Reframing the phrase, middle-age crisis, is important because it is a normal process of life to strive toward goals, improve ourselves and help others.
The term, crisis, evokes a heightened that is not necessary when one approaches this stage. People go through various stages as they age and middle-age is just another stage. It is important to realize, not all people have conflicts at this stage.
As people enter this age, it may be that they never developed a healthy view of themselves, their innate skills and strengths and more importantly, their self-discovery.
Identifying what one wants, with a clear conscious choice, is difficult if that person is not sure of who he/she is and how they got to their current state.
This issue has its roots in the person’s’ childhood, if the person was a victim, if he/she didn’t resolve past pain, and if the individual didn’t realize his self worth. People need to learn how to identify what they want in life, what brings them joy and fulfillment in order to have a clear vision for themselves to move forward.
Generativity vs. Stagnation
First Step: Eric Erickson’s stage of psychosocial development, noted that this stage, Generativity vs. Stagnation, occurs during middle adulthood, where one generally has established a career, is in a relationship, has a family, and feels connected to the home and community.
By not doing any of these activities, a person may become stagnant, feel and or be unproductive and disconnected to others and themselves.
People, between the ages of 45-60, may experience this time as stressful and may have a fluctuating sense of self. It is a time that evokes memories of childhood, changes occur in how one perceives himself, there are more losses; parents and friends have died or moved away or stopped being friends and children have left the nest.
Illnesses may be present and impacting one’s ability to function.
This time period is also one of introspection and reflection. One’s emotions are engaged in a conflict, between desire and need. As people age, the sense of mortality becomes more real as they become more aware of people who have died who are close to them in age.
Many people at this stage want to find meaning and purpose for their live.
We are all SPIES. We connect in the following ways. The level of importance as we judge each area is based on one’s perception and needs and wants.
S–Socially: We connect with others to not be alone, to enjoy other people’s company, to have fun and to laugh. Most people don’t want to be alone and need company.
P- Physically: We observe changes in our body’s ability to be active. We potentially have more illnesses, medications, limitations and tolerance. We realize we’re not 20-years-old anymore.
I- Intellectually: We have a deep desire to discuss topics we find interesting, challenging, etc. We need to have our minds stimulated to feel alive
E- Emotionally: We may have relationships that change, whether it’s through divorce, separation or death.
S- Spiritually: We may find a re-awakening or need to be connected with a religious association to feel connected and supported.
As SPIES, we need to identify or take into account, where we are at this time in our journey, in life. We need to determine what is important for our current situation and needs and ascertain how to go about finding this awareness and then decide to take specific steps to resolve the concerns.
Second Step: As we re-evaluate where we are in life we must ask the following: Is this where I want to be in all of the above areas?
1: Identify what you feel is missing, weak or you want and/or need to change or improve.
2: Re-assess your skills, knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses and determine if you are satisfied with where you are in terms of job, avocation, hobbies, relationship, living situation, etc.
3: Recall those dreams or goals that you pushed back or repressed because other more important issues came up at the time. What are your past and current goals or dreams? List and prioritize them on paper.
4: Determine what you want to do with those unrealized goals and dreams. Do you want to pursue them further? Is it achievable financially? Do you have the time to devote to this goal? Do you have support to help you focus on learning or doing something different? Is it no longer an option because you don’t have the physical stamina or is illness getting in the way at this time? Or, is it no longer an interest of yours to pursue?
5. Once you have decided on what to do, make a plan and set an agenda on how to achieve the goals.
Third Step: Now you have to figure out what to do with these present day realizations. It is important to not rush through and make a decision. Options need to be identified, giving yourself time for thoughtful reflection and problem-solving as necessary, so don’t jump into a situation when you aren’t prepared for all possible scenarios.
Thoughts and Fears
People in this stage grapple with fluctuating thoughts and fears. Common thoughts might include the following: Am I ready to end this relationship? Am I ready to end this job? Am I fully prepared to start a new career path? What might I be giving up? What might I gain? How long will it take to achieve my goal?
Based on the level of self-awareness determines how people will adapt as they come to understand a bit more about their own purpose in life. This time period, varies per person, and may require outside support via therapy, vocational guidance and in-depth discussions with others.
As a therapist assisting people while they navigate this stage, one must be have a heightened awareness to focus on the client’s perspective and perception of themselves (whether realistic or not), what their wishes, needs, ability, skills and goals are at this time.
Understanding the client’s thought processes, ability to regulate their emotions, stability in their home life and environment, and common sense is essential in assisting someone to process this time period in their lives.
It is also important to critically evaluate the client’s support systems, stressors, precipitating issues, unresolved grief, anger, losses, regrets, etc.
Additionally, evaluating and scaling the levels of dissatisfaction, via the outline in SPIES, is key, to help frame the problem and guide toward a solution.
Therefore, mid-life is not a crisis, but a period of time that people use to look back to where they came from, where they are currently and what they want to accomplish for the next 10 years of their lives.
Many people in this age bracket look forward to giving to others with purpose and intention. People in mid-life are entering a new stage in life’s journey.
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