According to a survey carried out in 1994, 86% of the young people consulted (20 years old on average) declared that they believed in the existence of the so-called “Crisis of maturity”, also known as the midlife crisis. It’s a concept that’s been known for a long time, even though it was in 1965 when someone decided to name it.
More precisely, it is the psychoanalyst Elliot Jaques who baptized as maturity crisis certain patterns of behavior that he had observed in many artists as they entered the vital phase ranging from 40 to 50 and a few years, which could be interpreted as an attempt. to revive the age of college, something that went hand in hand with the frustration of not living true youth.
Today everything seems to indicate that concern about the crisis of the Middle Ages is no less widespread. At a time when the reign of appearances has become even more totalizing and where the idealization of youth and aspectism covers practically all marketing products, much of the forms of artistic expression and even and all political communication, being over 40 could almost sound like a crime, and they seem doomed to suffer additional discomfort as they go through this phase of life. But … is the crisis of the Middle Ages really generalized?
The crises of the 1940s and 1950s
In the wide range of possibilities covered by such a generic concept as the midlife crisis, a distinction is generally made between that which appears around 40 and that which concerns ages close to 50.
On the one hand, every time a decade has passed since birth, a threshold is crossed which, although in all cases does not imply a qualitative change in biological development (as is the case with puberty, for example), has a strong psychological impact. Artificial and socially constructed, but no less real for it.
On the other hand, in middle age there is a greater awareness of one’s own mortality, partly due to the signs of physical wear and tear that are starting to be noticed in one’s own body, and partly also due to due to environmental factors, such as because at this point the expectations of big changes in life are drastically reduced and the greatest novelty to come is retirement, or the possibility that during these years more loved ones die, such as parents or uncles, and must pass for mourning.
Thus, it is easy to imagine that the desire for youth is growing, but a priori that does not mean that it will happen or that it is as strong a blow as one can call a “crisis”; it is only a theoretical and hypothetical explanation of the elements which could lead to this psychological phenomenon. Now let’s go to what we know about the crisis of the Middle Ages thanks to empirical contrast. To what extent does it exist?
Middle Ages crisis: reality or myth?
In their excellent book 50 Great Myths of Folk Psychology, Scott O. Lilienfield, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry Beyerstein offer significant amounts of data that this catastrophic notion that most people will go through a middle-aged crisis is exaggerated, although it has a part of truth.
For example, in a study of a sample of 1,501 married Chinese between the ages of 30 and 60, psychologist Daniel Shek found no significant evidence that as they move through the middle age, most participants experienced an increase dissatisfaction.
Regarding people linked to Western culture, the largest study carried out on people in the vital phase of maturity (more than 3000 interviews), men and women between 40 and 60 years old showed, in general, degrees of satisfaction and satisfaction. more self-control they had experienced during the previous decade.
In addition, the worry and discomfort engendered by the idea of undergoing a crisis in the Middle Ages were more frequent than the cases where this phenomenon was actually experienced. Other research has shown that only between 10 and 26% of people over 40 they say they went through a middle-aged crisis.
Maturity can also be appreciated
So why has this phenomenon been so exaggerated? This may be due, in part, to the fact that what is meant by a middle ages crisis is very ambiguous, so it’s easy to use this concept to name what makes us suffer.
For example, a qualitative leap in consumption habits, such as starting to travel at age 41, it can be attributed to the need to relive the adventurous spirit of youthBut it can also be understood simply as the fruit of years of savings during a time when luxury was out of reach.
It is also possible that communication problems with adolescents or the boredom produced by a more stable work environment generate discomfort that is abstractly associated with aging, although technically this has nothing to do with this. process.
In any case, everything seems to indicate that in most cases, the worst part of the midlife crisis is its anticipation and the unwarranted worry it generates. maturity it’s usually a time in life that you can enjoy as much or more than anyone elseAnd it’s not worth creating artificial problems while waiting for a crisis that is unlikely to happen.
- Brim, OG and Kessler, RC (2004). How healthy are we? A national study on well-being in the middle age. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Mental Health and Development Network. Studies on the successful development of middle age (RC Kessler, ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Lilienfield, SO, Lynn, SJ, Ruscio, J. and Beyerstein, B. (2011). 50 great myths of popular psychology. Vilassar de Dalt: Buridán Library.
- Shek, D. (1996). Middle-aged crisis among Chinese men and women. Journal of Psychology, 130, pages 109-119.