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How to cope with a Mid Life Crisis?
Life Coach support for a Midlife Crisis
This article may be of interest to you if you're a man in midlife or you are married to someone in midlife or you want to learn more about this important time of change. I have noticed over the years that quite a few clients sought life coaching support to help them navigate the uncertain waters of a midlife crisis. Sometimes the work involved a resolution of unresolved difficulties from the past, dissatisfaction with the present, a sense of lost opportunities, a fear of diminished options in the future or of growing older in an ageist society. Drawing on tools and perspectives from several wisdom-traditions, my role as a coach was to be a confidant, a support and to help them rationalise a new perspective on life and a way forwards. This article is about men, but applies equally to women.
A life upheaval that affects many people
How many people do you know that appear to be having midlife crisis of some sort? All men have a midlife transition just as all women have a menopause. This important phase of life, often involving powerful emotional upheavals can affect most people, men and women, through a large age range from 30 to 50. For some the transition is minor, as simple as buying a new motorbike and wandering around in brand-new biking gear looking like an elderly power ranger. Others may experience this transition as a crisis involving complex work, relationship and life-meaning factors. And for some the inner call to change goes unanswered.
What is a Midlife Crisis?
Just when you thought that you had your life mapped out, everything seems to be up in the air.
You find yourself in the grip of a profound and troubling meltdown that comes when we perceive that our personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did.
As we enter and begin to face the second half of our lives, we all have the opportunity to face our mortality and this brings up existential issues.
What have I accomplished in my life?
What do I have yet to accomplish?
What might I never accomplish?
What will I leave behind?
What kind of person have I been and what kind of person do I want to be?
Does my life have meaning?
This midlife transition, lasts about 3–10 years in men and 2–5 years in women, and can be triggered by many factors. These may include extramarital affairs, menopause, the death of parents, grief, unemployment, underemployment, realizing that a job or career is hated but not knowing how else to earn an equivalent living, the meaning of life, or children leaving home. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day-to-day life or situation, such as in career, work-life balance, marriage, romantic relationships, big-ticket expenditures, or physical appearance.
For some folks it is particularly traumatic and it becomes a crisis; they feel cut adrift from anything they have ever known, love, family, ambition. It may become a spiritual crisis or a call to discover what more is there to life. Far from it being the jolly experience portrayed in the media of a man skipping off with a young busty brunette and buying a sports car; most men, and consequently their wives, feel utterly miserable and out of control with their once ordered lives. It may be a great source of jokes and amusement for some, but for those affected it can be quite debilitating. In some ways, every man's experience is different, but of course, there are many common strands to what men are feeling.
The signs of a Mid Life Crisis
The NHS website recommends you see a doctor, and then goes on to say you will be prescribed anti-depressants! For some men with a clinical condition this may be the best course of action. But if I am to go by the case-studies that I have seen, those clients were not 'ill'. They were simply men and women who were feeling rather cornered, crushed or uncertain of themselves. Sometimes, they were tired of playing a lifetime of inauthentic roles or they were unsure of how to bring balance, wholeness or truth into their lives. Exhausted by litany of problems they had created for themselves, they were often looking for something deeper to life. One expert cited the following warning signs:
1. He says life is a bore.
2. He is thinking about (or already) having an affair.
3. He is suddenly making impetuous decisions about money and/or his career.
4. He says things like: I need space, I love you but I'm not in love with you, I hate my job, Why don't we sell up?, I want something but I don't know what, you are making my life difficult... (it's a long list!)
5. He makes a dramatic change in his personal style or appearance and is suddenly spending lots of time in front of a mirror.
6. He has little interest in spending time (or having sex) with you.
7. He is drinking too much or abusing other substances.
8. He is displaying the classic signs of depression -- sleeping more, loss of appetite, malaise.
9. He is overly nostalgic and constantly reminiscing about his youth or his first love.
How can Great Life Coach help you?
It needn't be a crisis. I have had a lot of experience supporting men and women through this delicate, often ridiculed phase of life. Often it's a time when people feel most alone with nobody to turn to. Very few 'midlife' men will admit to family, friends or colleagues that they have a problem. Additionally, this area is under-served by experts. Your doctor may recommend drugs, psychologists may recommend therapy but sometimes a more practical approach is beneficial; sometimes all that is needed is to have an understanding confidant!
Over the years I have recognised that the pastoral role that I provide to men is utterly unique. Men have few places to truly say it how it is; to be vulnerable and accepted. Not many men have a network of close friends to whom they can reveal their most intimate secrets. A place to explore vulnerability and power. As a supportive confidant I can help you bring perspective to your life and your life situation. A non-judgemental listening ear may be all that is needed to birth you into the next phase of your life journey. If we can be honest about our painful and confusing feelings, mid-life can be a time for reassessment and reappraisal, a learning period providing the opportunity to change. We may become more interested in exploring parts of ourselves that we have lost touch with, develop a greater self-knowledge and sense of inner strength, and be less dependent on the approval of others. We may cultivate a greater interest in spiritual matters and express hidden skills and creativity. Some people also find that their relationships become deeper and more rewarding.
Often a career change appears as a part of this Work. If we haven't figured out 'what we are going to do when we grow up', this midlife transition will be a time of pondering our right livelihood. My coaching work can help you zero-in on a future vocation that is optimal. Many men and women in 'promising careers' completely change direction at midlife and even though they may take a big cut in pay, find life as a school teacher, or even a construction worker more satisfying than being a stock broker or high-powered executive.
Life coaching work can often be undertaken alongside other therapeutic interventions such as psychotherapy, meditation and retreats. We discuss a range of strategies that can help and where appropriate, I will recommend other experts.
Whilst it can undoubtedly be a challenging time, there is an opportunity to feel wiser, and more able to sort out the important from the inconsequential. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a midlife transition is the quest for the sacred.
Together we can foster an openness that can turn your time of crisis into a time of quest. It can be a quest for wholeness, authenticity, a quest for integrity, a quest for love, deeper intimacy, a quest for independence as well as interdependence, or a quest for the sacred. It can be a time for the healing of old wounds or for finding one's true calling. WOW!
Many people acquire a wisdom, maturity and self-confidence they lacked earlier. These can be immensely useful in dealing with existing relationships and lifestyle as well as forging new beginnings. Rather than it being a crisis, in fact it can all feel very positive!
So... if you are feeling the 'call to adventure' in the form of internal urgings to examine your livelihood, or your relationships, or your understanding of the meaning of life, answer the call.... give me a call and see if I can help you. It may not lead to a crisis, but it will surely lead to a more fulfilling life!
I also offer life coaching specifically for men or women separately.
Needless to say confidentiality and discretion are paramount to our working relationship. If you are interested in exploring if I can help you create a compelling future... Get in Touch