Not everyone is a Christian. But everyone is a sinner. In a sense, we are all sinners, not only against others, but also against ourselves. But as taught by Jesus, though not necessarily in the way he preached, there can be salvation. The salvation can come only through a death. Without a death, there cannot be a resurrection. Without dying to our old self, the new self cannot be born: a new and more integrated self, a new self in which a part of ourselves which we previously strenuously deny existed is after much struggle, much difficulties and a great deal of pain, finally accepted as part of our "self", as part of the Jungian "collective unconscious/archetype" manifesting itself within our individual psyche. The need for this new life, for this resurrection often becomes manifest in what has often been termed "a mid-life crisis", any time between early or late 40s to the 60s and for women, around menopause.
In the article, "For the Man at Midlife", Daniel J Levinson, a noted psychologist says that during this mid-life transition, "a man reviews his life and considers how to give it greater meaning...He must come to terms in a new way with destruction and creation as fundamental aspects of life." This is often prompted by the death of his parents, the death of his friends, the death of his friends' parents, the death of his lover, a job change which make him sit up and take a serious look at what he has done, what he has failed to do up to that stage in his life, after he has achieved a certain amount of success, when he still has a last chance to make something of himself before he follows in the path of those whose sudden death prompted him to start reviewing his own life. He wants to be more creative. The acute sense of his own ultimate destruction intensifies his wish for creation. But "the creative impulse is not to 'make' something. It is to bring something into being, to give birth, to generate life. A song, a painting, even a spoon or toy, if made in a spirit of creation, takes on an independent existence. In the mind of its creator, it has a being of its own and will enrich the lives of those who are engaged with it" says Levinson.
Death and destruction are everywhere. Levinson says, "In Nature, each species eats certain others and is eaten by still others". That is the law of the jungle, whether we choose to acknowledge this or not, whether we wish to admit it or not. "The geological evolution of the earth involves a process of destruction and transformation. To construct anything, something else must be destructured and restructured." he says. In the course of our lives up to our mid-life crisis, we must have some experience of destruction: we may have hurt others' self-esteem, hindered their development, kept them from seeking or finding what they wanted most and others might have done the same to us, including to and by those closest to us, our loved ones. In this review, this reappraisal, we will come to a new understanding of our grievances against others for the real or imagined damage they have done to us and we feel a certain rage against our parents, wife, mentors, friends and loved ones who as we now see it, have hurt us badly. We must come to terms with our own guilt, in causing those kinds of hurts to others and to ourselves. We ask ourselves: "How have I failed my adult responsibilities for loved ones and for enterprises that affect many persons? How have I failed myself and destroyed my own possibilities? How can I live with the guilt and remorse?"
To Levinson, this new understanding of the role of destructiveness may be unconscious. What is involved is the "reworking of painful feelings and experiences." Some articulate this new awareness in words,others in music, painting or poetry. Most simply live it out in their daily lives. But whatever form it takes, we must come to terms with our grievances and our guilts of ourselves both "as victims or as villains in the continuing tale of man's inhumanity to man.". If we are overburdened by this guilt or if we deny it by maintaining the illusion that destructiveness does not exist, we will be impaired in our capacity for creating, for loving and affirming life: as a father, we may have disciplined our children "for the best of reasons and the worst of effects". As a lover, our feelings may have cooled and we may have withdrawn from the relationship and may have left the other feeling hurt, abandoned, deserted, betrayed and thus irreparably damaged their self-esteem and future prospects. "To have the power to do great good, we must bear the burden of knowing that we will cause some harm--and in the end, perhaps, more harm than good." We must come to terms with the fact that at times, we may feel "hatred and revulsion", when we would like to "leave or assault our loved ones, when we find them intolerably cruel, disparaging, petty, controlling. We often feel an intense rage or bitterness without knowing what brought it on or toward whom it is directed. Finally, we have actually done hurtful things to loved ones on purpose--with the worst of intentions and in some cases with the worst of consequences". We must learn about "the heritage of anger, against others and against ourselves, that we have carreid within ourselves from childhood" and also the the angers we have accumulated in our adult life building on and amplifying our childhood angers and place them within the wider context against the creative, life-affirming forces and find ways to integrate them in our lives. According to Levinson, this re-learning however, "cannot be acquired simply by reading a few books, taking a few courses, or even having some psychotherapy, though all of these may contribute to a long-term developmental process. The main learning goes on within the fabric of one's life...we often learn by going through intense periods of suffering, confusion, rage against others and ourselves, grief over lost opportunities and lost parts of the self".
To Levinson, we must acquire what Unamuno has called a "tragic sense of life": the realization that great misfortunes and failures are not merely imposed upon us from without but are largely the result of our own tragic flaws within. He says, " a tragic story is not merely a sad story" where the hero dies or fails or is rejected by his special love and where the unfortunate outcome is brought by enemies, poor conditions, bad luck or some unexpected deficiency in the hero but it stems from an internal flaw, a "qualtiy of character that is an intrinsic part of the heroic striving" : usually hubris or arrogance, ego inflation, sense of his own omnipotence and destructiveness. "The nobility and the defect are two sides of the same heroic coin." Although the hero does not attain what he originally set out to do, he is ultimately victorious. In a different sense, he has not been defeated. He achieves something even greater: he confronts his profound inner faults, accepts them as part of himself and of humanity and is in some degree transformed into a nobler person. "The personal transformation outweighs the worldly defeat and suffering." to Levinsion.
As philosophers are never tired of reminding us, we must know ourselves. Often our worst enemy may not be in the world. Our own worst enemy is within us, in our own psyche. We are our own worst enemy. We must learn to be honest, and mercilessly honest and re-examine our own lives and assess it coolly, calmly, dispassionately, objectively. If we do, we will find our own "tragic flaws", our own weaknesses which we are so loathe to admit, which we are so anxious to deny, which we project on to our "enemies" outside. In short, we must confront our own shadow. After this excruciatingly painful and merciless stripping off of the mask which we have built up through the years with such care, we can then heal it. We heal it with an eternal balm. We heal it with love. We can love not only others. We can also love ourselves. Love means first of all understanding and with understanding goes acceptance. We must accept that we are not the angel that we strive so hard to convince others that we are. We may also be a devil. But we are not only devil either. We are a devil-like angel or an angel-like devil!