In the context of women most of them don’t pay much emphasis on their life and its different stages but in the modern times a change has been noted where women are becoming more aware about their quality of life and spend a notable time to take care of themselves. Thiscan be credited to the feminist movement which recently took place and debates over the gender equality.
Dated long back to ancient times, people used to associate midlife with negative experiences and a time of crisis (Kakar, 2009). According to the development theorist’s midlife can be a time of crisis in terms of development of the individual but it is similar to all other stages of an individual’s life and each of us would undergo similar experiences. But this notion was disputed by the theorists later on which had put forward the idea that biological, historical and cultural factors also affect how individuals will experience their midlife.
Until recently midlife remained an unexplored phase in an individual’s life mainly in Indian context because many Indians do not perceive it as a major phase of their life (Kakar, 2009). Lachman (2004) found that major perceptions about midlife in an individual’s mind is basically formed based on shared cultural beliefs which can even be wrong. In Indian culture midlife is not given much importance as it is seen as an entry towards the declining age.
According to sacred Hindu texts, man should move away from his family during this age and should also renounce the world in order to unite with the ultimate GOD. This causes distress in them as they have to renounce their sexual life as well. Moreover in case of women they fear that the younger women will take over the authority from them (Kakar, 2009). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) initially used to define middle age as 40-60. The DSM 5 (2013) revised the definition upwards to age 45-65 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). An important factor that affects how individuals define the age range of midlife depends
on their birth cohorts. Birth cohorts refers to the individuals which are born together during the same time period. Due to different societal, environmental and life experiences across different time periods due to which the timing of middle age seems to be linked to the chronological age.
Midlife has been referred as the afternoon of life by Jung (1933) in his essay,” the stages of life”. The midlife integration of thinking, sensation, feeling and intuition that Jung describes, passes through the steps of accommodation, separation, liminality, reintegration and culminates in individuation. In accommodation the individual tries to adapt to the environmental demands and tries to make more meaning out of his self-based on what he considers to be more adaptive, in the next stage of separation the individual tries to pay more attention to his fundamental beliefs and checks whether is aligned to his present accommodated self which he had portrayed to the world. Due to greater distance between the accommodated self and fundamental beliefs crisis emerge in an individual’s life. In the next stage of liminality in individuals where there is greater distance between the accommodated self and fundamental beliefs, the individual rejects his accommodated self and work towards reestablishment of who they are. During reintegration the individuals identify with a different persona, for some individuals it is aligned with their previous responsibilities, roles and qualities but for other individuals it might not be congruent with their earlier persona which can lead to the development of conflict in their self and then gradually leading to crisis.
Erikson used the term epigenetic principle to describe the process which guides the development of an individual. According to this principle each individual develops through a predetermined manner such as a blue print for his growth. Erikson (1963) held that people in middle adulthood that is the 7th stage according to the stages of life he proposed; undergo a struggle to find new meaning and purpose to their own lives. As portrayed in his epigenetic theory, successful resolution of early life tasks is a prerequisite for reaching the midlife tasks level. Central tasks of middle adulthood described here include concerns regarding; expressing love through more than sexual contacts, maintaining healthy life patterns, developing a sense of unity with mate, help growing and grown children to be responsible adults, accepting children’s mates and friends, being proud of accomplishments of self and mate/spouse, reverse roles with aging parents, achieving mature, civic and social responsibility and adjusting to physical changes of middle age.”
Valliant (1977) formulated two additional sub stages for the midlife period. Valliant suggested that after intimacy and before the generativity stage, there exist a time for career consolidation, before achieving ego integrity as a sequel to the generativity stage. To represent the focus of transmission of values to the society, he included a sub stage called the “keepers of the meaning.”
During the midlife many women face a lot of issues concerning their health and well-being. They get concerned about their identity, self-esteem and physical vulnerability to various diseases. Moreover, they feel insecure about their social attractiveness due to declining age. They try to be satisfied in their marriage by giving importance to other aspects like emotional closeness, intimacy etc. (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Loss of sexual interest is also attributed to the physical changes that occur due to menopause during this age. They experience sexuality as being holistic and complex. As the life experiences of women change during midlife thus they also impact their sexual experiences (Patricia & Phyllis 2002). Women In their midlife feel vulnerable and are also irritated by their aging body. The most evident area in which women report loss and change in their midlife is their sexuality (Banister, 1999). They often find it difficult to accept the fact that they are aging (Saucier, 2004). The transitional phase from adulthood to midlife is affected by a lot of things like family characteristics, employment characteristics etc. most of the changes that occur during midlife are unconscious to the women experiencing them. Women do not attribute certain changes to particular age, according to them these changes were more affected by the quality of life and how satisfied they were with life. Some of the women even related age and well-being as positively correlated (Degges-White & Myers, 2006). Society also plays an active role on the experiences of women during this age. They dislike the feeling that life is winding down and are also concerned about how the society perceives them (McQuaide, 1998). Interaction between the women’s perception about their bodies and other factors influence their transitional phase and even their thought pattern. Most of the women believe that realities are culturally constructed and they interpret the changes based on these realities and they affect the health indirectly. Most of the women are not aware about the changes happening during the midlife which causes ambiguity and confusion in them around this phase (Banister,1999). It was seen that there was a shift in the personal paradigm of individuals either because of inner push or the external circumstances and demands due to change in familial life at middle age (O'Connor & Wolfe, 1991). Aging is perceived differently by all the individuals due to their subjective experiences and it was seen that short term aging perception is more different than the long term perception of aging.
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