NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Midlife Transitions - Part 2: Living the Life You Want to Live

In my last article, I began a discussion about midlife transitions by defining it, giving some of the possible symptoms and possible challenges involved.  In this article, I've provided a scenario to illustrate the points that I outlined in Part 1).

Midlife Transitions: Living Life the Life You Want to Live

The following scenario, which is a fictionalized account that represents many cases with all identifying information changed, is an example of someone who is going through a midlife transition, the challenges that he faced, and how he was helped in therapy.

Ed was in his life 40s when he began to feel a growing sense of dissatisfaction and unease about his life, especially his career.

After he obtained his MBA, he chose a career in finance while he was still in his mid-20s because he
enjoyed his finance courses in college and he wanted a career that would allow him a lifestyle that was different from his parents' lifestyle.

Having grown up in a family where his parents struggled to make ends meet, Ed knew he never wanted to live that way, so he chose a career where he and his family could live comfortably.

During his 25 year marriage, he felt proud that he and his family lived a comfortable life and he put his two children through college without his children having to go into debt.

He was also glad that he survived many of the changes, including many rounds of layoffs, in his field.

But Ed was aware that he was feeling an increasing sense of malaise at work.  What once made him happy in his career no longer held his interest.
Midlife Transition

He began to question whether he was living his life according to his core values.  And the more he questioned what he was doing in his career, the more he realized that his career choice now felt out of synch with his core values.

During his time in high school and freshman year in college, Ed was involved with volunteer activities that gave him a sense of satisfaction, including volunteering with a reading program where he read to young children in elementary school and volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter.  Both programs were important to him because he liked being around young children and he also liked animals.

During his early years in college, he thought he would choose a major that would be part of one of the helping professions.  But as time went on, Ed decided that it was more important to him to earn a good living and never struggle financially like his parents did, so he majored in Economics in college and obtained an MBA in graduate school.

For a time, after he got married, he was able to continue the volunteer activities, which gave him so much satisfaction.  But after he and his wife began having children and he had to put in long hours at work, he stopped volunteering because he didn't have enough time.

Now, just weeks away from his 48th birthday, Ed realized that he wasn't happy at work any more.  Even though he had been promoted and well compensated over the years, his career and his compensation no longer made him happy, and he wasn't sure what to do.

Midlife Transitions: Living the Life You Want to Live

As he became increasingly preoccupied with his dissatisfaction and after several nights of tossing and turning, he spoke to his wife, Susan, about his sense of malaise.

Susan told him that she noticed that he was irritable and grumpy, and she asked him what he wanted to do.  In response, Ed just threw up his hands--he didn't know what to do.  He couldn't just quit his job.

In the past, Ed tended to be a goal-oriented person and he wasn't usually at a loss about what to do when making major life decisions, so this was a new experience for him.  It was confusing and disheartening, and as time went on, it was starting to erode Ed's sense of self confidence.

Susan suggested that Ed consider seeing a psychotherapist to help him to sort things out and make some decisions.  But Ed had never been in therapy before.  He was concerned that therapy would take a long time, and he felt he didn't want to wait a long time to deal with his feelings.

So, Ed spoke with a close friend, Bill, who had been to therapy and asked Bill what he thought.  Bill told Ed that he was helped a lot in therapy when he was facing a major life decision similar to Ed's dilemma.

He told Ed that there are different type of therapists and different types of therapy.  He told Ed that if he wanted an interactive therapist who works in a dynamic way, he should ask about this when he called to make an appointment and get more details when he went for the consultation.

Even though the thought of going to therapy made Ed feel uncomfortable, the prospect of struggling on his own with this issue made him feel even more uncomfortable, so he started looking for a therapist and asking each one how s/he worked.

After a few consultations, Ed found a therapist who was interactive and dynamic.  They worked together to help Ed to discover what he really wanted at this point in his life so that he could take action.

Working together with the therapist, Ed realized that what was once important to him, working in finance and having a high income, was no longer important to him.  He liked being well compensated, but the money didn't compensate for his lack of satisfaction at work.

Exploring Core Values in Therapy and Developing Goals

He and his therapist explored Ed's core values and his current interests, and he was surprised to discover that he had been dissatisfied for quite some time, but he wasn't allowing himself to feel it.

With continued self exploration, Ed was surprised to realize that his volunteer work with children gave him the most satisfaction.  He realized that he wanted to set up his own volunteer reading program where adults would read to children to help them develop an interest in books and reading.

He knew that he couldn't establish this program overnight and he would need to do research and write a grant proposal.  This would take time and effort to establish.

It would also take time for Ed to see himself in a new way.  For most of his life, Ed defined himself in terms of his career.  He wondered what it might be like for him to see himself in this new way after so many years.

Once Ed made up his mind to proceed, he was excited about this new prospect.  More and more, he could imagine himself happily engaged in this new endeavor.  He felt his old confidence coming back, and he realized that this new project would be aligned with his core values.

He and Susan talked about this change and they realized that within two years Ed could retire from his finance job with a compensation package that would still allow them to live comfortably while Ed worked on his new project.

Each week Ed talked in therapy about how he was adjusting emotionally to seeing himself in this new way and how he was dealing with the challenges, both emotional and practical, that were involved.

As he came closer to his retirement, he discussed his idea with his boss and discovered that his firm was interested in contributing financially to the project.

Midlife Transitions: Living the Life You Want to Live

By the time Ed retired and began his new program, he was feeling more alive and full of purpose than he had in many years.  He and his wife were also closer and enjoying each other's company more than ever.  He knew he had made the right decision.

There are as many variations to midlife transitions as there are people who are going through these changes.

Everyone responds to change differently, especially major life changes.

Reevaluating life during your midlife is a common experience for most people.

People are often surprised to discover that they're yearning to return to vocation or interest that they abandoned many years ago.

Midlife is a time to evaluate your life thus far and make important decisions about how you want to live and how you'll accomplish your goals.

People are also surprised that once they've discovered what how they want to live and what they want to do, they experienced a renewed energy and greater satisfaction with life.

Getting Help in Therapy
Major life changes can be challenging as well as exhilarating.

Self exploration to discover what changes you want to make can be difficult to do on your own, especially if you fear making changes.

Struggling on your own with inner conflict and indecision can waste valuable time and can lead nowhere.

Working with a licensed psychotherapist, who works in an interactive and dynamic way, who can help you do the in-depth exploration of your inner world as well as helping you to take action once you've decided what you want to do, can be invaluable.

A skilled therapist can facilitate the process and help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.  

I have helped many people to make changes in their life so they're leading the life they want to lead.

I use many different modalities and work in a creative, dynamic and interactive way.

To find out  more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.