Midlife Crisis

At midlife it is assumed that we have truly entered adulthood and left aside the follies of youth.

Depth psychologist Bill Plotkin suggests that very few of us have navigated life stages to reach a state of psychological health by the time we are middle aged:

True adulthood, or psychological maturity, has become an uncommon achievement in Western and Westernized societies, and genuine elder hood nearly nonexistent. Interwoven with arrested personal development, and perhaps inseparable from it, our everyday lives have drifted vast distances from our species' original intimacy with the natural world and from our own uniquely individual natures, our souls.

This lack of psychological maturity is not just detrimental to adults. In his latest work, The Shepherd’s Hut, novelist Tim Winton explores the impact on children when healthy development is absent.

You can read the speech he gave titled: Toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny.

midlife crisis
Midlife crisis symptoms make it hard to remain business as usual

Unlike traditional cultures that had rites of passage and a deep understanding of life stages and what they ask of us, modern culture adopts the view of the rugged individualist and sees midlife crisis as just enough thing to tough out.

Through working with numerous people navigating middle age, Carl Jung noticed the lack of support and wisdom people find. He went on to write:

“Wholly unprepared, [we] embark upon the second half of life.  Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world and of life? No, there are none…. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme 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.”

midlife cycles

We may think there is a sure road. But that would be the road of death. - Carl Jung

 Middle Aged Woman - Midlife Crisis Women

The philosopher David Whyte suggested we have 3 marriages to integrate, that with a partner, that with a vocation and that with ourselves.

He argues that “to neglect any one of the three marriages is to impoverish them all, because they are not actually separate commitments but different expressions of the way each individual belongs to the world.”

At 34, Elizabeth Gilbert had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer. Her source of unhappiness was an unfulfilling marriage, made worse by the pressure her husband was putting on her to have children.

midlife crisis women

Mid life crisis for women, if confronted, leads to their happiest years (approx age 56)

Carl Jung believed that working with our shadow, or hidden sides of ourselves was the necessary apprentice work in our development, but working with the anima / animus (masculine/feminine opposite to our gender) was the masterwork.

Elizabeth Gilbert did this when she asserted that she did not feel compelled to follow the cultural script of having children and a family. Instead, she focused on her writing career and gave up the financial security offered by a marriage to find a more authentic life.

For a number of women, mid life crisis for women emerges alongside a strong drive to focus on their needs, after often having subjugating them for others. It frequently occurs during menopause, or peri menopause when the reproductive urge lessens.

The psychologist James Hollis spoke of the different forces women encounter at midlife:

“Midlife crisis for women tends to be less of a sexual crisis than it is for men. A woman who is repressed at this time will naturally seek a lover, often younger, who is genuinely interested in her emerging power and self-expression. If a woman can find her purpose and learn to articulate it at midlife, she will have years of meaningful work ahead of her, as this crisis accelerates a renewal of energy.”

Midlife Crisis Men - Middle Aged Man

Middle aged men are often characterised by a sense of malaise, listnessness or the nagging fear that their careers have peaked.

The psychologist Carl Jung felt that we are driven to develop our inner being, which he called the Self.

Up until a midlife crisis hits, men in particular tend to be strongly outer-focused, be it on material or achievement questing ego.

Living in a culture that has grown outward and youth-oriented it has become easy for men to avoid developing feminine qualities and look to meet this imbalance through conquests of beautiful women. Alternatively, they can be tripped up by mother complexes where they seek out partners to take care of them rather than being self-responsible

midlife crisis men

Midlife crisis men - evading the chance for renewal sees a man's unhappiest years being around age 55

In his work, HE: Understanding Masculine Psychology, Robert Johnson regards a mans ultimate purpose “to connect him within the depths of his inner being and to make a bridge to his deepest self.”

One way in which midlife crisis serves to bring this about it through the physiological change of lessening virility.

This is just one of man midlife changes that invite us to work on achieving the four-folded completeness of the mother, the father and the inner masculine/feminine connection.

Of course, many men evade this valuable shift choosing to seek out affairs or relationships with younger women in the hopes of recapturing youth. Think of the cliches or men running off with their secretaries or buying sports cars.

What is a Midlife Crisis?

Midlife crisis is defined as: a loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety or disappointment that can occur in early middle age.

ABC Breakfast presenter Fiona Poole was feeling burnt out from work, parenting and a stressful year contending with bushfires and the pandemic. Her husband suggested she take a 3 month sabbatical, which she used to undertake a midlife review and recharge her batteries. You can read about her experience here.

Middle Age is What Age?

I regard the middle age age starting from around 35, when we are at provisional adulthood and ending around 55 as we begin to transition into elderhood.

One could argue that the midlife crisis age is often at its most intense around the age of 45 when people are ending the ten year cycle which Gail Sheehy regarded as our ‘deadline decade.’

Signs of Midlife Crisis

Men and women may experience major differences with middle age, there are a number of common signs that emerge to indicate symptoms of midlife crisis:

  • Depression
  • Career dissatisfaction
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Alcoholism and addictions
  • Insomnia
  • Lethagy, confusion and a lack of direction>
  • Significant discrepancy between the life we want and the life we live
  • Loss of identity (triggered by departure of children etc)
  • Life-threatening illness or a brush with death
  • Anger and frustration
  • Collapse of the false or acquired self

The time a person spends in each of the midlife crisis stages is unique but many people remark on take a journey into emptying out before experiencing a rebirth.

 meaning of midlife crisis

One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star - Nietzsche

Stages of a Midlife Crisis

  • >Malaise or frustration
  • Tragedy, betrayal and loss
  • Despondency and hopelessness
  • Emergence of a new direction or rediscovering one’s essential self
  • Renewal in areas such as relationships, career and self-worth
  • Rebirth into a more authentic and enlivened self

middle aged

Movie Slogan: Nick Halsey’s life is not going well. So he’s selling it.

Life Stages

Erik Erikson researched adult development and concluded that each phase of life has particular themes or crises we must navigate.

In traversing my own midlife crisis I’ve come to deeply understand the opportunity it presents us to change outdated patterns and modes of behaviour that keeps us from living our best life.

As a way to help others manoeuvre their way through the ages of 35 to 55 I’ve created a two day retreat program that can be done at my retreat centre or online.

Menopause symptoms have been studied largely in women but male menopause also takes place at midlife

Details About The Midlife Crisis or Renewal Retreat

Wellness Retreat

Program Outline:

Day 1

Morning Session

We begin by looking at what the midlife passage involves. This includes a range of themes accompanying life stages from 35-55 such as relationship shifts, physiological and psychological changes including menopause.

Mid Morning Session

The second session looks the impact of grief and loss during middle age. Wrestling between trust or feelings of betrayal is a central focus during midlife cycles. You’ll learn how the stripping away of supports and security helps us step into a rebirth leading us into our harvest years of eldership.


Afternoon Session

Many models of looking at the world include the archetype known as the Destroyer. This session looks at the role it plays in helping us discover our deep identity and doing away with the masks we have adopted. In looking at its counterpart, the Creator archetype we can choose to focus on possibility and our next chapter.

Mid Afternoon Session

If our early years are our most active and energetic then the afternoon of life (midlife) sees us becoming more introspective and contemplative. Our shedding, or letting go, may involve the early nest syndrome, embracing career change or processing the falling away of friendships and relationships. This session looks at the gestation period of our metamorphous and how we can embrace uncertainty.

Dinner (or the option for you to take in one of the local dining facilities)

Optional evening session (immersive, non writing activities)

Day 2

Morning Session

You’ll explore Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model as a way to see middle age as the time we focus on developing our growth needs as opposed to the deficiency needs we work on during our younger years. Synchronicity, serendipity and other forces can guide us into what may be our golden years should we open to receive them.

Mid Morning Session

Self-actualisation is what all life stages work towards. This session involves discovering your uniqueness and looking at ways the Creator archetype wants to express itself in your life. You’ll explore examples of people finding their vocation or calling and the role creativity plays in our individuation.


Afternoon Session

Transcendence, or giving back, is the highest level of development we can attain according to Abraham Maslow. This session involves integrating all of your values, beliefs and passions in order to focus on your legacy, or life’s work. It will also explore what happens when people resist this natural phase and choose stagnation.

Mid Afternoon Session

In the final session you have the option to explore esoteric insights into your life purpose and the midlife changes you’re navigating.

Alternatively, you can use the time to undertake some life writing and work through some of the resources outlined in previous sessions.

Cost: $590 for a 2 day program Accommodation, meals, workbooks and personal mentoring/debriefing

Location: Katoomba, Blue Mountains NSW

Optional session with a bibliotherapist. Learn more about our bibliotherapy service.

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Included in your package is an optional stand up paddleboarding session, mountain bike ride or bush walk at the end of day 1 of your program (weather permitting).

Midlife Cycles

“In current Western and Westernised societies, in addition to the scarcity of true maturity, many people of adult age suffer from a variety of adolescent psychopathologies incapacitating social insecurity, identity confusion, extremely low self-esteem, few or no social skills, narcissism, relentless greed, arrested moral development, recurrent physical violence, materialistic obsessions, little or no capacity for intimacy or empathy, substance addictions, and emotional numbness.”

- Bill Plotkin

Book Your Place at our Blue Mountains Retreat

Retreats NSW

Find out about some of our other wellness retreats

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Midlife Crisis (or renewal) Retreat - Our Location

Writing Studio - The Blue Mountains | Outskirts of Sydney
A unique personal development course in a natural setting
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A Spectacular Spot During Snowfalls
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A Peaceful, Nature Laden Writing Space

Writers Retreat

  • Personal Development Retreat

    What a wonderful little place to recenter! I was warmly welcomed and was shown to my cute little cabin that was warm, cute and cosy. Over the course of two days I gained so much clarity around my circumstances back home with the guidance of Marcus and his workbooks, numerology and astrology readings which really confirmed how important it is to stay in alignment with who you are and how your chart and numbers can show you this then on to Ginny who is such a warm beautiful soul that is so easy to connect with on all levels. I was given a beautiful tarot reading and the best reiki session I have ever had! If you need a break or help with the direction your life is going this is the place for you :)- Christina H.

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