Understanding and Coping with Your Midlife Crisis

You may be wondering if there’s any more to life. You might be disillusioned and think, “Is this it?” You may feel disappointed at the realization that where you are in life is not where you really want to be, or aligned with what matters most to you. You may be confused since from the outside, your life looks great.  But there is a gnawing feeling deep inside, letting you know that something is off. If it feels like life just isn’t all it was cracked up to be, there’s a possibility that you are dealing with a midlife crisis.

What’s happening to you?

A midlife crisis is a normal period of transition. For some, they realize that they are approximately halfway through life.  Aging and mortality are realities now.  Looking back, they now have the perspective of age and experiences to see patterns and consequences of choices they made.  Looking forward, they begin to consider a more authentic, intentional future with the time that is left. You may spend a great deal of time comparing your  dreams, and your achievements, or current goals.  You may re-evaluate choices you have made and possibly experience regrets.  Purpose and meaning may no longer be tied to career achievements, physical appearance, or financial status. It’s not unusual to be introspective at this time and want to focus more attention on understanding and bettering yourself. You may also feel compelled to take drastic measures. The word “crisis” may start to apply.

Authenticity and Personal Authority

You may be asking yourself: Who am I – really?  How did I get here? Why am I making these choices? Is it possible to create a life aligned with who I really am? Is it too late and am I too old – to make the most of my life? You want to know what matters. You want to know that the life you are living is leading to something real and meaningful. You want to know who you really are.    Midlife is the time to evaluate how well your life aligns with who you are, if you are living authentically. An authentic life grants you personal authority  – where you make intentional choices based on your truest self, not on the expectations or agendas of others.  James Hollis, Jungian analyst captures this succinctly: “What constitutes personal authority?  Stated most simply, it mean to find what is true for oneself and to have the courage to live it out in the world.  Respectful of the rights and perspectives of others, personal authority is neither narcissistic or imperialistic.  It is a humble acknowledgement of what wishes to come to being through us.”

Is this normal?

You are perfectly normal. The key now is to recognize the storms of the midlife process and navigate them well. Perhaps you can adapt and change without much fanfare or life disruption.  Then again, balance may be better achieved with the help of someone compassionate and accepting, supporting you along the way.

How do you cope?

Coping with the midlife transition is entirely doable.  Here are a few strategies to address your mental, physical, and relational wellbeing:
  • Find out what your values are, what truly matters most to you.  Consider how your life reflects these values.  Find out who you are, separate from your roles.
  • Don’t ignore or dismiss what you’re feeling.  Feelings like sadness and anger are your body’s way of getting your attention and letting you know that something is off.
  • Slow down.  Think before you act. This is not the time to make impulsive decisions. Don’t divorce your spouse, make huge purchases, or quit your job until you can gain some perspective.
  • Reframe the “crisis” idea. Try to view introspection and transition as natural, positive aspects to propel you forward.
  • Seek professional help. Explore your feelings and concerns with the help of therapy and increased self-knowledge.
A midlife crisis is simply a transition – an opportunity to revise or change from what is no longer working and into authentic possibilities.  What matters now is not what mattered in your younger years. The future feels finite.  Time cannot be so easily dismissed or taken for granted. With inner awareness and  a commitment to authenticity, midlife can be the beginning of your best years.  As psychologist Carl Jung stated “Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you are just doing research.”

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