I don’t watch or stream much TV these days, but, I admit, I am now addicted to the Apple TV series Ted Lasso because of the beautifully sensitive portrayals of flawed, vulnerable, and utterly human men and women. The writers must have been digging deep into their own psyches for some of these beautifully inspiring scenarios. The biggest surprise for me when watching the show last night was to see a copy of my favourite psychotherapy book for older adults on the character Dr. Sharon Fieldstone’s (the therapist) coffee table. It’s called The Middle Passage by James Hollis, and I’m sure most viewers thought this was a tongue in cheek reference to a fetish or something medical. But it is a real book – my favourite when working with older adults who are struggling to find meaning in the second half of life and it seems our TV friend, Ted Lasso, is struggling with that himself.
According to Hollis, a Jungian psychotherapist in the US, a mid-life crisis is actually a midlife passage to another way of being in the world, one in which our true selves emerge. For much of our early lives we are living a false self based on the expectations of others – family, friends, society, and this prevents us from fully ‘individuating’ or separating from those childhood projections. Sometimes that means that we have not fully emerged from the prison of our childhoods, even though we might appear as fully formed successful adults. On the outside, all is well, but internally, according to Hollis, it is as though “[…we are] alone on a pitching ship, with no port in sight.”
Not living a life that is ‘true’ and fully separate from others’ expectations might reveal these symptoms:
- Repeated job or partner shifts
- Substance abuse
- Self-destructive thoughts or acts
The solution? Grasp hold of the true you. As Jung said, “take responsibility for the journey however frightening it might be, however lonely or unfair it may seem. In not grabbing the wheel, we stay stuck in the first adulthood…”
But how do we do that?
- First, acknowledge that there is no rescue, no parent to make everything better, no way to go back to an earlier time. Only you can change your trajectory.
- Start with small shifts in direction. Remember, even a minor degree change in course of one’s life result in a major change in destination.
- Separate who we truly are from the false self imposed on us by fate.
- Monitor the thoughts that reinforce the false self and replace them with curiosity about the potential that a life led by your true self might entail.
- Identify the 3 key asks of your true self that bring you joy. And every day assess whether you can achieve them or part of them.
Our own individual truths will only emerge from within ourselves. Have faith. You are the expert in your own life.
Written by Dr. Jill Taggart