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Midlife as a Development Stage: Tasks Associated with this Time of Life


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October 20, 2023

Midlife as a Development Stage: Tasks Associated with this Time of Life

One of the first signs that you are in mid-life is the anxiety you feel related to the passage of time.  During midlife, there is a moment of realization that our energy – one of our most valuable resources – is limited.  In mid-life there is a famous metaphor of reaching the top of the hill. We may be proud of our accomplishment of reaching the peak, and at the same time feel fear that half of the journey is complete.  From the top of the hill, the end is in sight.  In midlife, we must learn to live with the mystery of death.  There is a challenge and opportunity here. How do we want to spend our precious time with the energy we have?  Answering this question may force us to reprioritize goals and accept that some goals are unrealistic.  Part of the work of midlife is to acknowledge and let go of unfulfilled dreams.  

Thus, there is much inner work generally happening beneath the façade of outward stability in midlife.  Another important task of midlife is accepting the truth about ourselves.  This is the process of not only accepting the parts of ourselves that are known, but also the parts that are unknown or unliked, known as the shadow self. The shadow self typically includes parts of ourselves that we deem unacceptable. We are ashamed of these parts and therefore attempt to suppress them.  But the shadow self is neither good nor bad.  It exists in everyone, even if we are not aware of it.  It may be uncomfortable to face our shadows, but it can be a rewarding process that leads to greater self-awareness and wholeness.  By examining our shadows, we shed light on the parts of ourselves that need healing and improvement.  An important task of midlife is to learn and accept the truth about ourselves.  Ultimately, we must accept ourselves as we are.

As the term “midlife crisis” suggests, there can be a lot of internal conflict happening for people in midlife.  It’s common for those in midlife to seek out a therapist to explore difficult topics or feelings that come up.  This should be encouraged more and normalized in our culture, rather than stigmatized.  If you are struggling with issues related to midlife, or if you are curious to explore opportunities for personal growth during the middle passage – I encourage you to seek out the support of a therapist.  The opportunities for growth and development in mid-life are abundant if you are willing to take a look inside.