Middle Passage – Middle Way
“The Middle Passage is an occasion for redefining and reorienting the personality, a rite of passage between the extended adolescence of first adulthood and our inevitable appointment with old age and mortality. Those who travel the passage consciously render their lives more meaningful. Those who do not, remain prisoners of childhood, however successful they may appear in outer life.” [James Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 7]
Again, some time spent on the beach soaking in the warmth of sunshine found a book in my hand. I have read this book a fair number of times and have found new ways to mark passages that draw my attention with each reading. Hollis’ reference to being prisoners of childhood, is in reference to being unconsciously controlled by the complexes which have their roots in childhood. Because I have written a number of times during the past week about complexes, I was primed to see/hear these words with this reading. Interesting how our current mind-frame lets us hear and see things which otherwise just form a backdrop for other things to be seen and heard. Hollis goes on to say:
“the unexamined adult personality is an assemblage of attitudes, behaviors and psychic reflexes occasioned by the traumata of childhood, whose primary purpose is the management of the level of distress experienced by the organic memory of childhood we carry within. . . . What we may call the provisional personality is a series of strategies chosen by the fragile child to manage existential angst. Those behaviors and attitudes are typically assembled before age five and are elaborated in an astonishing range of strategic variations with a common motive – self-protection.” [p. 10]
It is the call during the Middle Passage to an examined life, that is taking responsibility for self, for one’s responses to the world that takes one out of a provisional personality into maturity. To do this, one must free oneself from the state of victimhood that characterised the children that we were. Freeing oneself doesn’t mean denying and deeply burying all the traumata. It means that we recognise that these things did indeed happen to us, and with that recognisation, one then forgives oneself for being helpless and more importantly, ignorant of how we have moved through our lives since childhood. With maturity, there is choice that emerges. What is asked of us is not to make reactive choices, but choices that somehow find the Middle Way.
“the Middle Way is a life lived between the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence”
I took these words that explain the Middle Way from a Buddhist perspective which fits the Jungian lens as we negotiate our meaning in life.