Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
Why is it that so many older men seem to do idiotic and damaging crap and then blame it on “mid life crisis”? I’ve seldom heard of a woman turn 40, run out, buy a Porsche and start dating the pool boy. Yet every other week I hear about one of my friends’ husbands doing this! What’s the deal?
The “mid life Crisis” is multi factorial but there are a few things I can say about it. There’s been talk recently of the Male Menopause –a hormonal change men go through somewhere between 40 and 50 years old. Probably this is crap, but people just love to have a biological excuse and a syndrome title for everything these days. As you say, if hormones were the reason, woman would be doing the same things… and more often they do not. I lean toward cultural explanations.
There is a cultural cliché I believe people start believing at around the age of 40, and it fuels most of the mid-life mans bucket list or their to do list of crazy things: “Live every day as if it was your last.” Well, this is ridiculous in real life. It violates every rule of intent and denies all the skills we need to maintain a healthy life balance over time. “Live every day as if it was your last” only works if it is, in fact, your last day. Otherwise you have to live with the consequences of your impulsive decisions and behaviors. In truth our routines, to a large part, define us. They give meaning and form to our lives. They are also like putting money in the bank, investing in our future. Just throwing them to the wind one day might only lead to depression, frustration, or regret. A better choice? Invest in your future. If there is no future, you won’t miss it anyway. If you’re tired of an old routine, find a way consistent with your intent to make it new by adding to it or building on it. For example- if you’re bored with your job but you are good at it, write a book about it! This is adding a new layer on to what is already there.
Today isn’t your last, it’s your first. Live every day as if it were your first!
Another possible contributor to the Mid life crisis: Living the consequence of our own culture.
Our culture is backwards. Often mid life is the first time we have stopped to clarify our intent or think about what we want out of life.
By the time we reach age 40 – 50, our kids are growing up, ours jobs are theoretically stable (no longer these days) and we might be asking the questions “Where am I?” and “Where do I go from here?”
This should have been done back in our teens. Starting at 40 puts pressure towards the future and devaluates the past. This could involve chucking those routines that have up until now described who we are.
We live in a culture that places high value on hope and love. This often leaves us angry and disappointed! We have expectations, but not the skills that are needed to bring about what we hope for. We live in a culture that has the concrete/literal expectations of a five-year-old, and believes in magic. We are promised the fairy tale and will accept nothing else. We cling to the promises, thus we miss opportunities all around us.
America is a land of children. We treat our earth as our playground.
We need to trade in hope and learn to drive our lives with intent. Who we are and where we are at now is, for the greatest part, due to the skills we have. In fact it IS the skills we have. Intent is our navigational system on the road of life. Our skill based behaviors provide the transportation to get there. We must actually learn to live backwards in time, starting with our intent. What kind of person would you like to be in 20 years? What kind of relationship would you like to have? If we focus on the things that will lead to these outcomes, our intent becomes synonymous with common sense.
If we don’t have the skills to achieve our intent, we’d better get them.
I highly recommend:
The Death of Cupid: Reclaiming the Wisdom of Love, Dating, Romance and Marriage by Shimon Apisdorf and Nachum Braverman
This book illustrates intent within a relationship. But the same principles apply to all of life.
OK, back to that Male Menopause thing. Men are task oriented creatures. We want results. Our culture substitutes products for results. If you don’t feel you have achieved your potential, or if you feel you have put in your time and the pay off didn’t come, you are open to suggestion and become an easy mark. The idea of trading in your life, wealth, and security for a car and a bimbo can seem very appealing… almost logical.
In our culture, we are not taught how to look at what we have or what we have accomplished. Our values have been sold to us by companies that live on their profits.
There is much that has been hidden from us. I believe if the following were known, things like the midlife crisis would not often happen:
Time is the most valuable thing we own and it increases in value daily.
Acquiring skills is the best use of our time. As compared to commodities, we can accumulate endless skills without being weighed down by them; and they are hard to steal.
The more skills you have, the less you are dependent on others. In this way, they actually make us lighter.
Many people learn only one skill and use it in every situation. This prevents them from learning other skills and in life you never know when the game is going to change.
You can’t stop, save or sequester time, but you can use your time to learn and accumulate skills. If you then teach the skills you have learned, they live on in others. In a way this makes time tangible.
Without appreciation and a sense of duty, time is meaningless no matter where you look or what you do.
Life has the most meaning in the sharing of the experience, not just in the experience itself.
Living in the moment allows for adventure, but relationships are the home that you will return to. Real relationships last over time- It takes skills to balance adventure within a relationship.
A Difficult Truth
We have a concept of freedom that is false- it is that which seems free by being undefined. This is false freedom as it tends to increase dependence on others. False freedom also sucks a lot of time and energy and resources without accumulating anything like skills or relationships that will last or give returns. It is a delusion to believe you can live without consequences. Being an adult means owning the responsibility of the consequences to your decisions, behavior and presence. True freedom is being able to freely choose what freedoms you will give up in order to define yourself, your relationships and thus your meaning.
Our culture is crazy and most of what makes it such is that we do not have the philosophical or spiritual base to deal with reality. We instead deal with our expectations of reality and the ideals that have been programmed into us. We teach towards the ideal, not towards individuals. We plan, shop, and buy towards those ideals, not an environmental reality. We consume towards those ideals and not a sustainable reality. Living towards an ideal means living in denial. Reality is a functional dynamic. It is made of all opposites; life and death, success and failure, me and you… There is no real result or answer or meaning in and of itself… the goal is always just balance.
Midlife is a time of choice. We can build on what we have thus far created or we can destroy what we have built and start over. We can also do nothing and wait to die.
It is difficult in our culture making this choice. Much that I have talked about in this essay is not wildly known. Sustainable life skills just aren’t a cash cow.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
A reader commented:
Dr. Brilliant – I agree with the culture that people are more spoiled and experience “mid-life” crises. I bet people in the lower income class or in the 3rd world country will not have to face the dilemma.
Even though, our culture drives people to mid-life crises but, it doesn’t happen to everyone, why not? What is it about those individuals who supposingly experienced it? Did you personally?
First you may leave a comment directly on this site under “leave a comment, or you may email me questions at email@example.com, or you can find us in facebook by typing DrBrilliant Cliche into face books search.
As to your questions:
You need choice to experience the Mid life Crisis. A slave who has no choice would laugh at this concept. Myself I am just arriving at Mid life but this project is my mid life pursuit, not crisis. Many people feel trapped and haven’t the imagination to create something new, I don’t suffer that problem.
Thank you for your questions,
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
The previous reader again comments:
Why do people feel trapped? What if their situation doesn’t allow them to escape? What are the consequences of having a mid-life crises and not resolving the problem? Take “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I think the main character can potentially go into a mid-life crises when one day he wakes up realizing that he didn’t go to college and explore the world like he always dream of. Now, he has family business, a wife, and kids. What then? He can’t leave everything to pursue his dream. Another example: A man married young, has 4 kids, and then his wife left him to pursue her career. He is taking care of the 4 kids, he can’t pursue his own life and do what he wants. At 50, he is bursting out of his mind, not wanting people telling him what to do, but he can’t run. He has his kids to care for. Everyday, his own personal time is when he goes to the bathroom.
Why do people feel trapped is a question good enough for its own essay, soon to come. Keep following our blog.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché