Michael Jackson/Peter Pan: A Cautionary Tale For Us All

I have resisted blogging about Michael Jackson. Not because I didn’t have my own opinions about what really killed him but it seems so opportunistic to weigh in when so much has already been said. I questioned rather my take was an offering or not and then I realized how much he represents an archetype in the American psyche that I think is hurting us all, actually.

I don’t know the real details of his childhood but I surmise that there was  trauma that left him never able to really grow up. Whatever he did or didn’t do to the various children who stayed with him, I honestly think he really saw himself as their peer. Making the transition into adulthood usually comes in one’s thirties. It is reported that the cosmetic surgeries began in the late 80’s which is when he was entering his thirties. This is when he started to really get crazy. The reports are that there were 10 surgeries by 1990.  It is also reported that he suffered from body dysmorphia – distorted negative perception of one’s body.

Like people who suffer from anorexia, there is an arrest in development in childhood where the individual never sees themselves as an adult. Like the J.M. Barry story of Peter Pan, Michael never grew up. Dr. Judith Rich addresses this archetype we Jungians call Puer Aeternus – the eternal adolescent in her blog. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-judith-rich/it-hurts-to-be-me-confess_b_222381.html

What I haven’t seen written about is who is this eternal adolescent that imprisoned Michael that also lives inside of many of us?  In western society, we have become hell bent on staying youthful in appearance and attitude. Anti Aging medicine and the practices of cosmetic surgeons are booming. We loathe wrinkles and now both middle aged men and women are seeking sexual partners twenty years younger for the “youthenizing” effects it has on one’s sense of self. How anyone deludes themselves into thinking they are younger because they are peering into the face of a younger partner says so much about our society’s addiction to perfection.

And so we come to the subject of addiction. Michael was quoted as saying on a number of occasions how lonely he felt in life, how painful it was to be him. And so, he found a way to numb  that pain with medication.  The lives of great artists who followed a similar path are numerous but I think it bears a moment of contemplation to look at one’s own self rejection if you are aging. What distractions/addictions are you using to avoid confronting the decay of your body?  There is nothing wrong with adopting a healthy lifestyle to be the healthiest middle to older age person you can be. However, how much time do you spend on your inner life?  Meditation, daily contemplation, connection to the soul all lead to wisdom through the enhancement of one’s intuition. Part of accepting aging is accepting the end of cycles. We have had this massive cultural belief  that our economic life, our relationships, and yes, our bodies should  forever be in harvest.  That there should be no winter, no honoring of death that brings new life if you allow it.  And maybe that’s the core of it. We fear death so we fear change. Embracing the aging process is a celebration of the elder archetype. It does mean examining what is at the heart of what we most fear about looking older: not being loved anymore…

So here’s this week’s tip: Take a few minutes in solitude. Look at where you fear or judge looking older.  Where do you hold that fear in your body? Breathe into that fear until a feeling of surrender and peace replaces it. This peace is the beginning of real self love: as you are and as you will become as you face the inevitable year by year…

Dr. Toni Galardi is  the author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive ( not just survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval.