Sometimes the impact of a single event or series of events is enough to derail you. Even the most healthy and grounded among us can have our equilibrium disrupted by a life event of real and/or symbolic significance, leading to a crisis. Illness, natural disaster, separation, legal trouble, and job loss are all understandable sources of distress, but even events that were planned or looked forward to—such as the birth of a child, marriage, or beginning a career—can have unexpected psychological results. Psychotherapy can be a valuable resource when it comes to understanding and minimizing the distress arising from a major life transition.
What Constitutes a Life Crisis or Life Transition?
Many of us, in the course of living, will experience a major shift that radically alters our sense of who we are or what our life is about. It can feel like our existence as we’ve known it is at stake. Such crises can leave us searching for meaning, purpose, or connection to others and the world around us.
Common varieties of experience that can unleash a sense of profound change or crisis in our lives can include:
- Aging, including the “midlife crisis”; retirement
- Changes in relationship status (e.g., marriage, separation, or divorce)
- Betrayals (infidelities; mistreatment by a trusted other)
- Loss of loved ones (e.g., death of a parent, partner, or child)
- Transitions or changes in our identity (e.g., becoming a parent, changing careers, children leaving home, loss of youth or perceived attractiveness)
- A reversal in health status or a serious medical diagnosis
- Recognition of our own mortality and the end of our life
When we are no longer able to ride out life’s shifts and changes, nor able to locate our resilience, we may find ourselves with a level of turmoil that feels unmanageable. If this turbulence is ongoing and uncontained, a deepening crisis ensues, dividing us from our internal resources and leaving us feeling anxious, hopeless, or despairing—or at worst, wondering whether life is worth living.
Treatment: How Therapists Work with Life Crises and Life Transition–Related Concerns
Therapists listed with Toronto Psychotherapy Group are available to help you address a range of concerns related to your experience of crisis. Generally speaking, therapeutic treatment is likely to include:
- Identifying the crisis and your particular response to it (e.g., panic, dread, mistrust, helplessness, loss of control)
- Exploring what aspects of your past experience are influencing this response
- Coping with unprocessed emotions related to your past and the current situation
- Sorting through any health concerns that might be contributing to the problem
- Looking at the meaning of the crisis event and whether it can be seen differently
- Developing personal resources to alter your response in a positive way
- Discovering your internal strengths to cope with crisis more effectively
Learning More about Life Crisis-Related Issues
Aging, progressive life stages, and the experiences associated with them are commonly understood as potential points of crisis.
Wikipedia offers an overview of crisis in two transitional stages:
One, the quarterlife crisis: this refers to the potentially troubled period of life following adolescence, and continuing through the transition to adulthood.
Two, the midlife crisis: this is experienced by some adults during the midlife transition when they realize that their life may be more than halfway over, and usually involves a preoccupation with mortality and impending death.