It’s often told that an identity crisis punches the clock at exactly the ages of 40 through 50, especially in the unhappily married community. It’s not exclusive to the underpaid and overworked 40-somethings who need a change of pace and some heavy counseling (although that stereotype can still be correct). Tradition fails to mention possibly one of the most underestimated truths in our culture: people of any age are susceptible to an identity crisis.
Developmental or childhood influences, stresses, struggles, and societal demands can all be ingredients in the melting pot of an identity crisis. Maybe it was something traumatic that happened as a child that has always mentally scarred you, maybe it was a life-altering situation that you haven’t fully dealt with, or it could even be the pressure in society to perform a certain way or look a certain part. Regardless of the cause, it is impossible to put an age restriction on an identity crisis!
So why does an identity crisis happen? Each individual has their own experiences, perceptions, and coping mechanisms. Let’s take 9/11 for example, since we’ve just recognized the fourteenth anniversary of that tragic day. Millions of Americans were impacted by the same situation, yet each person reacted in a different way entirely. Though we can all remember that day very clearly, the experience varies for everyone. We’d all been involved in the same situation, but in ways that altered our personal perceptions and ignited unique coping mechanisms on an individual basis. A fork in the road is found, and we can either retreat back to our fundamental truths to cope or try to forge our own understanding without the help of others.
An identity crisis holds that very essence. I’ve found that I’m in the middle of an identity crisis because I took a wrong turn at the fork in the road. As I’ve said before, my fundamental truths lie in Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible. My problem is not that I retreated back to my values when my world was shaken, but rather my problem is that I didn’t. Our generation has such a concentrated focus on autonomy, but nobody tells us how lonely, difficult, or unsteady it is.
Autonomy whispers, “You’ve got this! You don’t need anyone else, they’re just going to let you down!” It is just a glass ceiling that superficially holds us up in the face of gravity. It wasn’t meant to support us when the world comes crashing down, because what happens when the world shatters the glass on its way down? Are you going to fall through the ceiling and land on your foundation, or do you keep falling through the air waiting for someone or something to catch you?
The whispers of autonomy are wrong, because salvation is an external entity only. I strongly believe that if salvation could be self-governed, suicide would be impossible. If we could handle anything on our own, suicide wouldn’t overcome the depressed or lonely. Autonomy is merely an illusion, and fuel for the flames of an identity crisis.