Have you felt like you were doing ok at your job – but yet a vague sense of unease if you were missing out? Whether you were on the right path? The uncomfortable and hard truth hit me, when I saw the roles I would play after my next few promotions. It filled me with dread. I was going to do the same work I was doing now – albeit at a much larger scale for more money, that’s all. The vision did not fill me with energy and drive. Suddenly all that I had worked for, over the last decade and half, was not as fulfilling as I had imagined and wanted it to be. I didn’t know what else I could do. It was not a good place physically and emotionally. Turns out I was not alone (I wish I knew this then!).
Join us as we explore this phenomena of rethinking our choices and renewal in middle period of our life in this series of The OWL on #Renewal.
Mid Life Renewal definition:
Elliott Jaques studied and published a seminal paper – Death and the mid-life crisis. He gave this phenomena the name midlife crisis and the name has endured for decades now! Here are some interesting data points from this study. published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1965.
- This phenomena was found quite markedly in the middle and late thirties. Though it could occur at any age.
- It was not limited to any profession or culture. Infact, in his study Elliot Jaques studied the lives of 310 creative geniuses.
Summarising his key observations in his language on ‘arrival at the mid-point of Life’:
“What is simple from the point of view of chronology, however is not simple psychologically. The individual has stopped growing up and has begun to grow old. A new set of external circumstances has to be met. The first phase of adult life has been lived. Family and occupation have become established (or ought to have become established unless the individual’s adjustment has gone seriously awry), parents have grown old, and children are at the threshold of adulthood. Youth and childhood are past and gone, and demand to be mourned. The paradox is that of entering the prime of life, the stage of fulfilment, but at the same time the prime and fulfilment are dated.”Elliot Jaques – Psychoanalyst
Data shows that more than 1/5th of people have experienced this mid-life need for a renewal. Dr Salman Akhtar a noted psychoanalyst, who has written extensively on this topic summarises the period as:
Middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding, when a man still gives himself to his work with his whole strength and his whole will. But in this very moment evening is born, and the second half of life begins. Passion now changes her face and is called duty; “I want” becomes the inexorable “I must,” and the turnings of the pathway that once brought surprise and discovery become dulled by custom.Dr Salman Akhtar
Coping with change
Knowing that a mid-life inflection point can come upon any of us is helpful. Though it does not make it easier to deal with the symptoms and changes. This is a wide ranging period from late 20’s to 50’s, making the symptoms and patterns varied and harder to spot! There are not enough conversations and safe spaces at the workplace to bring up these dilemmas and challenges people experience. This is one of the main reasons that we at Flyntrok are focusing the light on this phenomena. Over the next few posts we will surface and share:
- Symptoms that can result from life crisis or inflection points. This will help us spot this phenomena in ourselves and people around us.
- Ideas that psychoanalytic research in this space offers, to manage this change better.
- Using experiments and hypotheses to build muscle for change.
- Stories and conversations with people who have reinvented themselves time and again.
If there is one idea we urge you to take away from this post, it is that this phenomenon of a mid-life crisis or inflection points at different points in life is real. It needs the space for deep conversations to move forward from here. Please hold the space for yourself and others through this change. Brushing it under the carpet or wishing it away is detrimental.
Elliot Jacque’s advice rings true. The mid-life crisis thrusts it forward with great intensity, and it can no longer be pushed aside if life is not to be impoverished.
Let us choose to build awareness and understanding of this change. Awareness itself brings forth choices. With appropriate mindsets, skills and tools – this midlife or any inflection point in life can be lived fully.
Published in collaboration with Mr. Abhijit Pendse