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?