MIDLIFE IS A CROSSROADS—NOT A CRISIS Part two © Manganiello—all rights reserved 2003
In last month’s Part one of this article we learned that midlife is not a crisis; it’s a crossroads of soul. One road leads to what I call “not-such-a-good-life” and other to The Good Life.
The road to Good Life requires that we recognize and honor our soul’s call to Heart—to our innermost identity. To respond to this call, we must get knowledge and tools to free ourselves from a conditioned identity that limits us to yesterday’s vision of who we are and that limits our vision of what our life can be.
If we fail to understand and properly negotiate midlife territory, we might become rigid and inflexible in an attempt to hold on tightly to what was. This can result in a narrowing and constricting of our lives as we forfeit opportunity to claim powerful options for growth that emerge during midlife.
We also can fail to properly negotiate midlife territory if we impulsively react to chaos and confusion it brings by making changes that we don't understand or that we’re not prepared for. We might, for example, prematurely change jobs, leave a relationship, make risky investments, or embrace some glitzy philosophy in a not too well thought out gesture to make change. Too often this reactive approach leaves us washed up on a psychological shore that is empty of any depth or meaning.
Our surface identity seeks to find and cling to some sense of certainty that could keep it secure and safe. We could say that when it travels, our surface identity likes to have an itinerary clearly and precisely mapped out. It does not like surprises. It even avoids scenic routes so that it can stay on main road where everything is predictable.
Midlife can be a time when our old maps for life do not fit territory that we find ourselves in.
As Dante put it in his Inferno,
Midway this way of life we're bound upon, I woke to find myself in a dark wood, Where right road was wholly lost and gone.
Circumstances that can make us intensely aware of midlife turmoil are both internal and external. The external ones include realities such as physical evidence of our aging, death of our parents, our children leaving nest and closer view of our own death on visible horizon. These situations are depressing in that they tend to put us face to face with an existence that contradicts stance of our youthful heroism, a heroism that always imagined that we could have our own way in this life.
Our heroic ego also finds itself assaulted from inside. The solid ground that our self-image seemed to stand on begins to crack. We find ourselves experiencing a discrepancy between who we thought we were and who we actually are now. To make matters worse, while person we thought we were seems to be dissolving, person we hoped we weren't begins to show up more and more. This clash of images can leave us feeling sad, depressed, stressed out and very alone. We might feel a sense of profound loss that we cannot really explain to ourselves.
The forces that accompany midlife can push us deeply into our fear. But if we can open what great spiritual traditions call Eye of Heart, we can see real nature of our fear. Behind our fear is an immense sadness that is an expression of a tender Heart. This tender heart can become an important source of compassion and concern for others as well as of awe and wonder about mystery of life. When we connect with our tender Heart, we no longer have to be embarrassed about who we are.
There is an art and science to making a midlife transformation. First we need to recognize that turmoil we feel represents life working on us rather than evidence that we are weird, sick or other than we should be. This turmoil is really call of Heart to create a life that’s an adventure of love, courage and wisdom. Then we need reliable knowledge and tools to put that knowledge to work.
As we give up our limited ideas of who we are and what we "should" be, we can then become sensitive to a kind of inner guidance. Our psyche, at first, frightens us by shaking up our world entirely. It then stimulates us by pointing to some of life's most interesting possibilities. It gets out attention by making us see that our skin is too small for who we really are. Seeing this, we can begin to revision our lives as a creative adventure that is pulled by our dreams and visions and not merely pushed from behind by our past conditioned fears.
After many years of study and work in best of western and eastern psychological, spiritual and well-being traditions, I created Good Life Process™, a life enhancement practice that brings together ancient wisdom and cutting edge knowledge. The Process is a powerful tool for negotiating midlife change and for creating a life that can be well lived, loved and understood.
© Manganiello—all rights reserved 2003