Monthly Archives: August 2011

Overcome the Maladies of Midlife By Transforming What “Loss” and “Change” Mean

Despite the volumes of books and magazine articles advising midlife baby boomers how to prolong or renew their health, happiness and vitality, I continue to hear many of them tell me about feelings of stagnation and loss. Or worse, a sense of being on “a long slide home,” as one 50-something put it.

For example:

  • You happened to catch an old episode of “Sesame Street” or “Mister Rogers” on TV, and you felt engulfed by a wave of nostalgia and loss over your children, who are now grown and building their own lives without you.
  •  You worry about whether your career has peaked, especially when you’re reminded every day of the hordes of younger people coming up right behind you — or who’ve now moved ahead of you.
  • You’re divorced and dealing with new challenges as a single person.
  • Or, you’re married/with a partner, but feelings of passion and intimacy have faded like autumn leaves.
  •  You’re stressed about your financial future in your later years, given our economic uncertainty.

I think there’s a core reason why such feelings and experiences aren’t helped all that much by the midlife guides and programs out there: We’ve learned to experience midlife through Continue reading


What Are The Emotional Drivers Of Our National Unraveling?

The S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating has spawned increased criticism and analysis of President Obama’s apparent reluctance — or inability — to confront the Republican opposition or push for major investment in infrastructure and jobs. Among the most vocal are Labor Secretary Robert Reich, psychologist Drew Westen, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

All of them offer good, concrete recommendations for how Obama could demonstrate the leadership and a clear action program that his supporters have been waiting and longing for. They offer plausible explanations of why he isn’t doing that. More broadly, it’s also useful to understand what fuels a growing sense of unraveling throughout our country (a current poll finds 79% dissatisfied with our political system); and, increasingly, around the globe.

One way to do that is by recognizing some psychological drivers of the polarization — around the role of government, and in the opposition to forging reasonable, compromise-based solutions to problems. I think a major psychological source originates in people’s responses to the crumbling of an overall way of life that’s pretty much predominated throughout the 20th Century — in business and at work; in personal life goals and relationships; and in social and public policy. It’s themes are embracing self-interest and selfishness; domination of some groups by others; and control of resources by the few at the expense of the larger society’s needs.

That worked fairly well in the 20th Century; or at least it was accepted, with all its inequities. But today, people sense that their old way of life just isn’t working. And it’s not. Today, we’re plunging headfirst into a new reality — and no leader has really articulated it or helped people understand how to deal with it.

That is, the world is transforming in ways that require Continue reading