Myth or reality: the midlife crisis in men? Ever since Daniel Levinson in 1978 published his book The Seasons of a Man’s Life many see the midlife crisis in men as a fact of life. They believe that men, once they hit their mid-forties, are at risk of developing this desire to remain forever young. Men might buy a motor bike or sports car, go on adventurous journeys, or find themselves a young(er) lover.
Levinson based his findings on numerous interviews with men, as an extension of the widely embraced stages of development during the lifecycle. However, subsequent research by countless others have not found a statistical basis for the existence of such a midlife crisis.
Psychologists do generally believe that it is helpful to distinguish between different stages of development: from early childhood all the way to old age. These stages are separated through very blurry boundaries, but they do help in better understanding the challenges and opportunities of each stage. For example, people in their twenties and thirties are (generally speaking and dependent on cultural settings) mostly in the process of setting up their individual lives, their careers, their families.
There is quite a lot of scientific material available that supports this thinking among psychologists of life progressing through stages. Yet, the midlife crisis in men has, so far, been elusive to prove. This difficulty could mean a few things. Either midlife crisis does not exist. Or – if it exists – shows itself in so many different ways and/or at so many different ages that it is impossible to draw scientifically valid conclusions.
However, the fact that science has not proven the existence of midlife crisis among all men, does not mean that you or a loved one isn’t struggling with some deep issues of identity, dreams and disappointments or a desire to make drastic changes in your (or, if you’re reading this to better understand your partner: his) life.
Midlife Crisis and the Second Phase
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung has written extensively about the “second phase of life”: the phase in which the basic essentials of life have been covered, and one’s desires move towards finding deeper fulfillment and gratification in life.
Robert L. Johnson wrote beautifully about this phase:
Regardless how you have come to this point, somewhere between 35 and 50 a window of opportunity opens. The children have been raised or opportunities for them have passed. Your ability to manage and survive in society have been established if by nothing else by the fact that you are still here and have some ability, even if it is very small, to self reflect. You have a vast array of experiences from which to draw. These include successes, failures, close calls, peak experiences, black holes, new romances, lost loves, etc. From these experiences it becomes your task to sort through the material to see the patterns so that you may now consciously choose how you wish to proceed from here.
Beyond the sports car, the young lover or the adventurous climb up Mount Everest lies a desire to make an impact. A desire not to live only for the family, or the career. A desire to leave a mark. Depending on how one gives expression to the restlessness that seems to bubble up from deep within, this progression into the second phase of life could be deeply rewarding.
But to be able to do that, it is important to ask the right questions:
- What do I feel is missing in my current life?
- What is it my soul needs me to do to fill that void?
- Will my purchase of that sports car or pursuing this affair fill that void?
- If I look back in twenty years, are the decisions I am about to make now fill me with pride or shame, pain or contentment?
These are questions only you can answer. With the help of friends, relatives and loved ones.
And sometimes a counsellor can be of assistance, too…
On another page I wrote about individual counselling. Elsewhere I wrote about various sources of inspiration for my work as a psychologist. And finally, if you feel that counselling for men is something you might benefit from, than I could be of service to you.
**Update – Science has proven: Midlife Crisis is a Myth**