The “midlife” crisis with which the psychotherapists grappled probably reflects the fact that at midlife one’s own death becomes less theoretical and more probable. Goals of money, security, fame, sex, or power might formerly have peen purpose to life. With experience, the limited nature of such satisfactions becomes increasingly evident. As one grows older an awareness surfaces that one is on a relentless slide toward extinction, making self‑serving goals seem utterly futile. Even altruistic goals can wear thin without a larger picture of the human race than the one our scientific culture provides. As life progresses, the search for meaning becomes increasingly urgent. Profound despair and dull resignation are symptoms of failing in that search. The pervasive use of alcohol, sedatives, and narcotics In our society might well reflect many people’s attempts to suppress despair at their purposelessness, to substitute heightened sensation for meaning…..
….The fundamental questions, “Who am I?” and “What am 1?” arise increasingly in the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. Therapists hear them as explicit queries or to indirect form: “Who is the real me?” or “I don’t know what I want — part of me wants one thing and part of me wants something else. What do I want?” Western psychology is severely handicapped in dealing with these questions because the center of human experience — the observing self — is missing from its theories. Yet, at the heart of psychopathology lies a fundamental confusion between the self as object and the self of pure subjectivity. Emotions, thoughts, impulses, images, and sensations are the contents of consciousness: we witness them; we are aware of their existence. Likewise, the body, the self-image, and the self‑concept are all constructs that we observe. But our core sense of personal existence ‑- the “I” ‑- is located in awareness itself, not in its content.
– Arthur J. Deikman from ‘The Observing Self: Mysticism and Psychotherapy’