Begone, begone ye Midlife Crisis.

Thanks again to the Bard for inspiration.

Well, is it a fact, fiction or fantasy?

It was first identified in 1965 by the psychologist Elliott Jacues who defined it as “a phase in a middle-aged person’s life (usually between the ages of 35 to 65) wherein they feel compelled to face and/or re-evaluate their mortality, confidence, identity, and accomplishments”.

Gosh, that sounds profound, somewhat vague and disturbing. Recently, when several of my clients were asked “how are you feeling about life at the moment,” several said they were directionless, full of self-doubt, confused, frustrated and having little motivation. Tears flowed when recalling this, due to shame and guilt in believing that they had let themselves and loved ones down in some way.

Such conversations indicate that this crisis is indeed fact, and not fiction or fantasy. Not only is it challenging for the person going through it, but it’s also difficult for others. A person who was predictable and manageable has become the opposite, erratic and an utter pain to live with.

Is the midlife crisis related to changed or lowered hormone levels? Yes, with the scientific basis and impact becoming better understood. More likely, it is about one’s perceptions around roles, responsibilities and position in life. Early life has a single focus on education, then finding a job, then a mate, then the considerable challenges around bringing up a family. Suddenly, work, finances, relationships and parenthood become challenging all at once. Then add in concerns about health, mortality, sexual prowess and “when is all this going to get easier.” No wonder life becomes confusing, overwhelming and bewildering!

Given there is a strong sense of seeming weak and often with feelings of great shame, it’s not really something men talk about openly. If at all. To move ahead, self-awareness is an important first step…”I acknowledge I am feeling this way.” Then “I accept this is happening and it is part of life’s journey and it will pass.”

Nice words, though how can we understand what is happening more deeply and emerge stronger from the dark tunnel? Non-judgemental and sensitive support from loved ones and friends can help, though this may not always be possible, given life’s pressures and expectations.

Buying a new sports car, updating one’s wardrobe to look like a twentysomething and seeking the fountain of youth (whatever that is) may sound incredibly attractive. However, it’s likely to be mere sticking plaster. And expensive!

External support provides reassurance that what is being faced is common – you are not alone. Then an evaluation of causes of the crisis (usually our beliefs) can be beneficial along with putting in place effective coping mechanisms such as acceptance. Re-thinking our values will also help greatly to reconnect to who we are, something that often gets lost with everything going on. It will also revitalise our focus and bolster the sense of our place in life. Very often, “thinking out of the box” realisations also originate from such support.

Indeed ending that crisis can begin by seeking help.