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

May 13th, 2014 · midlife crisis women

In my last post, I focused on what midlife transition and midlife crisis in women look like, and I’d like to continue that here.

midlife crisis women

Woman with a Chignon – Paul Gauguin

A woman’s journey through midlife and the second half of life differs from a man’s, both because of her feminine identity and because of her unique individual being.  Last time, we looked at 3 signs of that journey; here we look at 2 more.

4.  Consciousness of Suffering

One of the signs of midlife in a woman can often be awareness of the kind and amount of the pain in her life.  Of course, the same is true of men, but this can be a singular experience of extraordinary and life-changing depth for many women. Psychologist and Jungian analyst Cara Barker writes of the experience of the type of woman whom she calls World Weary Woman in this manner:

Historically, [she] answers her difficulties with attempts to be perfect, and to be perfectly good.  She is not inclined to look for interior solutions until she encounters a form of suffering so profound it stops her in her tracks, and her usual coping strategy does not work.  She can no longer defend herself against her pain.

Barker tells us the pain will not be eased until the woman in question finally acknowledges it, and receives its wisdom.  There is need to listen to the deepest self, and its most fundamental wounding and yearnings.  Especially its deepest yearnings! This can be very difficult for many women, who even in 21st century culture are continuously given the message that their being is for other people — spouse, parents, children, or the broader community.  Yet it is in listening to her own being that the deepest healing occurs.

midlife crisis women

Self Portrait, 1980 – Mavis Blackburn

5.  Liminality: The Threshold

An important sign of midlife transition or midlife crisis in women is the sense of liminality, of transitioning from one life or way or being, to another.  A woman often experiences an inability to continue living as she has throughout all of her earlier adult life.  A woman may not know where she is going, or what is trying to open up in her life.  She may only know, I can’t do it anymore.

midlife crisis women

For many women, it may boil down to “Will I stay other directed, or does my own commitment to myself and my reality, matter? As Jungian analyst Murray Stein puts it:

When the soul awakens at midlife and presents its gifts, life is permanently marked by the inclusion of them.  Taken in, they become the hallmark of your life, the core of your uniqueness.  Refused, they can haunt your days, and may undermine all your toiling.

Depth psychotherapy can be essential to living out the gifts of soul in the time of midlife transition or midlife crisis for women.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © freeparking 😐  ; Steve Snodgrass
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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

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?

midlife crisis women

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.

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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!

midlife crisis women

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.

midlife crisis women

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:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  rochelle hartman ;  Alan Light
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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