The traditional explanation of the midlife crisis goes something like this. As we approach halfway through our lives – about the age of 40 – we come to the realization that there is more life behind us than there is ahead of us. We start panicking about all the things that we haven’t done, and the fact that the grim reaper is coming for us – sooner rather than later. As a result, we feel anxious, depressed and miserable.
The midlife crisis, the conventional explanation goes, is an attempt to return to youthfulness. That’s why people get Botox, spend tens of thousands on sports cars, and say goodbye to their marriages.
But this explanation is being a little too kind to society as a whole. While it might be true that people fear death, that’s something that is in the back of their mind from a very early age. It’s not clear why it should flare up so ferociously in midlife, as proponents claim.
A better explanation of the midlife crisis goes something like this: unrealized expectations. When we are young, society inculcates us in the romantic ideal. We genuinely believe that we will find a loving partner, be healthy, and grow to a ripe old age. We will have money, a career, plenty of friends, and an interesting intellectual life. Everything will be great for us.
Of course, in reality, that’s not how things turn out. At around the age of 40 to 45, we suddenly turn around and realize that life wasn’t what was promised. We did everything that we should have done, but we still feel miserable. Our love lives, careers, and friends just don’t seem to satisfy. Everything seems hopelessly bland.
If you have had any of these feelings, you’re not alone. In our society, most people go through a midlife crisis of one kind or another. At the back of their minds is always the perennial question, “is this it?” “Isn’t there more to life than this?”
The reason for this is how adults hype up life to children. They make it seem like “you can do anything or be anything.” Then, when said young people get into adult life, working in jobs they don’t like to pay the bills, they see the rat race for what it is and feel robbed.
It’s almost as though adults feel embarrassed about their lives, so they make up stories to placate their children. Most people barely take a single step down life’s path so, naturally, they don’t want to admit this to their children. As such, they make up romantic stories, such as “there’s an ideal person for everyone out there” and “you can be successful too if you work hard.”
All these statements are only half-truths, of course. That’s not how the universe works. But they sound good, and they feel like the sort of things that we should be saying to young people.
So what can we do about midlife crises? There are many options out there, but the only real choice you have is to go inward and fight your demons.
People often wind up in drug and alcohol rehab after a midlife crisis. Substances seem to offer a way to take away the pain, so they become very appealing. But they don’t allow you to do any of the necessary inner work required for a sustainable solution.
The trick here is to change your perspective on life. If you remain dominated by your ego – constantly thinking about what life owes you – then, of course, you’re going to have a midlife crisis. You’ll see that no matter what you do, it’s all going to end soon anyway.
However, if you change your perspective away from yourself, you’ll start to feel different. You won’t worry so much anymore about your life and, instead, just accept what is offered.
Can you see the difference here? The way to get over a midlife crisis is to stop clinging to a definition of how you think your life should be. Instead, the solution is to get with it, go with the flow, and just allow the process to unfold without judgment.
How To Cope
If you’re struggling to cope with a midlife crisis, you can try the following:
- Get out of your rut and try something new that excites you and gives you a reason for getting out of bed
- Let go of your obsession with how you look or appear to other people
- Stop evaluating your life and instead just focus on what you are doing during the day
Rather than see midlife as time when life is winding down, choosing to see it as a fresh beginning can take you much further down the road to happiness. This, my darling, is how you take back your own power. And keep finding ways to love yourself and your life.