There are numerous times throughout our lives where thoughts of ageing, sickness and death may surface to our conscious minds and we do not know what to do with them. This typically happens in mid-life but can also happen at almost any age. When we are younger, and providing we have healthy defence mechanisms, we can push these thoughts and feelings back into the unconscious part of our minds so that we can carry on functioning in a healthy way, because at a young age they are simply too overwhelming to look at.
In mid-life thoughts and feelings of pending old age with sickness and death can be very pressing. The sense of crisis might first be felt internally that something is amiss, or it might be triggered by an external circumstance, such as redundancy, relationship breakdown, children leaving home, or ill health, all uncovering the feeling that something is amiss. One might experience an emptiness or lack of meaning. For some, thoughts of suicide or of just not wanting to be in the world are entertained as difficulties with existence come to the surface and need to be expressed. Our energy can become depleted as we may become aware of an inner loneliness and isolation, or desolation.
We are all aware of the many ways those in a mid-life crisis can act out. For example, by excessive numbing out, addictive behaviour, infidelity, grasping for materialistic gain etc; all to keep the underlying issues at bay. Depression can set in as life becomes viewed as meaningless. The “depressive” question ‘what’s the point?’ seems to demand our attention and inhibit our forward movement – the unfolding of deeper meaning. However, it is seldom realised that the question ‘what’s the point?’ is a good question, because there is a point. Our questions about the how and the why of the human condition express a search for meaning.
Mid life crises is an opportunity to discover an underlying call from our deeper and most authentic Self. It is a call to stop, look and listen to the heart’s values and what they are saying; to no longer merely survive life by trying to present a self that is fine and not falling apart – a sometimes necessary part of the process; but to start living in a more meaningful and purposeful way; to be present with life in a way that we have not been before; and to further discover what is most humane in us. For some it is a spiritual quest, to connect with that aspect of our being which fully experiences life – the Soul.
This does not necessarily mean that there will be answers to the frustrating questions we may have about the existential dilemmas of the human condition. Maybe yes, maybe no, as we allow ourselves to struggle with the unknown; but it is necessary to express the questions if we are to realise the vitality that is often hidden beneath them – the energy, motivation and will to experience a greater degree of inner freedom and to live a more connected, authentic and meaningful life. The energy hidden beneath is our inner freedom. It is alive and vital and we have the potential to embody it.
This energy may first appear to us as loss, grief, sadness, anger, or a whole gamut of emotions, even rage. This is because as we heed to the call of our deepest honesty, what is in the way begins to show itself. Unresolved issues from the past begin to surface to our conscious minds; issues from our childhood; the loss of loved ones; feelings that were left unexpressed; feelings of guilt as we try to break free from hindering voices of authority that we have internalised; or guilt for not having lived the life we have aspired to; and shame around our sense of futility.
However they appear, it is in our feelings that we are most alive. The call is to learn to find an inner stability to help ground ourselves so we may feel what we feel without blindly acting out, and discover what lies beneath – the deeper felt sense of being alive and the gratitude that comes with it. Every human being has the capacity for deep love and the will to embody it.
Psychosynthesis counselling and psychotherapy offers a space to explore our mid-life crises and our existential conflicts for the purpose of self-discovery, purpose, meaning, and what we truly value.
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