Meaning in the Second Half of Life with James Hollis

Interview by
Dr. Chad Prevost
Dr. Shelley Prevost
Published on
August 28, 2023

In this episode

Today we speak with Dr. James Hollis, a speaker, professor, Jungian analyst, and bestselling author of 19 books examining life and how to cherish every moment. His world-renowned books, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, The Eden Project, What Matters Most, and Living an Examined Life, have been translated into over twenty languages.

We discuss his latest book, A Life of Meaning, which examines the qualities that bring meaning to our human journey. Our culture tells us to seek wealth, power, prestige, or even enrollment in someone else’s idea of a worthy cause—yet where do we turn when these paths fail to fulfill our need for purpose? “When the old stories and beliefs that once defined us have played out and grown exhausted,” teaches Dr. James Hollis, “our task is to access our inner compass, the promptings of the psyche that help us find our way through the complex thickets of choice.”

Hollis offers an examination of myth, literature, historical figures, and the wisdom of depth psychology that provides penetrating insight into the search for purpose. In A Life of Meaning, Hollis offers no easy answers or feel-good certainties—instead, he shares his most valuable questions and reflections to help you find the courage, persistence, and inspiration to navigate your own odyssey.

Our Discussion

Defining the concept of big self. 6:38

It is important to define how the word self is used in any given paragraph or conversation.

All of us are either serving or running from the instructions of our culture in the first half, with some exceptions, but mostly in the second half of life, about surrendering to something larger than our instructions or our complexes or personal history.

The middle passage, the adolescent passage and the final passage, mortality.

The middle passage trough of despair. 13:40

What to do when your boss is a jerk? 17:28

The importance of reflecting on the nature of his work and asking himself what is his task now.

Finding your own personal guidance system. 23:25

The process of discernment.

One of the dilemmas is, if I choose this path, it could risk my relationship.

Fear and lethargy are the enemies of life. Fear is the seduction of that part of me that wants an easy path. Jung says the greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parent.

Talk is cheap, change is difficult, and it always costs something.

The collective unconscious and the wounded healer. 29:53

Empathic caregivers bear the weight of a collective system of unreality, not tuning into human needs, and not tuning in to human needs.

What is the wounded healer complex? 34:03

Some people need to leave the profession to save their lives. Others need to take more breaks and recognize the symptoms of burnout.

The wounded healer complex is a neutral word like an airport complex or apartment complex, but a structure, but also a complex of life experience.

How complexes are created.

In every pattern, there is an idea, a strategy, and an unconscious idea inside of you.

There are two conversations going on, and you have to decide which one is the one you want to give your life to and show up.

How does the psyche speak to us? 40:48

You don't win this game, the point is to realize it is a game and you're here to participate in a way that is most meaningful to you and consistent with the terrain of your own soul.

Jung talks about the importance of doing what is right for you and the energy systems that support you.

Dreams are a form of communication. The smallest things with meaning are always greater than the largest of things without meaning, according to Jung.

The question of meaning is most important. 45:29

The question of meaning is most important, because we don't create it, but we are still tasked with the decisions that can bring us to places where the experience is meaningful.

The best source of making decisions is inside, not from outside.

Guest Speakers

James Hollis

Find his book here: A Life of Meaning