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You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman

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Mid-Life Crisis or Natural Transition? Hindsight and Jungian Psychology Bring Clarity to an Introvert’s Divorce

She doesn’t want to be married to me. That’s the answer my ex-husband gave his mother when she asked, prior to our divorce, if we had a chance at reconciliation. The truth of it stung my ears. What kind of a bitch am I?, I wondered.

My own mother questioned me repeatedly about my decision to give up a loyal husband and charmed life.

All I can say is, inside I was clawing like a wild animal. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t squirrel in a cagebreathe. I felt trapped. I felt so wrong pretending I was content with my marriage, my roles as mother and wife and my day to day existence. I felt held back. Stifled. Like I was only catering to others’ expectations.

I wasn’t becoming who I was supposed to be.

Often the second half of life must balance the first half. It is as though we have worn out or become utterly bored with one way of being and have to try its opposite. The shy person sets out to become a stand-up comic. The person devoted to serving others gets burned out and wonders how he or she ever became so ‘co-dependent’.  

— Dr. Elaine N. Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person

In my case, I felt I hadn’t had the chance to specialize in or fully develop ANY ways of being or natural preferences. My introversion had been largely suppressed (and was causing serious internal anxiety and distress). In my home, my two favorite mental processes — intuition and feeling — were bulldozed over in favor of concrete facts and logical thinking. My need for harmony and minimal conflict had me giving in or defending someone at every turn. I was exhausted from all of the accommodating.

I never felt independent or like an equal in my marriage. I felt my strengths were not valued. I felt  inferior. I wanted to be be a loving wife but I couldn’t do it authentically in that relationship.

I had to escape.

I had a lot of learning and developing to do.

Eventually, a line was crossed. My personal values could not be quiet any longer. And I got louder. I got more extroverted.

I walked away in order to balance myself. In order to grow.

There I go, walking away.;)

There I go, walking away.;)

According to Jungian psychology, there are four stages of the mid-life transition:

1. Accommodation: In the first part of life we develop different personas (personae) to fit different situations. Our true preferences may be honored or we may accommodate others in order to fit in.  A lot of energy may be expended if we spend most of our time going against our natural identities.

2. Separation:Where we start to question our personae. Is this what I am really like? There may be a feeling of uncertainty or lack of direction as an individual removes old masks and tries on new ways of being.

3. Reintegration:When the uncertainty lessens and a person becomes more comfortable with their own type. There will be greater harmony between what is portrayed on the outside and what is  felt by the inner self. We may also be more accepting of others as they are.

4. Individuation: The final stage in which the conflicts within us are recognized and integrated in order to achieve balance. Bringing the unconscious into the conscious.This may mean developing aspects of preferences that are opposite to our natural ones. Examples: Meeting the demands of others while honoring our own needs. Acknowledging personal weaknesses while living up to our ideals.yin yang sun moon

Where we went wrong

My first recommendation to any couple contemplating divorce is to get objective. Start seeing your partner’s traits as the way they are hardwired, not as personal affronts to you. Notice each other’s differences but don’t resist them. Respect and value them.

It is also important to realize you are each capable of developing prowess in areas where you traditionally have been weak.

The only thing found in pigeon-holes is pigeon shit. — Ally Fogg

Instead of appreciating my ex-husband’s steadiness and skillful use of logic, I saw him as inflexible and shallow. I couldn’t relate to him and our emotional intimacy deteriorated. Instead of cheering him on when he attempted to express his feelings and show emotion, I saw him as inauthentic and trying too hard, or worse, l thought he was competing with me.

I had no idea he was going through the separation stage. I thought I was the only one changing.

Ego, ego, ego. Sigh…

We were both aching to expand but on different time-frames and different paths. We were so worn out from the tension between us we couldn’t honor our differences. We could only misunderstand and resent them. We could only put one foot in front of the other and get through the day.

If we each could have stepped back and served as side-line coaches for the other; encouraged the other to expand as needed without resentment or taking over, then perhaps disparity wouldn’t have thrived. But that was not the case in our marriage then.

So how are things now?

We will always be evolving, but now I let my introvert flag fly in extroverted ways and he is better at knowing when to fly his extrovert flag at half mast. I recognize and accept how my feelings rule my decision-making process often at the expense of a logical and appropriate response. He is more aware of how his preferences for analytical thinking and playing director affect the well-being of the sensitive people in his life.

No, my ex-husband and I are not getting back together. We hurt each other profoundly and permanently. But I believe we were catalysts for each other’s growth. I highly recommend a nurturing environment for growth versus a toxic one, but we work with what we are given. We have a different relationship now, one where we more readily accept each other as we are.

Are you in mid-life transition? Did you already go through it? Where are you in the individuation process?

If you enjoyed Mid-Life Crisis… then you may also like:

First One Over the Wall:What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over

Seductive Security: Living Without the Protective Embrace of a Committed Relationship

Solitude: What It Takes to Complete Work and Complete You

A Divorced Introvert: Evolving Not Dissolving Post-Breakup

Mid-Life Transition (Myths-Dreams-Symbols)

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  1. […] Mid-Life Crisis or Natural Transition? Hindsight and Jungian Psychology Bring Clarity to an Introver… […]

  2. Daisy April 12, 2014 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I just found your blog today and I’m so glad that I did! I have been struggling recently with my marriage and where I am in my life. I turn 50 this year, my oldest is headed to college in the fall and I feel like I’m not where I should be in my life. I tend to think and read and not DO and so have been scouring the internet looking for validation, I think, for how I feel. I found your blog and then this entry and realized I’m in the separation stage. There is so much going on in my relationship with my husband not the least being that we don’t communicate well at he has some personality traits that make that difficult. I’ve put my needs on the backseat for so long trying to make stuff smooth for my kids and now I’m feeling that in doing so I’ve suppressed so much of myself and my needs and I am now trying to find ways to bring myself back to who I was and who I want to be. I am enjoying reading your posts as they touch something inside of me. Thank you for sharing yourself as it helps to know there are others like me out there.

    • Brenda Knowles April 12, 2014 at 9:10 am - Reply

      You are waking up and going through the most natural transition.:) The difficult thing is we often transform or individuate on a different schedule than our partners.
      I, too, am adept at thinking and reading and tend to be slow to take action. It’s how we learn and train ourselves. But… I almost always end up taking action. Action dissolves fear.:)
      When does your husband communicate best? I’ve found many men open up best when they are moving or participating in an activity like a sport,a hobby, fishing, sex, or even walking.
      I want you to revel in your self-discovery but understand that your husband may not appreciate it at first. He may feel threatened by your independence or increasing confidence. He may feel trapped himself in the roles he plays every day.
      My latest post, How to Reconnect:Maintaining Sexual Interest, Engagement and Identity in Your Relationship may shed some light on your situation.
      For you, I suggest checking in with yourself often. After a conversation or meeting with someone check in with yourself to see how you feel. Heavy? Empty? Energized? Vibrant? Also, where do you feel most at home or most alive? Spend more time there. You’ll grow and meet others like you.:) You may find you feel most energized in solitude. After years of maintaining harmony at home, it’s refreshing to get away from others’ needs.
      This is an exciting time for you! Enjoy it. Don’t let fear or worry outweigh curiosity and vitality. There will be times of stress but they are all part of your development. I’m so glad you found your way to space2live. Thank you for sharing your story.:)

  3. Steven Barer February 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    I just feel drawn to add a thought to this thread. I strongly believe that divorce is not inevitable as we grow up and into the people we need to become – it is possible to evolve and grow, and work things through with the person to whom you are married. I’m also not saying that that will always be the right path, only that it should remain an option, one that requires a lot of hard work, but an option. In order for two people to evolve from who they were in the early stages of their married life, into the INDIVIDUALS they need to become, requires work, individuation, sometimes space, sometimes a long haul with skilled therapists, etc. everyone’s journey is obviously going to be unique – but it is possible to grow up, get clear, get bounded, respect and nurture your truth, and still be in a loving harmonious relationship with your original partner, and still both be parents to your offspring if there are kids involved.

    • Brenda Knowles February 3, 2014 at 8:14 am - Reply

      Absolutely! That is the ideal. My ex-husband and I tried to grow together for years before we gave up. I want and believe in harmonious, growth-inducing, committed relationships. Ultimately, that is what I want to help others find or maintain. Towards the end of this post I mention getting objective and valuing your partner’s differences.Thank you for your thoughtful and well said comment.

  4. Fragments of Light February 1, 2014 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I really appreciate your honest processing of the inner journey and your ability to write it in a way that others can connect to. I wonder if you have heard of the Enneagram? I am not sure how or if it relates to Jungian psychology, but I have found it to be a very helpful tool for revealing my own blind spots and living into strengths. Just wondering what you think of it.

    • Brenda Knowles February 2, 2014 at 8:57 am - Reply

      I have not delved into Enneagram. I feel I am being drawn to it though because many thoughtful readers have suggested it.:) Right now I am burrowing into Myers Briggs. After I feel some level of mastery or ‘good enough’ with that I plan to research Enneagram. It does sound fascinating. I am always interested in tools and systems for increasing self-awareness and enhancing relationships.

  5. neil smith February 1, 2014 at 1:06 am - Reply

    Brenda, I have been following your blog for a while now because you speak very honestly about coming to terms with being an introvert. This blog and the two replies so far, have a particular resonance with me. I suppose that in terms of Jung’s four stages of transition I am well into the fourth stage now. But it has been long and hard and it definitely felt like a crisis, rather than a transition for many years. My marriage ended during all the change and much as Brenda, you seem so forthright in knowing what was right for you, it has taken me an awfully long time to accept that separation and particularly leaving my children, was inevitable. My process from separation to the beginning of re integration took over fifteen years. For anyone struggling with all these issues I found another well known Jungian writer, Thomas Moore, to be particularly helpful. His books, Care of the Soul and Dark Nights of the Soul are very insightful. Thanks very much for putting so much of what I experience into words every week.

    • Brenda Knowles February 2, 2014 at 8:51 am - Reply

      Neil, my ‘forthright knowing’ took years as well — at least five. I am still dipping my toe into individuation and frequently re-visiting separation. On my good, strong days I see all of this as a transition. On my weaker, conflict-laden days, crisis feels like the better way to describe all the change and relationship upheaval. My children are still at home and a major factor in the transition/crisis. Their hearts weigh heavily on mine, which I’m sure you understand. They are also the main reason I ultimately pushed for the divorce. I could see how negatively they were being affected by the tension in our home. I wanted them to respect different values, not just the dominant ones.

      I put Thomas Moore and the books you recommended in Evernote. Thank you. I look forward to reading his work. Book suggestions are the best gifts.:)

      Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  6. Lobster February 1, 2014 at 12:11 am - Reply

    It always seems that when I need to hear something – there! you have already written it, and it duly arrives by email. Mmmm and people talk about coincidences 🙂

    I feel as though I am swinging between reintegration and individuation. I am still exploring the me aspect of separation, but I am gaining the insight and maturity to look at it as being a mid life transition rather than crisis (which I was previously calling it). I am able to have the patience to work through the demands emotionally put on me, recognise them as not personal and rationally work through (I am an INTP after all).

    I recently turned 40, I have been with my Husband nearly 20 years and no children. I have been exploring the ego for a while so can turn it off when I recognise the need and can gently guide my husband when the ego is taking over. Not tell him what to do but to explain how it makes me feel. But I still really needed to read this and to recognise what I am going through, having never heard of this Jungian theory. It is so HARD to keep all in balance when your head is a turmoil and you really. have. no. idea. who. you. are. Or what you want. And that can be when the ego jumps up and you can’t even recognise it in order to stop it!

    My mid life transition has involved getting my nose pierced – truthfully? to piss off my parents and husband and to prove I can do whatever I want. Also my first, and probably only, tattoo. This was not to make a point. It was something I really wanted and I gave it to myself as a 40th birthday present. My transition has also moved through some rather foolish but fun choices, and some moments I am not proud of. But I have tried them, and am slowly working out ME. Rather than the me that tried to fit in, that was suppressed for so many years. I really resonate with your suppression of introversion. I always knew I was an introvert, being typed as an INTP in my early 20s – but I didn’t realise what this meant for me and only really got the light bulb moment when I was typed again 2 years ago, when my anxiety level was through the roof and had lead to chronic illness.

    Wow this is long, my apologies. I suppose though having looked back, I needed to go through all to get here now and hopefully can keep my relationship strong as we both work through our changes together. As they say, everything happens for a reason… but you still have to keep your eyes, mind and heart open.

    • Brenda Knowles February 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      I can feel your wisdom. You have grown Ms. Lobster. You have done the work. I think we do have to go through messiness in order to get to the understanding. One thing Jung does make clear is that we will NEVER have our preferences completely balanced. I think he even goes so far as to say total balance of all our functions would cause psychosis.;) When one of our natural preferences (introversion, thinking, sensing, extroversion, feeling, intuition) dominates to the point of over-usage and non-rational responses then the opposite preference will surface in order to correct the imbalance. Our innate preferences will always be our go-to responses because they require less effort.

      Sometimes we re-visit the mid-life transition stages many times. We are always evolving, never done.

      Good for you for figuring out how suppression of your introversion affected you. I know that anxiety. It takes courage to protect your space and solitude.

      I can tell you are moving through life with your eyes and heart open.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve learned from you.:)

  7. Kacy January 31, 2014 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I frequently connect w your blog. Your description of married life often mirrors my own. I’ve been married for 14yrs, w 3 children. We are on our second marriage counselor. Tonight I had my first ever panic attack. My husband and I were on our way to an event packed w his work people and got into an argument. Common stuff. As soon and I walked in the door, it was wall to wall people, handshakes and being bumped into. I could immediately feel myself getting uncomfortable. I already felt raw and agitated and ultimately had an attack. As scary as an attack was, I just felt like ‘Why am I here? Why am I fighting to keep something that brings me so low?’ My husband didn’t so much as hold my hand during the whole thing. I felt chewed up and spit out. It’s hard to decide that having my family intact may not be worth the harm it’s doing to me.

    • Brenda Knowles February 1, 2014 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Unfortunately, I know exactly how you are feeling. I started having panic attacks toward the end of our marriage. Is your marital strife affecting your children negatively? Do you think you could be happier alone? Could your husband be happier alone? When I answered yes to those questions I knew I had to get out of the marriage. You are obviously not me but those are the questions that pushed me to take action.
      Is there any way you and your husband could get time apart, like say a month or more? It might allow you to shift the tension or reset the mood if you could get some space. When you both are under stress your least developed functions/relationship skills are going to surface.
      A big hug, peace and strength to you. May you both get to be vulnerable and grow from this. May you communicate and learn.

      • MovingOn February 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm - Reply

        This is very interesting. I have been reading this blog for a while but have never commented. I started having panic attacks at the end of my marriage as well. Although we divorced for a different reason, I have to wonder if we would have ended up divorcing anyway because I felt like I was not only changing as a person (while my then-husband wasn’t), but I also felt like I was discovering and acknowledging who I really was more and more– a very independent introvert (who can function as an extrovert outside of the safe haven that is my home, but all the more reason that I need to recharge and have some alone time when I do get home). When I started asserting my true personality more and more, my husband and I started pulling farther and farther apart. Perhaps counseling might have helped us before it was too late, but I don’t know– I think my ex wanted me to be the same girl he met in college, and I just wasn’t. So there I was, in a marriage that felt more and more stifling (which I wouldn’t acknowledge because I was used to accommodating the needs of others and shoving down my own), and then… the panic attacks kicked in. I thought there was something really wrong with me. Not surprisingly, they vanished when I moved out for good.

        Thanks for this blog, Brenda. Between reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts and then stumbling upon this blog, I feel more at peace with myself and who I am than I ever have.

        • Brenda Knowles February 2, 2014 at 9:09 am - Reply

          Your story echoes mine in many ways. My ex-husband and I met in college. We were married in our mid-twenties. I started to ‘wake up’ in my mid-thirties. The persona I created and the commitments I made in my twenties felt very stifling in my thirties. I believe in being true to your word so changing my mind felt very wrong. The fact that there were children involved made it that much more difficult to end the marriage. But I had to. The panic attacks were a clear sign. So were the negative outbursts from the kids. They were being affected by the tension in our home.

          I am so glad you are finding peace with yourself. Understanding and awareness are such gifts. Thank you for sharing so openly.

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