About the Quarterlife Crisis

Photo copyright Satya Byock, 2016

Photo copyright Satya Byock, 2016

The phase of life following adolescence and preceding mid-life does not have a good name. "Young adulthood” doesn't seem right (it's the same term used for teenage literature) but people in this stage often don't feel quite like fully fledged adults either. There’s little support to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. As a result, people in their late teens, twenties, and thirties are suffering in epidemic numbers. Where there was once ritual in culture and religion to support the transition, there is now… nothing.

In psychotherapy oriented by a Jungian perspective, the emphasis is placed on listening to the symptoms rather than imposing certainty upon them. The symptom leads us to the underlying illness, and also the cure. This process uncovers innate resources within the individual, versus eroding the natural healing capacity with externally imposed beliefs, theories, or medication without psychotherapy. By developing this “dialogue” between the conscious and unconscious minds, consciousness is broadened and profound transformation occurs.

There is a whole, remarkable person trying to be born as an adult. I try to support that process.

This transformative work of dialogue with the inner self was once seen as beginning primarily in mid-life. In the modern world, however, a variety of factors from delayed marriage to transformed gender roles and technological influence has made the inner journey a necessity much earlier in life.

Good psychotherapy can provide tremendous relief from life’s difficulties and support in finding joy, meaning, a spiritual center, physical health, and clarity on the path forward.

“If there is a path, it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”

-Joseph Campbell

Quarterlife as a Stage of Life

Quarterlife today resembles mid-life a half century ago. With the widespread changes in the demographics of higher education and delayed marriage, the years between leaving one’s home of origin and creating one’s own family have increased and a new phase of life has been created. In this phase, significant time is spent on self-exploration and identity, and the definition of personal meaning — time that was once generally only afforded after mid-life.

As a result of this change in the prescribed path in Western life, what was once seen as two distinct phases of life, no longer holds true. Individuals coming of age today are seeking to live lives with a combined emphasis on stability and meaning, the pursuit of one’s creative identity or values. While working to support oneself financially and to build lasting relationships, individuals in Quarterlife today are increasingly placing attention on uncovering their life’s purpose and crafting a career they want.

“When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you wouldn’t have thought there were doors (and where there wouldn’t have been doors for someone else).”

-Joseph Campbell

Symptoms of the Quarterlife Crisis

As with all crises of meaning, the popularly named “quarterlife crisis” often manifests with an existential uncertainty about one’s life plans. The feeling that one does not know what one should do with one’s life can be rampant, and mood swings, depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear are common. Within this, there is often a deep feeling of a search for greater meaning in life; often a sense of being called towards something but an inability to pinpoint the exact calling, or alternately a feeling of emptiness and being utterly lost.

As the crisis is commonly associated with the pursuit of one’s professional goals and creative life, there is often also a hope of aligning the fruits of one’s search for meaning with one’s career and external life. In addition, this very individual search often has a very collective component: individuals seeking meaning in life today are also regularly seeking ways to creatively, meaningfully, contribute to the amelioration of a world they believe could, and should, be different.

Selection of Satya’s Writing on Quarterlife:

“True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.”

-Mahatma Gandhi