May 7th, 2014 · midlife crisis men
In this second part of my post on 5 signs of midlife transition or midlife crisis in men, I look at 2 further signs: issues of value and meaning; and, issues around loneliness.
Such signs may emerge in anyone who is making the middle passage, but they manifest in unique ways in men.
Awareness of Loneliness
Pronounced loneliness is often a sign of the onset of midlife transition or midlife crisis in men.
In many, loneliness is associated with a sense of inner emptiness. Alienation from our own depth and reality can hide behind social interaction, social media and messaging that covers a sense of sterility and meaninglessness. Poet Philip Larkin writes,
It’s terrible the way we scotch silence & solitude at every turn, quite suicidal…. [Meaningless social interaction] not only takes up time… it prevents you storing up the psychic energy that can then be released to create…
…whether that be artistic creation, or the many other possibilities for creatively engaging life.
Loneliness at midlife often points the way to realization of the value of solitude: the discovery that when one is alone, one is not alone. To be in the company of the self is to be in a good company. Such awareness of the self is often the source of creative, genuinely individual living, and the capacity to relate to all the richness of our inner reality.
Value: What is Meaningful?
In the first half of life, men are socialized to adopt the values that society shares and promotes for men. These are the values of competence, achievement, self-sufficiency — and competitiveness. We see the embodiment of the ideal man according to these values in our icons of maleness, like Clint Eastwood:
These values can serve a man well in the first half of life, but, if they drive him in the journey at midlife and beyond he may be pushed to the extremities of sickness or collapse. Jungian analyst Eugene Monick writes,
I speak of the man who obsessively builds, who is heroic to a fault. This man cannot relax his efforts. He must always prove himself, always do something useful, always be hard at it, as though the least softening of effort would reveal a hidden weakness.
For many, midlife crisis in men reveals that some cultural values around maleness no longer work, and are not meaningful.
As James Hollis says:
Let us be grateful for the considerable blessing that the loss of tribal mythology brings us… and for the enormous potential that the loss of collective meaning brings us by obliging us to create our own meaning [italics mine].
Connection with our own inner life, values and meaning can be essential for for finding healing during midlife transition and midlife crisis in men. Depth psychotherapy can make a vital contribution in this season of life.