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C.G. Jung Speaking : Interviews and Encounters

Question 3. In what respect, if any, does the treatment of neurosis in the second half of life—that means after thirty—differ from that in the first half of life?

Dr. Jung: This is also a question which you could discuss for several hours.

It is quite impossible for me to go into details; I only can give you a few hints.

The first half of life, which I reckon lasts for the first 35 or 36 years, is the time when the individual usually expands into the world.

It is just like an exploding celestial body, and the fragments travel out into space, covering ever greater distances.

So our mental horizon widens out, and our wishes and expectation, our ambition, our will to conquer the world and live, go on expanding, until you come to the middle of life.

A man who after forty years has not reached that position in life which he had dreamed of is easily the prey of disappointment.

Hence the extraordinary frequency of depressions after the fortieth year.

It is the decisive moment; and when you study the productivity of great artists—for instance, Nietzsche—you find that at the beginning of the second half of life their modes of creativeness often change.

For instance, Nietzsche began to write Zarathustra, which is his outstanding work, quite different from everything he did before and after, when he was between 37 and 38.

That is the critical time. In the second part of life you begin to question yourself.

Or rather, you don’t; you avoid such questions, but something in yourself asks them, and you do not like to hear that voice asking “What is the goal?”

And next, “Where are you going now?”

When you are young you think, when you get to a certain position, “This is the thing I want.”

The goal seems to be quite visible.

People think, “I am going to marry, and then I shall get into such and such a position, and then I shall make a lot of money, and then I don’t know what.”

Suppose they have reached it; then comes another question: “And now what?

Are we really interested in going on like this forever, for ever doing the same thing, or are we looking for a goal as splendid or as fascinating as we had it before?”

Then the answer is: “Well, there is nothing ahead.

What is there ahead?

Death is ahead.”

That is disagreeable, you see; that is most disagreeable.

So it looks as if the second part of life has no goal whatever.

Now you know the answer to that.

From time immemorial man has had the answer: “Well, death is a goal; we are looking forward, we are working forward to a definite end.”

The religions, you see, the great religions, are systems for preparing the second half of life for the end, the goal, of the second part of life.

Once, through the help of friends, I sent a questionnaire to people who did not know that I was the originator of the questionnaire.

I had been asked the question, “Why do people prefer to go to the doctor instead of to the priest for confession?”

Now I doubted whether it was really true that people prefer a doctor, and I wanted to know what the general public was going to say.

By chance that questionnaire came into the hands of a Chinaman, and his answer was, “When I am young I go to the doctor, and when I am old I go to the philosopher.”

You see, that characterizes the difference: when you are young, you live expansively, you conquer the world; and when you grow old, you begin to reflect.

You naturally begin to think of what you have done.

There a moment comes, between 36 and 40—certain people take a bit longer—when perhaps, on an uninteresting Sunday morning, instead of going to church, you suddenly think, “Now what have I lived last year?” or something like that; and then it begins to dawn, and usually you catch your breath and don’t go on thinking because it is disagreeable.

Now, you see, there is a resistance against the widening out in the first part of life—that great sexual adventure.

When young people have resistance against risking their life, or against their social career, because it needs some concentration, some exertion, they are apt to get neurotic.

In the second part of life those people who funk the natural development of the mind—reflection, preparation for the end—they get neurotic too.

Those are the neuroses of the second part of life.

When you speak of a repression of sexuality in the second part of life, you often have a repression of this, and these people are just as neurotic as those who resist life during the first part.

As a matter of fact it is the same people: first they don’t want to get into life, they are afraid to risk their life, to risk their health, perhaps, or their life for the sake of life, and in the second part of life they have no time.

So, you see, when I speak of the goal which marks the end of the second half of life, you get an idea of how far the treatment in the first half of life, and in the second halfi of life, must needs be different.

You get a problem to deal with which has not been talked of before.

Therefore I strongly advocate schools for adult people.

You know, you were fabulously well prepared for life.

We have very decent schools, we have fine universities and that is all preparation for the expansion of life.

But where have you got the schools for adult people? for people who are 40, 45, about the second part of life?


That is taboo; you must not talk of it; it is not healthy.

And that is how they get into these nice climacteric neuroses and psychoses. ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 106-108.
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