Male or female most go through the same stages during amidlife crisis. Some will process through these stages smoothly. Some will goback and forth between stages until they work their way through the crisis.Anyone who goes through a midlife crisis is experiencing an internal changethat will have either a positive outcome or negative outcome. Any crisis is anopportunity for growth. If you and your spouse are individuals who are able tolook internally and use the changes in a healthy way you will both profit fromhis/her experience.
In his book Men in Midlife Crisis, Jim Conway appliesElizabeth Kubler-Rosss stages of Grief with adjustments to Midlife Crisis(MLC).
Stages of Grief: by Kubler-Ross
Stages of MLC: by Conway
When it finally hits home, they panic and some consider using plastic surgeryto enhance the illusion-or going on a buying spree for new clothes that don'texactly fit someone their age-and usually end up spending a great deal of moneyon other things. All in an effort to "buy-off" the aging process-itonly leads to the next stage - Anger.
They look at their children, and in their mind's eye, they are STILL small,never mind they are now teen-agers that are on the verge of growing intoadulthood, and so therefore they attempt to treat the young man or young womanas they did when they were three or four years old--only the teen is probablyabout 13-18, and starts to rebel against being treated like a small child,which increases the confusion of the Mid Lifer-they go on to try and make up forlost time, only to find rejection at the hands of their teen-agers, and thoughthey are hurt, they react in the only way they know how - Anger.
Then there's the spouse of the Mid Lifer-he/she doesn't look the same as shedid-as the Mid Lifer ages, so does the spouse, and we cannot help what hereditydoes to our looks; but their spouses are also a REFLECTION of them, how theyhave treated them, what they have given or with-held, and they begin to denywhat they are seeing, thinking if they had it to go all over again they mighthave married someone else and been happier than they are now-never mind it'snot true- and that leads to the next stageAnger.
This stage is mostly quiet storming inside their heads, no one knows what theyare thinking, only that they have become withdrawn somewhat because of theirminds being so active, and they are not talking, so no one has any clue what'shappening until the Anger stage begins. If asked, they will tell you they arefine, and if you listen closely, their answers are a little short-tempered;because they just want to be left alone to think it all out.
It could be as short as a month or as long as six months to play out thisstage.
They begin to think "run-away" thoughts, angry at their perceptionthat they are "stuck" in the same dead-end job, year after year,after year; angry their children have grown up without them, angry theirspouses aren't what they think they ought to be, angry that life has dealt themsuch a cruel blow, angry because they feel "stuck" and"trapped" in the life THEY chose in their youth. Angry because itdawns on them, that they ARE growing older, and there's not stopping the agingprocess.
They begin to think if they could just CHANGE their life, they would be happy,but even the thought of change, makes them angrier. They look for outsidesources to blame for this unhappiness they feel inside, and guess who gets the"brunt" of that anger-their husband/wife-the one who has seen themthrough many things during the marriage.
Their anger takes the form of small criticisms to begin with and gradually getsbigger and bigger, and the fights escalate into possibly throwing thingsagainst the walls, making impossible demands-their spouse begins to walk on"eggshells"--the withdrawal gets worse, they can barely speak to oneanother without a fight breaking out from the "sane" spouse saying ordoing the wrong thing.
So, the next stage - Replay and the Anger Stage OVERLAPS, just as Denial andAnger did - each one has the seeds of the next and the one before.
And all of the angry outbursts gradually set things up for the next stage Replay.
The anger stage can last from 3 to 9 months.
They are still searching for outside sources to blame for their misery, andReplay is a perfect time for a totally stable man to go crazy and start anaffair - although the SEEDS for this affair were probably planted while in theAnger stage. They will still try to reconnect with children, or if they wereclose to their children, distance from them - it is also during this time theybecome the total "opposite" of what they were, before they enteredthe tunnel, back in Denial. They undergo a gradual change in the first twostages, going from what they were to the direct opposite during this time. Theywill do things their husbands/wives never thought they would do.
Besides the affair, they will feel "entitled" to what they take, regardlessof whom they hurt, or how much of a financial bind they put their families in.Their reasoning becomes "Well, I have taken care of people my whole life,now it's time for ME to have fun."
The emotions, during this time, are in play, in a way they never have been, andthey don't understand what's going on, and so they panic and "run";but the running they do will rock the very foundation of a marriage.
They may drink, take drugs, curse God for what He "has done" tothem-have multiple affairs, failing to see what they are doing that's sowrong-still with the attitude of it being "my" time now.
The "bomb" can and will be dropped during this time, shocking thesane spouse who probably has NO idea that anything was wrong, and the problemsbegin to escalate, as "crying and begging" ensues, and the Mid Liferturns away, secure in his "reasoning" for his behavior and /or theaffair/drinking/drugs/money spent.
Their behavior can disrupt the most settled of families, most especially theaffair - the Mid Lifer's reasoning is that he/she thinks they have "missedout" when really, they haven't, and the OW/OM, they can/will get involvedwith will NOT be what they wanted all along, but they won't see that until theyexperience an "awakening" that gives them a direction, and startsthem along the path to facing their issues; opening the door for the stage ofDepression.
As long as the Mid Lifer continues "replay" behaviors they arenowhere near to being ready to start their way out of the tunnel; the"awakening" they have IF they come to it, is a "turningpoint" to beginning their journey out of the tunnel.
When the "awakening" occurs, they begin to suffer the next stage - Depression,and it is a low point of the Mid Lifer's journey.
The Replay stage is the LONGEST of the stages, and can last up to two years oreven longer, depending upon the "replay" behaviors used during thistime.
Nothing has helped the first three stages - everything they have tried has NOTturned to gold, on the contrary everything has turned to stone, for lack of abetter word to describe their running-and now comes the time to begin to facetheir damage, and this is done inside-because that is what Depression is - angerturned inward.
Their hormones are out of whack, due to physical changes, and that makes themfeel worse. Their self-esteem is shot all to pieces, and they feel likefailures. They wonder if they will ever be worth anything to anyone. Some arein so much pain, they commit suicide, some get smart and get anti-depressantsto help them begin to clear their thinking processes, some suffer in silence,thinking nobody understands them or will understand what they are going through- and so it goes on.
They will be on the verge of tears, most of the time, pacing the floor, losingsleep, afraid of the dark-or maybe what's in it; unable to escape negativethoughts, cutting themselves down in word and action. Extreme guilt maycompound this stage, and there is so much pressure, they become forgetful,irritable, want to be left alone, somewhat argumentative, sometimesunresponsive - want to take long drives, sit looking out the window-theirsilences are long and painful, as they don't want to talk about it preferringinstead to think and brood.
You must understand they will come through this or they won't - no one can"make" them come out until they are ready - pestering them only makesthem draw inside further, and they need the space to work within themselves,trying to understand some of what has happened; the parts they can face, anyway,besides resolving issues that are inside them, from childhood and/or otherwise.Understand, also, this journey must continue to made alone, no one can"fix" it or "do it for them."
Pieces of the next stage are contained within, and Withdrawal begins to come tothe fore as each individual issue is faced-it is a gradual slide fromDepression to Withdrawal or both stages can occur together.
The Depression stage can last from around two and a half months to possibly sixmonths, depending upon the severity of the depression they are suffering.
So, for a time, they conclude that life is not worth much, and so they"drop out" of life or WITHDRAW, hence the stage of Withdrawal.
It is also during this time, they will navigate obstacles and questionthemselves, somewhat, working their way toward what is called the "finalfears". Not much is known about what the final fears contain probably,it is beginning to accept the death of everything they have ever known, includingthe death of their "old" lives; AND beginning to accept their ownmortality without being afraid of it. Depression sets them up for this journeyacross an open field toward an archway to face these fears. During this time,they will NOT communicate with ANYONE, not even their spouse, as they are drawnso far within, no one can reach them. They MUST be allowed to continue, with NOinterruptions, just like before - they will NOT come out until they are READYto come out.
Just like in Depression, they want to left alone, still processing their issuesand the damage they have done to their spouse and their lives, and they makeseveral decisions during this time concerning their lives, job, and marriage.But those WON'T be known UNTIL they break Withdrawal and talk to their spousethe first time
They are still secretive, somewhat asserting their privacy, much like ateen-ager, but during this time, they must be gently but firmly led along, andonly when the time is right-a wrong word at the wrong time will cause them to"stick" within the tunnel.
You will see some Depression and Anger within them, they are mostly angry atthemselves, but will take it out on you, and there are times you will have tobe quiet and just leave them alone; letting them work things out, and theyusually will, as the answers, such as they are STILL come from within them, notoutside sources.
As they begin to come forward, they will begin the journey out of thetunnel-entering the first stage of Acceptance.
Withdrawal can last from three months to one year.
Sub-stage ONE involves the disintegration of his/her personality, the"veil" is lifted showing the Mid Lifer EVERYTHING, no holds barred,and he/she realizes for the first time just how much damage has been done totheir marriage, lives and spouse. The spouse will be surprised to see"children" surface, as well as "flashes" of the"old" personality, "new" personality, good AND badpersonalities.
But, they are NOT crazy, this is what is MEANT to happen, for the Mid LifeCrisis extracts a CHANGE, and the disintegration is a part of it, as they areFORCED to look at every facet of their personalities and make some permanentchanges. The key to helping them through is to ACCEPT what you see as it comesforth, and don't ridicule or shame them. They will apologize for everythingunder the sun, and try really hard to make up for the damage; for a littlewhile.
Now during sub-stage TWO of Acceptance, will come the temptations to want togo back to what they came out of. The silence of the spouse is most importantduring this time - all you can do is be understanding and patient with them asthis MUST happen and they MUST come through alone. They will SEEM to be going backward, but aren't, this is necessary for them tomove forward. It is during this time they will "revisit" ALL stages of the Mid LifeCrisis except Denial and shuts the "doors" to each stage PERMANENTLYone by one, never to return.
Sub-stage THREE involves the "archway" - all this time the MidLifer has been coming across this open field toward this Archway, where his"final fears" are located and he finally begins to face these fearsin full. He may come out of the tunnel and face them BEFORE he/she shuts thedoor to Depression/Withdrawal or afterwards. But he/she will have to face them,nevertheless, before he exits to begin his/her complete healing process.
It takes awhile for the Mid Lifer to get settled down, even after he/she comesout of stage three of the Acceptance stage. They will experience a final"rebelling" before they settle down for good.
It is much like a teen-ager who has passed into manhood/womanhood. There arestill final changes that must be made, especially for the one who has done somuch damage during the crisis itself.
But if he/she can settle everything within themselves, their lives should bemarked with a sense of peace, instead of the anguish they have known for aslong as they were within the crisis. And they will have learned many thingsconcerning life, and will be changed permanently as they will NEVER be thesame, ever again.
According to Jim Conway, the length of all Midlife Crisis stagesrange on common from 2 to 7 years. The crisis starts gradually, beneathdetection from outside sources. Anger follows in the failure of Denial. Thisthen leads to the Avoidance that is Replay, ensuring the transition becomes acrisis. Denial attempts to preserve midlife avoidance pursues lost youththrough regression, falsely developing higher distance to death.
The application of stages is helpful, but also has thenegative effect of false security in the concept that they create a predictableMap. Each and every persons journey will have similarities as well as terrificvariation. The early stages are most comparable, with greater divergence deeperin the Midlife Tunnel. Archetypal themes are the predominate forces driving thecrisis in the beginning but as every person progresses, his private lostfragments surface, yielding divergent pathways.
There is also a danger in viewing the stages as orderedsteps in the approach. Literal terms for the stages, such as those utilized byConway, can be confusing when describing feelings and circumstances which arenot isolated to the stages they reference. Midlife Crisis is about Denial andDepression both of these permeates all stages. Overt and Covert Depression arean overarching theme of the journey. Neither of these is isolated to certainstages. The similar is correct of Anger, which is usually an outward expressionof Depression.
Replay is Conways only metaphorical term, so named giventhat at this point, the midlife person seeks to return to his lost youth,reliving such experiences 1 Even more Time. This Fantasy phase invades allplaces of life. For some it is re-experiencing previously fulfilled dreams toprove youthful vigor and capabilities, for those whose dreams had beenunfulfilled, the youthful regression may perhaps be even more severe. It is adiverse kind of Denial - rather an Escape in which there is an admission ofMidlife and aging, yielding an try to flee the inevitable by way of youthfulregression. Lots of Midlifers in Conways Replay stage spew venomous anger andhatred at their spouses. This anger differs from Conways label of Anger whichrefers to general Anger with God and Life the Victims Why Me? cry atthe unfairness of life.
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