Much has been depicted of the male ‘mid life crisis, most of it mocking. However in my experience as a Psychotherapist, I wholly agree with author Marian Keyes, who notes, “no one really goes through a midlife crisis without experiencing real despair, real fear and real soul-searching about ‘what have you done with your life?’.
I suspect much of the mocking relates to the often-painful consequences of the acting out of this pain, in searches for ways to make this manageable. Most recognizably perhaps in the breakdown of relationships and families.
Of course, a mid-life crisis is not gender specific.
It can be, a pause to take stock of a life, where the initial manic scramble to achieve goals has been fulfilled and once that finish line has been to some extent crossed, another, much more frightening one appears, that of the inevitability of our own death, sometimes brought home by loss of people close to us from older generations.
How can psychotherapy help?
Psychotherapy offers the opportunity to assess this in detail, to explore what values and ways of being are chosen for their merits and what are perhaps inherited unconsciously, driving on, the acting out of old unconscious roles. In order for a role to be chosen, the unconscious roles being played need to be made conscious in order to allow comes more choice about which future roles we decide to take or leave.
The Psychoanalyst Donald Meltzer, suggested that most adults have an adolescent personality structure until mid-life when either a struggle toward greater integration commences or a return to latency period rigidity which he described as ‘settling into middle age’.
This ‘crisis’, then is also an important and vital opportunity to assess and evaluate what kind of life is to be chosen for this second half, where the existential reality of death, brings into sharper focus the decisions and choices we make.
Paul Salvage is Psychodynamic Psychotherapist trained to work with adolescents from 16-25 and adults across a wide range of specialisms including depression, anxiety, family issues, self awareness and relationship difficulties. Paul is available in our Brighton and Hove practice.