“Our task is to be defeated by ever larger things” – Rainer Maria Rilke

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop by author and renowned Jungian analyst James Hollis.

I listened to him for a total of 5-6 hours and there wasn’t a single sentence of fluff. His speaking style is elegant, low key, and the content was never boring. It was like a college course condensed into 6 hours. His background as a humanities professor was evident as he rattled off from memory countless quotes from poetry, literature and Jung.

The above quote was one of them. Notice the use of the word “defeat” rather than “overcome.” Being defeated seems discouraging yet, as Hollis said,  if you’re defeated by ever larger things, it means you’re growing, developing and following an agenda that leads you more and more into mystery. Jung said encounters with mystery are defeats for the ego.

Hollis says the task for midlife is the recovery of personal authority. This isn’t self-absorption but is submission of the ego’s desire for comfort, consensual approval and predictability in service to whatever it is that what wants to come into the world through us.


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