by: Dr. Lila Hakim, C.Psych. & Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych.
Many of us will experience a self or existential crisis
during our lifetime. These crises are usually precipitated by life transitions.
Life transitions that can trigger a crisis include: aging, changes in
relationship status (i.e., marriage, separation and divorce), betrayals and
loss of loved ones (e.g., death of parent, partner or child), changes in our
identity (e.g., children leaving home, loss of youth, and perceived
attractiveness), and recognition of our own mortality and the end of our life.
Such moments may spawn a search for meaning, purpose, and connection to others
and the world around us, or result in a downward spiral and deepening crisis
involving hopelessness, despair and anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Some individuals struggling with such crises have spent numerous
years disconnected from their own selves by virtue of not pursuing their
authentic feelings, needs, and desires in the world. Instead, these individuals
may have surrendered to the expectations and demands of others. Recognition of
the freedom to create one’s entire world may be daunting for some individuals
in these circumstances, but is key to the recovery from such a crisis.
Some individuals experience a mid-life crisis brought upon
by specific concerns about mid-life transitions and an impending sense that a
decline is imminent. Mid-life can involve a reframing of life and deep
reflection on life in terms of years left to live. With parents passing away,
children moving out of the family home, and dissatisfaction with self (i.e.,
physical and bodily changes related to aging, dissatisfaction with
relationship, career and accomplishments), some individuals will experience
despair and hopelessness. A crisis can ensue upon realization of the passing of
time with very few opportunities to change life’s course. This realization may
precipitate intense emotions, a desperate search and effort to change one’s
life. Seeking out younger partners, drastic changes to physical appearance, or
career may ensue.
The Self-Growth and Self-Esteem Service at CFIR supports
clients to deal with particular life issues that involve one’s questioning of
the purpose, meaning, and value of one’s life, and difficult feelings
associated with being alone and isolated. Such moments can leave us questioning
past and current decisions related to our choices in occupation, residence, and