I’ve been pondering the Kubler-Ross cycle of loss and grief as it relates to midlife crisis. The Kubler-Ross model states the five stages of grief as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
If you’re going through a midlife crisis, you may or may not go through each of these stages in order. You may skip stages or bounce back and forth between them. The goal here is to notice the symptoms and start taking steps to feel better.
In my blog, I wrote an article called Midlife Crisis and Denial. Take a look if you haven’t read it yet.
There is a stage that often comes after denial, and that is anger. Anger may first show up in the form of small criticisms and then escalate into an explosion of emotion. Whoever is in the way better watch out!
When you are dealing with midlife crisis anger, you tend to forget that other people have the same problems. You don't care how much you hurt the people who are closest to you. You lash out at loved ones, co-workers, bosses, friends. You can’t even stand yourself sometimes and wonder WHY you are so irritable.
That leads to the endless loop of “Why me?” thoughts:
- Why am I stuck in the same dead-end job?
- Why isn’t my spouse looking, being, or acting the way I want them to?
- Why do I feel trapped in my life?
- Why am I getting so old and unattractive?
- Why are my kids growing up and leaving me?
- Why don’t I feel useful anymore?
You think you would finally be happy if you could just CHANGE SOMETHING in your life. But even the thought of change makes you more ticked off! That’s when you look to other people or circumstances to blame for your unhappiness. And the one who usually gets that blame is your significant other or spouse.
You start to make impossible demands on your spouse, and the knock-down, drag-out fights ensue. Your loved one has to walk on eggshells around you, and you barely speak to one another.
This is when a few things can happen:
- You find a “friend” who listens and understands you, and an affair happens.
- You drink or take drugs to numb the pain.
- You start on a path of self-discovery, sometimes insensitively chucking your old life in the process.
- You just stay angry and bitter, driving your friends and loved ones away and getting sick and depressed.
So, what’s an angry midlife crisis sufferer to do?
Well, I’m sorry to say, you probably don’t give a darn right now. But if you have even an inkling of awareness that you are about to erupt, give yourself a “time out” where you can release that anger without lashing out at anyone.
The important thing here is NOT to bottle-up your feelings! That just makes it worse later. Trust me.
And if you are that significant other or friend trying to help, the best thing you can do is give them space and don’t get caught up in the drama. Leave them alone in a safe place, and let the storm pass. After the anger subsides, you may need to remind them of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Be supportive by helping them reframe their anger into ways to move forward.
These are just a few suggestions to manage midlife crisis anger. To learn more tools, take a look at my programs and services. Together, we can come up with coping strategies that work perfectly for you.