In midlife people begin to focus on the limitations of the second half of their life realising that life isn’t forever and often a sense that time is running out can begin to develop.
People can enter into a stage of intense existential reappraisal which evokes turbulent struggles within the self and with the external world, but (thankfully!) also creates the possibility of further personal growth.
Death anxiety and the call to adventure…or else!
Death anxiety is less of a conscious concern with death – you don’t walk around every day thinking ‘Oh no, I’m going to die!’ it’s more of a growing awareness of human mortality our responses to knowing that we are mortal at an unconscious level.
Often at midlife we have had experience with death and dying, maybe we have lost a parent or have a friend with a life-threatening illness – any of these situations can increase our awareness of death and remind us of the fragility of life and our powerlessness within in. But, therapists would argue that it’s necessary to be properly conscious and aware that we are going to die in order to live a meaningful, purposeful life.
I personally know the frustration of thinking ‘I haven’t got time for a midlife crisis, why can’t I just be happy with my life as it is?’ Perhaps, like me, you’ve tried to push these thoughts away, because they are inconvenient and are going to lead to disruption if they are followed or expanded or you just feel you haven’t the time to explore them.
If acted upon, it could blow up your life, leading to the end of a relationship or leaving a good job that no longer makes you happy or it could even mark the beginning of a spiritual journey. The longer these thoughts are ignored the more inauthentic you become, and the more you fight the feelings of depression and burnout as you carry on down a path that deep down no longer connects to you or lacks meaning or purpose.
The fear of death is a common cause of anxiety but you can have that fear without it becoming an anxiety disorder. If your fear is channeled productively and controlled within manageable psychological boundaries it can become a driving force for change rather than a crippling, overwhelming, unproductive worry.