The Midlife Roadtrip
When you reach your late 30s and early 40s you reach a significant turning point in life where you are given the opportunity to release the past and evolve further into your own authentic self. Having completed your entrance into adulthood around age 30, you are now looking at your midlife transition. Midlife is hallmarked by four significant phases.
For each person the specific phase can occur at different times than for others. Some generations did not experience them until they were more solidly into their 40s, but as of the writing of this article, general observation is that they are occurring as early as age 36. To discover when these aspects are in effect you can arrange a 1-1 consultation with me.
Four Early Midlife Phases
The four phases will take you through approximately ages 36-44. They are:
- Journey of Change
- Journey of Spirit
- Journey of Depth
- Journey of Time
To summarize the nature of these phases and their midlife effects:
The Journey of Change is marked by surprise, sudden shocks, changes, upsetting issues situations, eccentricity and the unusual. Two areas of your life will experience pronounced change by showing you where you need to exercise more individuality and independence.
The Journey of Spirit heralds a time of confusion and the obscuring of reality. You can end up feeling as though your existence and accomplishments up to now are worth nothing. You are faced with questioning yourself and working through things an emerging with a new spiritual connection – or you could escape reality buy delving into obsessions and addictions with sex, drugs, alcohol or lying.
The Journey of Depth is one of transformation, destruction and control in order to create something authentic. Where you have been playing around and not being serious, you will get serious now because everything will come to ashes around you and you will need to rebuild.
When these three phases have finished their wild ride with you, the final and serious Journey of Time joins the fray for the final lesson around the age of 44/45. The nature of the Journey of Time is limitations, restrictions, structures, discipline, reality and resistance. These are challenging, difficult and often painful situations in our lives. We may suffer from depression, repressed anger, physical illnesses (especially bones and teeth) due to the heavy responsibilities we are carrying in life – family relationships, work situations or attempts to pursue an authentic life. Mental illness is possible if a stable base cannot be formed in life. By being conscientious you can make beneficial changes.
Midlife phases mean major re-evaluation of the value and meaningfulness of our lives. Have we achieved the goals and dreams of the past? Are those dreams still relevant? Are our current circumstances serving us? This re-evaluation is much like a birthing process, transforming life from one phase to the next and defining how we are going to live the second half of our life. At times the changes can be so profound we hardly recognize the person we were before. This process, both excruciating, and exhilarating, is a re-birthing, a redefining of who we are that brings us into profound communion with our spirit. And just like being born, this phase can be marked by alternating periods of tremendous pressure, turmoil, and intensity (the contraction), interspersed with calm (the relaxation) and, finally, the excitement as something new and promising comes into existence.
The Journey of Change
In this article we are taking a look at Change, more specifically the Journey of Change. It represents and reveals where we have been focusing for the years between ages 21 and approximately 40, and it jolts us into a new direction.
Does this mean we have been on the wrong track all these years? Not necessarily, but for many people it is a time to radically reclaim our authentic selves and our true vocation.
This phase is symbolic of the process of individuation and a need for freedom and liberation. We experience a major Journey of Change between ages 38-41. This cycle is the culmination of our life direction and the shift into a new direction. We often experience sudden shocking events that disturb our realities, extreme restlessness and anxiety, and even family, friends, and acquaintances that seem to bear the same message we must change NOW. Things which worked well in our lives for many years no longer do so.
It can feel as though lightning bolts are coursing through your body and zapping your relationships, your career and everything in your life. It is not a pleasant feeling. But when lightning comes it also sheds light, temporarily, and that is where the gift of the Journey of Change can be found. It reveals the hidden things you have put away and need to reclaim. It shows your new direction.
The Journey of Change is about leaving behind the “shoulds” imposed by others and integrating your authentic self – even is that mean being rebellious and opposing a teacher, mentor, confining job or a stagnant marriage. This is a time when you are very willing to risk it all to individuate. This is when you start to wonder whether what you’ve been doing with your life up until that time is what you really intended to do.
“Is this all there is?” This question is quite common at this time – and if you are honest with yourself, the answer is always NO. Now you can step out into the wild realm of opportunities and make a new beginning. Of course this is what makes people think you are losing your sanity, becoming eccentric or simply acting bizarrely. It can be a time of extremes. Marriages frequently end in divorce at this time (but this is not required to individuate).
The Danger Zone
The further you are from your unique, authentic self, the more deeply entrenched you are in compromise and prohibitive traditions, the more the more radical you will be during this part of the Change cycle. To be more specific you may feel pushed to make decisions that you otherwise might not make. How? This Change energy can create a situation so harsh in your marriage/partnership, home or career that propels you into a spectacular almost incredible situation which is, to all appearances, against your will. You could find yourself feeling as though you are fighting for your life – and you might be. Accidents and accidental deaths are not uncommon at this time, as are strokes and heart attacks.
It is not uncommon for men to take the superficial easy approach during the Journey of Change and try to reclaim the sexual prowess they had in their 20s by having sex with a woman in her in her 20s. Those caught up in this fallacy believe if they can disseminate, they can stave off mortality. Men frequently close off at their hearts, shut out their spouse and lock the energy in their pelvis….and express it through sexual intercourse in a relationship with someone radically different in some way. For women this time many manifest in things such as suddenly going on a driven bender for weeks or month about creativity. One woman old me about how her mother suddenly began making dozens of cakes of homemade soap and candles. The shaking and quaking that Change effects in our bodies at this time is frequently used by women to do something artistic and spiritual as a creative act. Some women who have never had a child might at this time get pregnant.
Radical Actions, Radical Results
One example of the midlife change journey concerns the late Michael Kennedy. The son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, he was discovered to have been carrying on an affair with his babysitter, when he was 40. Instead of examining himself and what he left behind at 20-22 that he could now reclaim, he decided to sleep with a young woman approximately that age. This led to a divorce for Kennedy. It was heartbreaking for his wife, his children, his family in general and him. He took a reckless chance with his marriage, with his life. His life as quickly and dramatically changed. Soon thereafter he died suddenly and unexpectedly in a skiing accident during an ill-advised football game on skis. He was told not to take the chance, but he did. He spun his life out of control and lost it in a reckless accident.
Before The Affair
Before you make drastic life changes and decisions, end your marriage, abandon your spouse and children, have an extra-marital affair, run off to join a cult, or quit your job ask yourself if that is the best expression of what you are feeling. Ask yourself if you are honestly reviewing your priorities and options. If you are not, the energy of Change will do it for you in the form of a painful, unexpected event; then your life’s agenda gets set without your input. That is not what you truly desire.
In other words, light to moderate anxiety might signify that you must add some variety to your life, whereas deep turmoil might call for a more significant and revolutionary life change. Out comes The Rebel. Pay close attention to events in your life: the stronger the urge to change, the greater the warning that you may be way out of alignment and need to undergo a major life renovation. If all areas of your life are full of obstacles, rather than just one, take heed!
Questions To Ask Yourself
Here are some questions to ask oneself at this time of individuation:
1. What is really missing in my life? What is hindering me and restricting my freedom of expression? Why do I want to make such radical changes in my life?
2. What is my greatest fear? What keeps me from feeling free? What keeps me from being happy? If I could wave a magic wand, how different would my life be? Then, do something different. Do an activity that takes you out of your routine.
3. What can I do to bring play, creativity and freedom of expression into my life?
4. What compromises have I been making relative to my true self? Are these compromises still necessary at this time of my life? What important need am I not addressing? Which part of myself have I been holding back?
Many individuals will repress certain aspects of their personality in order to maintain a relationship. During a Journey of Change period, they will be pushed from within to unleash these aspects of their personality, sometimes with disastrous effects on personal and professional relationships.
Think about getting a professional consultation or sign up for a life consultation – or suggest it to your spouse, mate friend or colleague who is going through this time of life. It can greatly aid in attaining perspective, clarity and direction.
©Barrett Clemmensen Powell. All Rights Reserved