Midlife Crisis — Just an Excuse?

Facing your mortality can indeed be a shock, and one which might provoke deeper reflection than “better go out clubbing while I still can”.

“You have to admit that “I’m having a midlife crisis” sounds a lot better than “I’m a narcissistic jerk having a meltdown.” A nice article in the New York Times deals with the midlife crisis as a social strategy allowing people, mostly men, to excuse their extreme reactions to the “ultimate insult” of getting older, which are often at the expense of long suffering partners.

Citing a study in which a small percentage of respondents reported actually having a midlife crisis, with most middle aged people actually reporting higher levels of contentment than younger ones, the writer makes a fairly convincing argument that the midlife crisis as epitomised by the buying of a sports car and the replacement of the wife with a younger model seems to affect men whose narcisstic personalities led them to take limits of any kind or demands on “their” time personally.

It seems to me that every decade brings with it a crisis and with every crisis comes an opportunity. Facing your mortality can indeed be a shock, and one which might provoke deeper reflection than “better go out clubbing while I still can”. In fact while “midlife crisis” is a socially acceptable label to put on this behaviour it has also become a cliché which actually provokes more a pitying kind of amusement than anything else.

We all know that this kind of modern mourning ritual is not adequate to the situation — despite what advertisers may claim, we are not going to stay young forever and then mysteriously drop dead. So maybe this “narcissistic” behaviour is not only not as common as we might think, but also pretty harmless when it does occur.

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Maybe it is also that as the pressures of our eternal youth culture, thriving on stories of constant self-renewal and fulfilment, become more ruthless, our reactions become more spread out, as people in their twenties now mourn their lost youth. Maybe actually hitting the age when we are “next in line” gives us the chance to take what we can from the possibilities medical and cultural changes provide and at the same time focus on doing those things that we cannot do in our youth. Like reflecting on our lives and passing some wisdom on…?

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