The Nocturnal World of Ivan...

Crisis in life


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It is when you stop going along with the crowd and start realizing that there are many things about yourself that you didn't know and may not like.

You start feeling insecure and wonder where you
will be in a year or two, but then get scared
because you barely know where you are now.

You start realizing that people are selfish and
that, maybe, those friends that you thought you
were so close to aren't exactly the greatest
people you have ever met, and the people you have
lost touch with are some of the most important

What you don't recognize is that they are
realizing that too, and aren't really cold,
catty, mean or insincere, but that they are as
confused as you.

You look at your job... and it is not even close
to what you thought you would be doing, or maybe
you are looking for a job and realizing that you
are going to have to start at the bottom and that
scares you.

Your opinions have gotten stronger.

You see what others are doing and find yourself
judging more than usual because suddenly you
realize that you have certain boundaries in your
life and are constantly adding things to your
list of what is acceptable and what isn't.

One minute, you are insecure and then the next,

You laugh and cry with the greatest force of your

You feel alone and scared and confused.

Suddenly, change is the enemy and you try and
cling on to the past with your dear life, but soon
realize that the past is drifting further and
further away, and there is nothing to do but stay
where you are or move forward.

You get your heart broken and wonder how someone
you loved could do such damage to you.

Or you lie in bed and wonder why you can't meet
anyone decent enough that you want to get to
know better.

Or maybe you love someone but love someone else
too and cannot figure out why you are doing this
because you know that you aren't a bad person.

One night stands and random hook ups start to
look cheap.

Getting wasted and acting like an idiot starts
to look pathetic.

You go through the same emotions and questions
over and over, and talk with your friends about
the same topics because you cannot seem to make a

You worry about loans, money, the future and
making a life for yourself... and while winning
the race would be great, right now you'd just
like to be a contender!

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Is midlife a quest or crisis?

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Midlife is the old age of youth and the youth of old age.

If this is true then many people are standing on the threshold of a "new youth." It is what Gail Sheehy in her book, New Passages, calls the "second adulthood." We all have a second chance at becoming the person we are meant to be. This second chance is called midlife. However, midlife is a new and often dangerous territory.

What is a helpful image for the midlife process? Perhaps it is the Midlife Quest in which there is a challenging adventure of seeking, exploration, and discovery. Or, it might be Midlife Metamorphosis where there is the profound change of reformation and transformation. Another image is that of Midlife Renaissance with a new birth, a new beginning, and a chance to start over. There is also the possibility of Midlife Crisis where there is a sense of urgency along with intense emotion and perplexity. Of the four possibilities it is Midlife Crisis that is ultimately most appropriate. This is because the two fundamental elements of crisis are found in all of the images.

A Dangerous Opportunity

The Chinese word for crisis readily shows these two basic elements. In the Chinese language the ideogram for crisis is made up of two separate characters. One of these characters represents "danger" and the other represents "opportunity." Thus the proper translation of crisis from Chinese is as a "dangerous opportunity." Any crisis in our lives provides the chance for change and growth -- the opportunity -- as well as the risk of regression or stagnation -- the danger. In the images of Quest, Metamorphosis, or Renaissance both opportunity and danger exist. You may not always attain the goal of the Quest, the Metamorphosis may not be complete, and the Renaissance may be a still birth. The danger of midlife is very real. Successful transition to the next life stage is not guaranteed.

Midlife Maps

When entering the challenging and crisis oriented territory of midlife it is helpful to have a map. A map can orient you, give a direction, and indicate a goal. It identifies the danger and opportunity. Maps come in all shapes and sizes. They can be vague only suggesting the way or may be detailed and provide several paths to follow.

This series of Midlife Web Pages provide maps as general orientations to midlife. If you are to take the midlife journey, you need to know the terrain, understand the destination, and have a goal in mind.




Surviving the Midlife Crisis


Mike Bellah

Not all experts believe there is such a thing as a midlife crisis. "For most people, middle age is not a crisis but a challenge and a relief," writes David Chiraboga in "Midlife Myths." However, most writers seem to agree more with Jim Conway who says, "Escaping the midlife development crisis is probably as likely as the child escaping adolescence."

Author Gail Sheehy adds a warning: "Some people appear to go through calm, uneventful midlife transitions. But by the time they are in their 50s, when some life accident inevitably brings home the mortality issue, it throws them into a deeper, darker, crisis."

How do you recognize a midlife crisis? What are its symptoms? According to "New York Times" Editorial Page Editor Howell Raines, "it typically begins with mild twinges of dread, disappointment and restlessness that tiptoe in on little cat feet. Then in some cases, the cat feet turn to elephant feet."

Yet if you or your spouse is in the middle of such a crisis, you don't care about whether experts believe it exists, and you certainly don't need to know how it feels (you hear the sound of the elephant feet on a daily basis). What you want is to know how to survive it. I have three suggestions.

 Don't give way.

Midlifers in crisis are often overwhelmed with fear. Everything they once relied on--both physical and emotional resources--seems ready to collapse. The tendency is to panic, to give way to the onslaught of anxiety. If these words describe your feelings, relax. What you are experiencing is both normal and temporary. Not only will you see a brighter day; you will emerge a better person.

Don't give in.

With panic often come thoughts of escape. Midlifers sometimes try to flee their problems through things such as extramarital affairs, or to hide from them, maybe behind a bottle of alcohol. But these stop-gap measures, while providing temporary relief, will eventually cause much grief. It's like taking anti-inflammation drugs for appendicitis. It stops the pain for now, but will hurt much more in the long run.

Change, however, is different than escape. You should feel free to make changes at midlife. These changes are part of what will bring you successfully through the crisis. Just be sure to change in ways consistent with your values.

Don't give up.

Finally, midlifers in crisis describe themselves as trapped in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. Why keep crawling toward the end if, one, we aren't sure in which direction the end lies; and, two, we don't know if there will be light there when we arrive?"

This is where faith comes in. At midlife, we must decide what we believe in and struggle toward it even when our progress seems negligible. Like astronauts circling the back side of the moon, we trust the principles that began our journey to complete it, even when our destination is hidden. And like the same astronauts, we will see our sun again, quite possibly in a richness and splendor unnoticed in former days.

I'm not saying all this is easy; it isn't. But it is our hope, and it's hope that eventually will see us through the midlife crisis.