You can almost mark the date because everything changed. The person you thought you knew became entirely different and not for the better. It is almost cliché that with a mid-life crisis comes the impractical sports car, the extramarital affair, late nights at bars, new friends who are twenty years younger, hipper clothes or a dramatic career change. While you never thought it would happen to you or your spouse, you find yourself in exactly that place. How did you ever get here?
Erik Erikson defines his seventh psychosocial stage as Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs in the late thirties until the mid-sixties. This time period in an adult life encompasses the mid-life crisis years which can begin and end anytime in between. So what is a mid-life crisis? It is when an adult evaluates where they are in life compared to the dreams and goals they once had for themselves, to the status of others they desire to be more like, and to their potential to leave their mark on the world around them.
The Psychology. If you see how your contribution to your home, work, church or community adds value to the lives around you, then you will develop generativity. Generativity is expressed in concern for guiding the next generation, in a desire to leave a positive mark on the world around you, in making a difference in the life of another, in creatively using your gifts and talents for the benefit of others, and in feeling successful regardless of financial status. If you don’t see how your contribution adds value, then you become stagnate or stuck.
Mid-Life Crisis and Generativity. Not all mid-life crisis’ need to end in disaster, some are actually for the better and can motivate you to live up to your full potential. For instance perhaps you are in a profession for which you “fell into” mostly by accident but find yourself dreaming about another profession. This may just be the time to go back to school and get the degree you have always wanted to be able to work in a profession you are truly gifted to do. By now as opposed to twenty years ago, you have a better understanding of your capabilities, talents, gifts and purpose in life along with responsibilities, time constraints, and natural limitations. This combination enables you to be more focused on reasonable goals that are not selfish in nature but add value to the lives around you instead of unrealistic dreams which are totally self-directed.
Mid-Life Crisis and Stagnation. On the flip side of a mid-life crisis is the potential to become even more self-involved and to alienate others around you. This mid-life crisis is very different from the one mentioned above however it begins the exact same way. An evaluation of your life leads to an even greater desire to satisfy all the needs, wants, and desires that you have been putting off. To justify the behavior, you may find yourself saying, “I deserve it” or “I have given so much to others, it’s time to give to myself”, or “I’m tired of sacrificing for others”. This is a heart issue more than anything because if you really give out of a desire to show love to someone else, then no strings would be attached including any anticipation of thanks, appreciation, or returning the favor. In essence, you would expect nothing in return. If however you give out of a desire for some type of reward be it verbal (a thank-you), physical (touch, hug or sex), emotional (happy feelings or feelings of obligation), or mental (think nice things about you or need to return the favor), then the gift is selfish and manipulative. This is the seed from which a negative mid-life crisis grows.
The Cure. Since at the base of a mid-life crisis is the condition of your heart, there is no other cure other than a complete change of heart. The best and most long lasting change of a heart is one that is wholly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ. He turned a murderer of Christians (Saul) into one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived (Paul who wrote thirteen books in the Bible). He turned a common fisherman (Peter who wrote two books in the Bible) into the rock of the Christian church. And He turned his half-brother (James who wrote one book in the Bible) who was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection into the leader of the Jerusalem church.
All of these changes have one thing in common; they were all adults who were set in their way of life who through a change of heart with an encounter with Jesus completely changed the direction of their lives. Their lives then became a symbol of service to thousands of people during while alive and millions of people after their death. Talk about generativity!