The Mid-Life Crisis: Is It Inevitable?

Dear Robin:

Is a mid-life crisis inevitable?  (I replied asking the writer if they were concerned about someone in particular, including themselves, or just asking in general).  Well I guess it is a general question.  I think for me a mid life crisis was unavoidable because my sister died suddenly and without any answers.  Dealing with sudden death and unanswered death is shocking and depressing and life changing so that is kind of that for me.  But I just feel like everywhere I look people my age (40’s) are just changing and they are making changes just because they are lost and I don’t know what just something.  I remember when we were teens with parents our age our friends parents were all cheating, divorcing, driving new sexy cars.  At the time I thought it was pathetic, now it just feels inevitable.  

-Wondering 

Dear Wondering:

First, let me start by offering you condolences on the death of your sister.  That must have been and continue to be a very difficult life event for you.  I’m not surprised it triggered a mid-life crisis for you, as traumatic events can often lead us to question our lives in a very serious way.

As you probably know from reading my work, I like to reduce people into easily digested groups. Is a mid-life crisis inevitable? The answer is no, yes and no, depending on which group a person occupies. Let me explain the three groups:

1. Those lucky folks who just seem to get it right their entire lives. They choose a career that is satisfying, surround themselves with good people and partner with someone who fits them to a “t” (or “tee? tea?”). They always seem happy and optimistic, because they truly are. It isn’t an act, these people are actually content.

A recent census conducted by my dog indicates that these people make up approximately 0.1% of the population in the United States, so if you know someone like this you are very fortunate (or they are a crazy psycho killer putting one over on you). Those falling into this group are not susceptible to a mid-life crisis.

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Of course, I hate these people. Fuck them.

2. Those of us who later in life are introspective and seeking truth and fulfillment but who haven’t been as fortunate as group #1. We are lucky enough to have a mid-life crisis (hereinafter, “MLC”) and I’ll explain that in a moment. Unfortunately, those of us who don’t learn what we need to from the inevitable MLC are likely to repeat the crisis until the lesson delivered by the MLC is understood.

The aforementioned census indicates that 57.9% of Americans fall into this category.

3. Last but not least, we have the folks who are too narcissistic, entitlement-minded, arrogant or just plain dumb and lazy to ever engage in the navel-gazing required for an MLC. The main characteristic of these folks is a general sense of victimhood and superiority to others. They would never consider examining their lives because everything they do is perfect and if they are unhappy it isn’t their fault, the fault lies with others.

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We all know people like this, right? Since 42% of Americans fall into Group #3, I’m betting you do. The most telling personality trait of someone who resides in this group is an absolute refusal to address their own shortcomings and to take personal responsibility for the negative events in their lives.

I believe it was Carl Jung who observed (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) we are most powerfully defended against that precise thing which we need to acknowledge. So while it would be facile to gaze upon those in Group 3 with contempt and derision, sympathy may be a better approach, even if many of these folks are somewhat despicable.

We’ve got one go-around on this planet (according to me, and I am the Soothsayer as well as the Advice Goddess) and how sad that many spend their limited time here without delving into who they truly are and what they need to do to find happiness.

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Now that I have conveniently carved up our population, let me give you my perspective on Group #2 and why the inevitable MLC is a good thing – a gift given to us by the universe that should not be squandered.  I’m really becoming a fan of Mr. Jung, and plan to actually read something he wrote someday. Here is what Carl had to say about the MLC:

“Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and unfolding but that an inexorable inner process forces the contraction of life. For a young person it is almost a sin —and certainly a danger — to be too much occupied with himself; but for the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself.”

I love this quote. As we get older, if things aren’t right in our lives we have a duty to examine ourselves and figure out why and what to do about it. You mention some of the classic signs of an MLC: cheating, divorce and buying expensive cars. These are usually early symptoms of the MLC, not the MLC itself.

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The 57.9% of us lucky enough to have an MLC go through it because our psyche is telling us: something is wrong.

Something is wrong, and we better figure it out while there is still time, since now our time is limited. Sometimes it’s being trapped in an unhappy marriage and going through the excruciating work to see that the relationship is dead and must be buried. Dead marriages really start to stink after a few years.

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(Ugh – the message here is so awful)

Others realize their calling is far different than what they are doing with the majority of their time. My own MLC (MLC #2, because I didn’t learn jack shit from the first one) culminated in the realization that I didn’t have to be a lawyer.  While that may sound obvious to many of you, it was not obvious to me until I had a breakthrough that hit me like a ton of bricks as I drove home from my last day working for a company incorporated in the state of Hades.

More on that in a later blog, but I make that note to remind you ONCE AGAIN

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The key to a positive MLC is recognizing what is really happening and what your mind is trying to tell you, namely:

“What you’re doing now? Knock it off – it’s not working.  Figure your shit out and do something else, or you’ll never be happy, no matter how many times you change spouses, jobs or cars.”

I’d like to point out that the term “Mid-Life Crisis” has come to be pejorative and associated mainly with men.  

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Instead of questioning why our men are making pronounced and rapid changes in their later lives, our s

ociety simply assigns them the status of a “mid-life crisis male” with all the attendant judge-y crap: sports cars, younger women, ridiculous career changes.

I think women are largely responsible for this, or at least those women (they reside in Group #3) who cannot accept their own responsibility in a marital breakdown and who want everyone else to know it wasn’t their fault.  

“He had a mid-life crisis and abandoned me!” she cried.

“Oh, you poor dear!” they replied.  

Gimme a fucking break.

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This subject is so much deeper and broader than I am able to blog about in this space; I almost feel negligent trying to tackle it here.  I’d be thrilled if the readers would chime in with their own experiences with the mid-life crisis and provide all of us with additional perspectives.  Thank you for this wonderful question!

-Robin

 

 

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