in the first chapter, that he thinks so many people avoid, is a type of self-contemplation that has been part of my life (and part of the lives of pretty well all my Evangelical acquaintances) since before I was twenty. I get it that many people don't seem to have it, but I feared that he was going to simply reassert the exhortations to self-examination that have been part of so much of the literature I have read before. My initial impression was, “More of the same, ho-hum.”

In chapter two I was rather taken with his description of three ways of dealing with the overwhelmingness of life: withdrawal in its many forms (retreating, avoiding, procrastinating, hiding out, denying, dissociating); seizing control in its varying forms (passive aggressiveness, sociopathy); and acquiescence in its many forms (accommodation, codependence). It had never occurred to me think of those things as responses to one generalized issue.

The second chapter makes one think about one's damaging repetitive habits. I'll spare myself the embarrassment of repeating my own such habits here, but I can tell you that I have contemplated them more than once, and more than once I have thought, “If I were just more self-disciplined, I could get past them.” That is partially true when you are dealing with fairly basic issues in high school or your twenties. But nowadays I acknowledge that Hollis’s comment in chapter two is true once you get past those more basic things: “None of us is pleased to learn that our will is not enough...” If you are younger then forty and think this is spineless wimphood, then I can't wait till you are 50+. :)

Finding meaning: chapters 3 and 4

by Don  

Chapter 3: I thought his description of projections was interesting, as well as the five stages one may go through with them.

Chapter 4: He discusses complexes a bit, and ends up talking about how we have to own them.

At this stage I'm thinking the book is sort of a paraphrase of Jungian analysis. So far I'm not finding it to give any self-insight that I have found from other sources.