Uranus and the Astrology of the Midlife Crisis

Uranus and the Astrology of the Midlife Crisis

Moonletter Podcast

What happens at the midlife crisis? How can this time of transition become a positive and rewarding experience? Here we explain everything (well, maybe not everything) about this important life event from the point of view of planetary influence.

Everyone should have a midlife crisis. Well, maybe not a crisis exactly but rather a period in the middle of life when all the skills and accomplishments of the last 40 odd years come up for re-evaluation and the attitudes that have led us to this point in our lives come up for renewal.

For some this can be a time of psychological stress and depression. For others this can be a time of liberation and discovery. And when we say ‘midlife’ what do we mean exactly?

From an astrological point of view, we’re looking at the cycles of the outer planets. We get oppositions from three of these planets. Oppositions can seem like challenges but their effect is to complete us and give us a new perspective. Jupiter, which has a cycle of around 12 years, will be opposite the position when we were born at age 42. Saturn has a cycle of around 30 years and will be opposite its natal position at around age 45. But the main influence is Uranus which has a cycle of 84 years and has completed half of its orbit when we are 42 years old.

Let’s look at these influences in turn.

But before we start, please bear in mind that these numbers do not represent exact dates. Sure, the planets in the solar system work like clockwork and their movements are totally predictable. But from the point of view of Earth, the other planets can appear to move backwards as well as forwards, so we need to take that into account when we predict the position of a planet. Plus, we have to bear in mind that the planet Uranus takes 7 years to move through a sign so if we were born with Uranus at the beginning of a sign, the half-return will occur earlier than if it was at the end.

At roughly age 45, Saturn is opposite its natal position. The last time it was at this position was age 14 to 16 when we were going through the years of teenage rebellion. So around age 45 it’s a time to revisit whatever we went through when we were teenagers. Generally speaking, adolescence is a time when we start to learn responsibility and when we form our individual identities.

Then there’s the lesser influence of the Jupiter opposition. Jupiter aspects are to do with growth and expansion. But when the angle is an opposition, there is the tendency to go over the top which could lead to consequences if we are unable to restrain ourselves.

But the main influence in the so-called midlife crisis is that of Uranus. As I mentioned, this planet has a cycle of 84 years. It represents the complete human lifecycle. Some of us will reach our Uranus return at age 84 (see you there!) but many of us will get to the half-way point of 42. Uranus’ process is about becoming an individual, a whole person – what the Jungians call ‘individuation’.

Carl Jung described people as introverts or extraverts. Extraverts focus their life on external rewards and satisfactions – job, prestige, finances, property, social status. While introverts are more concerned with creativity, values, empathy and affective relationships. You can see from this that our (western) society is in general more extraverted than introverted.

Jung also described people as tending to 4 different psychological functions: thinking, feeling, intuiting and sensing. A predominantly thinking type can analyse situations in terms of cause and effect and connect concepts while a feeling type can evaluate and make judgements on the basis of what feels or doesn’t feel right. Please note, ‘feeling’ here does not necessarily mean emotional – emotion is the expression of feeling and not all feeling types are overtly emotional.

Sensing types need the input of physical sensation, the five senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting – you’ll find them as chefs, fashion designers, musicians, sculptors and so on. Whereas intuitive types perceive directly to the mind without going through the senses.

You can see from this that not only is our (western) culture extraverted, it also specialises in thinking and sensing. This is obvious in our scientific paradigm which is based on reason and observation, in other words thinking and sensing. The skills of feeling types and intuitive types tend to be given less consideration and are undervalued and, in some cases belittled and degraded.

Just to mention that while in some typologies such as the Myers-Briggs, these psychological types are defining categories, for Jung they are functions, part of the dynamic process of becoming a whole person.

For astrologers, these four functions are reflected in the four elements of the signs: air being thinking, water being feeling, earth being sensing and fire being intuiting. More on the four elements in astrology here.

So, a big part of the process of individuation is to develop and integrate our opposite nature so that we become whole. And that is what happens in our middle years. Uranus flips us over, like a pole shift so that the parts of ourselves that we haven’t been living for whatever reason want to be heard and lived. Saturn asks us to look again at the deals we made during our adolescent years when we were establishing our sense of identity and our place in the world. And Jupiter is asking us to grow beyond our limits.

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Let’s look at some examples. The classic picture, almost the cliché, is of a man, extravert, thinking-sensing type. By his forties he has got a good position in his company, he has a family and is on his way to paying off his mortgage. Then he starts getting feelings of dissatisfaction. He’s getting older, he’s slowing down. His inner world is starting to make demands. This can manifest as a yearning for the freedom of his younger self. Maybe he has an affair. Maybe he tries a holiday, but the strategies and solutions he’s been using all his life no longer work!

Or maybe the economic situation means that his career hasn’t taken off. He’s hit 40 and he’s still paying off student debt and is nowhere near being able to afford his own place. He’s wondering what the point of it all is. Slowly he realises that he’s been living his life according to the expectations of others and not doing what he really wants to do. How does he reconnect with himself?

Then there’s the extravert woman. Her identity is tied up with her appearance, being a mother and homemaker. She enjoys the social position that her husband’s income can bring. But her body is changing as she goes through the menopause. Along with that, there’s a change in her sense of herself as a person and a woman. Her children are grown up and independent. If she can let go of all that, she risks facing the fact that she has suppressed her creative side and been living her life vicariously through her husband and children. Maybe she’s kept her career going, trying to balance her identity between her roles as businesswoman and partner/mother. Or maybe she’s been focused on her career and has put off having children; she’s still single and her biological clock is ticking. However she’s got to where she is, she finds herself in a space where there are no longer any guidelines, and everything is thrown into doubt. All the anti-aging treatments and spa visits don’t seem to help. How can she get back in touch with her inner self?

It’s different for introverts, male or female. During the first half of their life they have been living in an uneasy compromise with the extravert world. Doing what is expected of them while keeping their values to themselves. Then Saturn comes along and shows them the deal they made when they were a teenager, shows them that they chose that identity for themselves, chose to hide their light in order to avoid destructive criticism, keeping their creativity as a hobby or worse, as a secret. Then in their midlife, Uranus comes along, and they can no longer hide who they are. Maybe they find a way to turn their hobby into an income – for the world of extraverts measures everything in cash terms. But having developed their own inner reality, they don’t rely on the judgements of other people and are free to express what needs to be expressed.

There are many paths through this dark forest of the so-called midlife crisis. Or maybe one has to make one’s own path just by walking. There can be many wrong turnings, dead ends; clinging to old certainties and strategies, trying to recapture what has already gone, distracting oneself in order to avoid the discomfort, the feeling of being lost. This crisis takes us through a transition, a liminal space, where the established order of things has been dissolved. It’s understandable that for some this can be a cause of anxiety.

I say, ‘for some’ because as Uranus is the main driver of these changes, it will depend how well this planet is configured or connected in the natal chart. Basically one of the gifts of Uranus is an independent spirit and the ability to handle change and uncertainty. For those with Uranus on a main angle of the chart, rising, culminating or setting, or connected to one of the personal planets the seeds of the change are already there. For those for whom the connection to Uranus is less solid, the transition can be more challenging as the journey to become ourselves can go against tradition and the opinions and judgments of others, leaving us with the sense of being in a non-place without the usual psychological means of coping.

But whatever goes on, the important thing at this time of life is to allow the changes. The old order that we’ve been taking for granted has to dissolve and before a new order can be established, we have to go through a transitional phase where things feel less certain, and where we have to be more fluid and malleable in order to adapt. The only way to get hurt is to resist what is in fact a natural and necessary process of becoming a whole person, of becoming oneself.

Ben Belinsky

April 2024

 

Quotes for the midlife

 

“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.”

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

          Dante from the Divine Comedy, translated by Longfellow

 

“Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.”

Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.”

        Antonio Machado

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

          Charles Darwin

 

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”

   David Bowie

 

“Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”

   Robert C. Gallagher

 

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