Narcissistic Jerk or Mid-Life Crisis

Discussion in 'Relationships, Discrimination, and Jealousy' started by Principessa, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. Principessa

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    January 15, 2008
    Mind
    Crisis? Maybe He’s a Narcissistic Jerk

    By RICHARD A. FRIEDMAN, M.D.

    With the possible exception of “the dog ate my homework,” there is no handier excuse for human misbehavior than the midlife crisis.

    Popularly viewed as a unique developmental birthright of the human species, it supposedly strikes when most of us have finally figured ourselves out — only to discover that we have lost our youth and mortality is on the horizon.

    No doubt about it, life in the middle ages can be challenging. (Full disclosure: I’m 51.) What with the first signs of physical decline and the questions and doubts about one’s personal and professional accomplishments, it is a wonder that most of us survive.

    Not everyone is so lucky; some find themselves seized by a seemingly irresistible impulse to do something dramatic, even foolish. Everything, it appears, is fair game for a midlife crisis: one’s job, spouse, lover — you name it.

    I recently heard about a severe case from a patient whose husband of nearly 30 years abruptly told her that he “felt stalled and not self-actualized” and began his search for self-knowledge in the arms of another woman.

    It was not that her husband no longer loved her, she said he told her; he just did not find the relationship exciting anymore.

    “Maybe it’s a midlife crisis,” she said, then added derisively, “Whatever that is.”

    Outraged and curious, she followed him one afternoon and was shocked to discover that her husband’s girlfriend was essentially a younger clone of herself, right down to her haircut and her taste in clothes.

    It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to see that her husband wanted to turn back the clock and start over. But this hardly deserves the dignity of a label like “midlife crisis.” It sounds more like a search for novelty and thrill than for self-knowledge.

    In fact, the more I learned about her husband, it became clear that he had always been a self-centered guy who fretted about his lost vigor and was acutely sensitive to disappointment. This was a garden-variety case of a middle-aged narcissist grappling with the biggest insult he had ever faced: getting older.

    But you have to admit that “I’m having a midlife crisis” sounds a lot better than “I’m a narcissistic jerk having a meltdown.”

    Another patient, a 49-year-old man at the pinnacle of his legal career, started an affair with an office colleague. “I love my wife,” he said, “and I don’t know what possessed me.”

    It didn’t take long to find out. The first five years of his marriage were exciting. “It was like we were dating all the time,” he recalled wistfully. But once they had a child, he felt an unwelcome sense of drudgery and responsibility creep into his life.

    Being middle-aged had nothing to do with his predicament; it was just that it took him 49 years to reach a situation where he had to seriously take account of someone else’s needs, namely those of his baby son. In all likelihood, the same thing would have happened if he had become a father at 25.

    Why do we have to label a common reaction of the male species to one of life’s challenges — the boredom of the routine — as a crisis? True, men are generally more novelty-seeking than women, but they certainly can decide what they do with their impulses.

    But surely someone has had a genuine midlife crisis. After all, don’t people routinely struggle with questions like “What can I expect from the rest of my life?” or “Is this all there is?”

    Of course. But it turns out that only a distinct minority think it constitutes a crisis. In 1999, the MacArthur Foundation study on midlife development surveyed 8,000 Americans ages 25 to 74. While everyone recognized the term “midlife crisis,” only 23 percent of subjects reported having one. And only 8 percent viewed their crisis as something tied to the realization that they were aging; the remaining 15 percent felt the crisis resulted from specific life events. Strikingly, most people also reported an increased sense of well-being and contentment in middle age.

    So what keeps the myth of the midlife crisis alive?

    The main culprit, I think, is our youth-obsessed culture, which makes a virtue of the relentless pursuit of self-renewal. The news media abound with stories of people who seek to recapture their youth simply by shedding their spouses, quitting their jobs or leaving their families. Who can resist?

    Most middle-aged people, it turns out, if we are to believe the definitive survey.

    Except, of course, for the few — mainly men, it seems — who find the midlife crisis a socially acceptable shorthand for what you do when you suddenly wake up and discover that you’re not 20 anymore.


    Richard A. Friedman is a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

    I always suspected the male mid-life crisis was bullshit. It's nice to have a respected physicians input though.

    Funny how you rarely hear about women having a mid-life crisis. :rolleyes: I know it happens it just doesn't seem like it's as news worthy. :confused: Perhaps because women handle these life changes and instances of boredom by doing more constructive things like starting a new career, going back to school, or starting a new non-profit yet fabulously successful business. . . :cool:
     
  2. SpeedoGuy

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    lol

    Women instead have a monthly crisis. Medical science calls it PMS. :biggrin1:
     
  3. earllogjam

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    Most women don't have the freedom to have a midlife crisis. With the responsiblities of motherhood, taking care of aging parents, and keeping the family intact most just aren't in a position to be irresponsible and abandon their duties to be self indulgent.

    Men on the otherhand....

    There is a certain point in a man's life when the crap around you starts to choke off your joy for living at which time you snap and get a midlife crisis. Call it selfish, call it bullshit, call it irresponsible, call it desperation but it is a real phenomenon of trying to recapture lost joy.

    I suppose the closest thing women have to a midlife crisis is averting aging. They deny it by physically trying to halt the process, beauty aids, facelifts, boob jobs...etc. Most guys just accept the fact that they are looking old but they deny old age by spiritually or mentally try to stop the process, taking up motocycling, skydiving, riding a bull, climbing Mt Everest...etc. in order to feel alive again. Now there are guys that do get hair plugs, face lifts and use cosmetics but I think they are in the minority.

    I think many men never outgrow their childhoods and frankly "boys just wanna have fun."
     
  4. Principessa

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    hahaha I am telling your wife you said that. :tongue:
     
  5. whatireallywant

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    I think I actually AM having a midlife crisis! I guess not having kids means I have the freedom to be narcissistic? :biggrin1:

    In my case, I think it's because I had such an unhappy life when I was younger - I want to make up for lost time now!
     
  6. SpeedoGuy

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    Many men, perhaps, but not this guy.

    Yes, my age is catching up to me. I'm feeling it. I'm physically slowing down and I perceive myself becoming mentally less agile and less tolerant. Yet, in spite of that, I don't feel the urge to regress to youthful rebellion. Instead, I feel the weight of responsibility on me. I've got family and professional obligations to live up to and these are only increasing with time, not otherwise. They weigh heavily on my consciousness.

    Now is not the time to blow my savings on an expensive sports car or to try to recapture my lost youth through risky sports. My biggest thrill is a glass of rum and coke on Friday evenings after work....

    Yah, I'm a boring middle class white guy: Hear me roar, er, mumble.
     
  7. SpeedoGuy

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    She gonna laugh and say: "Its friggin' true!"

    :cool:
     
  8. earllogjam

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    Does your wife ever pinch herself when you come home from work? She should.

    lol, Helen Reddy karaoke with a rum and coke can be a good substitute for a Masarati.
     
  9. D_Maurice Mountlilly

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    i'd have to say it's another case of the male ego taking over all rational thought.men are always taught to be macho jerks,and that the more women we bang and the less emotion or feelings we show is a sign of pure power.and don't forget about the penis size issue....
    growing old and not being able to look or do what one was able to when young is kinda fucked up in this always look hot world we live in.the shit never ends.i wish people didn't give in to such unrealistic pressures,but i was part guilty of this myself.when ever i heard of one of my friends stories about what ever sex they had(male or female friend)i felt like i had to go out and top it.if they got a blow job.then i had to get two in the same day...in public.and so on.i felt like i was left out.
    it was crazy,and it put me in alot of crazy/stupid situations.but 10 years later i've gotten over it.i think all stages of life have some sort of advantage.to just be older with the knowledge that i have now v.s. 10 years ago is more important to me than how i look or how well i perform on the court/field.
     
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