I've given it more thought and I think that although most of my friends are male, they all seem to embody this integrity, this wholeness - this complementary yin-yang balance - that is so lacking in corporate boardrooms. A few younger ones who have rejected cultural norms have more yin than yang and still are making the journey towards integration. This article does a fantastic (few points I disagree with) job of explaining Jung's theories (and some of Erickson's) on how this integration of undeveloped aspects of ourselves occurs as part of adult human development. That said, many young men I meet - in their 20s - seem to naturally "have their shit all together."
They're not looking to play the game better - they're looking to create a new game.
Two final aspects of personality remain for consideration in regard to midlife development. [Carl] Jung postulates that each individual has both masculine and feminine components of the psyche. For a male the feminine component is the anima, and for a female it is the animus. Part and parcel of human biological and psychological development is this mixture of masculine and feminine energies.
These energies are theoretical constructs or concepts, which are useful for explanation but are not identical with gender. The separation of these concepts from gender is very difficult to maintain in the English language because of the similarity of words. Masculine energy and male and feminine energy and female seem to be the same but are not. The concepts may be better understood if viewed from a different context.
In Eastern cultures the Tao symbol with it’s Yin and Yang energies is expressive of the same idea. The Tao symbol, consisting of a circle divided in two equal portions each containing an element of the other, indicates that all of creation is composed of two energies held in harmony and interaction.
The Yang energy is masculine in nature and is described as light, dry, directed, focused, logical, and action oriented. Yin energy is feminine and described as dark, moist, diffuse, vague, intuitive, and receptive.
In the first half of life a differentiation of the primary sexual identity and corresponding energy takes place but in later life a call to integrate the opposite energy, the anima or the animus, arises. This is a move towards wholeness.
At the most basic and simplistic level what happens is that men begin to develop their capacity for relationship and must come to terms with emotions, vulnerability, and needs while women begin to become more decision and action oriented and in the process claim their independence, courage, power and wisdom. At midlife women are called to decide and do while men are called to nurture [instead of "nurture", I would substitute "be more receptive"]
This process can be complicated by cultural influences. The impact of the early women’s movement motivated women to leave the home for the work place. In doing so, these women had to take on a traditional masculine role if they were to succeed. They had to become competitive and more assertive. They had to internalize their emotions and be more "logical." As a result, these women at midlife may find that they have already developed the animus or the masculine energy. What they need to do is to integrate the feminine back into their lives.
As we grow and develop we choose from the opposites of personality to establish our sense of self. We develop our ego (Capital letter "I") in this manner. The task of the first half of life is to develop personality to the best of our ability so we can live and function in the world. However, our development inherently becomes one-sided. One of the opposites of personality is chosen and emphasized at the expense of the other. You become the best introvert you can but remain an under developed extrovert so social settings make you very uncomfortable. Or, you become the best of thinkers who is out of touch with the feeling side of life. Your intuition may be excellent but you get overwhelmed in the many details of daily life.
At midlife, there arises a deep call for wholeness. It comes from the individuation process that is propelling growth. The "undeveloped" must be developed if we are to be fully functioning people. Without this urge towards wholeness we remain like a lopsided wheel trying to roll down hill. We are awkward and can get out of control.
At midlife the meaning and purpose of the first half of life begins to fail. The agenda changes. It is no longer focused on differentiation but integration.
The midlife problem is that all of this change is extraordinarily difficult and can be both greatly resisted and denied. Midlife offers the opportunity to become "whole" but the journey does not have to be taken. You may retreat into the stagnation pattern of holding on to youth. At midlife you must be willing to "die" so you can be "reborn." You must die to the old self that has become egocentric so you can reshape yourself.
Ultimately, midlife is taking you to a new and deeper level of meaning. What meaning will work for you? What is a truly workable meaning for life? Spiritual and psychological traditions all agree. It is to become a generative person [see also Erik Erikson].
Interestingly, Michael Ray in his Stanford business school course on personal creativity in business (um, this is not typical business school curriculum fodder) discusses generative leaders in depth.
Next: Action, Fromm's Integrated Perspective