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Daniel Levinson

 
 
 
 
His theory:
 
 At the center of Levinson's theory is the life structure.  This is an underlying pattern of an individual's life at any given point in time.  A person's life structure is shaped mainly by their social and physical environment, and it primarily involves family and work.  Other variables such as religion, race, and status are often important as well. 
In his theory there are two key concepts:
1) the Stable Period - This is the time when a person makes crucial choices in life.
2) the Transitional Period - This is the end of a person's stage and the beginning of a new one. Life during these transitions can be either rocky or smooth, but the quality and significance of one’s life commitments often change between the beginning and end of a period.
 
There are 6 stages of adulthood in Levinson's theory titled "Seasons of a Man's Life":
1) Early adult transition (17-22) - leave adolescence, make preliminary choices for adult life
2) Entering the adult world (22-28) - make initial choices in love, occupation, friendship, values, lifestyle
3) Age 30 transition (28-33) - changes occur in life structure, either a moderate change or, more often, a severe and stressful crisis
4) Settling down (33-40) - establish a niche in society, progress on a timetable, in both family and career accomplishments; are expected to think and behave like a parent so they are facing more demanding roles and expectations .
5) Mid-life transition (40-45) - life structure comes into question, usually a time of crisis in the meaning, direction, and value of each person's life.  neglected parts of the self (talents, desires, aspirations) seek expression.  Men are seen more as parents than as “brothers” to other men who are somewhat younger than them and this message comes as an irritation at first.  Also at this time, men becoming increasingly aware of death and they are reminded of how short life really is.  They become involved in trying to leave a legacy and this usually forms the core of the second half of his life.
6) Entering middle adulthood (45-50) - choices must be made, a new life structure formed.  person must commit to new tasks.
* Some sources also stated that there was a late adulthood stage during which time a man spent time reflecting on past achievements and regrets, and making peace with one's self and others (including God).
** Daniel Levinson later went on to write a book titled “Seasons of a Woman's Life”.
 
                
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He argue2s than men go through major life phases.  Within these phases are times of stability, generally lasting about 6-10 years and transitional periods which may last about 4-5 years.  The primary task of every stable period is to build a life structure, to make key choices, form a structure around them and to pursue goals and values within this structure.  This may be a tranquil or stressful times as options are weighed and choices made.  A transitional period terminates existing life structures and creates the possibility for a new one.  "The primary tasks of every transition period are to question and reappraise the existing structure, to explore the various possibilities for change in self and world, and to move toward a commitment to crucial choices that form a basis for a new life structure in the ensuing stable period."

As men complete a development phase called "settling down", they enter into a life period which Levinson calls "Becoming One's Own Man" (age 36-39).  A man becomes a senior member in his own world,  he speaks with his own voice, and he has a greater measure of authority.  He carries the burden of greater responsibilities and pressures.  He gives up more of the "little boy within".  Hopefully, he fulfills his "Dream."   Many men do not complete this settling down in terms which are satisfactory to them.  They do not achieve their "Dream", they find themselves trapped in dead end occupations, their marriages are no longer the Hollywood fantasy of perfection and they enter into Mid-life with unresolved developmental issues.  Others, while quite successful in their lives, still struggle with the new developmental tasks of mid-life since this is perfectly normal.  He will still ask "what have I done with my life?  What do I really get from and give to  my wife, family friends, etc.?"  He yearns for a life in which his actual desires, values, talents and aspirations can be expressed (and often he doesn't know what they are).  Much of this developmental turmoil may be "below the surface" since many men are only marginally aware of their own disquietude and/or do not communicate what is really happening to others.  However, it breaks through in strange ways and behaviors-- often being precipitated by acute crises or events in his life.  Since clinical depression is a common hallmark of repressed anger, ambivalence, and unresolved inner turmoil, a typical characteristic of this time in a man's life is depression which clinically appears far differently in man than women.

A man has several major tasks to work on during this transition.   Awareness of this by others may provide one tool for assistance so that this transition is not too destructive.

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He must terminate early adulthood.  He has to review and reappraise this era of his life. 

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He often has to discover who  he really his-- not the "self" of social expectations, parental scripts, corporate environments, etc.   He may begin to modify negative elements of his existing life structure.  This may require experimentation and even failures until the redefinition is clear.

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He has to deal with the polarities of his life.  There are:

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Young/Old--the mid-life male is caught between poles.   "Young" symbolizes birth, growth, possibility, initiation, openness, energy, and potential.  "Old" symbolizes termination, fruition, stability, completion, and death.  Young can be heroic, fragile, and impulsive.  Old can be senile, tyrannical, and unconnected.  The task of mid-life is to reintegrate these poles-- to seek new energy for creation but with wisdom and balance.  One of the major problems here can be the inappropriate "quest for immortality" and all the destructiveness this can lead to.  Another aspect of this polarity is man's quest for a "Legacy"-- what he passes on to the next generation. This may take the form of satisfaction from children, work with charitable organizations, mentoring, recognition for professional work etc.

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Destruction/Creation--as a man reviews his life, he becomes aware of how destructiveness everywhere inhibits creativity.  He needs to understand the destructiveness in his own life..  He needs to take responsibility for his own destructive capabilities.  He needs to resolve issues of guilt, ambivalence, old anger, and grief over lost opportunities.  A man's new creativity in middle adulthood comes in part with the relationship with his own destructiveness and from intensification of the loving, life-affirming aspects of self.

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Masculine/Feminine--these polarities-- strength vs. weakness

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Attachment/Separation-- to be attached is to be engaged, involved, rooted, plugged in.  To be separated is to be more deeply involved in one's inner world.  Separateness promotes creative adaptation and inner growth.  During the mid-life transition, men need to reduce their heavy involvement in the external world.    To do the work of re-appraisal and dis-illusionment,   he must turn inward.  As he leaves the dependencies of his earlier life (and this may be a very negative and destructive act), he forms a more universal sense of good and evil driven by his own newly emerging values as opposed to that of the community.  He strives to find a better balance between needs of self and needs of society.  With increased self caring and self awareness comes  self development and integrity.

Levinson states that as the mid-life transition begins to resolve and reintegration of the Self occurs,  that the man effects changes in three components of the life structure:

bullet The "Dream"--this symbolizes youth, omnipotence, illusion, inspiration, and heroic drama.  At mid-life, this imagery needs to be modulated and the conflicts engendered by this resolved.
bullet Mentoring--As the man gives up the "Dream", so he also gives up being mentored, He must accept the loss and disappointment of being ejected from the youthful generation.  He much become the mentor and derive satisfaction from furthering the development of younger men and women--facilitating their efforts to form and live out their own Dreams.  Mentoring involves altruism, self-rejuvenation, and creativity.   The hazards of inappropriate control, exploitation, jealousy, and excessive involvement are well known.
bullet Marriage--A man may come to recognize that his marriage was flawed from the start.   As he comes to know himself better, he comes to know his wife as a real person.    He needs to either recommitment to his marriage on new terms and, in doing that, accept some responsibility for his own motivation and character or enter into a new primary relationship.  Obviously issues with the Young/Old polarity create major problems here.
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