A publication of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

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My Late Life Crisis

John G. Wykle, MSW
New Directions, Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis
July 2022 | Volume 8 | Issue 8

Two months ago, I jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. It was thrilling. I flew through the air like a bird, experiencing feelings I had never had … manifestations of a new me.

The psychoanalyst, Erick Erickson, introduced the concept of identity crisis in the nineteen fifties as he developed his theories of human psychosocial development. In his paper, “Youth Identity and Crisis,” he defined an identity crisis as, “a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself.”

My crisis started a couple of years ago. I met a man at the gym, attracted by his masculine charisma. As it turned out he opened my heart to spirituality. My spiritual history had been mostly a head thing, which he astutely observed. Through some kind of spiritual and emotional transfer of his strong faith my heart was opened. I became a believer, a believer in life. I began a new journey. I began to experience the freedom and joy of universal connection. I became compelled to share this joy.

I began volunteer work for the homeless. I joined a meetup group called “Enjoy Your Life.” I joined a men’s group which promotes integrity in men. I bought a Miata Mx5 convertible. I go bowling with folks thirty and forty years younger than me. I started hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with strangers and discovered I can spread my joy by accepting differences.

Since Erickson’s time we have come to embrace the idea of a mid-life crisis in our middle years. As our lives are being extended well beyond the usual norms of mid-life, older folks may now be experiencing a late-life crisis.

It was my eightieth birthday as I jumped from that plane.

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