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Midlife Crisis in Men: 5 Signs Your Life is in Transition, 2

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.

midlife crisis men

Such signs may emerge in anyone who is making the middle passage, but they manifest in unique ways in men.

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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:

midlife crisis men

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.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  John Lemieux ;  pds209
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Midlife Crisis in Men: 5 Signs Your Life is in Transition, 1

April 27th, 2014 · midlife crisis men

Here are 5 signs of midlife transition or midlife crisis in men.

midlife crisis men

Experience in therapy tends to confirm that each of these 5 “signs” tend to be specific to men, and each is connected to at least one question important for men to ask during midlife transition.

Feeling: What am I Feeling?

Someone once said,  “The great problem for many men at midlife is that the chest is a numbed zone.”  Men are trained not to feel from early life, and to stay in their heads.  Yet without feeling, it’s impossible to know what we really value, how things are really affecting us in our lives, and what direction we want to go.

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Identity: Who Is That in the Mirror?

James Hollis offers a pretty blunt and bleak assessment of where many men find themselves in our culture.  It may seem harsh, but, for many men at midlife it represents the truth:

Conditioned to shun feeling, avoid instinctual wisdom and override his inner truth, the average male is a stranger to himself and others, a slave to money, power and status….

There are few models in our culture that invite or permit a man to be honest with himself.

In our culture, men are socialized to ignore their feelings and their own inner voice and wisdom, and to go after priorities that remove them more and more from who they really are.  While men are told that this is “independence” and “individuality”, by midlife, many are locked into stereotypical roles, with immense pressure to conform.  Midlife crisis in men often takes the form of looking in the mirror, not recognizing who’s there, and feeling how much that hurts.

Persona: When Can I Drop the Armour?

Example: Jim, 51, married, 2 teenage kids, IT management consultant. Travels North America, 200 days a year.  Professionally, people expect Jim to provide expertise and solutions; he is continually climbing new, steep, learning curves.  He faces unrelenting pressure to know, to be right, and to meet tough deadlines.

Jim is often alone in strange cities, relating only to business contacts, and dealing with conflict situations.  Jim sees little of his kids, who are becoming more independent, and will soon leave for university.  He finds his relationship is getting colder and more distant.  He and his wife talk less and less.  He has no time for non-work interests.

midlife crisis men

Jim represents someone lost within the armour of the persona, the social mask that he’s conditioned to present to the world.  Often, a key question in therapy is what actually belongs to the man, and what to persona.  This is a common sign of midlife crisis in men.

In Part 2 of this post, we’ll look at two other key signs of midlife transition, or midlife crisis in men.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Kevin Krejci ;  Kevin N. Murphy
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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