This concept will resonate well with those who study astrology, because they know about it already. Their explanation for it will be different than mine, since while the ancients were very good at observation they weren't as astute about cause and effect. They noticed the phenomenon I am about to describe, and they also saw a planet with a similar cycle - Saturn. Saturn has a 28 year orbit, and as such has 7 year intervals between its phases. Saturn is not what causes these cycles, although I suppose it could be a good way to keep track of them if you really needed a "life change alarm clock!"
All our life we grow and change, change and grow. While this seems like it is almost a cliché, I do not think there is much appreciation for what it really means.
Life is reflected in our mind as ideas - experience becomes memory and learning. What happens to the ideas in our minds is that they affect what follows them. They change our minds, slowly and gradually, but inexorably, into something that they were not in the past. If you pay attention and keep up with these changes, you will notice that the process is not gradual and linear, but develops a long term cyclical nature. There seems to be something about us that gives the ideas that are most fundamental to us a sort of life cycle.
One description of this process would be to follow an idea this way - first it is a trait outside of us that we admire - then we begin to think it and apply it, in a surface fashion - then it becomes assimilated, something we do without having to apply conscious effort - them it finally blends with who we are and is no longer a distinct idea - and perhaps even fades from our being.
The result is that over a period of roughly seven years, we go from aspiring to something to having lived it to no longer really paying attention to it. In the meantime, eventually, some new concepts begin to knock at our door.
From an inner perspective, our level of self knowledge also fluctuates with this cycle. At the outset, we may know pretty much who we are, and what we want to change about ourselves. This is where the new idea enters the stage. The process of learning and assimilating it is still one where we know ourselves well. There may very well be a plateau, especially if the idea was a very appropriate one to absorb, where for a few years we are able to live very well due the result the new idea mingling with who we were before. Eventually, though, when the idea is fully assimilated, it is no longer a distinct component of our self, and every previous part of our mind has altered slightly to absorb the new idea. We no longer really know who we are, and we must once again explore ourselves carefully and figure out where we are, what we want to be, and how to get there.
The first two instances of this cycle are pretty familiar to everyone, represented the end of the most receptive stage of childhood around the age of seven, and the adolescent "identity crisis" which often forms the background to the entire fourteen to twenty one year cycle. This process must be repeated on a regular schedule, consciously, in order for us to stay healthy.
So what happens when the work is ignored, when we no longer "take stock" and re-aim ourselves at the future? This would be akin to someone thinking they "know who they are" and not realising that they will change, for better and for worse, over the years, and that they must influence these changes in order to be alive in their soul. Skipping one cycle is not going to kill you. It will make the next one a bit more important, and more complex, however. Skipping several will leave you with very few tools (familiar from the last time around) with which to participate in the process.
I believe that this is the reason for the so called "mid life crisis." The adult at 49 to 56 has not taken the trouble, or perhaps had the opportunity due to family or work pressures, to augment their personality in a positive, participatory fashion for as many as four cycles in a row (an entire orbit of Saturn!), that is, the adjustments that would have occurred over 21-28, 28-35, 35-42, and 42-49. They are completely lost! They still have the self image they formed by 21 or so, the one that had their whole life ahead of them, with goals and dreams and ideals - none of which can be addressed at the age of fifty.
© Huw Powell