Midlife: Crisis or “Re-assessment”?

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But what exactly is the infamous Midlife crisis? Is it really a crisis or a phase in one’s life that can pass without any major emotional casualties to self or others? What are the symptoms of this phase, what causes it and is there anyway it can be avoided?



Midlife is an emotional process that both men and women go through equally. It is the point in life when the person feels that life is halfway through, that what is left is less than what has passed and more importantly that what was accomplished was not a source of satisfaction anymore.



Several researches done on this phenomenon indicate that a person feels that he or she is passing through a midlife crisis when they are haunted by one or more of those feelings:

·        Boredom from any activities used to and previous sources of happiness.

·        Repulsion from the typical marriage and children-related responsibilities.

·        Wanting to undergo a new and adventurous experience.

·        Confused about the meaning of life.

·        Not knowing who they are anymore or what exactly their value is.


What are the reasons?


Ahmed, married for over 30 years, explains that "midlife crisis occurs when a person finds out that he is getting older, that life is passing by and that he has not yet done all what he wanted to do especially in enjoying life. This is when he makes the stop and life changing decisions might be taken". Truth is, as different as human beings are, so are the reasons behind going through a midlife stage. However, research has covered a good deal in this area and found common threads that might be causing this life-review process. Contrary to the common perception though, midlife is not contingent on age solely (i.e. people reaching their 40s). Rather, age is just one of the elements that contribute to this process.


External Factors

Research indicates that there are external factors that cause emotional turmoil to the person and play a role in igniting such a life-turning point. These factors can include the loss of a beloved person, caring for the elder family members, too much pressure or problems at work, being fired, severe financial difficulties, divorce, etc. As a matter of fact, the researches conducted indicated that the percentage of respondents referring to these factors as leading to a life reflection-halt was higher than those who referred to the factor of aging. The reason for this is that such turmoil is generally so emotionally shocking to some people to the extent that they start questioning themselves about the reason of life, their existence, what they have done so far that is worthwhile, what is missing in their life and how they can obtain it.


And of course, in line with the focus differences between men and women, another research has also pointed out that work and education-related turmoil is the reason for men’s life turning points while emotional-related turmoil (like the death of a beloved person or marriage) is the reason for women’s major life turning points. Siham, a 50-year old woman, who has been married for almost 35 years, reflected that women spend their lives caring for their home, husband and children and not attending to herself or her needs. As time passes, her kids grow and start leading separate lives, she undergoes an emotional turmoil where she asks herself what attention she has given to her own self all those years while being busy caring and attending to others. This is especially aggravating if she found out that one of her kids did not have the future that she has expected given the time and effort she has put into raising him. At this turning point, she feels her life has no meaning, time is running and what she thought was an achievement in the past, is not anymore.


Internal Factors

One can not overlook a very important internal process that helps in accelerating the reach of a midlife crisis. This process has to do with the extent to which our true self/preference is covered up by a number of different personae that we play throughout our lives. The matter becomes worse every time the gap widens between our true self or preference and the masks that we put up on our selves. For example, you are an introverted person by nature and your job requires that you go out, meet lots of people, conduct sales calls and handle clients’ complaints and concerns. Imagine the amount of pressure you go into? Imagine if this is the case in a number of other roles that you perform in your life either as a father/mother, husband/wife, brother/sister, etc. This – in research terms – is called “Accommodation” where you try to fulfill the expectations of others irrespective of your own.


The more you try to be perceived very differently from what you truly are, the more you – with your own hands – are pressuring yourself and building up your own route to a midlife crisis. This is the “Separation” stage where you start rejecting your “accommodated” self and start questioning what the importance of all those masks is and what your role in life is. Dropping your masks and coming to a life-halt, drives you then to the confusion “Uncertainty” phase where you are not really sure who you really are, what the right route to take is. This is also where the irrational decisions might be taken and the “crisis” occurs like having a divorce or quitting jobs, etc.


Is there a way out?

Of course there is. Understanding the phase, why it happens and what its symptoms are, makes you reach half way through to the solution. There are a number of suggested recommendations that if followed, could help you pass through this stage as peacefully and with the minimum stumbles as possible.

  1. Know yourself and appreciate it. Easier said than done, but it is very important that you prepare yourself and discover ahead of time who your true self is. What your likes and dislikes are. What the mission of your life is and how you are going to achieve it. What your different roles in life are and what they require of you. Doing this full heartedly and sincerely would help you come to terms with yourself, the others and your environment.
  2. Avoid taking major decisions that you are not convinced of. At any point in your life, do not take decisions that you are not fully convinced of, given the information that you have. Accepting a job that expects you to put on a mask that is totally different from who you really are, or marrying someone you are not totally convinced of. All this would give room for future emotional turmoil furnishing the way to your midlife crisis.
  3. Balance your character. Identify what you are good at and use it to the full. For example, if you are an introverted person that respects reflection, have you thought of writing or drawing? Identify what you lack or dislike and find ways to develop it. For example, as an introverted person, you have to realize the benefits and importance of meeting new people, communicating with them and handling their concerns wisely. Even if you are not going to work as a salesperson, consider how this is going to balance out your character in your normal life and ease out the pressure that you suffer from each time you communicate with others.
  4. Enjoy your life! Engage in activities. One of the main reasons that lead to midlife crisis as we saw, is the feeling that we have not achieved enough in our previous years and that there is not enough time to make up for what is lost. Now is your chance; play sports, travel, do charity work, read, etc. Accept, live and enjoy every stage of your life with its permissions and prohibitions. That way, when you reach your midlife stage, you will have the answers for what life is and why you are here.


Midlife is a mental and emotional challenge of its own. Anticipating and facing it with a balanced character turns it into an re-assessment phase that will lead to an even better life; otherwise, irrational decisions will be taken and the crisis will happen. Handle your midlife with care!

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