Journey to Self-Realisation: A Review of Women Navigating Midlife by Robyn Vickers-Willis

Journey to Self-Realisation: A Review of Women Navigating Midlife by Robyn Vickers-Willis

 Feeling depressed, angry, bewildered, or just flat? Are you a woman aged between 35 and 50? You could be entering your midlife transition. This is not necessarily a crisis, nor is it related to the menopause, which may well be years off yet for you. Robyn Vickers-Willis is a psychologist whose own experiences and extensive research has convinced her that there is a point in a woman’s life when women need to focus on their selves, and make an inner, psychological journey to ensure that the second half of life is meaningful and satisfying.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Navigating Midlife: women becoming themselves
by Robyn Vickers-Willis
Allen & Unwin, March 2002
ISBN 1 86508 765 3
RRP A$24.95

Feeling depressed, angry, bewildered, or just flat? Are you a woman aged between 35 and 50? You could be entering your midlife transition. This is not necessarily a crisis, nor is it related to the menopause, which may well be years off yet for you. Robyn Vickers-Willis is a psychologist whose own experiences and extensive research has convinced her that there is a point in a woman’s life when women need to focus on their selves, and make an inner, psychological journey to ensure that the second half of life is meaningful and satisfying.

Although Vickers-Willis is a very experienced psychologist, and has read many complex papers and books as part of her research for this book, the writing is very straightforward, and perfectly accessible to a lay-reader. The book is divided into sections which look at what a midlife transition is, finding your true self, creating a new personal world, and “the journey never ends”, and section on creating a workable vision for the future. The backdrop for the concepts which Vickers-Willis introduces is her own story, which details how, in the lead-up to her 40th birthday, VIckers-Willis began to feel this sense of emptiness, lack of energy, and a sense that the structures on which she had built her life were becoming meaningless. Her own journey from unhappiness to happiness, from dissatisfaction to peace and fulfilment are inspirational, and may well ring a chord with women who are also going through this transition. The book relies heavily on the theories of Carl Jung, and provides practical suggestions for handling this transition. Instead of thinking of this point of life as a crisis, or a hormonally induced aberration, Vickers-Willis invites readers to treat this time in life as an opportunity, to find new meaning, and a creative outlet — to reconnect with their true selves, and experience joy and serenity (or individuation as Jung calls it).

The books makes use of metaphors like the “migrant’s journey”, and models, such as Stein’s Three Phases of Midlife Transition, William Bridges’ model, and Myer-Briggs theories of personality types. Some of the suggested tools include Reflection, Meditation, a range of mental exercises, drawing, creating collages, writing, dream analysis, daydreams, the use of mandalas, exploring types, simplifying our lives, assertion, working on our relationships, nurturing yourself, and looking towards synchronicity. Although the influence of Jung is prevalent throughout the book, Vickers-Willis draws on a range of resources, including the many courses she attended herself, her experiences as a psychologist and corporate change leader, as well as the many books she has read, and the result is a very balanced approach, which, even if you reject some of the options provided, provide enough of a range of tools to suit women of all types. The book is an enjoyable read, and Vicker-Willis’ bravery in sharing her own story, and her analytical and sensible, non-evangelic approach will appeal to even the most cynical readers.

Regardless of whether reaching these “middle” age years is starting to change the way you see the world, I recommend this book for all women aged 35 and over. It is a much needed addition to the self-help literature, which gives women the permission, and the tools needed to begin remaking the second half of life into something truly exciting. Vickers-Willis is to be congratulated on producing such a useful, and honest guide.

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