In Suburbia At Age Forty-Five
One of the larger age groups that come to me for therapy are people who are at or right around the age of 45.
This is not entirely surprising to me. For many people at this age, there is a tremendous amount going on in their lives. As life unfolds for many people, this is an point in life where the individual is confronted with fundamental changes in his or her life. These may not be obvious to outsiders, especially given the suburban lifestyle with its unique pressures. Nonetheless, sometimes what is going on for people on the psychological level is enormous.
Does this mean that these people are mentally ill, or somehow suffering from “psychological disorders”? Of course not. But it does mean that these people are confronting some of the most fundamental psychological or existential issues in human life.
For many of these people, the question of meaning is becoming a matter of increasing urgency. In a lot of cases, the people who come to me are people who are very accomplished, and who have achieved a lot in their lives. They have done what society has asked of them, in that they have moved out from the family of origin, gotten the necessary education, gotten into good careers, and often gotten married and raised families. They are exemplary “good members of the community”. However, for many of them, there is a need for something more, now. They are seeking for a life that is fulfilling for them. They are seeking for a life that has value for themselves, individually.
Many such people are struggling with relationship issues. There can be a strong feeling that the relationship that they are in is simply not currently meeting their needs. Or else, they may have a strong feeling that their partner, who is often dealing with some pretty fundamental issues in his or her own life is no longer as fulfilled by the relationship as they once were.
Often these people are in the midst of deep changes in their lives. Often they are unsure “which way is up”, and they are asking questions about where lasting value is in their lives, and what they can hold onto that will give them a sense of orientation. They are asking these questions in a deeply personal way: no “ready made, off the shelf” answer is going to work for them. They are asking about who they really are, and they are asking what in their lives has lasting, incorruptible value.
These are the questions at the heart of what Carl Jung called the individuation process. For many people in the age bracket anywhere from later 30s through the 50s. these questions can take on a tremendous urgency.
Who, most fundamentally, are you?
What is most meaningful to you, personally, in your life?
How will you live in the light of what is most important to you?
These are not questions that stem from some sort of psychological disorder. Rather they are questions that sane, healthy people naturally confront as they move through the journey of their lives. Nonetheless, finding the answers that we need may be tied very strongly to incorporating new insights that emerge from the deepest parts of ourselves, and from the collective unconscious. Often people need help to orient themselves in this unfamiliar territory, and to wrestle with their own depths. I firmly believe that this is something that working with a compassionate therapist with deep experience with this type of issue and with the unconscious can provide.