Development in Midlife

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Running head: DEVELOPMENT IN MIDLIFE

Development in Midlife: I’m Not as Jung as I Used to Be

Michael V. Anderson

Central Community College

Abstract
The developmental stage of midlife has traditionally been studied less than many of the other developmental stages of life. The goal of this paper is to examine some of the aspects of midlife that are of particular interest as a greater number of people pass through this stage of their lives than ever before. This paper will attempt to shed light on the more notable choices and challenges of midlife, how traditional ideas about midlife may be shifting as this large demographic passes through and how our collective perception expands and evolves. In an ever-changing world, the successful navigation of midlife will involve adjusting and transitioning more than ever before.

Development in Midlife: I’m Not as Jung as I Used to Be

Midlife is a normal developmental life stage. When we refer to something as being normal, we usually mean that it is something that everyone experiences. As with other developmental life stages, midlife begins with a choice. We either choose to accept it and take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to grow and enrich ourselves, or we choose to deny it and internalize our changing thoughts and feelings. Either way, we cannot escape the process (Becker, 2006). The challenges and opportunities that some theorists have presented will be explored in this paper. Traditionally speaking, midlife is perceived as the “afternoon” of our lives. Carl Jung was one of the first to develop a concept of the midlife mind. Jung once said: “…we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie” (Lachman, 2004, 306.) How does one go about defining midlife? Holistically speaking, a broad range of criteria must be considered. Health and aging concerns, personality/identity issues, vocational/social challenges, and psychological/spiritual development are just a few pieces of the puzzle. Fortunately, a number of theorists have tackled the issue of the midlife opportunity. From a developmental standpoint, Erik Erikson called the basic task of midlife Generativity versus Stagnation. Jung referred to the challenge as Individuation. Neugarten called it Interiority (Becker, 2006.) What do these terms mean? It all begins with a personal choice. As we age, the basic processes of life begin to take a toll. Life seems to become more complicated. Time seems to slip away at an ever-increasing pace. The older we get, the more we struggle to keep our lives in balance. We juggle work, family, friends and integrity. Each is so very demanding and so very important to us. What if we had to make a choice? Choose one over all the others, or maybe letting one go so we can devote more time to the other three? Here we have the makings of a life choice (Nevidjon, 2004.) Sometimes the choice is initiated by an event. A serious illness or a brush with death might provoke our imaginations. The loss of a good job or the death of a relative or friend might shift our attention. We begin to wonder what life is all about. Why are we juggling so many things? How much of our life is gone, and how much time do we have left? Am I getting what I need/want out of my life? In the past, the major precursor of midlife crisis was “empty nest syndrome,” a major life change sparked by the exodus of offspring. Many of us will initiate the midlife choice at this time. But this is also one of the ways that midlife is evolving. Due to the recent trend of delayed parenting, the average age of empty-nesters is increasing. The decision to delay parenting or to remain voluntarily childless will delay the onset of midlife or may cause an individual to...
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