It is important to speak about the so-called midlife crisis openly, with clarity. But I am not going to call it a ‘crisis’ because it is not a crisis. In this article I will refer to it as ‘midlife mystery’ or a ‘midlife transformation’.
For so long we have been taught by society that a midlife crisis is negative, a problem, something to be avoided, and something that will take years to recover from should it occur. For some people a midlife crisis never ends and the feeling of loneliness, alienation, resistance, anxiety, and fear may last until the day they die.
Unfortunately, I know many people like this in my life.
Why do some people never recover from the ‘midlife crisis’?
The word ‘crisis’ is very interesting and whenever we believe we are in crisis we fall into a trap that is hard to get out of. In a perceived crisis the immediate response is for the body to contract and shift into a ‘fight-flight-freeze’ mode. This is a state of fear where one either wants to fight the world in rebellion, run away from the world and hide, or freeze in terror and do nothing.
But we’ve all been conditioned to believe that whenever there is an internal egoic shake up, whenever we feel ‘indifferent’, that this is wrong and we shouldn’t feel like this!
From the viewpoint of someone who believes they are in crisis, it is almost impossible to find any solutions to their perceived problems. They become so resistant inside of themselves that it becomes extremely difficult to view the world in a positive way. And it is almost impossible to describe their internal feelings to someone else. The internal world of a person in crisis is full of fear, their external reality of the world is also very disturbing and scary.
“So within, so without”.
Often during times of perceived crisis people can turn to many forms of addictive behaviour to distract their attention from the feeling of fear. The addictive behaviour actually is an attempt to replace internal resistance with deep feelings of love and relaxation. A temporary journey ‘out of the mind’. Unfortunately, most addictive behaviours are also devastating to the body and create a cycle of destruction in the mind.
A midlife crisis, sorry I have to use that concept here, according to psychologists, occurs between the ages of around 40 to 50, although in my experience many men (and women) are experiencing these symptoms much earlier in today’s world. This midlife mystery can occur almost overnight for no apparent reason. It can also occur in response to an external event in one’s life and it can occur multiple times in life, especially if we resist its natural flow. Generally speaking, it can occur from a significant loss in one’s life or an event that significantly changes our view of the world (a loss also does this too!).
One can experience loss in many ways including: loss of possessions, the death of a loved one, a break up in a relationship, the loss of an important job, the loss of one’s health, and the realisation that we are ageing, we don’t look as handsome as we did in the past, our bodies can’t operate in the same way, and we have the stark realisation that we are already slowly dying.
One can also experience a significant shift in values that challenge our own models of the world and our own identity, the person we thought we always were. This shift could come in many disguises, for example: a book we have read, a movie we watched, a new person we met, a new set of friends who introduce a completely new way of living to you, immersion in a different culture, spending time in nature, travel, or exposure to some kind of retreat or method of personal growth.
My own midlife mystery
I experienced the start of my own midlife mystery about 8 years ago. At the time I was a high flyer in my own profession. I was working as a full time High Performance Manager for an International Rugby Team. I had experienced lots of success in my career, I built up a great reputation, had a great income, great car, nice home, beautiful wife, and my health, self-image, and confidence levels were at an all-time high.
However, that’s was all about to change.
I went on a month intensive yoga with my wife to Thailand. I had never practiced yoga before and was quite reluctant to go. To cut a long story short, the science and philosophy of yoga blew my mind and the experience of meditation connected me to a deeper version of myself. I felt for the first time that there was something deep inside of me that was much greater and more profound than the egoic identity I had created, the story I carried around about me in my head.
But it was a scary place. Whenever our identity, our ego and the way it views the world is challenged it is natural for us to feel that something is wrong. This is because society has taught us to identify completely with our physical body, our mental personality, and the stories running through our minds.
On returning from Thailand I felt completely alienated in the world, especially in the job I had loved a month earlier. The ground beneath me was unstable, I saw the world through a different pair of eyes, I had no interest in talking to anyone, especially about Rugby or life as I had formerly known it. My wife knew about this. She would witness me in the evening times confused, in anger, and often crying. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Of course none of my work colleagues knew about this because I kept it inside.
It took me 3 years to leave that job and take a leap of faith. And it was 3 years of internal suffering. It was 3 years of wearing a mask of happiness.
Taking the leap of faith, quitting my job, and trusting the whole process was invigorating. However, I didn’t trust the process enough. Over the next 6 years I went back into the same line of work as a part time consultant. Every time I did this there was some internal resistance, there was something deep inside me telling me that I was holding onto an old identity.
Now, I can finally say that this old identity has been let go of. But looking back I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and unhappiness by trusting my internal compass. It took me in total 8 years to finally completely let go of that old personality.
Does this mean I’m free?
Does this mean I’ve found eternal happiness?
No, it doesn’t. But once you take the leap of faith and let go of the old identity that no longer serves you, once you finally take the jump, you develop the capacity to intuitively know and feel into your life on a deeper level. In my case I know clearly now when something in life isn’t serving me and I can feel into this with more clarity. And for the sake of my own evolution and my own self-love I can trust the process of letting go of old identities that do not serve me, and I can trust the process with upmost faith.
What to do in case of internal crisis:
Whenever you experience any kind of internal crisis or recalibration of your identity, I recommend the following 10-step process: –
- Be quiet and still without making any rash decisions.
- No need to shave your head, buy a Porsche, or look for a mistress.
- Reframe this internal shift and give it a different story.
- Instead of perceiving it as a crisis, try to feel into the process as a message from life, a chance for transformation of your own self.
- Give gratitude to life for this process.
- Don’t push the resistance away. Say thank you internally as much as possible.
- Seek out people who understand what you are feeling.
- Join a men’s group or create your own.
- Start an introspective practice.
- Spend time in nature, join a meditation group, or start yoga.
- Release any judgement from your situation.
- Practice non-reactive awareness without judging anything.
- Take action and do something proactive.
- Start to focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want.
- Change what isn’t working in your life.
- Take that leap of faith and make that tough decision.
- Trust the process and be open to what life is opening you towards.
- Keep your awareness inside of your heart, and trust what will arise.
- Take control of your life once again and trust that life will take care of you when you have faith.
- Experience the life you were designed for.