Interview With Dr. James Hollis
“Living More Fully In The Shadow of Mortality”
“Living The Examined Life:
Steps To The Recovery Of A Personal Journey”
The Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida (CJSSF) offers two special events: “Living More Fully In The Shadow of Mortality” and “Living The Examined Life: Steps To The Recovery Of A Personal Journey” with world renowned Jungian Analyst and author James Hollis, Ph.D. as the presenter. “Living More Fully In The Shadow of Mortality” will take place on Friday, March 16th at the Duncan Center in Delray Beach. “Living The Examined Life: Steps To The Recovery Of A Personal Journey” will take place on Saturday, March 17th at the Duncan Center in Delray Beach.
James Hollis, Ph.D., is a world renowned Jungian Analyst in private practice in Washington, D. C. He is also Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington. He is the author of fourteen books on forging a more meaningful life. James Hollis was the Director of the Houston Jung Institute and Director of Doctoral Program with Saybrook University. His has a fifteenth book (published in February 2018) is titled Living An Examined Life.
1. You have a new book coming out, Living An Examined Life. During the Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop you will be speaking on two related topics that have to do with living an examined life. However, it looks as if the Friday lecture will focus more specifically on “Living More Fully in the Shadow of Mortality.” What are some of our cultural attitudes that make this so difficult to do?
If we define “neurosis” as found wherever we are in denial of or in opposition to nature naturing, then our Western attitudes toward aging and mortality our most neurotic forms. The West has been founded on the idea of the “heroic” ego–conquer the wilderness, defeat obstacles, extend all boundaries. This idea has led to many wonderful discoveries and achievements, and has also led to many disasters–global warming being only one of the latest. An extension of this attitude toward aging and mortality is perhaps the most delusional and avoidant of all. So, very few in our world have the grounded acceptance of the human condition that characterized many of our antecedent societies.
2. You mention in the write-up for your lecture on mortality that you will be speaking about “What psychological maturation brings us to experience this short pause [between birth and death] as rich with meaning.” How would you define “psychological maturity,” and why is this so important when it comes to living a richly meaningful life?
Psychological maturity means a capacity to hold in tension all opposites and know that each has a legitimate claim. The weaker, more immature the ego structure, the less it is able to hold this tension. Meaning is found not in escaping the trials and suffering of life, but embracing them as life itself. And then one deserves the rewards which come from a more comprehensive, non-denial acceptance of life as it is.
3. Is it really possible for people not to be fearful of mortality?
Some cultures and some individuals have not been fearful. Obviously, those cultures which had a strong conviction of an afterlife more easily dealt with the idea of ego-extinction. Increasingly over the past few centuries, the percentage of people having such a felt belief has declined, leading most moderns to a sense that this world, this life is what we get–hence the understandable desire to perpetuate it.
4. You will spend time during your day-long workshop discussing the importance of recovering personal authority while considering the examined life, especially during the second half of that life. You will also be suggesting specific steps for doing this. Can you describe what you mean by personal authority? And can you give us a hint of a few of the steps you will suggest?
The whole weekend is about “the unfinished business of the second half of life.” Among that unfinished business is the recovery of personal authority. We have it when we are born–it is called instinct. But the thousand thousand adaptations we are obliged to make in this world as it is occasion progressive separation from that grounding center. Thus we see the necessity of this recovery project lest we live out our adaptations rather than our journey. This recovery project requires first sorting through the immense internal message traffic that we experience in any given moment, finding which threads come from our own depths, our own soul, and then finding the courage and resolve to live those truths in the world as it is.
5. Finally, why have you decided to speak on mortality and the examined life?
Why not? Name a more important subject than this! If we fail these two tasks, chances are we are living a superficial life, or someone else’s life and have failed to show up for our own. This weekend is about accountability for the summons of our own soul, an appointment for which not many show up.
Interview by Constance Avery-Clark, Ph.D., CJSSF Board Member
The Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida is a Not-For-Profit organization that serves the wider community by presenting lectures, workshops, and discussions to address psychological, social and spiritual issues and provide a forum for personal reflection and growth inspired by C.G. Jung's Analytical Psychology.