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This post will discuss an universal phenomenon discovered around 1960, called Mid Life Crisis by psychologists. I would rather term it as Mid Life passage. The post is written by a 40+ man, presumably in the thick of it.
In 1960s, economists or psychologists studying human happiness or well-being were considered very strange or “alchemists reborn” by the mainstream practitioners.
The situation is very different today,so different that a venture clinicdephilo.com is returning positive return on investment within six months.
If you are 40+ , working professional, have a family with attendant parameters – spouse, children, EMI for home, car, then look at the curve below very intently :
This is very famous U-curve which seems to be of the same pattern over a huge population samples in many cultures. Some researchers did collect data over 500 zoos and found out that chimpanzees also validate the curve and some academicians consider this U -curve as a biological condition rather than a human condition alone.
The implications are very interesting. Let me present what the insights of the curve I gathered and this may explain many things which are tormenting you but you are not able to get a “scientific” explanation. You shall thank me if you continue reading.
I. Before you reach 50+, the next 10 years, on an average will be very troublesome. You are on a free fall in terms of happiness, health, ambition, energy, libido, relationship, loving your work.
II. The above is independent of professional success and financial security. Do not fool yourself that you can escape U-curve just because you are successful. It is not clear yet but it appears that your brain and mind both have re-calibrated what is meant by success and achievement.
III. You may suddenly feel that Life has sped by you and what you have achieved is nothing. You have nothing to show for. You shall find your office and work a kind of prison cell and home – solitary confinement.
IV. You shall think about death a lot. To get an idea what it is – please consider your phone showing a lone bar of power left and you are in a situation where you cannot charge in next 5 hours.
V. You shall become customers of those businesses that a) helps you grow new hair b) tightens your skin c) makes you look younger d) inject vitamins and all super-human supplements e) helps you look younger and attractive f) sells wigs g) sells viagra and such stimulating pills
VI. You shall make impulsive buying
VII. You shall be suddenly interested in music, playing an instrument, joining an art school, planning exotic travels. You did nothing of them earlier.
VIII. Trying to associate socially, emotionally and romantically with people 20 years younger than you ; they bore you mostly but you think that their is a radiation theory of youth and you shall be able to capture some of this “radiation of youthfulness”. You may prove yourself a fool but you will not care.
IX. Even though you have a good job and good salary, it will be an effort for you to drag yourself in the morning to your work / office.
X. If you have old parents, every phone call from them will make you tense.
XI. You shall quite often muse : “How my children’s generation will be able to work, earn and lead their lives ?”
XII. You shall see people – achievers, celebrity in the TV and will ask yourself – “Look… he is two years younger to me.. but where is he now….”. You shall discover that school-mates, college-mates, ex-colleagues – all were in some universal conspiracy to torment you, to re-prove your own worthlessness. Facebook photos posted by friends will burn you.
XIII. You shall have an intense longing for your childhood. You shall think more of the past then of the future.
XIV. Sometimes, you shall think of leaving the metropolitan (you have worked hard to be in such a company HQ since you were 25) and going to some secluded area, in some small town and become a clerk there. Or may think of leaving the job (which you cannot for at least 15 years because of mortgage) and starting a small dhaba or coffee-shop or bookstore.
XVI. Sometimes, you shall look at the mirror and think : “Who is that fellow ?”. If you are less polite and unforgiving, you shall quip inside while you look at your spouse : “How unattractive !”
If you identify some symptoms (no need to admit, a nod will do) matching, do not be bitter or sad. Look again at the U-curve. By 50+, you shall again start becoming happier, so much so that you shall be reaching your peak happiness when you are 60+. This explains why grandparents sometimes are much more emotionally closer to the grandchildren than the parents. Their happiness is almost at the same level.
How to go through this Crisis or Passage ?
As U-curve clearly demonstrates, being more successful or achieving more will not help you at all.
Research on this has indicated that something called “wisdom” is something that can make the passage less painful and less bitter. The neuro-psycho configuration that is causing the crisis, in other way is preparing you for “wisdom” where if you remain truthful to the passage or rather to biology, you shall find that your reaction to achievement, ambition, success will be different.
The challenge is not the crisis but an engagement with it. This can only be done once you are detached. Hence the first advice to Arjuna in India’s omnibook of wisdom, the Gita declares :
“dehino-ashmin yatha dehe kaumarng jaubanam jara
tatha dehantra prapti dhira statra na muyati”
“Just like a body changes from boyhood to youth and then to old age, thus a man of wisdom does not become sad while the body takes another body (death of the current body and taking another new body )”
In the Gita, body meant both physical body of five gross elements and three subtle elements called mind, intelligence and ego.
This detachment will not just come when you need it. This needs practice.
Let me do some more research and I shall write a post on the practice aspect of it.