I experienced a divorce at age 46 and job/career loss a few years later. Up until that time, I had no idea how common and normal these types of changes are in midlife. Then, as I read more about it, I realized it wasn't just me who did not recognize how predictable midlife change was. In fact, I learned that there are life-long benefits for those who grasp the importance of this natural new rite of passage.
It was only after I began experiencing the eye-opening emotional awakening called "midlife," that I decided to research the history and meaning behind my own changes. One psychology text that offered me much personal validation was The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife by Dr. James Hollis.
Come to find out, many of our top psychologists experienced midlife much like I did. People like Carl Jung and Erik Erikson also missed out on the significance of this emotionally volatile life stage, until their own lives changed unexpectedly in midlife.
According to Dr. Hollis and various psychologists before him, if we live long enough and with enough personal awareness, midlife may offer us the opportunity to grow beyond the awkward stage of early adulthood. This is our chance to grow beyond culturally specific requirements, gain a new perspective, and transition into full adult emotional development if we choose.
How does this happen? Some are stunned into reluctant consciousness when faced with divorce, job loss, chronic or life-threatening illness, the death of a loved one, or some combination of these. However this change occurs, we may abruptly discover that we no longer have the answers which seemed so obvious before. With a new sense of humility, awareness and courageous, we may find the means to use this knowledge to transition into higher levels of emotional development and consciousness.
This requires the death of our old, self-effacing persona before rebirth can occur. Unfortunately, too many experience these changes in frightening and isolating ways, much like I did, when faced with the stark inadequacies of our early adult sense of self. We may find we can no longer be who others need us to be, but instead must now make the effort to become fully ourselves. At this time our peers are often similarly preoccupied with their own difficulties, and are therefore unavailable to support our changes.
Sadly, I find far too many men and women who are damaged or destroyed while trying to negotiate this sometimes difficult life transition. Too often this time is spent feeling alone, confused, misunderstood, and marginalized, when it should be celebrated as a time to come into your own power, embrace what is unique within you, and begin contributing anew.
Mental health professionals and caring others need to be educated to fully understand and appreciate this important new stage in adult development, so they can offer appropriate and much-needed understanding, support, and encouragement to those approaching midlife.
That is why I felt the need to write my new book, Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife. I wanted to explain the importance of this new emotional rite of passage, clarify what can be expected in midlife, and inspire, validate and encourage those now embarking on their own midlife journey.