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Posted on August 19th, 2012, by

In this paper we are going to discuss a rather widespread phenomenon the midlife crisis. There is a number of researches done for investigating the nature of the phenomenon, its causes and types, its possible consequences and ways to avoid negative effects.

The term midlife crisis is rather widely used and familiar to most people from around 40. In Western societies it is defined as a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the middle years of life, as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age (Sheehy, 12). There can be various reasons of this crisis, like for example health decline, death of parents or career dissatisfaction.

In spite of the fact, that the notion midlife crisis is so well known, there was not much of serious research done. Carl Jung developed a theory, stating that midlife crisis is related to the processes of self-actualization and self-awareness (Lachman, 111). He provided the description of the major feelings, emotions, ways of thinking, which are the causes of confusion about one’s life and achievement of life goals. Carl Jung also defined the period of this crisis, namely of 40 and 60 years as an integral part of maturing process and emotional transition. Thus on the one hand the midlife crisis can be treated as a natural process, one of the maturing stages, on the other hand however, this type of crisis is likely to bring a lot of problems and make people feel so uncomfortable, that people will have to seek help by psychologists or risk to make radical changes in their lives.

Some people do not experience any severe difficulties during this process and are ready to accept the coming changes. Whereas others have difficulties, when they are not satisfied with their life styles, they feel bored and lose interest towards things, which seemed to be important to them before, they desperately need changes and some action in their lives, they have doubts as for their life choices made, they are confused by their life situation and job, develop various doubts concerning their marriage and spouse, or even look for new intimate relations.

Some people face midlife crisis under the influence of external factors, for example debts always cause problems as external factors. Nowadays there are a lot of credit companies and credit lines offered by banks and as it is already a norm to live above the means, people got used to taking loans. But as soon as a person feels depressed and emotionally suppressed by financial debts from various sides, he feels, that it would be easier to live alone and to get rid of the financial responsibility he is bearing for his family.

Another example of serious external factor might be death of a parent or other family member. This is very difficult to cope with feelings of loss of a close person especially during the midlife period and this fact only worsens the depression.

As well as external factors, some personal traits can also aggravate the midlife crisis; to such traits belong low self-esteem, emotional detachment, inadequacy. In such cases, people prefer to hide from their problems instead of solving them and very often these results in divorce or change of the work place. What is really important is the realization of the external and internal factors as well as the crisis itself, as this will help to avoid irrational decisions and mistakes. People are putting at risk the earnings of the first part of their life and this might come to a bad end.

Very often life goals and emotional states of men and women are different during different periods of life. The midlife crisis is also not an exception. For women midlife crisis very often starts with problems in their families, like for example weakening of the emotional bond to their husbands or problems with children, who do not meet their expectations, which means that goals of a good parent are not reached. At the same time women become concerned about their appearance, about losing their attractiveness.

For men the initial source of the midlife crisis is rather related to career issues. As researches showed, that for around 38 % of men career is life turning point. Women in their turn were slightly ahead of men in considering problems with children and death of parents to be very important factors in life (Harvey, 72). Other researches proved, that Women reported significantly more turning points involving changes in how they viewed themselves over the past twelve months and in the last five years. Women were significantly more likely to report discovering something upsetting about themselves, as well as more likely to report discovering something good about themselves. (Wiley, 85). Thus we may conclude, that midlife transitions have various effects upon men and women as they have different causes of them.

The midlife crisis depends not only on gender factor, but on country as well. For example in the English-speaking West there is a point of view, that midlife crisis is an inevitable part of middle age. A lot of people there are used to associate any setback of problems in the family or at the work place with midlife crisis. However in other countries the approach seems to be different.

According to the studies of anthropologists there are a lot of cultures, where midlife crisis is not related to stress or turmoil and thus should be considered a culture-specific phenomenon, which can be met mostly in technologically developed countries of the West. If to take Chinese societies it is evident, that although they also experience dissatisfaction with career or have problems in their families, due to their fatalism they are not so much concentrated on the midlife crisis and do not acknowledge it to be so prominent. People of Hindu and Japanese cultures can’t avoid complications during various life periods either, but they are still too far from midlife crisis understanding as that of the West. This means, that some cultures prove to be more sensitive towards midlife crisis or, what is also possible, that cultures of Western societies are younger and the concept of the midlife crisis is more popular with them.

There is no concrete data concerning the general length of the midlife crisis, as this really depends on the situation or type of the midlife crisis. Researchers worked out five major characteristics of the midlife crisis, which should help to identify the type of it.

  1. the real deal very serious crisis, which is related to the death of a close person, around 8 % of people of middle age suffer from it.
  2. midlife assessment some form of the first one, but not so hard and serves as the impetus to make serious changes in one’s life
  3. depression can be related to the middle years, as well as to any other period of life
  4. stressful life events such as the death of loved ones, a significant career setback cause strong, but not debilitating, emotions such as grief. In the short term, this can look like depression (Jaques, 25).
  5. midlife crisis is used as an excuse for various inappropriate behavior.

As soon as a person is aware of the fact that he is suffering from the midlife crisis, he should put maximum of his effort to overcome it. First of all it is necessary to mention reactions, which should be avoided in the situation of the midlife crisis, namely:

–                it shouldn’t be ignored

–                re-action to it is a bad strategy to handle it

–                to make fun of it would hardly bring positive results

–                try to cope with it alone is too difficult and often useless

It is necessary first of all to consider all the disturbing factors or problems in calmness, not in a hurry. Then depending on the type of the midlife crisis it is advised to work out a plan how to improve the situation, either it is necessary to change the attitude to some things, events or people around, or find some stimulation in life, or to stop feeling sorry for oneself and so on. Some people are able to do it by themselves, however mostly, they would need the support of their close relatives or friends or even psychologists.

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