SPIRITUAL TURNING POINTS: A METAPHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE SEVEN LIFE TRANSITIONS
by Victoria Marina-Tompkins
LIFE TRANSITION FOUR
Midlife Spiritual Crisis
If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into.
—Saint Theresa of Lisieux, Nineteenth-Century Carmelite Nun
"The years following the completion of the third transition are filled with new experiences as the young adult ventures into the world, building foundations for home, work, relationships, and leisure-time activities. This is usually a period of excitement as ideas are implemented, doors are opened, new relationships begin, and the life moves forward at lightning speed. All seems right in the world. Then, somewhere between the ages of thirty-five and forty, a feeling of discomfort begins to creep into what has become an idyllic life in many ways, a dissatisfaction that is perplexing. Or a sudden event such as losing a job, divorce, or other family issues may provoke changes that are not welcomed and spin the now full-fledged adult into a vortex of self-questioning. Resisting these new problems, it’s common to try to keep it all together, maintaining
external appearances but facing sleepless nights, worry, fear, and anxieties which are rooted in what will soon become a midlife crisis, a time when what isn’t working becomes unavoidably clear even if what to do about it isn’t.
St. John of the Cross, a Roman Catholic mystic of the sixteenth century, called this process “the dark night of the soul” in his poem “La Noche Oscura del Alma.” He described how the soul must face hardships on a journey through the dark night in order to separate from worldly concerns and eventually reunite with God. During this dark journey, comforts that before would bring solace no longer work; prayer, meditation, and time with loved ones feel empty and without meaning. It is as if God has abandoned you. Night and day blend together, and there is little respite from feelings of loneliness and desperation, which may appear as depression and isolation, or as a lack of energy or interest in life.
Soul Loss and Disconnection
Shamanic cultures describe this process as “dismemberment,” a time when a person is dragged down into the depths of the underworld where a surrendering process must occur before the healing can begin. The personality that has been created from birth to middle adulthood was based on family expectations, which now begin tofeel false and hollow. The initial stages of the fourth transition do indeed feel like one is being torn apart as the personality faces an onslaught of unconscious material sometimes in the form of dreams—earthquakes, tidal waves, and other dark unseen forces out to get you. This phase can also feel like falling into a great pit or hole where one is unable to climb out. “
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