Source: Murray Stein on the MidLife Transition and Liminality

In their very informative essay “Psychotherapy, Initiation and the Midlife Transition,” Stein and Stein offer an in-depth, developmental, rites of passage, and Jungian perspective on what is often referred to in our culture as a mid-life crisis. (See: Stein and Stein, Betwixt and Between: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation, 1987)

Mid-life is a transition that involves working through three major stages: separation, liminal, and reintegration. On the separation phase, Murry Stein notes:

“As the mid-life transition begins, whether it begins gradually or abruptly, persons generally feel gripped by a sense of loss and all its emotional attendance: Moody and nostalgic periods of grieving for some vaguely felt absence, a keen and growing sense of life’s limits, attacks of panic about one’s own death, and exercises in rationalization and denial. Sometimes the reason for this sense of loss is obvious: the death of children or parents, a divorce, an obliterated career. But quite often the immediate cause of this opening phase of the transition, with the attendant emotional phenomenon, is not at all plain.” (In MidLife, pp. 24-25)

On liminality, from limen, meaning doorway or threshold, Stein notes:

“In the state I’m calling psychological liminality, a person’s sense of identity is hung in suspension. You are no longer fixed to particular mental images in contents of your self or others. The “I” is caught up in a field that it cannot control, whose patterns it does not recognize as “me.” While the sense of “I–ness” and some of it’s continuities remain during liminality, the prevailing feeling is one of alienation, marginality, and drift. . .The ego is a has been and a not yet. Time warps: the ego forgets, the fixed edges of memory blur and fade, and the past jets forward in surprising and peculiar ways; the future has no particular image or contour. The “I” is not anchored to any particular inner images, ideas, or feelings. So, unattached, the “I” floats and drifts and wanders across many former boundaries in forbidden frontiers.” (In MidLife, pp. 8-9.)

This represents the place of betwixt and between.

“The alchemical vessel is, clearly both a tomb and a womb during the period of transformation. . . The death of what has been and the preparation for what will be coexist in liminality. (In MidLife, pp.46-47.)

Through deceit and death we become awaken to soul because our other modes of consciousness have ceased functioning. . .” (In MidLife, p. 60.)

“When things are going by plan, the soul sleeps, it’s realm as faded and vague as moon and stars in the brightness of the sun.” (In MidLife, p. 6.)

2 Comments on “Source: Murray Stein on the MidLife Transition and Liminality”

  1. […] the ego-Self Axis is crucial to understanding the mid-life transition as an initiatory process. As Stein and Stein note in their excellent overview, what is needed is the art and science of maieutics – midwifery. […]

  2. […] experience of being in liminal space. Recall, as formulated so well in the Stein and Stein essay: Psychotherapy, Initiation, and the Midlife Transition, liminal space is a betwixt and between, tomb and womb, has been and not yet kind of place where we […]

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