Carl Jung saw mid-life as one of those critical transition periods in our adulthood. Crudely put, the first half of life is the stage in which we receive our education, choose our careers, begin a family, acquire the trappings of success such as a home, a car, and establish our persona(s). Jungians may also refer to this stage as Ego-Self Separation, i.e. we focus on developing a strong ego, and in so doing, slowly lose touch with the rest of the psyche. It is for this reason that when we reach mid-life, things may be going wrong.
The second half of life is less about acquiring things and knowledge, and more about finding meaning. We are faced with questions such as ‘What is the point of my life?’ or ‘What makes me feel I am useful in this world?’ As we ponder these questions we often realise that life has not turned out the way we expected it to.
At mid-life we may experience alarm messages from the psyche – often in the form of affective disorders or somatic symptoms – we may become anxious or depressed and begin to suffer many physical ailments. At first, most of us go to our physician and get something for the anxiety or depression, or something for our blood pressure or poor digestion. But, it is seldom enough.
Out of desperation to feel better we may try new personas or new activities. The standard joke about the grey-suited accountant that suddenly looks up from his 16 hour a day desk job, buys a red sports car, and takes off with his secretary to Mexico is one we can all understand. He couldn’t take the drudgery of his meaningless existence any more so tried to do something radical.
That is an example of a mid-life crisis and a thwarted attempt to deal with it.
We can deal with the challenge of mid-life in a very healthy and constructive way, and one of those proven paths is Jungian Analysis.