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The Encounter With The Soul Mate
February 29, 2008
Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #101, February 29, 2008

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Survey Shows That Midlife Crisis Is Real, and Universal

Soul Task Number Three: The Encounter With The Soul Mate

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Written by Noel McNaughton
Midlife-Men.com
(c) copyright 2008 midlife-men.com

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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

As with the last two issues, this one and the next continue looking at what William O. Roberts Jr., in his book Crossing the Soul's River calls "The Four Soul Tasks For Crossing".

I get many emails from distraught women whose men have left, after 15, 20, 30 or more years of marriage. Usually the men are having affairs with younger women. Sometimes they just leave, saying they are no longer happy in their marriage.

I believe a lot of this behaviour is triggered by what Roberts calls the transition to the "Helen" stage of the Anima. It is a confusing and difficult time. Read about it below. There is an exercise to help you see what your "Helen" is like.

If you wonder whether you are alone in your midlife transition, relax. A recent study shows it is a universal experience.

There are about 1300 words in this issue, which should take you about 4 1/2 minutes to read.

Noel

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Survey Shows That Midlife Crisis Is Real, and Universal

Ever wondered whether your midlife crisis is 'real' or you whether are just feeling sorry for yourself? Wonder no more. A recent study says the midlife crisis is not only a bona-fide condition, but 40-somethings (I would add 50-somethings and even 60-somethings) all over the world struggle with it.

Researchers from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, combed through 35 years worth of data on two million people from 80 nations, and concluded that there is, a consistent, age-related pattern in depression and happiness. We are most unhappy in midlife and happiest at either end of our lives.

This pattern of midlife misery holds true regardless of gender, education, marital status, number and age of children, occupation or income.

"The good news", says Andrew Oswald, economics professor and the University of Warwick in Britain and co-author of the study, "is it then picks up, which means that unless lots of bad things happen to you, such as severe ill health, you'll be just as happy at 70 as you were at 20 and very possibly happier".

Oswald speculates that the midlife crisis, and subsequent happier time, occurs because people begin to bump up against their limitations and unrealistic expectations in their 30s and hit a low point in their 40s. Eventually they move through their disappointments, accept their situation as it is, and go on to feel more satisfied as they age.

Soul Task Number Three: The Encounter With The Soul Mate

I frequently get letters from women, wondering what is happening to their men. Here is an excerpt from one I got yesterday:

I appreciate your articles. Breakdown at Midlife is comforting in explaining my husband's behaviour for the last 47 months.

Is there a place you can direct me where you addressed (or maybe will address) getting a man who's a run-away [suddenly moved out and legally separated at age 47 and started 2 new relationships] to go from persona-oriented to self-oriented?

The letter was timely, in that this week's topic probably has quite a bit to do with why the husband above 'ran away'.

First, a quick shot of theory: Psychologist Carl Jung's definition of the 'soul mate' was what he called the "Anima" (feminine form), and "Animus" (masculine form), which comes from the Latin, meaning 'soul'. They are somewhat ambiguous terms, hard to precisely define, but can be experienced.

It seems we each have our own 'ideal feminine' template in our psyche. No one knows where this comes from, but it shows itself when we meet a woman that suddenly 'lights our board'. It is as though our subconscious mind compares women to its ideal template, and when we see a woman that is a good match, it shouts "there she is!"

In Crossing the Soul's River, Roberts talks about four forms of the feminine:

  • Eve - the mother of all
  • Helen - the face that launched a thousand ships
  • Mary - the spiritual companion
  • Sophia - wisdom herself

In our lifetime we have two great transitions: adolescence, and middle age.

Until adolescence, the 'ideal woman' is our mother. At adolescence, we begin to discover 'Helen', the beautiful and desirable lover. During our twenties, we normally marry, embark on a career, and start a family.

The woman we marry is usually a combination of both Eve and Helen.

During the busy years from early adulthood to midlife, as our wife also becomes a mother, we see her less as Helen, and more as Eve.

The danger comes at midlife, when our soul asks us to begin to transform our anima from the archetypal patterns of Eve to Helen, and then on to Mary and eventually Sophia.

Roberts puts it this way:

"What happens in early adulthood in its classic form, is that the two of you - husband and wife, mother and father - raise your children and start your careers. You are so busy that you have little time left over for psychological development.

"But in midlife, that changes. And one of the first signs that it is changing is that the anima becomes activated deep in the male psyche. And when she does, she often puts new energy into the old adolescent conflict - the one between Eve (Mother) and Helen (Beauty). Men start flailing about to get some resolution to this conflict, and, too often they resolve it by projecting the undesired feminine onto their wives - she is experienced as a controlling mother - and the desired feminine onto the so-called "other woman "- she is bliss itself."

Of course the real 'Eve' and 'Helen' are patterns inside us. The women we fall in and out of love with as adolescents, and the woman we eventually marry, are simply approximations of the internal Soul Mate. How else could 'love at first sight' be explained? How could we 'fall in love' with someone we don't even know, if not that they in some way match our internal template of the lover?

If we look outside ourselves for Helen, and find it in another, usually younger, woman, we will likely have arrested our soul development, and be stuck halfway through the journey.

What we really need to do is go inward, using meditation, prayer, contemplation, therapy, spiritual counselling, fasting, or talking with other men (men's support groups are great for this), to discover our true Soul Mate, and after she transforms to Helen, keep the transformation going so over time she becomes Mary, the 'soul companion'.

This is demonstrated in the stage of marriage after the midlife transition, especially from the late 50s on, which is described as "companionable". The couple enjoys each other's company, shares in the daily chores of living, and takes turns leading and following in whatever activities they choose to do together.

With time, the Anima's transition to Sophia, the ancient Greek word meaning 'wisdom', is made, which I believe is what leads us to become elders, rather than simply elderly.

I feel as though I am now between the "Mary" and "Sophia" stages of my anima's transition. During my late forties and early fifties, thoughts of former girl friends frequently came unbidden into my mind. I wondered what these women were like now, and what it would have been like to have married them.

But I also had enough life experience, especially having been widowed, divorced and now happily married again, to know that no matter how attractive a woman may seem in the beginning, the reality is that my romantic experience of the woman has more to do with me than her. In other words, as I withdrew my 'projection of perfection' from my partner, I experienced her more for who she is, rather than who I wanted her to be.

This seemed to come more naturally as I grew spiritually, and became more authentically myself.

It is a gradual transition. After a while you look back and realize you are now different than you were.


An Exercise For Encountering The Soul Mate

Here is an exercise from Crossing The Soul's River:

Take a piece of paper and write the names of a number of women - maybe ten or twelve - to whom you are attracted. 'Identify the traits - physical and personal - that make each woman attractive. Review your list, looking for traits that are common among your attractions. Guess what you set of attractive traits might been five or ten years ago. How are your patterns of attraction changing? Finally, try to become conscious of how you respond when you find yourself attracted - and attractive - to these women. Do you become uneasy? Do you push them away? Or do you seek to draw them to you?

When he does this exercise with groups, Roberts says:

"I am generally amazed at the response to this simple exercise. Men who rarely have the opportunity to think about their relationship with the feminine become aware of different notions of feminine attractiveness and of how those notions change as we mature."


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Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. - Mark Twain

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TheBathroomDiaries.com - When you gotta go, you gotta go! Finding a restroom while traveling is a challenge. The answer? TheBathroomDiaries.com. This site has reviews and maps of toilet locations worldwide that you can print out and take with you.

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Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty. - Coco Chanel

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I Get Better Gas Mileage With These Capsules

I did a six-month test using 'MPG Capsules', which a friend told me about. The results were impressive: 10% better gas mileage with my light truck, and 15% with my Mazda car.

I wrote up the details of the test here: Gas Capsule Test

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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to noel@midlife-men.com . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.

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Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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