0.4 ~ Why Midlife Crises are happening Sooner and More Often ‡

Wherein we contemplate the role of anxiety and depression (in an age of distraction).

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Okay folks: here we start to play with mildly dark/dangerous notions. I don’t mind the dark—the light can be blinding. And I don’t mind the danger—it’s how we learn and grow. But there is some peril to the following, which is why I ought deploy the following Caveat-cantrip (I have plenty): if you are experiencing a kind of depression that is debilitating—something that limits your ability to function and act—please seek some support. 

As you’ll learn: depression is quite a natural response to the myriad challenges of life. The low-energy state protects us from blind optimism. But!—if we are not careful it can turn into a downward spiral. So please: be kind to your self and seek help/support if you need it. (FWIW I was in a big funk a few years ago—here’s what worked for me, back then, kinda).

IT USED TO BE EASIER

Before the internet, we would form our identities—our sense of ‘who we are’—within the communities in which we were raised. This would further develop through our schooling, and then we’d then potentially venture off into new cities, building new iterations of our identity amidst the confluence of new relationships, careers and interests.

Occasionally, some of us would experience a ‘mid-life crisis’ and have to rekindle the self-development process again. Death, divorce, disaster, displacement—or similar such calamities—would trigger us to question the foundations of our existence. Who are we, really? What are we actually doing with our lives? What really matters? And what does it all mean, really?

These are powerful questions. Questions that can unravel the very notion of ‘who’ we really are—positively dis-integrating our very sense of self. But with time (and support), we’d usually find our way through this darkness. We’d either regress to a previously stable identity—or we’d grow into a re-integrated new form, finding our way to new ‘coherence’—a state in which things ‘make sense’ once again.

NOW EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

These ‘mid-life crises’ seem to be happening earlier and much more frequently—to many more folk. Friends and many people I know (myself included) frequently experience a vague kind of ‘existential angst’—a pensive and pervasive background sadness. Not quite depression, no: but some kind of darkness that lingers in the periphery. Even when life is ‘good’ and everything is ‘fine’, there can be this subtle sense as though you are missing something important, that you are not where we ought to be, or that you are not embodying ‘who’ you ‘really’ are.

Not to worry! We live in a world rich with distraction. Fret not—numb yourself instead.

But hoho—this approach doesn’t make the angst go away. And while I’m not sure if the angst ever truly leaves, the Ritual of Becoming—if done well—will have us at least engage productively with it. We do this with deep curiosity and empathy, so that we can find, decipher and rework the hidden patterns that shape who we are.

WHY DO THIS?

We are living in what could be considered a ‘meaning crisis’ (which, in turn, is part of a meta-crisis that includes climate change and ecological devastation, systemic inequality and the looming threat of societal collapse—among other things).

If depression is an adaptive mechanism that protects us from blind optimism, then any optimism we hold ought be tempered with a level of cynicism—and vice versa. This is at once a stoic, metamodern and fluid approach to navigating the myriad existential perils of life. And so, in contemplating the incoherence and incongruence we think and feel—we are more likely to find/fabricate a path towards meaningful progress and development. Towards contribution, belonging, and mattering.

To contemplate…

It has been said that life is simply a process of exchanging one anxiety for another. Ergo—if you were to do a quick scan of your Anxiety Heat Map™️—what is most on your mind right now? And what else? What’s the cluster of anxieties that currently plague you? And… is there a deeper, underlying pattern to this?

In time we shall be building a journalling habit (750words.com) to surface these angsts each day. Then—in time—we shall become deft at recognising the meta-patterns that shape and influence our unfurling selves. And with this knowledge we can begin the process of cultivating our own ‘character development’ with a hint of intentionality.

Or at least: the illusion of such.

Next, we get into the Ritual proper, starting with The Book of You


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This a work-in-progress ‘virtual book’, meta-blog and online programme by Dr Fox. Illustrations by dangerlam. (CC BY-NC-SA)