Midlife Crisis; Just a Myth
He realizes that he is old, older than he used to be, that he is not in his prime anymore. He sees that some of his hair has turned gray, that he has a few wrinkles on his forehead. He does not have the same energy that he used to have in the past that certain things are more difficult to accomplish than they used to be. What does he do in these cases? According to movies such as “American Beauty”, he starts losing his mind, which is good, or bad, depending on the perspective. In that movie, Lester Burnham, the character played by Kevin Spacey quits his job in a memorable manner, starts working out in order to put on muscle mass, starts buying drugs from the local drug dealer, buys a very powerful sports car, and in order to prove that he still has it, hits on his daughter’s best friend. Yes, this are the ways in which the men usually react when they reach a certain age, according to the movies. This is the period when they reach the midlife crisis.
It seems that the majority of the people believe that this behavior is true, and that it actually happens with the majority of the people. They have all the reasons to believe it. They have seen it in the media, and they have even got to see the chaotic behaviors of people who are in power, such as Bill Clinton. However, it seems that things are not actually like that, like the way in which the movies portray them. Margie Lachman, a psychologist at the Brandeis University in Massachusetts said that the midlife crisis is not as common as the media portrays it to be, and even when it occurs, it is not as it is presented in the movies. What you see in the movies, is an exaggeration, it is presented in a great manner which attracts the viewers. It’s similar to the movies in which the dorky shy guy finally gets his dream girl after years of loving her. She finally realizes that she loves him, after she had sex with various “bad boys” which treated her wrong. That rarely happens in real life as well. However, we enjoy these movies because they give us hope. Even if our life is not similar to the ones of the people from those movies, the heroes of those movies are usually the underdogs, the suckers who deserve a better life just because they are so good with the other people. Alexandra Freund, a researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland said that the midlife crisis does not exist, because it could appear at any age.
A 20 year old man could suffer from it, just like a 60 year old one could. These moments are usually triggered when one experiences something troubling in his life, which happens on numerous occasions. This means that when you reach a certain age that does not mean that you will become depressed or restless. You might experience those sensations on numerous occasions by the time you reach a certain age. A relative, or a close friend might die, and it is very likely that you will become depressed, that you will start to question life, and so on. You might lose your job, and you might have the exact same thoughts once again. It has not been proven that these states and these sensations happen when you reach a certain age.
Sure, the ones who have a certain age behave in a different manner than the ones who are younger, but these chances occur for different reasons than the ones portrayed in the movies. The loss of the libido, the desire to do certain things happens in the case of some people, but they happen for certain reasons. In the majority if the cases, and in the majority of the movies, the one who suffers from midlife crisis realizes that he has sacrificed a lot in order to live the boring life he lives. For example one has stopped pursuing his passions and his hobbies in order to provide for his family. There is nothing absolutely wrong with that, actually such a behavior is to be praised instead of to be condemned. He has abandoned his dreams and his hopes in order to have a more comfortable life. He considers himself a failure for that.
Freund said that the men who have these thoughts and who considered they to be sell outs have a wrong mentality. She believes that these people did not sell themselves out. When one person matures, he will try to establish certain goals and values. The researchers have discovered that a person will still have the same personality and mentality when he will become older. The personality does not change, and this is not the reason why one might finally realize that what he has done so far has been wrong. Freund also said that the goals of an individual usually do not change, and even if they do, they are very similar to the original ones.
They are related to the core values of the individual. For example a person who is interested in sports might be interested in practicing a certain sport for a certain number of years. When he reaches 30, or 40, or a certain age when he can no longer practice the sport he loves, he will stop practicing it. However, it is very likely that he will either become a coach, or a sports broadcaster, and so on. He will not start following a singing career when he reaches 40. This means that he does not change his values or his goals, the only thing that changes about this person is the way in which he approaches his values. Some psychologists have stated that the midlife concept is inexistent in certain regions of the world, which means that the midlife crisis theory can not be used. Even in countries where the midlife crisis is considered to be real, such as the United States of America, the concept is kind of vague.
Some say that the midlife is between 30 and 75, whereas others say that it is between 40 and 65. In the majority of the movies the ones who have this midlife crisis have an advanced age. Kevin Space in American Beauty was 40 when he filmed the movie; Javier Bardem was 41 when he filmed “Biutiful”. There are many psychologists who have stated that this midlife crisis should not be defined or based on the chronological age. These psychologists have stated that the midlife crisis should be determined by the social relationships of these people. They said that the midlife of a person is when he has lots of social contacts, and when he cares for lots of people. When he is in his midlife, a person will care about his children, about his parents, but about his parents as well.
According to the psychologists, people who are in their midlife will try to do something good for the world, and they will do that through the interactions which they have with the other people of various ages. They will help the younger ones, give advices to the ones of the same age, and so on. The middle-aged people are no longer the apprentices in life; they are the ones who teach the other people certain things. They are the masters now, and they want to make sure that they do their jobs well. It seems that the midlife is the period in which a person has the biggest control over things. The period prior to the midlife is when people struggle in order to succeed in life, and the period after the midlife is characterized by losses.
When one gets older, he will start to lose friends, family members, his job, and so on. The conception is that when people reach midlife, they suffer from boredom. It has been discovered that the majority of the teens believe this. However, the researchers have discovered that the people who are in their midlife are bothered by something, but that something is the fear of not solving enough things. The ones who have reached midlife, usually have children, have their health, have a certain amount of money, and that is when they realize that the chances for them to die are higher than they were younger. The women suffer from this as well, and in the majority of the cases it happens when they reach menopause. The male version of this is called andropaused, and it is usually occurs when the children move out of the house, or when the man is losing his parents. That is when the men realize that they are old, and that they will get older.
Freund said that when she asked a very large number of people over 70, what age they enjoyed the most, they said that 40. The majority of them said that they would like to be 40 again, not 20, not 30. They said that when they were 40, their life had a certain path; they were married, they had children, a career, and so on. They did not have uncertainties about their job, about the future, and about other aspects of life. The psychologists have stated that those changes which cause the andropause are not necessarily bad. Those periods can also be beneficial as they can trigger certain positive changes in people.
Since these couples are alone in the house all the time they can have a new flourishing sex life, they can start certain hobbies, and so on. It seems that the midlife period is great, according to some, which is strange, as the movies have portrayed it as one of the worst periods from a man’s life. The term was coined by Elliott Jaques in the 1960s. That is when he noticed that there are many men and many artists who start to feel depressed by the time they reach a certain age because they realize that they are old. Freun said that the term became very popular, because there are many men who have the behaviors of the people affected by this condition. Each person knows at least one person who suffers from the midlife crisis.
The majority of the psychologists do not agree with Jaques, especially since he based his studies mainly on artists, who are known for the fact that they dramatize lots of things. Many of them see life in a negative manner, but this does not mean that everybody has the same conceptions about life. The midlife crisis has not been proven from a scientific or medical point of view, but even so, it seems that the concept is very popular in the Western world. Men are considered to be more prone to it, and one reason for that is the fact that they usually mature later than the women. Freund said that the men who are in their midlife do not think about death more often than the men of different ages. The teenagers think about death very often as well. Freund said that in the majority of the cases, the situation is different, as the men who are in their midlife do not have too much time to think about death, as they are very busy. What do you think, is the midlife crisis a myth or a reality?11