‘Mid-life crisis’ has become a household word. When we see our mid-life friends and colleagues behave in odd and surprising ways or when depression, despair, anxiety and hypochondriasis hit, we quickly diagnose it as a mid-life crisis. Usually this is easier to see in others and take a little longer to acknowledge within ourselves. It is not, however, only a ‘modern crisis’. As early as 1300, Dante, when he was 42 years old, expressed his own mid-life crisis in the opening stanzas of his Divine Comedy:
“In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to
myself within a dark wood where the straight way was
lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell of that wood, savage
and harsh and dense, the thought of which renews my
fear. So bitter is it that death is hardly more.”
Depression and other symptoms are necessary as powerful incentives for renewal and change. In mid-life we must make our fears our agenda (more on that in a later article). No change will occur if we see our life as problems caused by others! Almost all of my patients are in their middle years. It is a time where the greatest inner unfolding is possible, if one can only sit still long enough and look within to connect with one’s soul, the place where true wisdom resides.
Psychologist Marmor studied thousands of people going through a mid-life transition and found they fall into four basic categories:
(1) Individuals in the first group deny getting older through ”Frantic Activity”. They run from meeting to meeting, phone call to phone call, t.v. show to t.v. show unable to sit still and relax. They literally race through life avoiding reflection and pay no attention to their inner world where the healing impulse always originates during mid-life.
(2) People in the second group also deny getting older and do it through “Overcompensation”. These are the 50 year old men with chains around their necks chasing 20 year old girls, or 45 year old women on their 15th plastic surgery. Determined to stay young, these folks become prisoners to the soulless garbage coming out of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, or prey to the greed driven ‘health and fitness terrorists’.
(3) “Decompensation” with psychological symptoms like depression, psychosomatic illnesses and anxiety is what happens to the third group. Usually individuals in the first two groups end up here as well. Unless we begin to explore our inner life, the danger exists that we get stuck here and suffer a condition called “hardness of heart” seen in some of our older people.
(4) Finally there are some that spend time in the first three groups, but don’t get stuck there. They are different insofar as they take time to sit still, to be quiet and listen to messages coming from within … including dreams, fears, intuitions, imaginations, visions and what Levinson calls “other voices in other rooms”. The inner realm is the only place where answers for the second half of life come from. A need for external affirmation has to be replaced by ¬inner validation. Eventually they reach a place called “Integration” when they live a much more creative life with less narcissistic self-involvement. Love to Mother Meera One for all and all for one.
The right way towards wholeness
is made up of wrong turnings
and fateful detours. (C.G. Jung)
Dr. Peter Milhado © 2009