There are numerous times throughout our lives where thoughts of ageing, sickness and death may surface to our conscious minds. This typically happens in mid-life but can also happen at almost any age. When we are younger, 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, sickness and death can be very pressing. The first sign of a 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. Some realise their feeling of not belonging in the world has been with them since childhood and have thus far managed to keep it hidden.
We are all aware of the many ways those in mid-life crises 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 awaiting to be discovered. Our questions about the how and the why of the human condition express a search for meaning.
Mid life crises is an opportunity to uncover an underlying call from our deeper and most authentic humanity or spirit. It is a call to stop, look and listen to the heart’s values; to no longer merely survive life by trying to present a self that is fine and not falling apart. It is a call to Know and Be oneself.
The sense of falling apart, therefore, may be a necessary part of the process of a deeper self discovery; initiating an intuitive path 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, i.e. sickness. suffering and death. Maybe yes, maybe no, as we allow ourselves to enter the struggle to settle into the deeper breathing space the unknown provides if we are not caught in reaction to it. I believe 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, which once served us but now bind us; or guilt for not having lived the life we have aspired to; and shame, either from our past or simply because of our sense of futility concerning the human condition.
However these feelings appear, it is in our felt ‘lived experience,’ that we are most alive. In my view, our capacity to feel runs much deeper than any of us truly realise. Or perhaps many do, but not so many speak about it?
If we can nurture an inner stability to help us stay grounded as we explore our capacity to feel and not blindly act out on our feelings, we may discover an unfathomable capacity for love, wisdom and compassion that helps us say ‘no’ to what we know is not right, and ‘yes’ to what we know is right.
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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