The Midlife Unraveling

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Excerpt from "Brené Brown on Vulnerability," On Being, November 21, 2012:

Krista Tippett: I also see an upside of aging. When I see people aging badly in a sad way, it seems to me that the common denominator is they have not faced their demons and they just get smaller. It's like they just get eaten alive from the inside. And that's about being vulnerable and, you know, claiming what's gone wrong and the imperfection. But there's a way in which getting older, especially kind of getting into your 40s, you know, it kind of pushes you to finally do this if you haven't done it. You know, that's in your story. I just wonder if you think that, you know, this is something we can lean into almost as a gift.

Brené Brown: I think what you're describing is what I have found as a very critical developmental milestone for us. Some people call it the midlife crisis. I call it the midlife unraveling. I think there is a place and time in our lives where we realize that growing up — when we felt pain, when we felt small, when we felt unseen — we constructed walls and moats and we protected ourselves and we shut down parts of ourselves. Then I think this happens in midlife where we realize, oh, God, to be the person we want to be, to be the partner, to be the parent, we have to take down everything we put up that was supposed to be keeping us safe.