Episode 157

Published on:

28th Aug 2023

Meaning in the Second Half of Life with James Hollis

Today we speak with Dr. James Hollis, a speaker, professor, Jungian analyst, and bestselling author of 19 books examining life and how to cherish every moment. His world-renowned books, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, The Eden Project, What Matters Most, and Living an Examined Life, have been translated into over twenty languages. 

We discuss his latest book, A Life of Meaning, which examines the qualities that bring meaning to our human journey. Our culture tells us to seek wealth, power, prestige, or even enrollment in someone else’s idea of a worthy cause—yet where do we turn when these paths fail to fulfill our need for purpose? “When the old stories and beliefs that once defined us have played out and grown exhausted,” teaches Dr. James Hollis, “our task is to access our inner compass, the promptings of the psyche that help us find our way through the complex thickets of choice.”

Hollis offers an examination of myth, literature, historical figures, and the wisdom of depth psychology that provides penetrating insight into the search for purpose. In A Life of Meaning, Hollis offers no easy answers or feel-good certainties—instead, he shares his most valuable questions and reflections to help you find the courage, persistence, and inspiration to navigate your own odyssey.

Time Stamps:

Defining the concept of big self. 6:38

It is important to define how the word self is used in any given paragraph or conversation.

All of us are either serving or running from the instructions of our culture in the first half, with some exceptions, but mostly in the second half of life, about surrendering to something larger than our instructions or our complexes or personal history.

The middle passage, the adolescent passage and the final passage, mortality.

The middle passage trough of despair. 13:40

What to do when your boss is a jerk? 17:28

The importance of reflecting on the nature of his work and asking himself what is his task now.

Finding your own personal guidance system. 23:25

The process of discernment.

One of the dilemmas is, if I choose this path, it could risk my relationship.

Fear and lethargy are the enemies of life. Fear is the seduction of that part of me that wants an easy path. Jung says the greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parent.

Talk is cheap, change is difficult, and it always costs something.

The collective unconscious and the wounded healer. 29:53

Empathic caregivers bear the weight of a collective system of unreality, not tuning into human needs, and not tuning in to human needs.

What is the wounded healer complex? 34:03

Some people need to leave the profession to save their lives. Others need to take more breaks and recognize the symptoms of burnout.

The wounded healer complex is a neutral word like an airport complex or apartment complex, but a structure, but also a complex of life experience.

How complexes are created.

In every pattern, there is an idea, a strategy, and an unconscious idea inside of you.

There are two conversations going on, and you have to decide which one is the one you want to give your life to and show up.

How does the psyche speak to us? 40:48

You don't win this game, the point is to realize it is a game and you're here to participate in a way that is most meaningful to you and consistent with the terrain of your own soul.

Jung talks about the importance of doing what is right for you and the energy systems that support you.

Dreams are a form of communication. The smallest things with meaning are always greater than the largest of things without meaning, according to Jung.

The question of meaning is most important. 45:29

The question of meaning is most important, because we don't create it, but we are still tasked with the decisions that can bring us to places where the experience is meaningful.

The best source of making decisions is inside, not from outside.

Show Notes:


Find his book here: A Life of Meaning

Find out more about Big Self School

We still offer our flagship burnout coaching package. We also offer packages for those seeking clarity and reconnecting to their life purpose–and we do this work with individuals and couples. Reach out to us if you’d like to book a discovery call and learn more about our coaching packages.

Want to learn more about the role stress plays in your life, and discover your blueprint for how to handle it based on your Enneagram type and subtype? 

Book a discovery call here

Join us at the Burnout to Big Self Facebook Group

Order a copy of Chad’s book Shock Point or order an ebook here.

Leave us a review and subscribe on Apple iTunes or Subscribe on Spotify

Find us at bigselfschool.com

Show artwork for The Big Self Show

About the Podcast

The Big Self Show
The pursuit of leadership growth and well-being
For leaders and team-builders in the business world, especially those bridging the gap between the first half of life into the second. We are your guides out of burnout, stress, and inertia. We are experts in improving communication, trust, identifying breakdowns, and empowering your values. We deep dive into the Enneagram as a source for living a more intelligent and grounded life.

About your host

Profile picture for Chad Prevost

Chad Prevost

Dr. Chad has advanced degrees in creative writing, literature, and theology. Being married to a psychotherapist has been another education. A workshop leader and entrepreneur, he has started and participated in writing and literary arts communities in New York, Austin, Atlanta and Chattanooga. He also has experience writing as a journalist for startups in tech and logistics. He is the author of several books of poetry, as well as interactive-fiction for youth. Over the years, he has innovated writing processes to foster reflection and insight, narrative strength, and authentic voice.