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on 18 January 2012
James Hollis has written a number of useful books on the subject of Jungian theory which brings the master of 'self discovery' to people like me, people with real world experience and a proper job who can't afford hundreds of hours in therapy! If you need to know that you are not alone as you seek the answers to why we are here, this is a good spot to begin.
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on 17 April 2013
This is an excellent book if you are looking to develop your sense of meaning in life and find the "god" within yourself. An interest in depth psychology helps to get the most out of it. I felt "wonderful" everytime I read even a single page!
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on 16 October 2012
This book was one of the first Jungian books that I have ever read and it was sent to me by my sister, a psychotherapist in America. Without appearing too dramatic, I have to admit it had a profound impact on my life and I am now into my fourth jungian book by Hollis and also one by Daryl Sharp (My life as an Elephant) along with many other jungian writers. Hollis' words seem to resonate clearly with me and he has also helped me understand more about myself and others. To say it has helped me with my own practice would be an understatement and I have seen the value of Hollis' work with my own clients.
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on 24 October 2015
I was drawn to this book by a rave review by the Guardian lifestyle writer Oliver Burkeman, praising its "refreshing bluntness" and downbeat approach to the secret of living a good life. But I got much less out of it than I expected, or that other reviewers here have done. I found it 'over-written' and the constant literary references, often several per page making somewhat different points, clouded the meaning. The author's mind seemed to be teeming and the language is often over-ripe. Some of his messages are insufficiently developed, for example he frequently asks us to make choices which 'enlarge' rather than diminsh us without giving clear examples of what he means by this advice, which he must surely be able to do from his own practice since he draws on that a good deal in the book. There was too much use of cliche, for example the dreadful term "comfort zone", which is mostly used by politicians and social commentators as a clever polemical device, appeared too often.

The basic stance is sound enough if unexceptional and is summarised in two of the best sentences in the book, on page 206: "Meaning is found both in the acceptance of fate and in the struggle to remain free, to make value choices amid a constricted range of possibilities. Whatever the gods do, we are still summoned to be the guardians of our souls". And on the last page Hollis writes "The challenge to each of us is to accept the danger of our personal journey and thereby accept the gift of our lives". If more of the book had presented its ideas in such straightforward terms and been better organised it could have made a more powerful impact, on me at least. Among the myriad quotes from the literary canon, I enjoyed the humorous ones the most, for example this from Damon Runyon: "Life is eight to five... against".
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on 9 November 2015
This is my second book of James Hollis's. Finding meaning in the second half of life was the first and changed my life forever. Knowing I have a soul has been a revelation! I know sounds cheesy and new agey but isn't at all. If you've been on the path of personal development both books will give you clear and logical explanations of why you are the way you are. Finding meaning is an easier read and necessary in my experience to fully understand What matters most, which develops in depth themes from previous works. It is a very challenging read but makes so much sense of the way I experience my life it resonates deeply and makes me feel at peace and has inspired me to even investigate seeing a therapist to see how much of my unconscious there is still to bring into the light. Life will never be the same. The books have given me a freedom and connection to myself I never had before.
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on 4 March 2014
Hollis is a wonderful writer, his style flows easy and he has got the gift of making complex ideas, easy to understand. Plus his wisdom and clarity of thought make his writing important for people who are on a journey of understanding. He is furthermore amazingly well read and brings to the table the wise thoughts of sages and other who have through millennia contributed to our knowledge of what it means to be human! I have read a number of Hollis' books and find that the contents are always true to the title. Having finished them, I always feel enriched. This one is no exception!
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on 22 March 2016
James Hollis gets it. This book is aimed primarily at those who have suffered a mid-life crisis, but I read it as a troubled 22-year-old man, and it has undoubtedly had a positive effect on me. Ignore the self-help packaging of the cover: there is genuinely sound advice within. Hollis's generally negative view of existence is refreshing. The essential piece of advice he has is for us to recognise ourselves as meaning-creating creatures, and to see our symptoms as the product of failing to live up to what our souls demand of us. Of any choice that lies before us, we should ask, 'Does this choice make me larger or smaller?' When you begin to think in those terms, the fundamental choices of your life become much clearer (if not any less challenging!) Another important, if perhaps more obvious, piece of advice is to understand our lives as a constant process of failure - even if you become President, you are doomed to persistent failure! - and growth, and that at times of crisis we are asked to let one part of ourselves die in order that a better self can grow again.

While I fundamentally agree with Hollis's worldview, I did not find his arguments to be prescriptive. The book's most striking anecdote is of the widow who, when told by Hollis that she would be the one to walk herself to the bathroom at night, "she got up and walked out of therapy forever". This book should be treated in the same spirit: as a guide that not only heals the wounds of your past, but shows you the way out of the door to a much richer life. After reading it, you may never need such help again.

N.B. I came to this book on the recommendation of Oliver Burkeman's column in The Guardian, 'This Column Will Change Your Life', which I recommend just as highly.
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on 27 January 2016
Wonderful book. Oliver Burkeman recommended it. Small claims (or no "claims"). Simple. Alan Watts would have liked this guy.
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on 22 October 2015
I love all of the Hollis books.They enrich my understanding of myself immeasurably and hopefully will make the onward journey both more meaningful and pleasurable
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on 13 July 2014
I really enjoyed this book and I have to say it touched me in a special way and resonated most deeply. I intend to delve further into Hollis's material.
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