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From the time we are little boys, men are programmed – both socially conditioned and psychologically hard-wired to prove themselves, to make a name for themselves. Consequently, they experience life in a superficial way, almost inevitably focusing on the surface issues of their lives.

Not everyone has a midlife crisis. Its impossible to predict who will and who wont. William O Roberts, Author of Crossing the Soul's River posits there are two factors that contribute to the midlife crisis –  success and sensitivity. If you are successful – even reasonably successful – you will be known by your successes. You will be known by your persona. If you are sensitive and especially if you are resolved to be both reflective and creative in the living of your life, you will most likely experience the restrictions of the Persona and will struggle to break out of those restrictions. When there is a Breakdown of the Persona, then you head out into the river and start your midlife journey.

 

If you are not successful, you can do all the changing you want and no one will notice. If you are not sensitive – or, to say it another way, if you have been so desensitized by being a male, which means by being taught from the time you are a little boy to ignore your pain – then you won’t have a midlife crisis.

The tragedy of that is that these men won’t have the opportunity to cross the soul’s river and discover what is on the other side, what is the program for the second half of life?

As for the soul mate, one area that is of personal interest to me is do men need to have affairs to internalise their anima?

My own experience has been no, an infatuation / limerence will do. The question then becomes does the man have the strength of character and a robust support network to resist the temptation?  Sadly many men are tempted by the temptress and still don’t take the lesson. Men too often have affairs, but don’t learn anything about themselves in them. So often in the quest to know their Soul Mate, which is really the Mate (the Feminine) that is located interiorly in our Souls, we play out the drama outside of ourselves. We become animated by the sight of a “Helen of Troy”, fall for her, lose our wits, lose our minds and often an affair ensues with great damage – to her, to our families and to hers. So often we learn almost nothing from the experience. It turns out that we just had an affair. We didn't have a meaningful Encounter with our Soul Mate.

The Soul Mate becomes activated in different ways for men and women. For men, the anima comes alive when we see an actual woman who in some ways resembles our unconscious notion of the feminine that we have within ourselves. It’s the act of seeing her that causes us to become animated.

That’s the anima at work. The man is animated and activated by the sight of the woman. Most men move out of adolescence with this internal tension still active. Very often men marry and bring that tension into the relationship with their wives. She is, of course, sexy and beautiful, which is to say she is the external reflection of our Helen.

But she also carries some of our infantile notions of femininity – Eve, the Mother – and this is especially true if we actually have children and she begins functioning primarily as the mother in the family and not the siren in the bed. What happens in early adulthood in its classic form, is that the husband and wife raise the children and careers are started. Couples are so busy they 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). From the time we are little boys, we males are programmed – both socially conditioned and psychologically hard-wired to prove ourselves, to make a name for ourselves. Consequently, we experience life in a superficial way, almost inevitably focusing on the surface issues of our lives.

Most men move out of adolescence with this internal tension still active. Very often men marry and bring that tension into the relationship with their wives. She is, of course, sexy and beautiful, which is to say she is the external reflection of our Helen. But she also carries some of our infantile notions of femininity – Eve, the Mother – and this is especially true if we actually have children and she begins functioning primarily as the mother in the family and not the siren in the bed.

What happens in early adulthood in its classic form, is that the husband and wife raise the children and careers are started.  Couples are so busy they 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.  

This then becomes the affair of at least the potentiality of an affair. When the unconscious is so forceful but so little understood, it will act out the drama, which should be an interior drama, in the exterior world. And, too often, that is when terrible damage gets done to relationships.  Its crucial we don’t stay stuck at this stage of the anima’s development – the transition from Eve to Helen. There are other stages. There is the stage when women can be friends – to Jung the figure of Mary captures this possibility for male-female friendships.

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. This then becomes the affair or at least the potentiality of an affair.

When the unconscious is so forceful but so little understood, it will act out the drama, which should be an interior drama, in the exterior world. And, too often, that is when terrible damage gets done to relationships. Its crucial we don’t stay stuck at this stage of the anima’s development – the transition from Eve to Helen. There are other stages. There is the stage when women can be friends – to Jung the figure of Mary captures this possibility for male-female friendships.

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