Midlife crisis is a concept that has been widely used to explain the middle adulthood. The stage has been characterized by people taking very drastic measures. It is also at this point that the human self-experiences a conflict due to inability to realize one’s own goals in life. This is what causes crisis in the life of an individual. The major casualties of this crisis are the youths who are just transiting into adulthood. Though the midlife crisis is majorly caused by the external factors, research has shown that it can also be an effect of one’s own personality conflict. It is, therefore, necessary that one understands and accepts his one personality. This write up will highlight a number of the midlife aspects.
According to Doheny (2008), midlife crisis can be defined as the moment in life during which an individual does outrageous and impractical things. During this period, those faced with limitations in life pause from pursuing their goals and start reviewing their achievements by taking stock of what they have been able to do and those that they are yet to accomplish. Even though the specific concept of midlife crisis seems unattainable on empirical and theoretical grounds, a moderate concept has potential to stimulate new research directions to explain the relationship between the process of social expectations and personal goals.
Jones (2007) argues that a midlife crisis age varies depending on the individuals and the kind of external factors which they face. According to him, this crisis or transition tends to occur around significant life events. He proceeds by giving an example of a situation in which one has just completed college and is wondering where to begin from. Jones observes that both men and women are equally subjected to the midlife crisis with variation occurring only in regard to the areas of concern. He gives examples of such people who are in the midlife crisis with men who usually want to gauge their might by their job performance to prove something to the world. Another good example is that of women who get validity through relationship, that is, as a wife, a woman or even both.
Despite the fact that many people associate midlife crisis with men, Meyer (2008) refutes this and goes ahead to explain the major reasons that drive both men and women to distinctively experience midlife crisis. She argues that irrespective of gender, midlife crisis will always affect people who put little thoughts into what they want out of their lives and more in taking care of others. Mayer (2008) also identifies a number of factors which according to her are the major reasons that drive men to start feeling the midlife crisis. These include fear of age, ill health, and failure to attain the goals they set in life. On the other hand, she notes that women are driven to experience midlife crisis when they are in menopause and their sexuality changes or when they feel contented with their sacrifices. This paper will discuss various aspects of midlife crisis.
Midlife Crisis as a Normal Stage in Life
Macko & Rubin (2004) noted that Levinson in his theory of adult development had stated that all adults go through series of stages. They state that at the centre of his theory, Levinson used the concept of life structure which, according to him, is the underlying pattern of a person’s life at any particular time. According to them, Levinson had continued that for many people, the structure of life involves mainly their family and work, though he adds that religion and economic status can also be inclusive.On the other hand, Macko & Rubin (2004) note that midlife crisis ranges on average from two to seven years. They explain that this crisis usually begins slowly and may thus not be immediately detected by others. They also identified three stages of midlife transition namely separation, liminality, and reintegration. Macko & Rubin (2004) note that since a midlife transition has catastrophic levels, the transitional stages must be a part of the crisis stages. They simplified the description of midlife transition as the bridge between the life before midlife, which they call the accommodation stage and the individuation which, according to them, is the path following midlife.
Basing Herns’ work on Carl Jung’s scheme of Myers Briggs Model of Personality, Herns (2008) made an assumption that people’s preferences are innate. This means that individuals acquire and exhibit them right from the birth. Herns, therefore, locks out the possibility of the influenced of the environment and instead argues that it is only people’s behaviors that are influenced by the environment. Her study elaborates that in most cases, young children adopt to those around them for acceptance. By this adaptation, these children’s behaviors and perception are modified in order to fit in the larger society.
Accommodation is the name Herns (2008) gave this stage of life. According to her, the crisis during the midlife makes people to, just like children; present themselves as different people in different situations. She calls this plastic self the personae. She, further, notes that whenever there is a conflict between the personae and the real self, lots of energy is used. For such people, midlife transition can sometimes be a difficult and painful process.
Herns (2008) explains that in the process of development towards self-realization, an individual begins to question his identity. She notes that this questioning of the self leads to an individual separating the true self from the personae, hence the stage of separation in life. According to her, the act of question and separation of personae from the real self leads an individual to a degree of uncertainty, the stage he calls liminality. The person then rejects the old personae and reintegrates the real self, hence the whole process of midlife crisis.
Indicators/Symptoms of the Midlife Crisis
Freund & Ritter (2008) argued that the midlife transition can be delighting for some people but also tough for others. However, this depends on a number of factors including the support from the partners and the individual’s loved ones. Jones (2007) agreed with these scholars noting loneliness during this period leads many people to deep depression. Jones added that in some cases a person may even find himself/herself developing depression symptoms without knowing. Such symptoms may include changes in the eating or sleeping habits. He observes that in the wave of the midlife crisis, many people find themselves losing appetite for food or experience discomfort with their sleeps.
Another symptom discussed by Jones (2007) is the feeling of restlessness, anxiety and irritability. An individual faced with the midlife crisis will always feel unsettled, since he has many issues that he feels are unresolved. Such an individual becomes impatient to examine and takes an evaluation of the steps he has to make. Freund & Ritter (2008) identified the loss of interest in activities that one had once enjoyed as another symptom of the crisis in midlife. They further observed that such individuals find themselves not enjoying their previous hobbies.
Jones (2007) took this debate further arguing that midlife crisis has made some people to either commit or attempt suicide when faced with no solutions to their problems. He, therefore, emphasizes a need for different stakeholders such as the governments and the therapists to come up with ways of preventing such occurrence and the further worsening of such state. With midlife crisis leading to depression, Clayton (2009) suggests that the most effective solution to it could be the behavior or talk therapy. In his argument, he gives an example of the findings of a study by the Stanford University researchers who had compared the outcomes of situation where there was medication alone, talk therapy alone, and that which involved a combination of both. The study, which involved 656 persons with chronic depressions, found out that the combination of the two approaches produces faster and more effective remission of chronic depression.
Avoidance of Midlife Crisis
Altbach & Umakoshi (2004) defined that midlife crisis occurs when we find that the convictions that had supported our world view during the earlier stages of life are no longer admissible and so an individual no longer knows what to think. They see a crisis as occurring when a need to shake off and express oneself individually becomes overwhelming. They, thus, describe it as a desperation moment of one’s life. Thus, the real way to overcome the challenges which come with midlife is pursuing real things instead of those which are perceived. They propose that the best solution to avoid the midlife crisis is by living a simple life. Altbach & Umakoshi (2004) further advised that any individual should only focus on those things that really matter. They then proceed and identify them as health, family, spirituality, and search of true passions despite disapprovals from others.
Altbach & Umakoshi (2004) further added that one should be able to accept dissatisfaction as another acceptable choice in life. According to them, this can help curb the results of disappointment. They also noted that people should seek to keep their relationships fresh to help them in evaluating their actions. This will help to avoid taking drastic measures that may lead to a crisis resulting from loneliness. Moreover, they underlined the need for people to begin evaluating their own personality early enough in life to enable them become aware of whom they are and avoid conflicting images that may reappear in the future.
Finally, Gallivan (2010) proposes that people should deal with the factors associated with the crisis rather than emphasizing on the crisis itself. According to him, these factors include sadness, fear, anger, and identity crisis. He also proposes that the people in this crisis should put emphasis on resolving their midlife cognitive, environmental, and relationship complaints.
It is thus clear that the consequences of the midlife crisis depend on the way in which it is managed. With a positive and healthy approach to problem solving mechanism, the midlife crisis can be accepted just like any other transitional stage of life. However, people must be able to apart from living simple lives, accept the choices they have made in life. Additionally, individuals must learn to understand their real selves in terms of preferences no matter what objections they receive.