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What is the difference between Rebirth and Reintegration?
This question is in reference to the stages of MLC as I have outlined them:

Pre-Midlife: Accommodation

  1. Separation
    1. Rejection & Refusal
    2. Resentment
    3. Escape & Avoid (covert depression)
      High Energy: Replay
      Low-Energy: Wallow

-Limbo: Between Stages-

  1. Liminality (liminal/overt depression)
  2. Rebirth
  3. Reintegration

I base those MLC stages on the stages of Rites of Passage:

  1. Separation
    This could really be called separating, as it is the action of separating from the community.
  2. Liminality
    This is transitional space where the person has finally separated and has not yet returned to the community—the space between.
  3. Reintegration
    The person returns to their community and reintegrates into society.

Think of Rebirth as either being a part of the end of Liminality or just following Liminality. In Chapter 2 of The Hero’s Spouse, I describe Liminality as a breaking down in order to be built anew. Another way of saying that is that Liminality is a metaphorical death. This death then leads to Rebirth. At times I have described Liminality as a means to the reintegration of the shadow. This reintegration that is a part of the Rebirth process is different from the Reintegration that is a stage which refers to what a person goes through when they return to society after having gone through a transitional change—the return after having reintegrated those shadow fragments. Set aside the idea of rites of passage and instead think of some of the different reasons a person might separate, transition and then return; some are common and others are rare and tragic.

  • Leave for college
  • The parent of a murdered child
  • An accident victim
  • A returning soldier
  • Survivor of Natural Disaster
  • Survivor of Terrorist Attack
  • Year/s Studying Abroad
  • Marriage
  • Becoming Parents
  • Divorce

Reintegration is about how your role changes with the new you. How did your or might your role in your family change with parenthood when you go from being a son or daughter to also being a father or mother? What might be the experience of a parent who has isolated themselves following the murder of their child? When they venture out, people may not know what to say to them and so not only do they feel self-conscious, but others may treat them differently, making the process confusing and frightening. Consider the differences between a family that accepts the emergence of adulthood in their family member returning from college and a family who still considers the person a child, how might this affect their reintegration?

Liminal Death, Rebirth and Reintegration for MLCers


Separation of the persona from the ego is the outcome of Separation—the stage is the process of these two parts becoming separate. Once the persona and ego become separate, the midlifer enters Liminality. Once separation has occurred, the work can begin. Liminality is initially about Ego death or disorganization. Rebirth propels the midlifer into the final stage Reintegration, wherein the ego reorganizes.

The midlife journey is a labyrinth. Separation is the anteroom, preparing the midlifer for Liminality. This is a metaphorical shedding of the skin. Once removed, the skin is transported through the labyrinth to the final phase, Reintegration, and the midlifer enters Liminality. The only way to retrieve the skin is to go through the labyrinth of Liminality.

In Liminality the midlifer experiences the death of the Self or ego. For the person in crisis, this is a continuation of the panic which began with avoidance of Separation. Midlifers experience Liminality in a variety of ways. It is a deep well or chasm and the midlifer falls into the depths of the abyss. But it can also be a suspension in mid-air—the gap. A person may experience both at different times. Liminality is a place between—the midlifer has left on their journey, but has not yet arrived at the destination; they are neither here nor there.

The midlifer in crisis clings to the ledge of the chasm to prevent falling. Occasionally they climb out and run back into the anteroom of Separation—but without their skin.

The depths or suspension are a time for self-contemplation and meditation. This phase is the place of inner knowing and intuition—soul development. Depression is not uncommon even for those midlifers not in crisis. In many cases depression is not a state of unhealth, but a natural and necessary phase of inward experience. Consider the experience of losing one’s Self. Rebirth has not yet occurred; thus the person is nothing. Complete emptiness. Fear is natural, and easily leads to panic and depression.

The danger is from those who do not understand and are thus unaccepting of this natural state and seek to fix the problem, through pharmaceuticals or simply denial and unacceptance of observers who yank the midlifer all the way out of the labyrinth. The midlifer thus returns to society with no skin. A vital part of himself remains in the labyrinth and the only way to retrieve it is to enter from the beginning and follow it through to the end.

A person enters Liminality with a body but no skin. At the bottom, they lose their body through a metaphorical dismemberment. This is a common motif seen in myths and fairy tales and a common experience in the process of becoming a shaman. Dismemberment may be felt in dream or waking states and though some recognize the feelings as imaginary, for some there is a physical component—some feel as though they are being physically ripped apart.

humpty_dumptyHumpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.


The persona-mirror has shattered and lies in pieces and they are as an unborn egg. They must now sift through the pieces and acknowledge their existence as a part of their Self. Once acknowledged they can choose to discard or keep the pieces and begin the project of piecing himself back together again—such work is personal and not for the horses or men of kings. This is the process in which a person regains their own sovereignty.

This is the process of creation, preparing for Rebirth. The Shadow and Persona become integrated into a whole and balanced person. This person is creating their new Self from the building blocks of their history and they will thus be both different and the same as they were before. Jim Conway called the phase of Rebirth Withdrawal because the MLCer withdraws back into themself at or near the end of the depressive phase. This withdrawal is due to the newness of Self, they need to come to know this new person in private before introducing who they are becoming to the public. This is a time of testing and rejecting and testing again.

The above section was originally published at the main site as A Midlife Metaphor in Brief. I have removed that article to incorporate it into this article.


I said that the MLCer tests and rejects and tests again. This is part of the process that overlaps with Reintegration, because much of what they must test is who they are in relationship and society and thus the MLCer needs to return to society and begin to reintegrate and determine who they are and what their role will now be or become. We are all works in progress, regularly editing the tablet of our Self as we grow, learn and experience life. For the person reintegrating after a transition, there is a lot more editing still going on and this includes additional changes—deletions, additions… Consider that your MLCer is returning to society after having damaged and often destroyed their previous lives. What will they find? Will anyone from their previous lives be there to accept them—the new person? Will people receive them with compassion and grace or hurt, anger and blame? Consider not only the reception they are receiving, but the reception they may be expecting—because if they expect a negative reception they may approach their reintegration with shame, fear and anger in their hearts and approach their reintegration defensively.

I am not trying to tell you that it is your job to be there as the compassionate friend who greets them on this other side. Some of you have had to cut ties and set strong boundaries for your safety, growth and well-being as well as for theirs. Some of you will be available to greet and guide them and some of you will not; I am merely asking that you consider the other point of view and find some understanding for the situation as well as an acceptance of how things may work psychologically even if it makes little common sense to you.

Reintegration leads into the healing of the relationships that became battered and broken through the midlife crisis, but the greater part of that healing may continue well beyond reintegration once a person has gained a sense of calm and stability within their community and can focus on healing more than just their own Self.



I am excited and nervous. I am getting ready to launch my Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the publication costs to publish The Hero’s Spouse book. The campaign is almost ready to begin–I plan to submit it to Kickstarter for review within the next 24 hours and that should then take up to 3 days. If it is approved the campaign will launch and last for 30 days with a fundraising goal of $20,000. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform and it is all-or-nothing which means if I get nothing if the goal is not reached within the 30 day time period. That means you will be hearing from me a lot more during the campaign. There will be more blog posts and for those of you at the forum, I plan to start a thread about the campaign AND send a global private message when the campaign launches and possibly a few times during the campaign. There will also be announcement headers or banners at the blog and main site where you will be able to link through to the campaign.

If you want to support the campaign, you won’t walk away with nothing. There are several reward tiers for different pledge levels so watch your emails or the blog, forum or main site for more information in the next few days or weeks.


Rebirth and Reintegration3 Comments

  1. I'm sorry but I don't find all of this to be true for most MLCs. I can tell you that the Mlcer/Narcissist has plunged me into my dark night of the soul. The stages you describe here are what I went through word for word and I'm still going through for the most part.
    The discard, the avoidance of responsibility and the monster behavior…the complete disregard of the the left behind spouse is not only indicative of the crisis but of a personality disorder that is now become overt rather than hidden underneath a cloak of niceness kindness and love. The NPD person is no longer getting supply from you and cheats, discards and abandons without any empathy. This is what I have experience throughout this journey. It's been 5 yrs. At first all I did is feel regret and guilt for not being who he wanted and needed. I agonized over the loss and the way I was being treated. So much pain! I would be coming to this forum bruised, broken for support and to understand what had happened to my life to make it explode in the way it did. I found no answers. I think midlife crisis is just another excuse for NPD for most spouses. There are men and women who have genuine MLC but there is a different quality in the way in which they act, especially with the left behind spouse. My take.
    I also think that we have a tendency to label ppl too much and to make excuses for their lack of accountability. I've waisted many years of my life doing just that.

    • It makes sense that these are the stages you went through as they are general to Rites of Passage–I have added the additional specific phases between the three main stages.
      I have often said that a midlife crisis is like temporarily having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There are also those who come to the boards with true NPDers or people with higher than average levels of narcissism rather than MLCers–not uncommon. The key is change–was the person like this at all before or is this a complete personality change?
      As you said there are men an women who have genuine MLC. The challenge is that there is an overdiagnosis. When people arrive at the forum there is already a bias toward the situation as MLC since it is a forum about MLC. it's then difficult to sway others off of MLC for a situation that may be something else–especially when there is overlap or similarities.
      I don't ever want there to be a lack of accountability for an MLCer. But I do get how that is a trap that LBSs fall into. We are so relieved to find a reason for the odd behavior that we excuse it away.

  2. My ex is still with alienator after eight years of fights with her children, her cheating on him he came home twice went back to her. She is currently in another province for more than a month and he is begging her to return. Bottomline it’s still the same roller-coaster for them the only thing that has changed, is that he respects me and does not monster.

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