Thursday, December 29, 2011

6 Midlife Crisis Stages by Jim Conway

Male or female most go through the same stages during a midlife crisis. Some will process through these stages smoothly. Some will go back and forth between stages until they work their way through the crisis. Anyone who goes through a midlife crisis is experiencing an internal change that will have either a positive outcome or negative outcome. Any crisis is an opportunity for growth. If you and your spouse are individuals who are able to look internally and use the changes in a healthy way you will both profit from his/her experience.

6 Stages of Midlife Crisis by Jim Conway

In his book Men in Midlife Crisis, Jim Conway applies Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of Grief with adjustments to Midlife Crisis (MLC).

Stages of Grief: by Kubler-Ross

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Stages of MLC: by Conway

  1. Denial
The first among the stages of midlife crisis consequences is the denial stage. It is that point in life when the sufferer is not able to accept that they are no longer young. They keep on doing things that they feel can make them fit in with the younger generation prompting them to go under the knife for cosmetic surgeries if this can be the solution that can help vanish the physical signs of aging starting to creep into their skin. You can observe women and men who are dressing up in a fashion that is not appropriate for their age; clearly indicating that they are showing the usual signs and symptoms of dealing with middle age crisis.

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The word Denial should speak for itself, as the person in this stage denies their feelings pretty strongly. In a Mid Life Crisis, however there are several things that are denied; one is the fact he/she is getting older, and their bodies either don't work as well as they used to or don't look as good as it used to, and they feel "used up", but are even trying to fight that feeling. They don't want to face the fact they are "wearing out" and they can't do the things they used to do anymore. They had always, up to this point, felt they were still in their prime or youthful, and was ignoring the aging that was sneaking upon them.

When it finally hits home, they panic and some consider using plastic surgery to enhance the illusion-or going on a buying spree for new clothes that don't exactly fit someone their age-and usually end up spending a great deal of money on other things. All in an effort to "buy-off" the aging process-it only 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 into adulthood, and so therefore they attempt to treat the young man or young woman as they did when they were three or four years old--only the teen is probably about 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 for lost time, only to find rejection at the hands of their teen-agers, and though they 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 she did-as the Mid Lifer ages, so does the spouse, and we cannot help what heredity does to our looks; but their spouses are also a REFLECTION of them, how they have treated them, what they have given or with-held, and they begin to deny what they are seeing, thinking if they had it to go all over again they might have married someone else and been happier than they are now-never mind it's not true- and that leads to the next stage—Anger.

This stage is mostly quiet storming inside their heads, no one knows what they are thinking, only that they have become withdrawn somewhat because of their minds being so active, and they are not talking, so no one has any clue what's happening until the Anger stage begins. If asked, they will tell you they are fine, 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 this stage.

  1. Anger
Because of being trapped in the state of denial, feelings of anger manifested by assertiveness and hostility tend to come out. It may reach to the extent that they can even offend and hurt the feelings of others within their circle. Being caught up in this situation puts them at the greater risk of being vulnerable to illicit behaviors particularly with relationship that are not bounded by morality.

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Regardless, the anger begins to set in, reality hits somewhat and the Mid Lifer begins to be really angry at the "lot" he/she has been cast in this life. And they have a tendency to forget that others have the same problems-they begin to be selfish, lashing out at others, not caring how much they hurt the people that are closest to them, even lashing out at their bosses, not caring if they are fired or not-it does NOT matter to them, and they really don't even know WHY they are angry. The irritability alone wears on them and they react with MORE anger-not really understanding it, but just going on with it, thinking they are saying what they really feel for the first time in their lives; walking all over anyone who stands in their way.

They begin to think "run-away" thoughts, angry at their perception that they are "stuck" in the same dead-end job, year after year, after year; angry their children have grown up without them, angry their spouses aren't what they think they ought to be, angry that life has dealt them such a cruel blow, angry because they feel "stuck" and "trapped" in the life THEY chose in their youth. Angry because it dawns on them, that they ARE growing older, and there's not stopping the aging process.

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 outside sources 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 them through many things during the marriage.

Their anger takes the form of small criticisms to begin with and gradually gets bigger and bigger, and the fights escalate into possibly throwing things against the walls, making impossible demands-their spouse begins to walk on "eggshells"--the withdrawal gets worse, they can barely speak to one another without a fight breaking out from the "sane" spouse saying or doing the wrong thing.

It begins to feed their justification and reasoning, and most will find a "friend" and develop that friendship, never dreaming it will escalate into something out of control - the Replay affair. Others will begin to take drugs, drink, continue with their quest for youth, and search of self....etc.

So, the next stage - Replay and the Anger Stage OVERLAPS, just as Denial and Anger 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.

  1. Replay
Men are most commonly trapped in this stage because they want to get away from the reality that they are getting older and their younger days of vivaciousness and vitality are not how it was anymore. This makes them eager to join younger broods in their drinking sessions and other fun activities. Worst case scenario is when they become too carefree that they end up falling for foolish relationships like extra marital affairs or having different partners, which can be the cause of broken homes and shattered family lives.

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Now, Replay can take many forms, from Affairs, to a search for youth, catching up on "lost" time-although you can never "catch up" what you have lost in that time-but they don't know that.

They are still searching for outside sources to blame for their misery, and Replay is a perfect time for a totally stable man to go crazy and start an affair - although the SEEDS for this affair were probably planted while in the Anger stage. They will still try to reconnect with children, or if they were close to their children, distance from them - it is also during this time they become the total "opposite" of what they were, before they entered the tunnel, back in Denial. They undergo a gradual change in the first two stages, going from what they were to the direct opposite during this time. They will do things their husbands/wives never thought they would do.

Besides the affair, they will feel "entitled" to what they take, regardless of 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, and they 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" to them-have multiple affairs, failing to see what they are doing that's so wrong-still with the attitude of it being "my" time now.

The "bomb" can and will be dropped during this time, shocking the sane spouse who probably has NO idea that anything was wrong, and the problems begin to escalate, as "crying and begging" ensues, and the Mid Lifer turns away, secure in his "reasoning" for his behavior and /or the affair/drinking/drugs/money spent.

Their behavior can disrupt the most settled of families, most especially the affair - the Mid Lifer's reasoning is that he/she thinks they have "missed out" when really, they haven't, and the OW/OM, they can/will get involved with will NOT be what they wanted all along, but they won't see that until they experience an "awakening" that gives them a direction, and starts them along the path to facing their issues; opening the door for the stage of Depression.

As long as the Mid Lifer continues "replay" behaviors they are nowhere near to being ready to start their way out of the tunnel; the "awakening" they have IF they come to it, is a "turning point" 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 or even longer, depending upon the "replay" behaviors used during this time.

  1. Depression
Individuals suffering from midlife crisis symptoms end up with feelings of fright causing them to create a big distance from people who are trying to interfere and be more inquisitive. They would hesitate and turn away when someone approaches them to discuss about this problem. They end up shunning away from others, thinking that they can manage the situation they are in.

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This is the stage where the Mid Lifer is faced with the issues he/she are beginning to face, and quite frankly, they feel like failures.

Nothing has helped the first three stages - everything they have tried has NOT turned to gold, on the contrary everything has turned to stone, for lack of a better word to describe their running-and now comes the time to begin to face their damage, and this is done inside-because that is what Depression is - anger turned inward.

Their hormones are out of whack, due to physical changes, and that makes them feel worse. Their self-esteem is shot all to pieces, and they feel like failures. They wonder if they will ever be worth anything to anyone. Some are in so much pain, they commit suicide, some get smart and get anti-depressants to 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, losing sleep, afraid of the dark-or maybe what's in it; unable to escape negative thoughts, cutting themselves down in word and action. Extreme guilt may compound this stage, and there is so much pressure, they become forgetful, irritable, want to be left alone, somewhat argumentative, sometimes unresponsive - want to take long drives, sit looking out the window-their silences are long and painful, as they don't want to talk about it preferring instead 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 makes them 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 to the fore as each individual issue is faced-it is a gradual slide from Depression to Withdrawal or both stages can occur together.

The Depression stage can last from around two and a half months to possibly six months, depending upon the severity of the depression they are suffering.

  1. Withdrawal
This stage is actually just an extension of the stage wherein the sufferer is depressed and desires to be alone most of the time. The best way to help them cope with this is to give them the space that they want until they are ready to come out from their sanctuary. At this point, this person is trying to sort out many things and needs more space wherein they can contemplate on a lot of things that they have done brought about the crisis state they are trying to pass up with.

Now, the Mid Lifer has been beginning to face his/her issues while in Depression, and what they've seen has NOT been pretty. They've done so MUCH damage, and don't really know how to "fix" it, and that has made them even MORE depressed.

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 question themselves, somewhat, working their way toward what is called the "final fears". Not much is known about what the final fears contain – probably, it is beginning to accept the death of everything they have ever known, including the death of their "old" lives; AND beginning to accept their own mortality without being afraid of it. Depression sets them up for this journey across 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 drawn so far within, no one can reach them. They MUST be allowed to continue, with NO interruptions, just like before - they will NOT come out until they are READY to come out.

Just like in Depression, they want to left alone, still processing their issues and the damage they have done to their spouse and their lives, and they make several decisions during this time concerning their lives, job, and marriage. But those WON'T be known UNTIL they break Withdrawal and talk to their spouse the first time

They are still secretive, somewhat asserting their privacy, much like a teen-ager, but during this time, they must be gently but firmly led along, and only 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 at themselves, but will take it out on you, and there are times you will have to be quiet and just leave them alone; letting them work things out, and they usually will, as the answers, such as they are STILL come from within them, not outside sources.

As they begin to come forward, they will begin the journey out of the tunnel-entering the first stage of Acceptance.

Withdrawal can last from three months to one year.

  1. Acceptance
And finally, the stage of Acceptance wherein they are now fully ready to accept everything that they have been through without any regrets; this marks a more positive change in their life. Now, they are more broad-minded individuals who are totally prepared to face life with a new and more optimistic point of view.

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Now, Acceptance is entered in three sub-stages.

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 to their 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 bad personalities.

But, they are NOT crazy, this is what is MEANT to happen, for the Mid Life Crisis extracts a CHANGE, and the disintegration is a part of it, as they are FORCED to look at every facet of their personalities and make some permanent changes. The key to helping them through is to ACCEPT what you see as it comes forth, and don't ridicule or shame them. They will apologize for everything under the sun, and try really hard to make up for the damage; for a little while.

Now during sub-stage TWO of Acceptance, will come the temptations to want to go back to what they came out of. The silence of the spouse is most important during this time - all you can do is be understanding and patient with them as this MUST happen and they MUST come through alone.
They will SEEM to be going backward, but aren't, this is necessary for them to move forward.
It is during this time they will "revisit" ALL stages of the Mid Life Crisis except Denial and shuts the "doors" to each stage PERMANENTLY one by one, never to return.

If they give in to temptation OR get spooked by their final fears, they WILL run BACK into the tunnel a little ways. But they can only run back as far as the doors have NOT been closed permanently; most of the time they just run back as far as WITHDRAWAL, but will continue the process to come out once they feel "safe" to continue. So, they must be allowed to come through WITHOUT interruption, no matter what happens.

Sub-stage THREE involves the "archway" - all this time the Mid Lifer has been coming across this open field toward this Archway, where his "final fears" are located and he finally begins to face these fears in full. He may come out of the tunnel and face them BEFORE he/she shuts the door 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 comes out 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 are still final changes that must be made, especially for the one who has done so much damage during the crisis itself.

But if he/she can settle everything within themselves, their lives should be marked with a sense of peace, instead of the anguish they have known for as long as they were within the crisis. And they will have learned many things concerning life, and will be changed permanently as they will NEVER be the same, ever again.

According to Jim Conway, the length of all Midlife Crisis stages range on common from 2 to 7 years. The crisis starts gradually, beneath detection from outside sources. Anger follows in the failure of Denial. This then leads to the Avoidance that is Replay, ensuring the transition becomes a crisis. Denial attempts to preserve midlife avoidance pursues lost youth through regression, falsely developing higher distance to death.

The application of stages is helpful, but also has the negative effect of false security in the concept that they create a predictable Map. Each and every person’s journey will have similarities as well as terrific variation. The early stages are most comparable, with greater divergence deeper in the Midlife Tunnel. Archetypal themes are the predominate forces driving the crisis in the beginning but as every person progresses, his private lost fragments surface, yielding divergent pathways.

There is also a danger in viewing the stages as ordered steps in the approach. Literal terms for the stages, such as those utilized by Conway, can be confusing when describing feelings and circumstances which are not isolated to the stages they reference. Midlife Crisis is about Denial and Depression both of these permeates all stages. Overt and Covert Depression are an overarching theme of the journey. Neither of these is isolated to certain stages. The similar is correct of Anger, which is usually an outward expression of Depression.

Replay is Conway’s only metaphorical term, so named given that at this point, the midlife person seeks to return to his lost youth, reliving such experiences “1 Even more Time.” This Fantasy phase invades all places of life. For some it is re-experiencing previously fulfilled dreams to prove youthful vigor and capabilities, for those whose dreams had been unfulfilled, the youthful regression may perhaps be even more severe. It is a diverse kind of Denial - rather an Escape in which there is an admission of Midlife and aging, yielding an try to flee the inevitable by way of youthful regression. Lots of Midlifers in Conway’s Replay stage spew venomous anger and hatred at their spouses. This anger differs from Conway’s label of Anger which refers to general Anger with God and Life the Victim’s Why Me? cry at the unfairness of life.

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