Today in the Huffington Post I read an article Surviving Midlife Without a Crisis: Step One  by Vivian Diller and felt it needed a response. I posted a brief response in the comments section, but have written more and thought it might be a good topic for discussion. The article had a preceding article which I did not read until today, Midlife Crisis: A Misleading Myth or a Reality in Search of a New Name?
Today’s article continued the original idea of renaming midlife crisis and then expanded it to envision redefining what we see as midlife crisis for the purpose of shifting attitudes. Though I felt the article was well-intentioned, it still leaves a gap for denying the traumatic journey we presently refer to as a midlife crisis.

…Originally coined in the mid 1900s, the midlife crisis has become associated with the derogatory image of the 40-year-old guy behaving badly (think Owen Wilson movies) as he yearns to return to his youth — a hackneyed cliché rendering the term relatively useless.
Emerging Maturity, on the other hand, is customized to fit today’s cultural landscape — neither something that occurs at midlife, nor necessarily a crisis. Experienced by both men and women, it starts most often as signs of aging emerge but can occur at any point when questions about mortality arise. It reflects the fact that we are the first generation living well into our 80s and 90s, facing new challenges and opportunities as a result. While our midpoint once led to feelings of panic and urgency — and therefore a desire to fulfill unmet goals before time ran out — it now more often leads to a heightened awareness of the many years that lie ahead, and a wish to bring fulfillment to the rest of the journey.
-Vivian Diller, Surviving Midlife Without a Crisis: Step One

The original article suggested the term Emerging Maturity Crisis because, “while the word crisis may sound overly dramatic, those who experience it continue to say it is exactly that — a crisis.” But the recent article omits the term crisis, why is that?
I think some excellent points are made for the renaming, but what of those transitions that are crisis level? The renaming leaves out a group that rises to such a severity of dysfunction and destruction as to need attention. The new term dismisses the families that are left behind and destroyed during what is referred to as a midlife crisis, because as you said, those who experience it say it is a crisis. Often those who experienced it are the familial caregivers and responders who experienced it through observation rather than as a part of their own midlife crisis.

Is it two separate things? Or is it a single type of transition with a variety of levels?
I think it is the latter. All adults went through the transitional teenage years, some of them felt those years were a crisis due to the level of turmoil they felt. But not everyone felt their teen years were angst-ridden. The same is true of midlife—or whatever new label becomes coined. Life is always about emerging maturity; though not everyone is doing it. Life transitions are inevitable and perhaps they are constant; we are always changing whether we are progressing or regressing. Even when we seem stagnant we are changing because time refuses stillness.
I like the reference to maturity in the label. But what of those who are going through a regressive stage? I do think that is the manner of emergence for some, but it is a different manner and needs a different understanding. The emerging maturity in a midlife crisis begins as a regression before it can become progressive. Perhaps one may then assume that once the journey becomes progressive it then picks up with the others in their Emerging Maturity journey. No, the regressive phase is destructive and the subsequent progressive phase then must face the recent destruction and its guilt and shame along with whatever would have been faced without regression.
What’s wrong with the term Life Transition? This covers teen angst, quarter life, midlife, late life… An age or life stage can then be added to specific transitions. Those at crisis levels can have the word crisis added. Or Regressive Maturity Journey versus Progressive Maturity Journey where regressive is a crisis. I don’t know if those are fitting for the teenage years though. Midlife Crisis, like the transition of the teen years, is an identity transition and thus when it is at crisis levels it is a crisis of identity. I think identity is an important aspect of transitioning. A person may not feel a transition is about who they are, but whether we recognize it or not we change.

    What are some other possible phrases?

  • Identity Crisis
  • Identity Transition
  • Identity Assessment/Reassessment
  • Identity Review
  • Identity Emergence

Age Ranges versus Stages
Do the transitions and possible crises have age or life-stage related attributes? Jung’s age range for midlife was 35-50. With increasing life expectancy, many consider that age range is now 40-60 or even 45-65. But that is quite a large age range. For those in crisis are the differences within that range related to age or external life-phases? Is a 44 year-old male going through more similarities as a 57 year-old male if both have a recent empty nest–kids in their 20s? Or is that 44 year-old more similar to another 44 year-old male whose children are 5 and 7? Or is there a mixture?
I think if a midlife crisis as a midlife transition at a crisis level. I think if a midlife transition as a specific type of life transition. Is renaming even necessary? If it is, what ideas should be incorporated into the new phrase and how will the wings/subsets—crisis, non-crisis, various ages, various life stages, various traumas…be included with their own unique specificities?

The articles says that the first step is Acknowledgment of Uh-Oh Moment
That initial step already set up a difference between transitions of crisis versus non-crisis. MLCers deny rather than acknowledge or accept. Denial of the uh oh sets off the crisis. Is the idea that we will experience a midlife crisis ingrained in us and thus is it more likely to become a reality because we manifest an expectation? For some that may be an issue and changing our perspective and removing expectations has benefits. Renaming can do this, but we must also consider what will be lost and how to be inclusive to avoid losing what is relevant to many. How do we include those who deny rather than acknowledge in the phrasing?

I think that often it is a disagreement with terminology that leads people to deny the existence of midlife crisis. I’ve been told that it isn’t valid because there are crises at other times in life that are similar because they are crises of identity or because there are similar associated emotions and behaviors. This is true.
What are your thoughts?
Do various stages or age ranges have differences that need inclusion?
Would it work better to have an umbrella term with the other terms as wings or subsets—Life Transition: midlife transition, midlife crisis, teenage, teenage angst…?
Should the phrase be changed?
Since midlife crisis is already an established phrase, will a change work/ be accepted?
Is this splitting hairs; should we just accept the term midlife crisis even if it is imperfect?


Midlife Crisis: Should it be Renamed?8 Comments

  1. I do think sometimes that the term "midlife crisis", to the general public has become a cliche and even a joke. If a man or woman suddenly becomes involved in changing their body-image, style – buys a convertible, etc. people will say, oh-they are having a mid-life crisis! The lbs & the families are SO aware that this is not the extent of a mid-life crisis! We only wish it was!

    Transition crisis is closer to the gyst of the problem but it isn't specific enough to the events that arise in our situation and midlife transition could be a positive as well as a negative. I think Midlife Transition Crisis sums it up but then there is that "midlife crisis" phrase again. What about something more clinical such as Midlife Transition Trauma or Traumatic Midlife Transition?

  2. "I think that often it is a disagreement with terminology that leads people to deny the existence of midlife crisis."
    I totally agree with this statement. It is a joke, kinda like referring to a moody person as bipolar (another term quickly becoming cliche) Since there are many transitions that must be traversed in life, leaving "midlife" out makes sense to me. As an Lbs, I believe MLC should be given a strong diagnosis type name, that can describe the loss of ability to function in most areas of life. How about dysfunctional transition disorder? I also like transitional depressive disorder.

  3. I think Midlife Crisis is fine, however I don't think all Midlife transition is actually a crisis. For instance I (wife) distinctly remember in my thirties going through a midlife transistion. I evaluated my life, decided I liked myself, experimented with some harmless flirtations and knew that I was happy at home, etc. My husband on the other hand had a midlife crisis about 1½ ago, complete with crazed behavior, threats to leave the marriage, a short fling with a friends wife, etc. My point is if "Midlife Crisis" is only used to describe true crisis episodes then why change the name? Certainly if we're talking about a 22 year old guy who can't handle a new baby in the house, teenage crisis's or a 70 year old who still combs over then… that's not midlife and they deserve a label of their own!

    • MLC is a Midlife Transition, not the other way around. All MLCs are MLTs just as all squares are rectangles. In 'Seasons of a Man's Life,' Daniel Levinson said Life Transitions occur every 7-10 years on average.
      I don't want it changed, but many people will not accept the term, but it's already established, so I don't think it matters whether some people don't like it.
      What if my web address were and every instance of the word midlife crisis/MLC were Transitional Depressive Disorder/TDD. People keyword search midlife crisis and a change might take years to become ingrained in the fabric of society.
      People think many MLC behaviors describe true crisis episodes of people who are not in midlife, so they feel it should not have an age-related term in the name. For me the umbrella term is Life Transition and Midlife Transition specifies an age group that may have specific behaviors or motivations; adding the word crisis indicates a level of severity.

      My recent post Midlife Crisis- Should it be Renamed

  4. Pingback: Midlife Crisis, What Are The Odds? | Love AnyWay

  5. My H is having his mid-life moment in another country, where it is referred to simply as quareton, which translates to being in your 40's. I personally think that when you label it a crisis, you are giving them liberty to do as they please, since then they have the advantage of that label to justify their actions.

  6. i believe that every human being who is past the age of 18 or 21 is responsible for their actions. The law does not condone certain behaviors because we give them a name. Our spouses want to make up for lost time and feel entitled to lash out in irresponsible ways towards their family but they are selective in their lashing out. They r careful not to act in ways that will jeopardize they personally. They plan with anger and purposely hurt the ones that love them. Teenagers are reckless but theso called MLcer plots to secure their new found freedom/fun. I believe it boils down to character….how much fear it’s involved. We tend to excuse these men and women’s behavior under the pm tells of midlife crisis. Would we do the same if these individuals were not our spouses? They destroy lives and murder the soul. There is no excuse for that. NONE

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