When you read articles about the mid-life crisis, how to overcome it, it all seems like a fairly simple task: find new job, hobbies, set yourself new goals, etc. In fact, when you are already over 40, all of these things often do not work, and your psycho-emotional state is so depleted that your brain simply falls into apathy.
I am 38 years old. And today I will tell you my story about how I faced this crisis and how I managed to overcome it.
How did I fall into the abyss?
I was happily married for many years. But every year everything became gray and ordinary, the family and children were no longer fun, and at the age of 38 I left home to my parents. I left my two children with my husband. I was lost and demoralized, unable to cope with my unbearable feelings and self-effacing as the most dangerous and unpredictable element.
I had absolutely no contact with my son. It was discouraging to the point that I lost the ability to move through life. I was doing everything right, just like my mother. I fed him, fed him, clothed him, took care of him. And he didn’t see me, didn’t hear me, didn’t eat my beautiful meats. He would not wear the clothes I had washed and ironed; he walked around all dirty and wrinkled, shaming me. He wouldn’t let me touch him or even talk to me.
His room was littered with things that were covered with dust, and he walked all over them. It seemed to me that this chaos was created on purpose so that I couldn’t even step over his threshold.
So he denied me. I was nothing to him. Even worse. I was a model for him of what he wouldn’t want to be for anything in the world. He called me bad words-robot, money-obsessed, even corpse-eater (because I ate meat).
Everything that I was proud of, that I considered my achievements – my university education, four languages, a managerial position and a high salary – he wiped it all into the dust with his condemnation and denial.
I was lost and demoralized. I had no leverage or control. I could not cope with my unbearable feelings and self-destructed as the most dangerous and unpredictable (besides, nobody wanted) element of the system – I ran away to my father.
A complete fiasco in life.
I described my situation as an example of how a mid-life crisis usually begins:
- You are faced with an important task that cannot be solved in any way you know how. Without solving it, you cannot move on. Habitual way of life at first becomes uncomfortable, requires more and more investment of energy, and then it starts to be impossible altogether. Your old skills stop working, and there are no new ones.
- An event occurs in your life that causes severe emotional shock: a great loss (of property or loved ones), a serious illness, an incredible force majeure that destroys your well-constructed plans.
- Your immediate environment changes dramatically: some of the people who are very important to you leave, others come.
I lived at my parents’ house for four long days. I thought a lot and realized that my son was right. I really wasn’t worth anything.
Who was I at my thirty-eight years of age who had made a dizzying career? Have I created some kind of masterpiece? Am I happy as a woman in a family and a relationship? Am I even just enjoying life?
When I was young, I gave up my dream of becoming an artist. My mother frightened me: all the artists are paupers and drunks. I, in her opinion, I needed a monetary profession.
I went to a prestigious university and became an international economist. By the time I ran away from my family, I had been working in auditing for fourteen years. At first, in a big international firm. Working there was hard. Irregular working hours. Deadlines were deadly for me, a chaotic and irrational person. And the most unbearable thing was the corporate culture, in which individuality was erased.
The individual was judged here only by economic output.
“Couldn’t make it.” After working for six years, I went free-wheeling – through “I can’t” and “I don’t want to”.
I started out as an individual auditor, then set up my own small company with a staff of five people. It became easier – my own boss, more freedom. Although there were already signs of an impending economic crisis. A year later my company went bankrupt.
At the age of thirty-eight, I had my life balance down. My whole life I had been plowing like father Karlo, and I had earned nothing. No big apartment, no summer house, not even a car.
I am like Cinderella, the last person in the family. I am not loved or respected, nobody needs me.
I suddenly realized for myself: there are a lot of talents, but they are all buried in the ground. Not a single dream has been realized. Assets tend to zero. Let’s look at the liabilities: fatigue, depression, aches and pains, debts. The balance comes out negative. There is much to despair over.
Why midlife crisis is dangerous?
It is unlikely that your emotional and physical condition has ever been or will ever be worse than it was at the beginning of your mid-life crisis:
- You are deathly tired, you have little energy;
- You have deep realizations about your life, mostly very sad ones. You are frustrated. You consider yourself a failure;
- You have a strange new condition, bodily sensations, thoughts. Suddenly, old dreams that were left unrealized come back. Something that has not yet taken shape is settled in your soul, stirring and begging to come out, and you do not understand what form it is to materialize;
- You want to abandon all the old and start something new. But you cannot dare to do neither;
- You are confused and do not know where to go next. You are in a disturbing, unstable, as if suspended. You feel like a toy of fate.
Fate plays the man, and the man plays the trumpet
In a way, the world is really playing with you. Have you seen the Dogma movie? You’ve been out of sync with your deepest values for a long time, and you haven’t implemented your own life plan.
At such a moment, the world, tired of sending you subtle signs and signals, gives you a magic kick that is impossible not to notice. Notwithstanding even your success, fulfillment and wealth (from society’s point of view).
The world has you up against a wall, forcing you to face the truth of life. It pulls you into its transformational meat grinder, and now it is up to you to choose whether to live in your new true identity or die completely in the old one.
I was also tormented by dreams. I dreamt that I was a hunchbacked dwarf who ironed business suits for a living for rich businessmen. One day the dwarf killed her most important client…
Researchers have noticed that most downshifters chose this lifestyle precisely because of the mid-life crisis that occurred.
A person is disappointed in social and material values, gives up a good job, sometimes family. He goes to live in the countryside, to the warm sea, to the forest, to a cave, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Numerous stories of radical career changes also refer to this period. And, characteristically, the old profession, as a rule, is money-making and related to business, and the new profession is related to creativity and often not profitable at all.
By the age of 40, a person usually has a reassessment of life values, or rather, a change of priorities. As a rule, ego satisfaction and the desire for wealth are replaced by deeper values and the desire for self-realization.
Why does a person suddenly become uninterested in career and money? This is because under the influence of fatigue and mental exhaustion, and sometimes severe emotional turmoil, ego control breaks down or weakens.
Signals from the unconscious begin to emerge that you could not hear before because you were preoccupied with your social development.
Self brings your deepest values to the surface of awareness. Once you are aware of them, you cannot dismiss them. You have to begin to realize them.
Be prepared to discover the “new you”
Becoming the “new you” is not easy. Our brain and body can adapt to anything. However, the comfort zone has not been cancelled. When you begin to change your habits and desires, you consciously step out of that zone and your brain and body begin to resist. All this leads to a lot of stress and, as a result, to disagreements in the family.
Not long before that my son went to a psychoanalyst, I forced him to. He figured it out pretty well, because one day he told me that he wasn’t going to go to psychoanalysis anymore: “I don’t have any problems with myself. It’s you who has a problem with me. So you go to psychoanalysis.”
After four days of isolation and reflection, I realized that I had reached a dead end. I could not get out of it by myself, I needed help. And I remembered that I had asked my son’s analyst “just in case” to recommend me a specialist for myself.
I found a piece of paper with a phone number and dialed. I think this decision was dictated by an inner voice, because with this began my salvation.
This flame, since my young days, has lurked in my breast
If you’ve been solving your social problems and living for others all along, the midlife crisis gives you a chance to start a new life – your own, based on your deepest needs of your true self. But how do you hear these needs?
1. Be present in here and now
This means not draining energy into worrying about the past and worrying about the future, but doing what you can to make yourself feel good in here and now.
The past cannot be changed, but future happiness can be shaped by the right actions, here and now. This means that you have to be attentive, observant, sensitive and open to the experience of the present moment.
Suddenly I realized that, for all my external well-being, my job was not easy for me. And to be honest, I hated it.
I love and know how to create new things, but the need to maintain the old kills me. Strict deadlines are unbearable for me. More than once on the last day, an hour before closing time, I would run to some pension fund with papers, floppy disks and with tears in my eyes, whispering: “I hate it, I hate it”…
It was just as hard for me to control people, so I was an ineffective manager.
All day long I sat in a job that I did not like, and at night I was obsessively drawing and writing stories. On the desk. I realized how devoid of value and meaning my job was. So I started looking for an activity that made a lot of sense to me.
2. You should be with emptiness and silence inside
There are times when a crisis first brings you down to ground zero. Everything old is shattered, and there is emptiness and silence inside.
You don’t have to be afraid of them. Accept them and stay with them for as long as you need to.
Be conscious, try not to go back to the way of life you’ve already given up. Meditation and sleep can help.
Over time, the impulse to move towards something new will emerge in the silence and emptiness.
In 2009, during the recession, my accounting company went bankrupt. I had to lay off all my employees and quit my job myself. Against the backdrop of very intense stress, I had a dream:
They’re evicting us from the office to the building next door. There’s some kind of art house there. I’m laying out all the papers on the balcony on the table. I have a lot of stuff, I don’t know what to grab onto, my head is in turmoil. The first large drops of rain fall. I start frantically picking up the papers so they don’t get wet.
A salesman comes up and lays books on the table in front of me-a stack of three white and blue volumes. He offers me something, but I don’t understand him, my head is full of problems, and I mumble vaguely:
-“I don’t want anything.”.
-“You don’t want anything?” – The salesman walks away frustrated.
I open the door to the hallway. There’s a children’s party, noisy, kids in costumes, their mentors. They’re singing and playing something. It makes me feel good that there are such simple joys in life – children’s parties.
Creativity, children, books – these are the cues of self-consciousness that begin to surface from the depths of my unconscious when ego control is broken.
3. Gather your resources
I remember my first client. At 43, her life suddenly fell apart: her husband left her for another woman and took her ten-year-old son with him. She lost her job, began having problems with alcohol and insomnia.
She told me about her sorrows, and I watched her situation as if from above, and, you know, envied her. Her ex-husband paid her maintenance, rent, and gave her some money for entertainment. She was alone in a large two-bedroom apartment – no husband, no kids. Lots of freedom and space for creativity.
I understood that this situation had been created for her, so that she, who had spent half her life serving her family and had no interests of her own, would turn to face herself and begin to live her own life.
She had plenty of resources: territory, time, energy, and no need to think about her daily bread. You can do what you want.
And what resources did I have? Mostly my abilities and talents.
I am a quick learner, I easily grasp everything new and implement it in my experience. I have a rich imagination and developed artistic imagination. I am good at drawing, writing, making something with my hands, sewing and knitting.
At the same time, I have well-developed logic and analytical skills. That is, I am equally good at using both abstract-logical and non-linear, figurative thinking.
My most important resource was probably the INTENT to change my life for the better. I had no way back.
After two or three years of psychoanalysis, I had new resources: an understanding of who I am and inner resilience. Since then I believe in myself and do only what I want and love, no matter what cataclysms rage around me.
Crisis always takes something away, but gives something new in return.
Look around you. What resources do you have at your disposal? Free room in the apartment, time, health, passive income, new acquaintances, free opportunities, funny sayings of your children, nature, weather.
In fact, everything can be a resource. Even your wish is a resource. Even your dream. There are resources inside you, around you and under your feet. All you have to do is see them.
4. Catch the subtle signals of the unconscious
Pay attention to every little thing: what is it that clings to you, makes you happy or sad, that you want to change, that worries you? Notice the flirtations of reality and try to unfold the messages they contain.
Write down your dreams and appropriate the energy from their appealing images.
If my clients dream something inspiring, I help them unfold that dream in reality, to embody the dreamed image. I know many people who have found themselves using dream cues. They write poetry and prose, sing on stage, paint pictures, read Tarot cards, compose music because they saw it in a dream.
The perceptual channel clearing exercises and the observation and dream diary will help you.
5. Do what you like to do
Try to do only what you do with at least acceptance. Better yet, with love. It’s quite wonderful if it’s with enthusiasm.
Don’t do what your soul resists.
A friend of mine, a single mother, worked very hard and hard as a tax examiner for a large retail holding company. Six months ago she found out she had cancer. It was as if she woke up from a lethargic sleep, suddenly felt that she hated her job, wanted to be creative and find a life partner. Now she is passionate about painting and taking classes on male-female relationships.
When you do something with love and enthusiasm, you attract people, you infect them with your ideas. Personally, if I start to implement something together with someone, I notice that all the energy we put into the common cause is multiplied. It is synergy.
The most revealing for me in this regard was the film therapy project “Procedural Cinema”. Three years ago I had the idea of making a conceptual film, a comedy in which the story would be based on the principles of the procedural worldview. I was so enthusiastic that in two or three days I got about a hundred people involved in the project. In a month we wrote the script, in a year we filmed more than half of the material.
By the example of this project, I realized how many creative and talented people we have who are just waiting for permission to create. Even though we didn’t bring the project to its final result, everyone got their own personal result. Many participants of our project mastered new professions – screenwriter, operator, actor. Someone started writing poetry and music, someone sings on stage.
6. You must obey the impulses of the body
Usually ego signals are thoughts that arise in the mind. The self, on the other hand, signals through the body, from deep within, from the belly.
I often ask my clients and acquaintances what feelings they perceive as cues from the true self that point them in the right direction. I’ve been told of a trembling sensation, an excitement that feels like a jerk, a shudder, a slight vibration, or a strong shiver in the chest, the abdomen, or the whole body. Or in my chest as if a herd of horses were galloping, as if a small furry animal were stirring.
Some of my clients tell me that they are being “pummeled,” pressed from the inside, and it’s impossible not to let it out, it will tear. Find your bodily signal: “I have to go there. I can’t not do it,” and follow it. The mind can deceive, the body never does”. If you feel the “earth tremor,” know that it is a symbol of your creative power. I always follow this shiver, and my life unfolds into grand projects in the most magical way.
7. Trust Yourself
Don’t be afraid to try new things if you feel an underlying impulse.
A friend of mine had never painted before, when suddenly she had a burning desire to participate in a themed art contest. She drew the first painting of her life, won second place with it and won a free course in existential psychology.
There’s no telling how much further this momentum will unfold. Perhaps she will find her purpose in existential psychology. Trust your inspiration and follow your intention.
8. Make your dreams come true
As children, we are dependent on our parents. They might not buy a dog (he’ll rip off the wallpaper) or refuse to pay for music lessons (you can’t play, you’re not handy).
The advantage of adulthood is that you can pursue your dreams without asking anyone’s permission. Start simple.
If you want to draw, enroll in art school. If you want to write, take part in a writing marathon, like I am doing right now. Try it and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You already know how yours feels, the real you, it won’t pass you by.
I started pursuing my dreams at the age of thirty-eight. Since then I have received three diplomas: psychologist, artist and costume designer. I mastered several additional specialties and directions in psychology.
I tried my hand at several creative professions – director, scriptwriter, journalist, writer and puppeteer. I participate in exhibitions, get published, make movies, lead therapeutic groups, consult and interpret dreams.
It’s pure happiness to do what you love, especially if it works. Especially when it is in demand and generates income.
Through thorns to the stars
There are many external and internal obstacles for a person who makes a dramatic change in his life.
The world will test you to strengthen your intention if it is true, or to destroy it if it is false.
Your environment will resist your changes. It can be especially painful and hurtful when those closest to you, family members, don’t understand and judge you. Of course, everyone resents you. After all, they, too, will have to change.
Stand your ground. The family system will have to rearrange itself, and there will now be more space for your deepest needs and interests.
At the age of forty I decided to change my profession. I quit auditing and became a psychologist. My decision caused a wave of indignation in my family. Both my husband and children were against it. Judged, criticized, even ridiculed me. Of course, because I left the profession, where I had reached a high professional level and status. Gave up good earnings and went nowhere, where it made a lot of sense to me, but at that time there was not a single client.
My husband is used to me being the main earner and providing for the family financially. That is, he can take it easy. The kids are used to not being denied anything. And then all of a sudden mom went crazy and left everything.
Everyone got scared and tried to take it all back. With my decision, I completely shook up the family system and I am very happy. Now I am not a slave to my family, but a happy person. Some of your old and good friends will stop understanding you, you may lose them. But other people will come, new ones, like-minded people who will support you and help you.
You may face the judgment of society. The main thing for you should not be the opinion of others, but your own. If you’re sure you’re going in the right direction, don’t turn away.
That new environment, the one you just want to enter to take your rightful place there, may also resist. There are already their own leaders there, who do not want strong competitors. But you are an intelligent and creative person who knows what he wants. In time, you will find a solution to how to position yourself in the new environment.
If your purpose is really to be there, you will find a niche, create an original author’s product, and the world will appreciate it.
My first individual niche was dream work.
When I went to psychoanalysis, I was surprised to find out that I had been interested in dreams since childhood. I even already had my own concept of their interpretation. Over the past nine years I have studied and tried out many different ways of working with dreams, from analysis to work with the body, leading thematic groups and workshops.
If you have no sources of passive income by mid-life, a crisis can create a financial deficit. You will have to tighten your belt and survive the hard times.
Amazing discoveries are made during this period. It turns out that there are many cheap or free opportunities to get goods and services. There are discounts, rebates, subsidies, social cards, suspended coffee, free lunches and special grocery shelves, second hand stores, clothing and necessities distribution points.
The crisis teaches us how to manage money properly, It turns out we don’t need that much of it. And we certainly don’t need that many things.
The money shortage made me reconsider my money habits, give up everything unnecessary, stop splurging, give a second life to things, do a lot with my own hands, reeducate my children, and much more.
In the most critical situations my old professional skills saved me – I took an audit or a part-time accounting job.
My lifestyle has not changed: I eat well, dress fashionably, travel a lot, provide for my children. But all this costs me much less now. The only item of expenditure that has increased greatly is education and development. I am always willing to spend money on that.
When you have found your new self, start thinking about money. About how you can reintegrate yourself into society in your new identity and get a decent pay for your own product. Because being yourself at someone else’s expense is immature and infantile. A creative person can be just as creative when it comes to his or her own material security.
Fears and inner critics
These obstacles only seem harmless. In fact, fears and criticisms are the main obstacles to beginning to live a new, conscious life.
Fears and criticisms are different for everyone, so I will not deal with them in detail here. You may have to enlist the help of a psychologist or psychotherapist to deal with them.
I love you, life!
A crisis can last from a few months to a few years. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone, only to yourself in the past. One day you will look back and realize how much you have changed. How qualitatively different your life is now.
You do what you love, you enjoy it, and you get money from it. Your lifestyle and surroundings suit you completely. You live an interesting life, full of events. You are healthy and look beautiful and young. You are happy and in constant motion.
Like a bad dream you remember your former tired and burned out self, working in an office for someone else, from call to call, without days off or vacations. At least, that’s what happened to me.
Ah, yes. You probably want to ask about my son. What’s our relationship with him now? He’s grown up and is studying physics at a prestigious university. He’s very smart, he got a hundred marks on his entrance exam in physics! He and I are friends now. I like to talk to him and even ask him for advice, I’m very proud of him. Despite the fact that he is still not distinguished by neatness, and in his room is universal chaos.
And all because I have learned to look into the essence of things and into the essence of the person. A lot of it is thanks to him.