Midlife is one of the most misunderstood life stages in our society. We have the language of mid-life crisis, which we often think of as when people (often men) go a bit crazy trying to get their youth back by buying a motor bike or a sports car, or dying their hair or “running off” with a younger partner. Generally it is seen as a time when people might do erratic things. And it is a time that movies and other places like to make fun of.

The reality is it can be a very serious time of disruption in life for both men & women, when some form of “Crisis of Limitation”, causes us to take stock of our lives. 

Usually it is something outside of our control, like the loss of something important (Job, relationship or loved one) or a health scare, that causes us to realise that a whole heap of the things that were once possible are no longer likely, due to the choices we have made and the circumstances we find ourselves in. And we are confronted big questions like: 

“Is this it?”
“Is this all life is about? “
“Is this the life I want? “
It can be a truly destabilising crisis of meaning.
A time where things you just took for granted no longer make sense to you.

Understanding mid life as a crisis of meaning I think helps people to evaluate their life in terms their personal Authenticity and allows them to consider their unwritten rules that they have ended up living their life by & whether these rules are helping them live the life they want, being true to their deeper values and using their gifts in ways they are appreciated.

Often people find that the rules that they have ended up with are limited and don’t actually have room for their lived experience, and when viewed from this perspective, little wonder they find themselves dissatisfied at midlife. I have come up with the term LifeAche to describe the common midlife experience where people find themselves dissatisfied & disillusioned. On paper according to the generic rules we all received growing up life should be great. “Work hard at school, get a good job, find a partner settle down & have two kids, buy stuff, be happy”. People experiencing LifeAche have often done very well at all those things and yet still feel as though life has lost its flavour like an old piece of chewing gum. And so advertisers keep throwing all sorts of things at us, and some of them distract us for a time. But sometimes all of that doesn’t stop growing Anxieties, addictions and depression from showing themselves.

And so, Midlife is also a common time for people to seek help for their mental, emotional & relationship health. These symptoms along with relationship breakdown and other mental health challenges are not uncommon. And yet here the sort of help you receive for these challenges can make a massive difference to your outcome. 

Very common treatment with Doctors & psychologists is Symptom management so you can stop experiencing these troubling symptoms & get back on the horse of your life?

But there are other options (Like that offered at Steve Freeman Counselling) that take a bigger picture approach and look for the causes of the symptoms, to affect real life change, working through unprocessed challenges, gaining self knowledge into the unique gifts, talents and limitations you possess, towards authentic fulfilment.

Midlife and all of its disruption, can be such a great invitation to live a much deeper and fulfilled life,
discovering & honing your personal unique gifts & finding authentic ways to live them into the world.

This can be a challenging journey that can be greatly helped by having a qualified guide along for the ride. Someone who knows the mysterious terrain of midlife and can help navigate its pitfalls & discover its treasures.

I have worked with many people over the last 15+ years with midlife transitions in personal counselling, group & retreat work. I have gathered together a vast array of experience, maps, tools to help people gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their lives experiences. How their wounds and their gifts are so often closely linked, so much so that we often miss out on discovering our gifts because we are so afraid to face out personal pain. But when we have to courage to face it, we so often discover that some of the parts of ourselves we left behind in an attempt to not be hurt further, are the very parts of ourselves we need to live our gifts into the world and live out our “one wild & precious life” (From poet Mary Oliver’s “Summer Day”)

“ Midlife – that time when the universe gently grabs your shoulders and whispers in your ear. “ I’m not screwing around – use the gifts you were given!” – Brene Brown

There are many things I can offer a person in mid-life in a counselling session:

  • Most simply, a chance to be heard and to help you make sense out of how you’re feeling and connect you to some of your own wisdom on the way forward.
  • We can unpack some of what got you here and work out what you might have left behind of yourself that you might need for the way forward.
  • We unpack any sad or painful events that may not have been grieved over and had the emotions around them processed & digested (unprocessed grief is one of the most common causes of depression).
  • We can come to understand the rules you’ve been living by and where they are serving you, and where they are not serving you and might need to be changed.
  • We can discover your unique gifts; build your resources to enable you to live them into the world.
  • We can rewrite your story. Not changing the facts & events, but maybe changing the sense you’ve made out of them. Empowering you to live your way to a much different ending.

Rather than reduce or remove the uncomfortable psychological symptoms, I use these “symptoms” to show us where we need to work to make better sense out of life. Not just reducing or removing the symptoms but discovering meaning, purpose and resources to live an Authentic fulfilling life.