The natural process of midlife transition
(continued from Mid Life Crisis, page 2)
The first stage of mid-life involves a questioning of the personae presented to others in the first 30/40/50 years of life.
Think of a persona as a mask, and recognise that different masks are worn in different situations. In separation, one takes off the masks and looks at them, asking questions such as:
- Who is the person underneath the mask?
- Are these masks appropriate?
- Do they show others what I am really like, or do they present a false picture?
- Do they show me what I am really like?
- What am I like?
In Myers Briggs terms, this might involve questioning one's personality type. For example, an extrovert who is aware of his type might ask:
- Am I really an extrovert?
- Is my extrovert behaviour a reflection of my own preferences?
- Am I acting like an extrovert because that is what my parents or everyone else expect (or have expected) me to do?
The questioning of the personae leads to a large degree of uncertainty - a psychological 'no-man's land'. The old personae have been rejected, perhaps only temporarily, but no new personae have been put in their place. One can therefore feel:
- uncertain about 'who I am'
- lacking in direction, and unsure how to go forward
- apprehensive about making rash, life-changing decisions
- fearful about whether this uncertainty is ever going to end
In Myers Briggs terms, the individual may be unsure about his/her type, and seek views and feedback from sources outside of him/her self.
Eventually, the uncertainty lessens, new personae are adopted (usually, more in harmony with what is happening 'within') and what remains uncertain feels quite comfortable (or even an essential part of living). During reintegration, one:
- develops a better understanding of 'who I am'
- adopts appropriate personae and roles, and re-assesses them on an ongoing basis
- retains some sense of liminality (uncertainty)
- becomes more comfortable with oneself and others being the way they are
In Myers Briggs terms, the person may finally discover his/her 'true type', and be comfortable that it is a genuine reflection of inner preferences.
The final article is about Individuation.