What is the Quarter-Life Crisis?

 In Psychotherapy, Toronto Therapist

around the cornerBack in 2010, there was an Eye Weekly article about the Quarter-Life Crisis (also referred to as Quarterlife Crisis or Quarter Life Crisis) which began:

You can’t make any decisions because you don’t know what you want. And you don’t know what you want because you don’t know who you are. And you don’t know who you are because you’re allowed to be anyone you want. How messed up is that?

Well, maybe not so messed up as it might seem.  What can be more confusing and overwhelming than having all the choices in the world and not knowing which ones to make?  Especially when it feels as though these decisions are going to affect the rest of your life.

What if they are the wrong decisions?  What if the rest of the world passes you by as you struggle to make these decisions?  It’s enough to cause feelings of hopeless paralysis and anxiety.

The Quarter-Life Crisis is a demography affecting those in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, who are often well-educated and living in urban centres, such as Toronto, and increasingly feeling “What should I do with my life?”.

While it may seem like a contradiction, there is a sense of being lonely and isolated even being around people constantly at work, during social functions and maybe also at home.  It may feel as though no one else understands and an experience of a consistent state of frustration over “not knowing” about career, relationships, family, the future and life in general.

Says Oliver Robinson, a psychologist from the University of Greenwich of London, “This leads to a feeling of being one thing outwardly but feeling inwardly that you are someone else, which causes a discrepancy between your behaviour and your inner sense of self.”

In a study presented at the British Psychological Society, researchers identified five key phases from a survey of 50 volunteers:

Phase 1 – A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.

Phase 2 – A rising sense of “I’ve got to get out” and the feeling that you can change your life.

Phase 3 – Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a “time out” period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.

Phase 4 – Rebuilding your life.

Phase 5 – Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.

Further, Robinson believes that those who take action during the period of the quarter-life crisis are less likely to experience the “mid-life crisis”, “If you store up the problems until later life, it will be much worse as the inertia in later life is greater.”

Every individual will have unique experiences and reactions, but gaining a better understanding of what is at the core of these feelings may provide clarity and direction that is self-directed which may, in turn, provide the opportunity to turn the quarter-life crisis into a hurdle toward better fulfillment.

Personal development work including daily meditation, focusing on meaningful connections, discovering interests and engaging in personal psychotherapy may be ways to consider managing the emotions, as well as to work toward satisfaction and a greater sense of self.

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