To-Do or Not To-Do?

I am a huge fan of Carl Jung. I often refer to him as my “favorite dead guy” and I mean that with the utmost respect. When asked which historical figure I’d most like to have dinner with he has always topped my list. (Though in recent years I think I’d choose my beloved maternal grandmother, Rita, who died when I was 10…what I wouldn’t give to seek her counsel at this stage of life.)

Many followers of Jung rely on Jungian analysts and authors to help decipher his often circuitous and not terribly accessible writings. My favorite one, hands down, is Dr. James Hollis.

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Hollis speak a few different times and I’ve read many of his 15+ books. His 1996 book Swamplands of the Soul escorted me through a very rough patch about 10 years ago and his more recent Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life remains one of my all-time favorites.

Hollis is a fierce truth teller and not for the faint of heart.

At a recent lecture he challenged us with the mother of all a to-do lists on the path of individuation. To individuate, per Jung, is to come into one’s full selfhood by way of bridging the gap between the unconscious and the conscious.

At the risk of overwhelming you, I wanted to share his list. Consider paying particular attention to the ones that “hook” you. There will likely be several.

Hollis says that our greatest task in midlife is discernment, and he implores us with the following:

  1. The choice is yours.
  2. It’s time to grow up.
  3. Let go of the old.
  4. Recover personal authority.
  5. Seek to make amends where possible.
  6. Step out from underneath the parental umbrella.
  7. Address the stuck places.
  8. Keep coming back to the life task of individuation.
  9. Always ask: Does this path enlarge or diminish me?
  10. Identify what gift you have been withholding from the world.
  11. Bear witness to the old, destructive patterns.
  12. Determine what is worthy of your service.
  13. Choose meaning over happiness.
  14. Honor what you’ve left behind.
  15. Exorcise the ghosts that haunt you.
  16. Free your children from you.
  17. Bestow love on the unlovable parts of yourself.
  18. Be aware of the distinction between duty and calling.
  19. Explore what has most moved you.
  20. Seize permission to be who you are.
  21. Live the examined life and live the questions.

Jung said that “…there are higher things than the ego’s will, and to these one must bow.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some serious bowing to do.

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