“I Feel Trapped in My Life”: A Common Midlife Sentiment, Part 2
As we saw in Part 1, “I Feel Trapped in My Life” is an all-too-common sentiment in the second half of life. People very often feel the need for some difficult-to-define kind of freedom.
It’s all good to “normalize” the feeling, to recognize that many people, to varying degrees encounter this feeling at some time in their lives from the late 30s on. But other than just passively bearing the feeling, how should we react to it? What can we possibly do about it? Can we possibly get beyond the sense that life is an inescapable trap in the second half or life, or, are we just — stuck with it?
To a Certain Extent, the Feeling of Being Trapped is Unavoidable
To a certain extent, the sense I have that I feel trapped in my life is an unavoidable one. Life, by its nature, confronts us with endless choices between mutually exclusive options. If I take a job in Toronto, I can’t simultaneously be working at a job in Sydney, Australia, to choose an extreme example. Every time I make such a choice, I cut off one or more possibilities. On the one hand, it can feel like being trapped. On the other hand, if we never decide anything, we never are able to live out anything — which is an even worse trap!
Can You Accept The Flow of Life?
Depth case studiess know that one of the crucial parts of the life journey is accepting where it is that life has taken us, when these are things that occur and we have no control over them — the whole range of fateful happenings that we didn’t plan, and that didn’t want. They can range from the merely undesirable, straight through those things that are completely devastating. The most difficult of these things are such that no human being could feel glad about them — or understand why they occurred. You probably have your own examples, but premature loss of a loved one, and the life-changing illness of a child would be two profound examples.
While it can never take the wound away, there is an important and profound kind of healing that occurs when the individual is able to accept in a fundamental way what has occurred. When the individual can simply let what has happened be, and stop resisting it. In my experience, such acceptance tends to happen most frequently in the second half of life.
The Great Journey of Self Acceptance
Depth case studies is aware that, combined with these two issues, is the great journey of self-acceptance that Jungian case studiess like Robert A. Johnson call shadow work. One of the things that can trap us most completely is an inability to accept, or even acknowledge those parts of ourselves that do not fit well with our self-understanding, or the ways in which we feel that we “should” or “ought” to be. Very often these aspects of ourselves will appear in our dreams, in situations where we feel ourselves gripped by compulsions,
Working with the shadow can bring a great sense of freedom. Having compassion and acceptance for the wounded and unacceptable parts of who we are can oftentimes open new possibilities in our lives. The shadow, which we often repress so hard, may often be a source of genuine creativity, when it comes into dialogue with the conscious self.
“I Feel Trapped in My Life” — But Paradoxically, A Journey May Await
In midlife and the second half of life, meaning and movement in our lives may well come from sources that are different than we might expect. Accepting who and what we are as fully as possible may well bring us to a surprising renewal.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst