WARNING: Are You Heading Towards A Midlife Crisis?
*The man who invented the midlife crisis had a midlife crisis of his own; His idea bombed. In 1957, a Canadian psychoanalyst named Elliott Jaques gave a speech before a distinguished audience in London in which he claimed people in their mid-thirties went through a depressive period.
Reaction to this time of life included concern over health, compulsive vanity, promiscuity, and religious awakening. The audience hated the idea, so he dropped it.
Nearly a decade later, he revisited it, this time in a paper called “Death and the mid-life crisis.” Jaques was inspired, he said, by the oversimplification of how we talked about life shape. “Up til now, life has seemed an endless upward slope, with nothing but the distant horizon in view.” Now, he went on; he’d reached the crest of the hill, “and there stretching ahead is the downward slope.” It ends, inevitably, in death. The most common age for this crisis: thirty-seven.
Jaques’s idea, while tantalizing, was not grounded in research. It was based on his reading of biographies of 310 famous men, from Michelangelo to Bach. He didn’t include women in his study, he said, because menopause “obscured” their midlife transition—no wonder the London audience scoffed at his theory.