Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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128 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

themselves objectively and often refer to themselves in the third person. The islands
of consciousness become larger, more numerous, and inhabited by a primitive ego.
Although the ego is perceived as an object, it is not yet aware of itself as perceiver.
The ego as perceiver arises during the dualistic phase of childhood when the
ego is divided into the objective and subjective. Children now refer to themselves
in the first person and are aware of their existence as separate individuals. During
the dualistic period, the islands of consciousness become continuous land, inhabited by
an ego-complex that recognizes itself as both object and subject (Jung, 1931/1960a).


The period from puberty until middle life is called youth. Young people strive to gain
psychic and physical independence from their parents, find a mate, raise a family, and
make a place in the world. According to Jung (1931/1960a), youth is, or should be, a
period of increased activity, maturing sexuality, growing consciousness, and recognition
that the problem-free era of childhood is gone forever. The major difficulty facing youth
is to overcome the natural tendency (found also in middle and later years) to cling to
the narrow consciousness of childhood, thus avoiding problems pertinent to the present
time of life. This desire to live in the past is called the conservative principle.
A middle-aged or elderly person who attempts to hold on to youthful values
faces a crippled second half of life, handicapped in the capacity to achieve self-
realization and impaired in the ability to establish new goals and seek new mean-
ing to life (Jung, 1931/1960a).

Middle Life

Jung believed that middle life begins at approximately age 35 or 40, by which time
the sun has passed its zenith and begins its downward descent. Although this
decline can present middle-aged people with increasing anxieties, middle life is
also a period of tremendous potential.
If middle-aged people retain the social and moral values of their early life,
they become rigid and fanatical in trying to hold on to their physical attractiveness
and agility. Finding their ideals shifting, they may fight desperately to maintain
their youthful appearance and lifestyle. Most of us, wrote Jung (1931/1960a), are
unprepared to “take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step
with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto....
We cannot live in the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morn-
ing; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the
morning was true will at evening have become a lie” (p. 399).
How can middle life be lived to its fullest? People who have lived youth by
neither childish nor middle-aged values are well prepared to advance to middle life
and to live fully during that stage. They are capable of giving up the extraverted
goals of youth and moving in the introverted direction of expanded consciousness.
Their psychological health is not enhanced by success in business, prestige in
society, or satisfaction with family life. They must look forward to the future with
hope and anticipation, surrender the lifestyle of youth, and discover new meaning
in middle life. This step often, but not always, involves a mature religious orienta-
tion, especially a belief in some sort of life after death (Jung, 1931/1960a).
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