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When Men Feel Trapped: A Practical Guide

when men feel trappedMale midlife crisis is a term used to describe a male identity crisis that occurs around midlife. Men in a midlife crisis feel trapped in an identity or lifestyle that is constraining, and they want to break out. There is a shift in their awareness of time and themselves. With a sense of only a finite amount of years left, men are grasping at a last chance for a feeling of vitality and pleasure.

This is a time where fantasy and what men thought they could have had or been seems far better than reality. They may have done all the right things, and now question how it is that they have morphed into a conventional middle-aged guy. Maybe their values have changed or they are rebelling against values they’ve held that constrained them.

Life is ripe for a midlife crisis when men feel there’s no room for growth or change. They question the image or lifestyle they have created and wonder whether they belong or fit in. Their life feels empty or inauthentic.

When men act out or are on the precipice of acting out, that’s when the normal developmental conflict and reevaluation that occurs at mid-life transforms from a stage of life into a midlife crisis. Some men, in response, have an affair, leave their family, drink more, become irresponsible, or take obvious and foolish risks.

A psychological state becomes a life crisis once men act on their impulses. The crisis forces change when it seems there is no way out. Crises like this can lead to growth or destruction.

What are the signs a man is facing a midlife crisis?

One telltale indication is feeling trapped and tempted to act out in ways that will blow up their life. Usually men realize they are in a midlife crisis once they are busted and hit with reality.

Other signs of a midlife crisis:

  • Increased self-absorption, a teenage-like rebellion
  • Increased focus on appearance, excitement, fantasy, thrill-seeking
  • Increased flirting and heading toward an affair
  • Feeling your life does not fit you anymore, combined with temptation to act out

Here are some tips for getting through a midlife crisis intact (or even improved).

What not to do:

  • Refrain from doing things that will blow up your life. See yourself as a teen who may need limits.
  • Don’t take feelings literally. They are not facts. The feeling of needing to break out doesn’t always mean this is what you need to do. It may be a sign that something is wrong.
  • Don’t get lost in fantasy. It will put you at risk of acting out and get in the way of truly finding vitality in your life.

What to do:

  • Think your circumstances through with someone.
  • Realize that you may not need to blow up your life to be happy. If it needs to be dismantled, doing so thoughtfully will be less destructive.
  • Accept and grieve lost opportunity that can’t be recaptured and understand what took place and why.
  • Think about what you appreciate and are grateful for and what you stand to lose.
  • Review past and present priorities. Consider realistic changes within the context of your current life.

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When Men Feel Trapped: A Practical Guide


Lynn Margolies, PhD

Dr. Lynn Margolies is a psychologist and former Harvard Medical School faculty and fellow, and has completed her internship and post-doc at McLean Hospital. She has helped people from all walks of life with relationship, family, life problems, trauma, and psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and chronic conditions. Dr. Margolies has worked in inpatient, outpatient, residential and private practice settings. She has supervised others, and consulted to clinics, hospitals, universities, newspapers. Dr. Margolies has appeared in media -- on news and talk shows, and written columns for various publications. Dr. Margolies is currently in private practice in Newton Centre, MA. Visit her website at drlynnmargolies.com.


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APA Reference
Margolies, L. (2018). When Men Feel Trapped: A Practical Guide. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/when-men-feel-trapped-a-practical-guide/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.