Can you think your way out of a midlife crisis?
5 Apr 2018

Can you think your way out of a midlife crisis?


Can you think your way out of a midlife crisis?

Well the short answer is, no, you can’t.

Many clinical psychologists these days are trained in a model of therapy known as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT for short, which address’s clients negative thought patterns with the aim of changing them to more supportive thoughts, which in turn changes behaviour patterns. When working with clients who can’t capture their thoughts such as those struggling with midlife, I have heard psychologists discussing feeling helpless and not knowing what to ‘do’.

As a counselling psychologist and a psychotherapist I know that when people present with midlife crises, CBT is completely futile. The over-riding feeling of being slap bang in a midlife crisis for many people is a sense of loss (when no-body has died and no tragedy has happened) or experiencing a disappointment in the self or an underachievement (when on paper often everything looks like a success).

A midlife crisis is an existential crisis which often carries with it a malaise that you can’t put a thought to, as it’s a feeling.

Now us Brits, aren’t necessarily the best at talking about feelings. Many people when describing a feeling, come out with a thought, for example when asked ‘How do you feel about that?’ They answer. ‘I feel like I’ve underachieved in my life’ or ‘I feel like a failure’. Failure and underachievement are not feelings I say.  A feeling is a one-word answer like sad, disappointed angry, enraged. Many people have to search for this one word as we are so used to being in our heads and using thoughts to describe feelings.

The bottom line is that an existential crisis is a time in life when a person really questions the purpose and meaning of their life. Believe me, you can’t think your way out of this. It is a process that needs working through, maybe with the help of a therapist who you will need to choose carefully as not all practitioners can help you with your midlife crisis.

The journey to happiness is travelling inward, not outward.