Turning A Midlife or Aging Crisis “Symptom” Into Purpose
This three-part article first lists what might be thought of as “symptoms” of a midlife or aging crisis that can be turned into a spiritual awakening and be shown to have great purpose in a person’s life.
The next two parts are an exploration of some of those symptoms and how people were able (through psychotherapy) to turn these highly challenging life situations into triumphs of the human spirit. Using the principles of Transpersonal/Jungian psychology and clinical skills, these people were able to explore trauma and tragedy in such a way that these “symptoms” became doorways to spiritual awakening, no matter how “spiritual” was defined for the individual.
The following notes were taken from the outlines of Ms. Turner’s talks at the International Transpersonal Conference, the Association for Humanistic Psychology Conference and the Association of Transpersonal Psychology Conference. Individuals within this crisis may find reassurance in the outline, as it spells out a pattern that many people are now experiencing, especially those who have involved themselves in some spiritual focus. Future writings will elaborate on these “symptoms.”
The purpose of a midlife or aging crisis that takes the form of a spiritual emergence is to become more conscious. It is a healthy response to a need to balance the psyche. Above all else, a midlife or aging crisis is a confrontation with our humanness, a time to come into directly experienced contact with the Self, the core of being in direct connection with the Godhead, the fountain of life within us, and surrender to its guidance.
Symptoms that can be indicators of a mid-life crisis:
- Tremendous stress in all aspects of the person’s life.
- Loss of meaning. May be brought on by loss of loved ones, divorce, body changes or some other seemingly external event.
- The complaint that “nothing seems to work anymore, the way it did.”
- Old beliefs that formerly provided the basis for life are being questioned. It doesn’t matter if the beliefs were ‘spiritual’ or not.
- Motivations change. What used to motivate (usually ego-gratifying behaviors) no longer does.
- Relationships may be in chaos. Old ways of relating no longer work.
- There is often a feeling of not wanting to do anything, or topics which previously seemed ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ become the current, often obsessive, interest. This frequently causes distress and guilt.
- Guilt may be a strong motivating factor for coming into therapy: “What’s wrong with me? I don’t seem to want to do the things I should do.” Many women come into therapy saying they no longer want to take care of others, that they have been doing it all their lives and no longer have the desire to nurture others in the same ways they have always done. They need something for themselves now.
- There may be disturbing perceptual shifts, such as seeing things that aren’t objectively there but are grasped on an intuitive level. These are not hallucinations. Sometimes Kundalini-type physical phenomena are present.
- Deep depression, despair, sometimes suicidal thoughts, rage or lethargy, all come to the surface.
- There is deep grief, knowing that something is ‘off,’ but not knowing what that ‘something’ is; this often manifests as sorrow and confusion.
- Experiencing feelings ‘like the bottom has dropped out,’ as if there is no longer a foundation upon which to rest.
- Desires for space, solitude, simplicity arise.
- Desire for ‘something else’ out of relationship or out of life, which may not yet be defined.
- Deep longings and yearnings, sometimes specific, sometimes not.
- There may exist an awareness of a spiritual crisis, but sometimes there is no awareness of this and even discomfort at the thought.