When you are hit by midlife.
Erik Erikson believed that identity has its origins in adolescence.
- He was probably correct, but only in part.
While Identity may begin during middle and high school, it has its fruition as we move past forty or fifty. Why? After living a good part of life – career, relationships, perhaps children and marriage, success and failure – it is in midlife that we have an opportunity to confront and embrace who we really are.
- Midlife is a truly an interesting time.
Halfway – The Good and the Bad:
For some, midlife is presented with tumult and disruption, while for others, it is a time for introspection. No stereotype fits all. People come to therapy for many reasons in their forties and fifties, and confronting one’s life choices are often a part of it. So, depression can bring someone to therapy as easily as anxiety, marital conflict or simply a sense of unfulfilled emptiness.
- Halfway through this precious life we can sense a kind of urgency
- It is no longer about satisfying parents or culture, it now about defining and living our own journey.
Marriage is enriched or confronted and careers are reevaluated, self-care accessed.
For men and women both, midlife carries power.
- What do I really want for my kids? Myself? Is spiritual life important to me? If so, what kind of practice is meaningful? Do I know how to love another adult? How do I continue to thrive as I age and face natural biological changes?
- My body used to do things so easily, now it has a mind of its own. Do I pay attention to it’s needs? Do I try to recapture youth with my exercise routine? How do I take care of this vessel that carries me forward everyday? How can sexuality continue to be a source of goodness for me?
- And, I am at the height of my professional powers, yet younger people are coming up the ranks. Can my vanity sustain being displaced? Or, has life dealt me a blow because I am aging? Do I succumb to depression or find a new narrative?
The word “Decide” comes from the Latin root “to cut’.
So, to make an incision is to cut in and to make a decision is to cut off. This makes intuitive sense. When we make decisions in youth–marriage, career, friends–we cut off other opportunities in order to have what we had wanted.
Now, in midlife, another voice often begins to call what Carl Jung labeled as the “unlived life.”
- What is the un-lived life that is calling out to you?
Midlife & Therapy:
1. First, the presenting problem needs to be addressed, whether it is a depression, a difficult marriage, anxiety or career/parenting issues. The second part of the treatment is about dealing with the midlife issue that fueled the original problem. Finally, the identity that requires attention needs to be understood and lived.
2. Midlife is about confronting your life. Not the life that you want to have or the life you wish you had, but the life that you do have. You are no longer a child trying to satisfy society or parents. It is now time to truly know who you are inside; your core values, your core self.
3. Once your identity is secure, and your core values are clear, then you can take things on. It can be a new career, or enlivening the one you have. It can be a new partner or enriching the relationship that you already have. Or, it can simply be gaining a better understanding of spirit or the wonder of living every day, deeply and with joy.
They say that youth is wasted on the young.
Yet, midlife has its own rewards when you have the courage to hear another part of yourself calling.