Transformation: Emergence of the Self

Transformation: Emergence of the Self

Transformation: Emergence of the Self

Transformation: Emergence of the Self


A thirty-five-year-old woman dreams of a butterfly and wonders where her own life is going. A wealthy American sees a picture of Albert Schweitzer and decides to become a physician and establish a clinic in Haiti. Most of us would say these people are experiencing midlife crises. More accurately, they have entered a deep psychological process called transformation.

In Transformation: Emergence of the Self, noted analyst and author Murray Stein explains what this process is, and what it means for an individual to experience it. Transformation usually occurs at midlife but is much more complicated than what we colloquially call a midlife crisis. Consciously working through this life stage can lead people to become who they truly are and have always potentially been. Indeed, Stein suggests, transformation is the essential human task.

Stein first details how transformation occurs and why it so often occurs in midlife, using the example of poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Looking at C. G. Jung's life, Stein then explains how transformative images stimulate the transformation process by suggesting new ways of thinking and living. Intimate relationships, like those between a husband and a wife or a doctor and a patient, can also play a very powerful role in transformation. Finally, Stein examines the process in the lives of three important people, Jung, Picasso, and Rembrandt, whose experiences of transformation led to even greater creativity and freedom.

For those people who would like to learn what a meaningful second half of life could be like, Transformation: Emergence of the Self is an inspiring place to start.


The driving force, so far as it is possible for us to grasp it, seems to be in essence only an urge towards self-realization.

--C. G. Jung

A thirty-five-year-old woman once came to my office to discuss some recent dreams. To my astonishment, and also my everlasting gratitude, she told me a dream of such profound transformation that I never have forgotten it.

I am walking along a road, feeling depressed. Suddenly I stumble on a gravestone and look down to see my own name on it. At first I am shocked, but then strangely relieved. I find myself trying to get the corpse out of the coffin but realize that I am the corpse. It is becoming more and more difficult to hold myself together because there is nothing left to keep the body together anymore.

I go through the bottom of the coffin and enter a long dark tunnel. I continue until I come to a small, very low door. I knock. An extremely old man appears and says: "So you have finally come." (I notice he is carrying a staff with two snakes entwined around it, facing one another.) Quietly but purpose-

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