(this is part of a larger essay...It starts by explaining why the ego of a person starts to fight for survival in the mid forties)
What is a Mid-life Crisis?
The human self develops a heightened view of itself which he or she desires to project out into the world. For men, this projection of the ego is accomplished through achievements. Throughout life, a tension exists between what the person is in life in the present, his status and accomplishments, and what he would like to be or thinks he ought to be recognized as. This psychic tension must be resolved. Throughout life, we most often resolve this tension of our current position and circumstances and what we desire to be by projecting our vision of our self out into the future. We may not be accomplished and strong and victorious but we can conceive that we one day might accomplish all that our ego sets out to do in the world.
A crisis occurs at 45-55 when a man realizes that the resolution of his shame and pride, the desires of the self, through the acquisition of a preferred future is not likely. Time is running out. At this point in life, the strategy of using a projection into the future of a better you or better position or circumstances is no longer tenable. The psychic tension is irresolvable using the future projection method. It is not likely that the self will be able to affirm itself through future accomplishments. The ego begins to go into crisis. If a man is not well practiced in the process of voluntary death to self, he will not know how to put his ego to death. Instead, his ego will fight to create, before time runs out, the preferred future or vision of himself. The ego refuses to die and begins to seek affirmation in manic fashion.
Death to Self
When encountering a person or developing a relationship with a person, if one is well versed in the problem of human pride, it is not difficult to predict that this man will have a mid-life crisis. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Everyday provides opportunities to die to self. Life is social and men are constantly managing their place in the politics of their social networks and relationships. The disciple hates this jockeying and managing one’s power and position and the perceptions of others. To live on a spiritual basis is to actively cease participation in this worldly dynamic. When a person disrespects us, which happens many times in a given day, we actively allow this person to hold this opinion. We forgive and we cease managing people’s perceptions. We are not in management. Only God is in management. It is easy to see and observe if a person knows this practice of death to self. Death to self has thousands of permutations because life provides thousands of opportunities and different circumstances to die to self, to allow our ego to be humbled both before others and before ourselves. But most men are continually acting according the to the worldly system through which the individual attempts to project himself as successful, mature, wise, healthy and kind.
‘Wow, he is skilled and together. I wish I was like him”. This is how every man wants to be perceived, and in the minute relationships of life, at home, at work, in church, we size up ourselves and the other men. In each encounter with another person, egos are present and seeking power and recognition of some sort. This is the process which the disciple of Jesus is actively disengaging from. The disciple must be aware of the process, and, in this awareness, it is easy to observe other men acting out according to the desires of the pride and ego. So it is easy for a follower of Jesus to be aware of whether another man is attempting to follow the teachings of Jesus in the midst of our interactions with them or whether they are following the motivations of their self, their ego. Are we “denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus” or are we following the desires of our self?
So here is the first key to surviving a mid life: We must start learning how to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus in the small areas of life, many years before we reach this critical age of our mid-forties.
Learning to Deny Self Daily
- Seizing the Opportunity (in the moment): The Actual Game
- Silencing the Self
- Asking for power and faith to deny self - Mediating the situation with the presence/intimacy with Jesus Christ.
- Strength to resist the persistent ego (refusal to die)
- Faith to see it as the cross (obedience to God)
- Compassion for your adversary (he is sick; this battle is sick; the whole war is sick)
- Comfort and affirmation as a child of God
- Death to Self in the Big Opportunities (reflection) : Practice
- Sober moment of reflection
- Thorough inventory