Separation refers to the splitting of the Persona or Identity from the Ego. For the Midlifer in Crisis, this stage is extended and may be the longest of the three. The superficial fears of aging--growing children, dying parents, futility of life, send the MLCer into Rejection & Refusal manifested as futile attempts to stave off the natural process of aging: increased exercise, weight loss, new hobbies or activities, concern over thinning hair. The motivation is not a desire for a healthier lifestyle to benefit the Golden Years, but rather fear of death and dying. The person in crisis is trying to prevent the inevitable.
Youth is painfully visible on the distant horizon--almost within grasp. The Midlifer applies glue to the Persona-mask, prolonging its bond to the Ego. But the cracking of the mask continues, giving way to Resentment.
Rejection & Refusal
To deny is to refuse or ignore a consciously intolerable reality. There are various types of denial; the two most relevant to MLC are listed below.
Simple Denial: This is the characteristic I refer to as Rejection & Refusal. It is Rejection & Refusal of an unpleasant fact or feeling and a preparation for later stages of Midlife Crisis leading toward Reintegration and an acceptance of one's Self. Denial is often a subconscious act wherein the person does not acknowledge his fears and issues. Rejection & Refusal is a conscious form of denial requiring thought; it is an action taken to avoid something and thus initially there is at least a superficial recognition of what is being avoided; the person must acknowledge what it is he is rejecting and refusing to face. This conscious action cycles with unconscious denial.
Denial of Responsibility: Transference of attention away from oneself, this type of denial is comprised of several methods.
There is an acknowledgement of a problem, but with a reduction in significance. A person denies the severity of emotions, facts and behaviors, including denial of any negative consequences of the impact of his choices and behavior on others and a refusal to consider the negative consequences. This prevents empathy and is an attempt to evade feelings of guilt.
Ex. Divorce won't hurt the children; they'll get over it.
Excusing behaviour as acceptable reactions to external events and conditions such as the behaviour and choices of others.
Ex. I have to get a divorce because she is so angry with me.
Acknowledging behaviour or emotions while transferring the cause and thus blame to an external source. This is an attempt to create an enemy as a protection from feelings of guilt.
Ex. She made me angry. Ex. She is crazy.
Following a significant life-changing vent, a person may be flooded with emotions and fears. Shadow fragments may surface regardless of whether the event is considered positive or negative. A person may feel overwhelmed. Though Rejection & Refusal is often a necessary and normal defense mechanism that enables a person to deal with problems in smaller, more manageable increments, it includes the risk of becoming caught in a cycle that progresses toward the more harmful forms of denial. It seems that it is the simple form of denial--Rejection & Refusal--to which Jim Conway was referring when he labeled his first stage of Midlife Crisis as Denial. The more harmful types of denial are components of Replay behavior.
Rejection & Refusal eventually fail to stop and reverse aging or whatever it is the person fears and is thus avoiding. Upon recognition of this failure, the person adds Resentment to the building crisis. Resentment is the form of anger that originates from a feeling of inferiority and low worth; anger at God is resentment and is consequent of feeling powerless. He is angry at God and angry with life. Since MLCers often doubt their faith, they deny their anger is toward God and project it toward his environment and others--the spouse in particular.
Failure of Rejection & Refusal leads to Resentment. If Rejection & Refusal had successfully convinced a person that his issues no longer exist--such as a belief in the reversal of aging--there would be nothing to feel Resentment towards. But the depths of MLCer fears are for stark realities that are unstoppable: the march of time and surfacing of the Shadow.
Resentment is the Why me? cry of the victim. He is upset at the unfairness of life as younger and more vigorous men can do more and have the vast potential of their lives ahead, whereas the MLCer feels his greatest years are behind him. His body is breaking down, his children are becoming more independent and his wife has separate interests. He wants to be the Knight in Shining Armour, but such youthful hero days are no more. What he will learn through his midlife journey is that Kings are leaders; the knights work for them. But this is not a lesson that can be learned through mere intellectual understanding; life is to be experienced.
The Shadow is starting to surface and the MLCer is afraid--many Shadow fragments are characteristics that are seemingly opposite to the personality of the individual. Each MLCer is a unique individual and what is opposite for one is not for another. A normally quiet and subdued man may suddenly show emotion outwardly, whereas a man whose emotions were normally public may become more quiet and introspective. These opposite behaviours do not mean one is in a crisis and the other is not, all behaviours are relative to the individual. Often the opposing forces are fighting each other internally causing confusion and fueling Resentment as the person attempts to continue to repress his Shadow. But the Shadow is persistent and refuses further repression. The MLCer fears he is losing control and possibly for his sanity. This yields the urge to escape and abandon which brings on Replay behaviour. But the shadow is persistent and refuses further repression. The MLCer fears they are losing control of Self and even sanity. This yields the urge to Escape & Avoid.