How Will You Transition at Midlife?

Midlife is a hot topic these days, especially since baby boomers—eighty-one million strong (those born between 1945 and 1965)—began sprinting through the 50s into the wisdom years, ages 60-100. Our extended life span offers us a vantage point at midlife unheard of in earlier generations.

In his book, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, James Hollis suggests that adulthood presents varying levels of growth and is rarely settled in the way most of us expect.

Turbulent emotional shifts can take place anywhere between the ages of thirty-five and seventy when we question the choices we’ve made, realize our limitations, and feel stuck—a time often referred to the “midlife crisis.”

Favorite Quotes

“There are reasons why these disturbances frequently manifest at what we typically consider ‘midlife.’ By this age, the ego strength necessary for self-examination may have reached a level where it can reflect upon itself, critique itself, and risk altering choices, thereby values as well.

“So, what has brought you to this point in your life? Have you chosen this life you lead, these consequences? What forces shaped you, perhaps diverted you, wounded and distorted you; what forces perhaps supported you, and are still at work within you—whether you acknowledge them or not? The one question none of us can answer is: of what are we unconscious?

“That which is unconscious has great power in our lives, may currently be making choices for us. No one awakens, looks in the mirror, and says, ‘I think I will repeat my mistakes today.’ And frequently, this replication of history is precisely what we do, because we are unaware of the silent presence of those programmed energies, the core ideas we have acquired, internalized, and surrendered to.

“I would suggest that each of us experiences a summons of the soul not once, but many times in the course of our lives

“Sometimes this crisis of identify occurs when we go through a divorce only to find our problems continuing in to the next relationship. Sometimes it rises out of the traumatic loss of a partner, which reveals to us a dependency we did not know lurked beneath our seemingly independent behaviors. Sometimes it manifests in the departure of our children, who have been carrying more of our un-lived life than we imagine. Sometimes it emerges in the context of a life-threatening illness or some other brush with death. Or sometimes it simply comes to us at a sudden shock and we realize that we do not know who we are.

“This more radical examination of one’s life, cannot be undertaken on the whim, or finessed through a weekend workshop. To engage with the summons of our soul is to step into the deepest ocean, uncertain whether we will be able to swim to some new, distant shore. For some the entry is gradual; others are pushed suddenly into deep waters.”

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In her book, Awakening at Midlife, Kathleen A. Brehony, a Jungian psychologist defines, explains, and connects Jungian concepts into an understandable framework. In the transition to midlife, questions of personal identity often arise, forcing us to reassess beliefs that seemed to hold true during the first half of our lives.

Favorite Quotes

“Most of us leave no time for introspection, reflection, or any kind of contemplation of the meaning or lack of meaning in our lives, about who we really are apart from the roles we play in life, about God, about death.

“What we call the midlife transition is actually a spiritual and psychological process, not a chronological one, and it is quite possible that the dramatic symptoms and change that we associate with midlife can occur at any point in the life span.

“What is happening that creates such upheaval in our lives? First of all, there is a realization whether conscious or unconscious, that we have lived roughly half our life. But regardless of the intensity, inner psychological forces are pressing us to grow and change toward wholeness, not perfection—who we were meant to be.

“The symptoms of midlife are a wake-up call. If they were not so disruptive, we could easily dismiss them and continue on unconsciously through the rest of our lives. The deepest, most authentic part of the soul is crying to be heard and so symptoms of anxiety, depression, relationship problems, dissatisfaction with career or work, or feelings of emptiness collide into our daily lives.

“It is the journey that is the destination. This concept, that the process itself is the important thing, is an alien idea in our outcome-oriented society. And we are being propelled down this path by our own inner strivings to become who we were always supposed to be. And that process leads naturally to an openness of spirit, a deep inner wisdom, and enlightenment. At this place it is possible to love ourselves and other unconditionally.”

“It is this space, between what we have been and what we will become, that is the most terrifying. Deep felt loss, nostalgia, grief, and mourning accompany us through this passage. In addition, we live in a culture that does not honor inner work, and instead, insists on defining goals and moving swiftly toward them.

“That is why so many people in this stage describe it as being in a riptide; where the natural impulse is to swim as hard as you can back toward the shore. Instead, a riptide demands surrender—to go forward not knowing and trusting the integrity of your own inner process, the wisdom of the Self, and your own strength toward a new and previously unknown and meaningful alternative.

“Meaning is not limited only to grand schemes; it is derived by living life in each moment with genuineness an depth. And the journey will be infinitely richer and more authentic if we follow a path with heart.”

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In my book, Awakening from the Midlife Chrysalis, I affirm midlife as a healthy transition, a time of inner questioning that is more about reinventing ourselves than surviving a crisis. This is a time, for either a woman and or a man, to give themselves permission to become her or his truest self and reflect on the questions that will uncover the self that waits to be discovered.

“There comes a time in our lives when we must enter the interior landscape of our heart. The answers from outside of us cease to satisfy our desires for meaning and contribution. As with most earth-linked processes, this interior journey has its own cycle—stages and signposts that let us know where we stand in any particular moment. Each chapter encourages an awakening to where I am and you could be—to face the fears that keep us from moving forward into authentic living for the rest of our days.

“Several years ago, somewhere within the recesses of my being, I heard a compelling call into stillness and reflection, which I steadfastly ignored. ‘Stillness,’ I though. I don’t have time to be Henry David Thoreau.’

“Those of us who wear ourselves out with our busy lives would be envious of Thoreau and the time he took for reflection and thought. Although many assume that he led his simple life in isolation, he often visited the town of Concord, was a regular at the table of Emerson, and invited others to his cabin for discussions.

“Unremarkable to historians, his mother Cynthia, an sisters Helen and Sophia, cleaned, washed, and mended his clothes and brought meals in during the two years he spent at Waldon Pond.

“I expected life to transition through college, marriage, children, and career to the empty next and into some sort of contribution later in life. I did not anticipate or chart the interior changes, the refiner’s fire experiences, or the smoldering, underground forces that shaped my life as well. Loss, disappointment, and trauma were not the experiences I plotted onto my life’s goal sheet.

“I stand at the threshold, aware of a process that has been awaiting my attention for some time. It surfaces again and again—this urge to stop everything I feel essential and desirable. The image of a chrysalis continuously comes to mind. Just as a caterpillar undergoes transformation, the initial structures of my life struggle to be broken down so that new ones can form. I hear only a small echo drumming its consistent beat: “You must grow again in a distinctly different way, apart from all you know.”

“I choose to step into this unknown, uneasy searching of the depths of my heart, thoughts, and feelings alternatively satisfied and frustrated that my specific molting process will not be generated from the advice and experiences of others. It will be developed within the cauldron of impressions I receive from my inner guide.

“I search for a handhold in a boat tossed about on the waves and into the entrance of a new uncertain and undefined turning point. My best clue that I’m seeking the quick fix without the required threshing work comes when I realize I’m mooching someone else’s idea about what worked for them. When I imagine what my life would be like according to what they offer, it’s as if I’m fitting myself into an over-sized or too—tight sweater. Either I can’t breathe or I trip over the hem.

“Yes, I need some time out. Not the kind of time out that has become a too-common parenting technique. Most of us don’t think to use it ourselves when we become crusty, like a boat that needs to be raised up so the barnacles can be scraped away.”

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Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place. Time at midlife offers you a journey to the heart center where you can be still, shed the old from the first half of life, and discover your future purpose and passion. What will transform for you?

4 replies on “How Will You Transition at Midlife?”

I know that harboring Ill feelings and or resentment will only harm ourselves. Those who offend us may or may not know that we harbor resentment and hurt. The sooner these feelings are confronted or wrong deeds repented of or offenses forgiven the quicker that buden will be lifted off us and the feeling of peace and contentment restored and freedom But it takes courage

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