Holistic medicine

Life crisis - causes, symptoms and help

Life crisis - causes, symptoms and help


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A crisis marks the height and turning point of a dangerous development - a difficult situation. In Greek, krisis originally meant decision, later escalation, and this indicates that a crisis forces decisions. A Life crisis consequently means that a situation is so difficult that it questions your own lifestyle. The most important in brief:

  • On the one hand, a life crisis is the respective challenge at a certain age.
  • Second, life crises refer to elementary cuts that force those affected to reshape their own lives.
  • How much a life crisis affects a person depends heavily on their mental stability.
  • Life crises are particularly important if they affect an area that is extremely important to this special person: work, family, appearance, possessions, etc.

Crises are part of life

Whether we like it or not - we all go through such life crises. At certain stages of life, everyone is in a crisis in which they have to face challenges. There are eight phases of life in life that we cannot avoid because they develop from the biological process, in interaction with genes and the social environment.

If we cope with these age crises, it strengthens our (social, sexual, etc.) identity and we can tackle the next phase of life with full force. But if we do not manage to overcome an outdated phase of life, then we will be burdened by these deficits in life that is yet to come: We then torment ourselves with conflicts that should no longer play a role; Fears plague us that belong to the past; we don't trust ourselves or our environment. Fear of loss and feelings of guilt characterize such unprocessed life processes.

1.) The basic trust

Basic trust builds up in the first year of life. The infant receives closeness, security and security. If the mother does not give it to him, then experiences are imprinted on the unconscious that make life difficult for him or her in later life: helplessness, the feeling of having no influence on the environment, an unfulfilled hunger for affection and recognition. Such people often feel empty and lonely later. They suffer from a diffuse feeling of being threatened - they often develop depressive illnesses, are constantly looking for new stimuli to escape the feeling of emptiness. They generally react to other people with distrust.

For this first phase, there is no concept of how those affected could master this crisis themselves. The baby is helpless! Whether it develops basic trust or basic distrust is entirely up to the adults who take care of the child (or not).

2.) Shame, guilt and autonomy

The child tries out in the second and third year of life. It begins to understand itself as an I and learns to distinguish between right and wrong. The “defiance phase” of the three-year-old can be summarized as the magical experience of “I want”. It is essential for a healthy development in this phase that the child understands that he can follow his will, even if this does not correspond to that of the parents, and yet to learn from them about love and security. Then the child learns that it is not always dependent on the parents.

Parents can (destroy) this process of self-development if they punish the child for trying out the "I want". This was the rule in the authoritarian upbringing of the past and was largely responsible for the fact that National Socialism was able to gain a foothold in Germany. Such parents suggest to the child that they are good if they only do what the parents like, for example, be quiet; they portray the child's own needs as dirty and deprive them of the means to live out their needs or punish them with psychological and physical violence.

Such children are ashamed of their feelings, they feel guilty for their needs. In later life, they often suffer from compulsiveness, are under control and want to be perfect - for fear they might do something wrong. From the fourth to sixth year, the child slowly separates from the mother and tests social roles outside the family. This is where conscience takes shape, because people can and must now assess their own behavior. If the child is punished for acting independently, then it develops a sense of guilt for autonomy.

The result is that people split off needs and drives as “bad” and later structure their lives according to the will of others. The harder the punishments for one's own behavior, the more the child suppresses his desires until they eventually face him as "demons". In bad cases, such people later project their own drives onto other people, secretly yearn for them and at the same time try to destroy what is projected into the other.

3.) Life crisis puberty

In retrospect, the teenage years often appear to us as golden youth, but they are also one of the essential phases for life crises. Puberty is always a life crisis, because a phase of life passes (childhood) and a new one has not yet begun (adulthood). The hormones go crazy, both in boys and in girls; our body changes and these changes unsettle all people.

The biological change goes hand in hand with a social change. We join peer groups of peers - we are now getting to know society. We consciously and subconsciously search for our identity and try out many roles. We also try different social groups. We test our limits. We test how the outside world reacts to us.

In the sense of an escalation, puberty is a permanent crisis that forces us to make decisions every day, which we revise just as quickly. The course is not yet permanent. As quickly as we change our minds, head for a new clique or change our taste in music, we are often so radically convinced of what we do in the here and now. In puberty, our feelings often say "completely or not at all", and it is difficult for us to endure contradicting things. We have to test extremes in this phase - otherwise we would not be able to integrate them later.

In this time of crisis, the transition from one state, that of childhood to another, that of adulthood, many things can go wrong. If everything goes well, then at the age of 18, 19 we built an identity in which self-awareness and the perception of others go hand in hand. This gives us the feeling "I know who I am". A stable construction of our own identity enables us to remain true to ourselves, because we know what we remain true to.

However, there is a danger of sticking to childhood. Not only the changing body, also unsettling the big world outside. Overprotected children with anxious parents are now afraid to take the step into the outside world. For example, they avoid first sexual contacts or secretly continue to play with their children's toys. They do not have exactly the experience that is necessary for ripening. Her world remains small, her perception cramped.

Such people, who do not manage to stand on their own feet during puberty, later cling rigidly to self-images that adults conveyed to them in their childhood. Precisely because they did not play the roles in puberty, they often hate people in adulthood who live the freedoms to which they did not dare. Or else, they catch up on puberty experiences in young adulthood and then miss experiences that would be important in this other phase of life.

The eternal youth

There is also a type that the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung called puer aeternuus, an eternal youth. Although this creates the step into puberty, it remains trapped in a puberty behavior. Even in his mid-30s, his life still consists of fragments. He continues to play the terrible child, although he has long grown up. Agreements are not binding for him, his head is full of interesting ideas that he does not implement. If he is sitting on one topic, he jumps to the next.

This is not because of a lack of intelligence, but because he is afraid of the "seriousness of life", that is, being an adult. Such a person fails to develop a self-construction in puberty that is reasonably stable. Without such a self-concept, he also lacks a life structure.

Turning points

If crisis means change, then a life crisis is an event in which our life changes. In addition to the maturation processes described, these can also be other external and internal vibrations:

  • A loved one dies.
  • Your partner separates from them, or they separate from him.
  • They learn that they have a serious illness.
  • They have an accident after which they have to reorganize their lives.
  • They lose their jobs.
  • They have finished their training and are unable to find a job.
  • They have to leave their familiar surroundings for their job.
  • Her work seems meaningless to her.
  • They are bullied in the workplace.
  • Your children, parents, siblings, etc. have existential problems.
  • You're in the debt trap.
  • You become a victim of a crime.
  • You will be punished.

Break with the routine

A life crisis shakes the routine. Almost all people have fixed points in their everyday life that have become so natural that they do not or hardly reflect on them. We feel safe in this coordinate system. We know it and move about in it without having to invest additional energy. But that also shows why certain life crises also offer an opportunity. If everything goes smoothly, there is no challenge to try new ways.

However, the crisis forces us to do so, so we can develop skills and get to know aspects of ourselves that we didn't even know existed before. In general, dealing with crises can also be seen here: the more rigidly a person clings to his lifestyle, the more helpless he will feel when this structure breaks down.

Where do life crises meet?

Everyone is different. Firstly, we all deal with life crises differently, secondly, life crises also hit us more or less, depending on how important this area is to us. For example, if a person defines himself or herself exclusively or exclusively through his work, the loss of his job hits him with full force. It is not only about rationally planning how he could get another job, but his entire construction of identity is under attack. Its self-worth loses. When asked "what can I do" and "how does it go on", there is the feeling of being inferior or even feeling sorry for school, but have not given everything.

On the other hand, if you are not strongly attached to your current position, a job loss will not trigger existential fears. He may now be thinking about where he can get the money to live, find out after retraining and generally keep his eyes open. A dismissal will not be seen as an elementary threat.

For example, while the death of a life partner in old age is a crisis for everyone, he will particularly affect a woman who had previously arranged her life on her husband, never went on vacation alone, did not work and did not pursue her own hobbies. For them, not only the beloved partner disappears, but the purpose of life.

Even for a young adult who still lives on his parents' money, comes to his mother's for dinner, never learned to fill out his tax return or clean up his apartment, the mother's death is a multiple crisis. Not only does he lack emotionally the caregiver, he is now forced to do what he previously avoided: he has to organize his own life.

Symptoms for life crises

We often recognize life crises late, because the triggers are not always obvious. The crisis often develops slowly. For example, if for the wrong reasons we have studied something that we do not like and that we do not like, symptoms will appear at some point. Let's say someone is studying medicine because the parents wanted it. As a good son, he always did what the parents asked for and slowly the repressed discomfort not to follow his own interests is growing.

Such people mostly have not learned to ask themselves how they are and to listen to their own feelings. They often develop negative mechanisms to deal with their problems. This sometimes shows signs of a life crisis.

The student described now smokes like a chimney, drinking almost unconscious at the weekend. He smokes to fall asleep, because otherwise he suffers from sleep disorders. It often has infections, is permanently cold in winter, but shows no tangible diseases. In other words, the body shows the symptoms of the life crisis that this person denies from himself.

The symptoms of a life crisis are similar to those of depression and burnout syndrome. They include internal psychological aspects as well as psychosocial and psychosomatic ones. These include listlessness, fear for the future as well as fear of loss, constant brooding about the meaning of life that does not lead to any result, depression, sadness, irritability, fluctuating moods, negative thoughts, insecurity, hopelessness such as self-doubt, but also physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat , Nausea, stomach pain, headache and loss of appetite.

Master a life crisis

How well someone copes with a life crisis or whether it gets into one depends heavily on their own resilience, which in turn is related to the strength of the self-concept. People with an unstable psyche are already throwing events off the rails, where emotionally stable people may just shrug their shoulders. Some people hardly get back on their feet after a tremor, while others emerge from it strengthened.

As banal as it reads: it is often a question of will whether we come out of a crisis stronger or weaker. Those who have learned to be mindful are better able to deal with crises than people who accept or ignore everything around them. Those who develop mindfulness not only focus on what is not currently going on, but also see other, also beautiful things around them. Put simply, if he lost his job, he still enjoys the rustling of the trees in the wind and enjoys the fresh air on his skin on a walk in the forest. He sees the things that nobody can take from him. Or he thinks of people who are worse off in every way than themselves.

Get out of the tunnel

Advice is easier said than implemented because, like in a depression, people develop a tunnel vision in a life crisis. The best is those who prepare for crises and therefore already know that they are focusing on a narrowed area of ​​reality during the crisis.
If I know that, then I can abstract from my feelings: I know that I am in a crisis; I know that I have negative thoughts now; I know that I am currently lacking in drive. But I can classify that my feelings have to do with the current crisis and will also be over when the crisis is over.

I can consciously force myself to think of things from exactly the area that is triggering the crisis and what I have done in the past. When I lose my job, I think of times when I was successful. This puts the acute situation in a different light. It loses its immediate threat and becomes a manageable problem. The most important thing is to remember past crises. Remember how you left your first friend at the age of 16. How the world went down in her feelings, how you couldn't eat or sleep. And? At some point they were fine again.

In a life crisis, it can help a lot if you do something for your health. Take nature walks, hike, move. Cook with fresh ingredients. As simple as that sounds, it can be effective. When you move outside, the brain "moves" too. Synapses are activated that would otherwise lie idle, they come up with other thoughts than the murky thoughts surrounding their crisis.

Accept help

A crisis is characterized primarily by the fact that you are challenged. The difference between challenge and overwhelming is small. If you are in crisis, you have reached a limit: you can hardly solve the difficulties yourself. Many people find it difficult to admit this. This will make the crisis worse.

Revealing your weakness to friends, relatives, and confidants shows true strength and is an important step in dealing with the crisis. Shared suffering is not only half suffering, you are now getting input on how to best solve your problems. You get help. This can also be clinical help - from doctors who specialize in life crises.

First of all, her friends are asked. The rule applies: if you are not one of those who put every little problem on their social environment, then in a crisis friends are exactly the ones who will listen to them and help them to get through the crisis. To be more precise, this shows who their friends really are, and this is an important finding in a life crisis.

Can a crisis also have a positive effect?

Admittedly, to describe a crisis as positive must first look like a slap in the face to someone who is in it. Since life crises cannot be avoided, we should use them because they also offer potential if we deal with them consciously. Crises can make us appreciate the essentials better: I lost my job, but I learned that I have good friends. I was in need and have now realized who I can really rely on. If I have weathered a life crisis, then I may have learned to take better care of myself and appreciate what I was ashamed of before.

Those who have gone through a life crisis often find that they are much stronger than before, even if scars remain. And above all, we understand that life goes on. Did you actively work on your crisis? Then there is the confidence that was previously unknown to them.

When it stops

But sometimes the crisis strikes such that you cannot help yourself in an acute situation. They are stuck, their psychological resources are exhausted. You need crisis aid. Call the telephone counseling service immediately on 0800-1110111. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch

Swell:

  • Filipp, Sigrun-Heide; Aymanns, Peter: Critical life events and life crises: dealing with the dark side of life, Kohlhammer Verlag, 2009
  • Krull, Stephan; Massarrat, Mohssen; Steinrücke, Margareta: Steps out of the crisis Reduced working hours, minimum wages, basic income: three projects that belong together, VSA: Verlag, 2009
  • Linden, Michael; Hautzinger, Martin: Behavioral Therapy Manual, Springer, 2011
  • Glaw, Xanthe et al .: "Meaning in Life and Meaning of Life in Mental Health Care: An Integrative Literature Review", in: Issues in Mental Health Nursing Volume 38 Issue 3, 2017, Taylor Francis Online
  • Etminan, Erika Helene: Mastering life crises: Manual for self-management in difficult times, Via Nova, 2009
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat: Life crises become life chances: actively shaping turning points of life, Verlag Herder, 2014


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