For decades, our American culture has been trying to avoid or debunk the midlife crisis dilemma. Almost every adult goes through a trial period in their life that they deem as their midlife crisis. In Dorothy Sander’s book, Midlife Pathway: Essays on Accepting Change as a Gateway to Transformation (2016), she identifies not only what a midlife crisis is but also how to embrace it. While most see a midlife crisis as a negative event that everyone goes through at some point in their lives, Sander invites readers to change their perspective on this time of their life and use it to better themselves, their relationships, and others. In this review and analysis of Sander’s self-help book, we will evaluate how her insight on midlife crisis aligns with and is applicable to other psychological issues or crises.
In Sander’s book, she clearly explains that a midlife crisis can be a time of growth and personal development but there is one crucial component that must be completed prior to moving forward. Before positive progress into a midlife crisis can begin, one must identify and admit that they are experiencing a midlife crisis. By admitting and accepting that one is experiencing a midlife crisis, they can then begin to explore the options to make the most of the life-changing event. In order to accept that one is truly experiencing a midlife crisis, they must know the symptoms of one as well.
Sander clearly defines a few of the general symptoms of a midlife crisis. Although all crises look different for each person, there are general similarities that can be easily identified. The symptom first is questioning who you are. When someone begins questioning their purpose and life, this could be the first symptom of a midlife crisis. Another symptom is being financially trapped. For many that are going through a midlife crisis, there is a sense of being stuck in their current situation because of their financial status which leads to the stress commonly associated with a midlife crisis. The next symptom is someone experiencing difficulty or inability to concentrate. While this may seem common for many, if it is uncommon for one to be able to concentrate, it could be a sign of a midlife crisis. Someone’s desire to improve their appearance is another symptom of a midlife crisis. Those that experience this stage of their midlife crisis often will go beyond the traditional New Year’s resolution of getting fit and may even become obsessed with bettering their appearance. Another symptom of a midlife crisis is wanting to learn or experience something new. For many going through a midlife crisis, they are wanting to travel more, obtain new knowledge or hobbies, or even experience a new adventure that is out of the ordinary for themselves. Irritability is a common symptom of someone going through a midlife crisis. This is typically due to their dissatisfaction with themselves that pushes their emotions to the edge. Another very common symptom of a midlife crisis is someone simplifying their life. Simplifying one's life can include emotionally, physically, or mentally clearing unnecessary items from their lives in order to simplify their means. All of these symptoms may combine to attribute to the symptoms of one’s midlife crisis. Again, not all midlife crises look the same but most have these similar traits.
Once one has recognized their midlife crisis symptoms and accepted that they are in fact going through a midlife crisis, there is true growth that can then begin. Sander describes that during a midlife crisis, may look at this event as a negative time when it is actually a time that should be positive. By embracing the changes and events that occur during a midlife crisis, one can grow and progress as a human. There is a common study that shows the happiness and well-being of humans forms a u-shape throughout the life of a human (Weiss, King, Inoue-Murayama, Matsuzawa & Oswald, 2012). The bottom of the U-shape may be a midlife crisis for someone but by embracing the crisis is a positive manner, the person will be moving upward again. The encouragement that Sander offers in her book is to utilize the motivation and desires that are high during a midlife crisis to responsibly make positive changes in one’s life. It is difficult for most to look at this confusing, stressful, and uncertain time as positive but those that make the mind shift are typically more content with their life at an early time than those that do not. The key to making the most of a midlife crisis is to ensure that all decisions are made with responsibility and care thought that is free from emotion.
The symptoms and reaction analysis with this book by Sander clearly shows that it is feasible to remain positive during a midlife crisis and also obtain positive results. Midlife crises are stressful and confusing times for many people but with mindset changes and proper utilization of energy, there are be excellent outcomes that literally change people’s lives for the better. Through careful implementation of the positive aspects and guides provided by Sander, there is an excellent insight that can give all individuals going through a midlife crisis the willpower to make the event a positive event in their life. Despite the positive motivation and proposed outcomes, there are still aspects of a midlife crisis that may not be as positive in the immediate.
For many that go through midlife crises, there are negative realizations that may arise that cause someone to make a decision that is not positive in the immediate. Though it is a symptom of a midlife crisis that is typically avoided, there are aspects that may cause decisions to be made that are not positive. During these times, Sander recommends remaining as positive as possible. There is typically a reason for the decision to be made and as long as it is rational and free of emotion, there is a true and meaningful purpose. By remembering the main purpose for decisions and action, there can be peace and positivity for all actions. When decisions are also made rationally and without the emotions of a midlife crisis involved, there can be true peace reached and positivity can remain or increase.
A midlife crisis is a frequent event for many people throughout the world. In America, there have been hundreds of people trying to determine the reasons for midlife crises. Hundreds have also tried to encompass the ways to manage a midlife crisis and prevent or reduce the common negative effects of a midlife crisis. Sander has excelled in the area of determining the strategies that can be used to navigate through a midlife crisis that results in positive outcomes. For many that go through a midlife crisis, the outcomes of decisions and actions are frequently negative and have an impact on their lives and the lives of others. Sander suggests that there is an alternative to the negative impacts of a midlife crisis.
Through careful evaluation of one’s life, symptoms, and support systems, one can successfully go through a midlife crisis and remain positive. There are even aspects of a midlife crisis that Sander identifies that can help one improve their relationships with others. They can better their lives and careers. There are even results of a midlife crisis that are negative but once resolved, they are actually positive. Despite common negative perspectives of midlife crises, Sander offers many aspects of this inevitable life event that can be positive. Many keys to experiencing a positive midlife crisis are to remain positive and to have a positive support system. For many, there is a major mindset shift that must occur in order for this positive outlook to occur but it is necessary. With the suggestions and advice gathered from Sander and her book, there is a positive outlook that many can gain that will help them not only experience their midlife crisis but also have a positive outcome of their life-changing event.
Sander, Dorothy. (2016). Midlife Pathways: Essays on Accepting Change as a Gateway to Transformation.
Weiss, A., King, J., Inoue-Murayama, M., Matsuzawa, T., & Oswald, A. (2012). Evidence for a midlife crisis in great apes consistent with the U-shape in human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(49), 19949-19952. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41830446