Providing people with help for midlife issues makes you very aware of the truth that, in midlife, we often yearn to hit the “escape button”…
Many people on the midlife journey can relate to that “escape button” feeling. Help for midlife issues often consists of enabling individuals to find ways to deal with just that state of mind.
When the Real Lines Get Drawn
In midlife, situations which individuals have endured for much of their lives can easily become unendurable
This is illustrated powerfully in the insightful new movie , Concussion, (dir. Stacie Passon).
Having just been struck in the head by a baseball at her son’s game, Abby (Robin Weigert) screams, ”I hate this. I don’t want this. I don’t want it!” — and we know she is talking about more than her concussion. Abby experiences herself as trapped in a whole banal suburban existence in which she can find no reality or life, and which she experiences as completely claustrophobic.
Many who seek help for midlife issues encounter such claustrophobia. It is not at all uncommon for people to be living with the feeling that “I just can’t do this any more”. For better or worse, their finger is hovering over the escape button.
Escape from What?
For anyone seeking help for midlife issues of this type, a key question may be, “Just what exactly is it, from which you are trying to escape?”
“We are not much at home in the world we have created.” – Rilke
Rilke’s sentiment can resonate strongly with many in midlife transition. Through the sheer momentum of life decisions made leading up to midlife, it can easily feel that the life that I have created is quite an alien construction having little to do with who I most fundamentally am.
I may well feel that my persona, the social self that I put out into the world, has little or no connection with my genuine self, in its own nature. The cumulative weight of my life choices may lead to a way of being in my world that is actually painful to me. I may sense that who I actively present to the world doesn’t line up with my fundamental identity.
Similarly, perhaps the social milieu surrounding me has little to do with my true identity. I may come to feel that the people in my vicinity simply don’t share very much with me. This can be disconcerting when the people in question are neighbours; it can be literally shock inducing if we suddenly make this discovery about people we’ve regarded as intimates.
All such sentiments may induce a strong, seemingly undeniable feeling of “need to escape”.
But, Escape to What?
Is our escape to ourselves, to who we really are — or is it from ourselves?
Sometimes,our desire can be simply to escape from ourselves, from freedom and decision. It’s easy to crave infantile states where we actually hover above life.
But sometimes the escape we need and yearn for can be to escape the pressures of the false self, and forces in life that do not allow us to be who we authentically are.
Individual psychotherapy that provides help for midlife issues involves the important task of discerning between those forms of escape that lead us to evade our own authentic being, and those forms that allow us to live in connection with our deepest personal identity.