May 12th, 2014 · midlife crisis women
Recently, I’ve done posts on signs of midlife transition in men — but what does midlife crisis in women look like?
Women are often acutely aware of midlife transition and midlife crisis due to menopause. Yet, psychology and Jungian depth psychotherapy reveal several less well known aspects of female midlife transition. Here are five key signs of the emotional, spiritual and psychological midlife journey in women.
1. Things Don’t Feel Like They’re Supposed To
Often in midlife transition and midlife crisis, key values the individual has rigorously lived by in the first half of life seem very questionable. In our society, this is often even truer for women than men.
Many 40s and 50s women feel that not all has turned out exactly as advertised. Even today, our culture maintains a clear, tight picture of what woman’s role is, and what she is supposed to do to be happy, fulfilled and complete.
Yet, at midlife, many women struggle to find gratification in playing the game in accordance with “the rules”. As the wife of a former Archbishop of Canterbury put it,
“I have a terrible inner sense that all my life… was derived from and in answer to… never ceasing claims…
I seem only to have been a service of respondings and no core. But there must be a core. [italics mine]“
There is a profound sense of having endlessly responded to needs and promptings of others in the first half of life. There is a profound yearning for something more real and substantial — “There must be a core.”
2. Visibility: Do I Still Count?
Feminist psychologist Joan Chrisler notes that women in our culture tend to become more and more invisible as they age. After menopause, it’s almost as if society as a whole no longer acknowledges them. Chrisler cites the dearth of female actors in Hollywood who are post menopausal. Thank heaven for rare exceptions like Meryl Streep!
Lack of visibility for post-menopausal women reflects a society still stuck in sexism. Our culture often has little place for the mothers and grandmothers, and for the wisdom of the Wise Old Woman. Many women in midlife and later years recognize that they need more than the standard role the culture offers. They need encounter with the deep reality of who they are as individuals.
3. Breakdown of Perfectionism
Many women suffer from perfectionism, due to the tremendous weight of the expectations pressed upon them in our culture. Its poison whispers to a woman that her performances must be perfect, or else worthless. As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman has it, “Many people, bent on perfection, deny their yearning for… escape through unconsciousness.” At root, perfectionism really is a desire to escape from the imperfections and broken-ness of this life.
Many women, at midlife, or shortly thereafter, realize that perfectionism is unbearable. They learn that, whatever they do, it will never be “enough” to satisfy the inner self-critical demons. This can be the moment when a woman stops trying to imitate a phantom ideal, and discovers her own core.
This may be the season in a woman’s life when depth psychotherapy can make an invaluable contribution.
Next Post: The remaining 2 of 5 signs of midlife crisis in women.
PHOTO: © rochelle hartman ; Alan Light
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)