Middle age gets an undeserved reputation for crises. Some blame the stars, pointing to a rough Saturn Return painting the astrological skies. But, realistically, the rash actions that we associate with a midlife crisis can happen at any and every phase in life. Once you recognize that strife and struggle between two opposing outlooks can cause a spiritual and emotional crisis, you'll see that many stages of life have a similar challenge. As the author of Getting Through It: Reclaim and Rebuild Your Life After Adversity, Change, or Trauma, I'd like to introduce you to the many crises of life so that you won't feel so alone.
Trust Versus Mistrust
Consider the crisis of trust versus mistrust. At some point in your life, you hopefully learned to trust people, such as a caregiver when you were an infant. If you never learned to trust, you may find your crisis is forcing you to place your trust in a professional, the medical industry, or the judicial system. Write in your journal how you feel about the people in whom you should place your trust, and how you can work through this crisis, if applicable. Explore areas of trust and mistrust in your life, seeking to find a balance of reasonable trust.
Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt
Remember that one of the few emotions that you should try to actively prevent yourself from feeling is shame. If you are feeling shame connected with your level of dependence on others or isolation from those who can help you, this crisis is one that you should explore and resolve. Reach for your inner source of competence and power, and tell yourself that mistakes along the way to independence are okay. If there are people in your life who do not support any degree of independence on your part, talk with them and set up some boundaries that help you find more freedom. Write in your journal about any shame you feel connected to your independence or lack thereof.
Initiative Versus Guilt
If you are still feeling a sense of guilt over the course of your life, you might just be living through another iteration of the initiative versus guilt crisis. Look at your situation with a reasonable eye, perhaps with the assistance of your most trusted loved ones or a qualified professional. If there is something that you can reasonably do to mitigate your current situation, by all means you should take the initiative to try. However, it does no good to attempt to blame yourself for random happenstance or to continue to beat yourself up over past choices. Write in your journal about any past decisions related to your condition that make you feel guilty, then write down anything that is still your responsibility to improve.
Industry Versus Inferiority
You'll know if you're going through the industry versus isolation crisis all over again if you know for a fact that nobody would blame you for doing less work and yet you find that you're inwardly calling yourself lazy or inferior. Explore in your journal any work that you are missing because you miss being productive. Brainstorm some new ways that you can feel just as industrious without putting your health and healing at risk.
Identity Versus Role Confusion
Sometimes other people can be more perceptive when you are confused about yourself. Ask people closest to you to name three adjectives that describe you, and what they thought about you when they first met you. You will likely notice a pattern about what people say about you, regardless of what point in your life they met you. Once you have a list of a few stable attributes people have noticed before and after whatever events have shaped you now, meditate on those personality traits and how to best express them in the world. Quiz your loved ones: What are three words that describe you? What is the first thing that he or she noticed about you when you met?
Intimacy Versus Isolation
My experience with isolation has been a rough one, since I lost a spouse and three of my closest friends with whom I connected every day. I can confirm that, if you lose enough people who are close to you, it can feel like there can be nobody else, because those people you lost fill your entire social horizon. There can be others with whom you can connect on an emotionally intimate level, but such connections cannot happen overnight. You'll need time, perhaps months, to witness whether you can trust your deepest thoughts with somebody who is shifting from being an acquaintance to a friend, or from a friend to a good friend. If you witness signs that somebody is a gossiper or overreacts to anything more than small talk, it is better to be lonely a bit longer while waiting for the right connection to develop.
Evaluate the friends that are currently in your life. Have some of them transitioned from being an acquaintance to being a friend? Of your current friends, are there any who could potentially be a good friend? Are your potential good friends trustworthy with your heart? Invite a friend to tea and see if you can talk about what is important in your lives.
Generativity Versus Stagnation
In your journal, I'd like you to write about what pursuits in your life, regardless of whether you still do them, have been a fulfilling way for you to contribute to your community, the planet, or to future generations. For some people, your interactions at work in one of your jobs may have been a source of generativity. For other people, time spent raising a family or caring for one's elders. Make a list that encompasses the first time you felt fulfilled with your contributions to the last time. Make note of anything that each of your pursuits had in common and any barriers you had to success.
Ego Integrity Versus Despair
Everyone has made mistakes in life, and some of your own mistakes may loom large during a time when it feels right to consider your life in review. Practice self-forgiveness. Some people pray for forgiveness from the divine, but if you cannot forgive yourself, your sense of crisis may remain. Take time in meditation today to talk to your higher self. Instead of begging yourself for forgiveness, try to inhabit the perspective of your higher self to become your own loving parent and forgive yourself. During any past mistakes that still haunt you, see yourself as somebody's wayward child. See the youth and immaturity in past choices and wrap yourself in love, comfort, and forgiveness. Forgive yourself for past mistakes in the same way that a loving and divine parent would forgive.
Dr. Alexandra Chauran, of Port Moody, Canada, received a master's degree in teaching from Seattle University and a doctorate from Valdosta State University. She is the author of dozens of books, including Crystal Ball ...