Midlife Transition & the Professional
The period in the middle years of life is often known as the midlife transition, and it can be a period of surprising forms of change for the professional person.
Is midlife transition important for the professional? Yes, most definitely: but perhaps not in the ways you’d expect!
Not Necessarily “Mid-Life Crisis”
Midlife transition for the professional may not appear in a form that fits the stereotypical image of the “mid-life crisis.”
There may be no red sports cars, no decision to go climb Everest, nor any lost weekends in Vegas (although sometimes these things do occur). But there will likely be some very serious re-evaluation of what is meaningful or important in life.
Mask Dance: Professional Persona
One of the big issues that professionals can come up against in the midlife transition involves a person’s whole relationship to their professional identity — what Jungians would call their professional persona
Most professions impart a very clear sense of professional identity to their members. Those professional stereotypes all exist for a reason: they may not be completely accurate, but in many cases they pick up on elements of professional identity that the profession works very hard to instill in its members. However, this can be a source of psychic pain, when the professional persona is not very well suited to who the individual actually is.
What is it All Really Worth?
Professional people make substantial sacrifices to obtain the education and professional experience to practice a profession. Today, the lifestyle of a professional may also include a lot of ongoing sacrifice just to meet the responsibilities that he or she must carry, or even to work in the field.
This seems especially onerous during the midlife transition, if the professional identity has alienated person from his or her personal identity. An individual may come to wonder if all the effort and role-playing has all been worthwhile — and whether it continues to be worthwhile to participate in the profession.
As the old saying goes:
What is Really Living?
In the midlife transition, it’s not uncommon for people to feel that they want an increased level of authenticity in their personal lives. They want to feel really alive.
The tough question is how to get that.
Individuals start to ask, “What changes will enable me to live in such a way that I feel that I really am alive, that my life seems vital and fundamentally meaningful — to me?”
A scene from the movie “Parenthood” captures many of the sentiments that professionals can confront in midlife transition.
In this “quitting scene”, while the Steve Martin character is somewhat over the top, what rings true is his frustration with a role that doesn’t fit his real identity.
Living out who we really are is one of the dominant aspects of midlife transition. Jungian case studies focuses on discovering that unique identity in depth. Who is trying to be alive in you, above and beyond your professional identity?
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PHOTO: Some rights reserved torbakhopper © Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.com | VIDEO: “Parenthood” © 1989 Universal