Midlife Crisis is About Power
I have discovered a straightforward truth about midlife crisis: midlife is a time for people to rediscover their power.
Many individuals are primarily defined by their culture, family, job, and other outside forces. Midlife is a time when people wake up to change their life to be more in sync with their own desires.
Women are often overly suppressed and forced to be something they are not in life. This has some interesting impacts on a midlife crisis for a woman.
The first truth is you see more men in midlife crisis only because men are more encouraged to be boys, to be bad, to break the mold in life.
In cultures where women are more oppressed, midlife crisis tends to get muted by social pressure. In the western culture where women are regaining their power, the modern woman is more and more often waking up and regaining her power in midlife!
The second truth is many women experience their midlife crisis in stealth mode. For instance, I see more women go to college at midlife than men. In part, this happens because women often give up their education for the sake of a family. However, I also see women going to college again because it is safer; their partners will not attack or belittle them if they go back to school. Also, going to college gives a woman a chance to build up her power and credentials after raising a family for so long. The modern culture doesn’t respect parenting as a skill, but it does recognize a college degree.
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Sexism in Midlife Crisis
I have discovered many of the aspects of midlife people associate with men and women aren’t about one’s sex, but are rather issues around one’s power.
Many of the male-oriented midlife crisis symptoms are those traits associated with a person in power. Many of the female midlife crisis symptoms are the result of a person not being in their power.
In a sexist culture, people are shoved towards predictable patterns. Most cultures take away power from women. This makes midlife a harder event for a woman waking up into their power. Sexist attitudes will be a double standard that pushes a woman back into a less powerful situation.
For example, society encourages a man to leave a poor partner but encourages a woman to stay and work through a bad marriage.
One of the hallmarks of the process I teach is to help people grow into their power. As a result, the process we teach is very effective in helping people find comfort and strength during their midlife awakening.
One of the places where sexism causes the most damage to a woman is around the values of aging. Men are allowed to age with respect while there is much prejudice against a woman as they age.
Since midlife is all about coming to power as you age, sadly, this means midlife is a more complicated process for a woman to navigate.
Women will find fewer future partners in a midlife crisis, have fewer job opportunities, and the list goes on for the challenges a woman faces within a midlife crisis.
When we work with women, we give extra support to help a woman plan for these additional difficulties they will face. For this reason, women often go through a midlife crisis with a bit less mess than men, because the average woman is already aware of social inequities they have to navigate. Men tend to stumble through a midlife crisis while women plan and build a path through their midlife crisis.
Midlife Crisis is About Aging
Regarding life, Taoism sees human life divided into three significant times as an adult.
- The first third of life is all about fitting in with your society.
- The second third of life represents taking control of your story. (Midlife transition is the starting point for the second third of life)
- The final third of life represents focusing on your legacy and releasing oneself into spiritual exploration.
Midlife transition is the start of the second third of life. A person around the age of 40 will begin to feel the need to reevaluate their life. At this stage a person will seriously feel like they are being held back and try to make changes to be more of their own person. For parents, this change can be daunting after taking care of their children. Many times a person has to relearn how to take care of themselves. Even harder, many times, other people will hold back a woman, because dependants may not want to lose the support the woman provides.
People who value the care they give to others more than taking care of themselves tend to undercut their personal growth processes. Midlife transition is a time of growth, but many women opt-out of the midlife growth option thinking a midlife change would limit their ability to care for others. However, a midlife transition can be a time to improve life for a whole family when done gracefully and with awareness. Since western culture paints a bleak picture of people who go through a midlife crisis, that is enough to scare many women from working on themselves.
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Midlife and Menopause
Menopause is often associated with a woman’s midlife change. However, while menopause often occurs in the fifties, a midlife crisis can happen as early as the late thirties for some women. The actual timing of menopause and midlife transformation are rarely in sync with each other. A woman’s midlife transformation often happens before menopause. Midlife transition, as a result, can be a bit more confusing to a woman since while menopause traditionally represents when the midlife transition happens for a woman, this isn’t the case for the modern midlife crisis.
Why the discrepancy? Because midlife transition can happen with a series of changes over time! The changes will be spaced out by 7 to 9 years cycles.
For women, this is most apparent since they will go through their first midlife crisis as a process to re-balance their power. Then later in life, the body will finish the midlife change with menopause.
For example, a multi-staged midlife crisis can look like this:
- A woman can have an early midlife crisis at 39. The woman will settle into a refined life at 42 and work hard to keep things working smoothly.
- At 48, the woman will re-shift everything and fix problems that occurred from the first midlife transition. This change point tends to be smaller and is often overlooked by a person.
- Then at 54, the woman experiences menopause, which forces her to refine her life once again.
Keep in mind this isn’t exact. Different women will experience this at different points of life. For example, 2/3rds of people sail through life without even feeling midlife crisis at all!
Some people will read this and think: Oh no, I don’t want to go through three change points of life! Ironically, think of these points as moments of opportunity to improve your life. People get so afraid of change; they miss the more profound truth when being proactive; this becomes a moment to make life better!
Men also often go through multistage midlife change. However, men don’t experience menopause in the same manner as women, so everyone overlooks the man’s latter midlife stages.
This is only one of many patterns in midlife change. The mid-stage change tends to be small, and most people don’t notice it at all in their life after the more significant earlier midlife crisis event. However, menopause is hard to miss! Because of menopause, the multistage midlife process is more apparent for women.
Working with Menopause
Menopause isn’t always a welcomed change in life. Historically, this wasn’t always true. Female Taoist practitioners were known to embrace menopause earlier in their life. However, within modern society, things are very different. It’s medically more acceptable to have children older. Also, modern culture is mind centric: people want to control their bodies, and not be controlled by the body. Finally, western culture is youth-centric. People don’t want to lose the edge of their youth, to go through menopause is to be forced away from one’s youth.
In China, where elders were respected, it made sense to embrace menopause. In western culture, people worship youth. Look at how the western culture treats the older population like refuse, and you immediately see the problem. The lack of respect given to aging makes menopause a dreaded harbinger of being older in life.
Reproduction comes at a high cost to our bodies. To be reproductively fit pushes the body at a higher pace and rate, to ensure reproduction. It turns out midlife is a very biologically critical time in human life. Midlife transformation is all about resetting and then re-tuning our bodies to be more sustainable as an elder rather than as a parent.
To push oneself always as a 20-year lifestyle would mean the average human body would fail and burn out by 60. The human body is engineered to shift and pace out life in a more sustainable fashion. Men who don’t go through a full version of menopause (men still do go through midlife physical changes, but it’s lighter and more subtle) die younger than women, on average, seven years younger. Other factors come into play for the age difference, but this re-pacing of life plays in heavily! Working with your menopause is part of working with one’s longevity and having a longer life.
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Midlife transition and menopause are all about improving the quality of life for a person. In addition to literally re-tuning a body, a woman’s body can age more gracefully when flowing through the menopause process. Midlife should be the time when women take control of the biological clock, rather than dancing to a beat outside their control.
Menopause isn’t always an easy transition for many women. A midlife crisis itself is a hard time for many people, for both men and women. For women who could be dealing with the impacts of menopause and midlife crisis at the same time will feel overwhelmed indeed.
In this process, women must not be limited by the midlife crisis patterns from the culture and peers. Menopause is a time of great power for a woman; power represents the ability to define oneself. Take the time to exercise, redefine your lifestyle, and make choices that represent how you truly want to live through your middle third of life. The culture focuses on your age, yet midlife crisis for women is not about getting older, it’s about stepping into a more powerful and mature version of yourself. Maturing isn’t only about age; it’s about how you see and interact with the world around you.
A final consideration is this: midlife change often becomes a midlife crisis. In working to avoid aging, you can force the natural process of midlife transition into becoming a more significant personal crisis. Turn this around to instead be about embracing the peak of your life.
The time to be old is in our last third of life (when you are 80). You’re entering the peak of life, the middle third of life! The peak of life is a vast plateau to experience. Discover that the second third of life represents becoming your own person. You have 40 full years (40 to 80) to embrace richly in this peak of life. Make this a time to be about personal transformation and become strong in yourself.