When I hit forty, something started changing inside me. Basically, I am an optimistic person but at that time most of my thoughts started turning negative. I was doubtful about the meaningfulness of life. I felt I was useless. Whatever I had achieved until that point became insignificant to me. Restlessness followed everywhere I went. I was feeling something was not right with me. I desperately needed to find out what was going on. To consult a psychologist to discuss such problems is not a common practice in our culture.
So, I began to search for literature that was related to my situation. Soon I came into contact with the term ‘midlife crisis.’ Even though I had heard of this term many times before, I was not entirely clear about its meaning and I did not really pay any attention to it. My reading informed me that I was going through a ‘midlife crisis.’
According to Dan Jones, a psychologist, a person may face a midlife crisis at any time between their late 30s through to their 50s. Men and women are equally likely to experience this phase of life. Another psychologist, Daniel Levinson, says that this is a normal ‘transitional period’ which indicates that adults are just entering another stage of life. Likewise, Jenny Chanfreau, a researcher, claims that no particular reason, physical or psychological, has been found yet to justify the ‘midlife crisis.’ She says, however, that unmet expectations could trigger this crisis. These studies show that more research is needed in this field.
It should be noted that ‘midlife crisis’ and ‘depression’ do not mean the same psychological state. In fact, depression is a mental disorder and it requires professional support, whereas a middle age crisis is simply a life stage. Once people are aware of this reality, they themselves can re-evaluate their priorities and transform their lives for the better. This may be the reason why Robyn Vickers-Wills writes in her book ‘Navigating Midlife: Women Becoming Themselves’ that the middle age indicates the death of a person’s old life and the beginning of new one.
Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, divides people’s life more clearly into two parts. According to him, the first half, let’s say until a person’s 30s, is basically a life of outward looking or ego-satisfaction. During this time, people are busy finding their success in the external or materialistic world. As soon as they enter the second half of their life in their 40s, they begin self-discovery. During this time, their spiritual self gradually starts to evolve. So, their focus shifts to the internal world from the external one. They search for the true meaning of their life. Hopefully, their life purpose will be clearer at this stage.
Considering these facts, our later life seems to be more fruitful than the former one. In reality, the ‘midlife’ is not a ‘crisis.’ Instead, it is an opportunity to review our life and find a deeper meaning in it. On the surface it may look like a ‘crisis’ because of the loss of youthful days or many physical changes, externally as well as internally. We should not forget that underneath this crisis remains tremendous power and energy which can transform us completely for the better. So, let’s celebrate our midlife by getting bold, not old.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, January 6, 2017)
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