A midlife crisis is understood by therapists to be a profoundly transformational period in the personal identity for both men and women which isn’t resolved by an affair, a new motorbike or a couple of CBT sessions!
In most advanced countries worldwide today the average life expectancy for men extends to their mid to late seventies and for women their early to mid-eighties. A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in individuals, typically 40–60 years old. The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and perceived shortcomings of accomplishments in life. This may produce feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to current lifestyle.
Therapy to resolve midlife crises concentrates on:
- Finding meaning. Often the first part of life is spent finding our place in the world and how we fit in. The second half of life is about finding ourselves and living a life with meaning. Those people who have affairs and buy fast cars and engage in thrill-seeking behaviour are reliving the first part of life again…often to their disadvantage. True contentment and happiness can come from living the second half of life differently to the first. Living a life with meaning involves creating an identify you can identify with! Psychotherapy can help you understand your happiness by considering the usefulness of the ‘rules’ by which you currently live. People stabilise in midlife when identity and integrity is based in an internal centre – what they truly desire – the self. Unfortunately, many people create a life rooted in externals, the lives and reinforcements from parental figures and other ‘models’ from cultural influences and expectations and from collective pressures. This conflict can lead to increased anxiety and a sense of crisis.
- Responsibility. There is a need to take responsibility for where you find yourself currently. The process of change cannot begin until a person accepts responsibility for what they have done to contribute to where they are in life. It is necessary to do the psychological work, as happiness does not suddenly appear, it must be worked for.
- The Fertile Void. Many of my clients are successful entrepreneurial types who are good at ‘doing’. Getting them to stop and self reflect is often their biggest challenge. The fertile void is a concept clients can engage with, it’s a time of stepping outside of a busy, hectic life to rest in the stillness and quiet of our “being”. The fertile void is a time to become aware of everything calling for our attention, and as such, a time to re-examine aspects of our life and let go of those that no longer feel right. Further information about midlife crises can be found at www.drjuliehannan.com.