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Midlife Crisis - Myth or Reality? You Can Assess That Here

Midlife Crisis - Myth or Reality?
The existence of midlife crisis has drawn a great deal of attention from psychologists, adults and several others from society. While some back its existence, others deny it all together. However, there are those who say they have actually experienced it. So let's take a look at whether midlife crisis is for real or just a myth.
Mukta Gaikwad
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Midlife crisis is that moment when you realize your children and your clothes are about the same age.
~ William D Tammeus
The existence of midlife crisis remains a debatable concept. The term was first coined by Canadian psychologist Elliott Jaques in the year 1965. The basis of this concept is the transition to a phase of life where an adult begins to think retrospectively of his achievements and failures, the time left to live and the mere eventuality of his/her life. To many, midlife crisis has been synonymous with depression, anger and high levels of frustration. The manifestation of these are usually seen through giving up on careers, neglecting health and vicious circles of domestic conundrums which last beyond midlife.

On the other hand, a few experience this phase - which usually strikes around the age of 35-40 - as a complete transformation of their lives. From total career changes to appearance makeovers, there are those who look at midlife as an opportunity to recreate themselves. Given the dichotomy of outcomes, several have argued over its reality.

However, while the debate ensues, we must understand that adulthood, like childhood, has phases too. A midlife crisis is one of the transitional phases of adulthood. It may affect some in a harsh manner, while some may just experience its mild repercussions. Irrespective of its intensity, it's true that a midlife crisis is a life-altering time.
What is Midlife Crisis?
male having a problem
Midlife crisis is essentially a transition or a developmental phase of life. It is a phase that an adult reaches after fulfilling a few conventional expectations such as building a career, a family and a trusted social circle. These are the three basic things an adult deliberately walks towards until he/she reaches this stage called midlife.

Just as a child experiences discomfort with his/her own self while transiting from teenage or adolescence, an adult too can have a hard time adjusting with the changes. As one nears midlife, the stage poses very basic re-evaluation questions such as, what have I done so far? What have I achieved? Who are my friends? Is my family happy with me?

These questions stem from one's idea of a perfect life and the life they are actually living. The dissonance, in what they had imagined and how it turned out, makes them question their actions so far. This is the starting point of a midlife crisis. Many a time, because we are conditioned to believe that a transition is painful and troublesome, we view and act a certain way. However, it is simply a nudge to move on to different things, re-assess goals and take a leap. Most individuals face this stage and commonly experience the following characteristics.
Half Empty
stressed out and frustrated
The central theme validating this phase is a thought that life is half over. Idea of forever, takes a new perspective which needs a lot of adjusting. The limitation on time to live adds pressure on the list of things yet to be materialized. This highlights the contingency of death. On the other hand, it can also add to the frustration about the time wasted and decisions taken so far. As one begins to re-evaluate the goals they had set out for, it generates self-doubt and diffidence. This can have two repercussions. One, wherein the person keeps wallowing in self-pity until reaching a point of depression, or one pushes oneself to walk the extra mile to achieve the set objectives. In the light of the former perspective, fueled by retrospective wisdom, life can resemble a crisis. However, steering the wheel of the journey from here on is very much in the hands of the individual.
Identity Crisis
It is very difficult to shake off the gripping power of self-doubt. It creates a void, shadowing your achievements so far, and making you at kneel at the altar for help. To fill up this precise void, individuals at this stage begin accumulating ostentatious material wealth such as expensive cars, jewelry, real estate and so on. This could be an expression of living those youthful dreams now, and recapturing the loss of youth. Many even indulge in extra-marital affairs to create an alternative joyous life. People in this state of mind try to escape the present in search of their identity, their dreams, their ideas of how life should be and eventually to find a new meaning to their life. However, many of them forget that escaping the present is no way of making the future, and this misunderstanding accelerates the crisis.
Reasons Why
Several studies point out that midlife crisis is for real and many others deny its existence. The conflicting studies prove that there are multiple perspectives on midlife crisis. Those who recognize it, state menopause, andropause, career pressure, painful events witnessed in early adulthood, aging and inherent personality type can be triggers to a perceived state of crisis. In reality, this could only be a point of burnout, which can be handled with a good break.

The answer for whether midlife crisis is a myth or a reality lies in the way you look at your state of being. Those within the age bracket of 40-60 reach a stage in life, which puts them in a gamut of emotions, of confusion, emotional pain, anger, frustration and helplessness, making re-reassessment and reappraisal a natural part of reacting to it. The word crisis is too strong a word to describe this phase. It is rather a phase that we experience as adults. The way we handle this time in our life, decides whether it turns into a crisis or yet another learning-curve for a fulfilled life.