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Life Begins at 40

They say that life begins at 40. I wonder why?

They say that, in fact, we are what we repeatedly do – but are you actually aware of what you do. How often are you seeking to hide what you do from the outside world? Do you become filled with shame, anger, regret, disdain or self-deprecation after you see the trail of destruction left by you having ‘fun’?

One premise I suggest must be true – we cannot do without thinking. Benjamin Libet has proven that before an action physically occurs, the thought had already been in the mind/body at least half a second before it came into conscious recognition.

penguinsI was confronted by this recently when I was asked to attend a wedding. I got thinking about this wedding and how we were requested to dress nicely, men to appear as penguins in stiff shirts with black/white costumes and women are required to make out they are virginal and pure as snow.

The intention is clear. A ritual is being performed to ask us to aspire to our highest. The men to be heroes, rocks of life, with unerring integrity, the women to be loving creatures, goddess of light turning anger into petals.

At these ceremonies, our shadow side, our deepest selves are not required to attend. We must cover up those shameful sides of ourselves with paint and design for fear they will gate-crash our illusions of human enlightenment at this time. Uncle Jeremy, the family hillbilly, must not be seen.

That these evenings often end with torn shirt, stained jackets/dresses and vomit for the perfume, is testament to the internal ‘hillbilly’ hidden inside that also wanted to come to the party.

This kind of experience is not an isolated one. In fact many (myself included) actively seek out these kinds of experiences. This leads me to ponder that maybe the person or semblance of a person that is driving the vessel during these times may just be a person that you enjoy flirting with. Or at the very least we at times actively seek to find this animal inside, the one that is devoid of care, is free thinking and powerful beyond measure.

When the elixir of freedom flows freely, we transcend the surface and delve into the seedy underworld of Mr Hyde. The fact is that when you indulge in the realms of eternal youth and power we begin to transform like the mild-mannered Dr Jekyll and foster Mr Hyde.

skeletonsAs Mr Hyde we are free to be our alter egos as we bring forth that which is suppressed, denied and hidden from those that reject our true shadow inside. Some may begin to act out their inner frustration, helplessness and vengeance in tangible ways. You know those Mr/Ms Hyde’s who when full of their elixir begin to act out violently, lustfully or even dangerously. Actively engaging with thoughts and behaviours that could and would not be tolerated as actually part of us.

Then what is the solution to this farce? Shall we then simply not dress up and at least give the ritual a chance to reach its highest potential? What would the druids be without their white robes and seasonal pleasantries? How would an army survive if everyone just dressed as they wanted?

For me, there has to be a space for Mr Hyde equally as for Dr. Jekyll.

Tolstoy famously gave his unedited diary to his wife to be before their wedding. He was saying “there is one man you have seen, but in this diary is all of him”.

That would be a wedding I want to attend! We have a small space where the groom or father makes some pleasant jokes about the childhood, or past of the bride and groom (usually the groom is allowed to be burnt). Yet this is done in jest and no real skeletons are allowed to dance at this time.

We all want the illusion to persist, even though over 60% of these marriages will be over before the promise is. Yes we love fairy tales, and we all want a “happily ever after” ending so we can prop up our silly dreams, like using rotten wood to prop up the roof of a gold mine, whilst we go prospecting.

But give a thought to Mr Hyde. That is part of who we are. That shadow side needs expression. It’s part of why your friends love you and care for you. That’s partly why you got invited to the wedding.

We think that if we express those sides of ourselves (the sides we think are actually hidden but are as clear as day), we will be rejected. Imagine, if you will, that those sides can be part of the ritual, part of the dance. That we can see each other truly and be ok with the expression of dark and light.

Then would we need to anesthetise our minds and bodies to the extent that we ‘have’ to lose control of Dr. Jekyll and enforce Mr Hyde to appear? I think not. The entertainment of the shadow side would give us the heartfelt remembrance that we are all human beings, striving for the best and falling short often.

When Mr. Hyde is invited to the wedding, heard and allowed to be, the integration will be the ultimate marriage of all time.

Ever wonder why life begins at 40? Maybe it is because around this time we begin to say fuck it, this is who I am. Just like Dr. Jekyll, we can attempt to hide forever from our inner Mr Hyde yet that will only foster our ultimate demise. It’s when we begin to accept our true nature that we can begin to be free.

By Wesley Kew, Clinical Psychologist

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