At other times, men and women find in later midlife that they have lost all truths as a result of social revolution or massive technological change. They are left without any foundation. One of us worked in and wrote about women and men living in Estonia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Bergquist and Weiss, 1994) Many of the men, and some of the women, seemed to be wandering around in a haze. They lost their ideology or their base of opposition to the dominant ideology. Now what do they do? Where do their abstract thinking and their spirit find a new home? Most of the Estonian women were able to adjust. They were accustomed to “making-do”, to adjusting, to living everyday life. The revolution did not really change their routines. The revolution only changed the ideology. With the collapse of the “grand narrative” in Western culture, we may similarly find our colleagues, and perhaps ourselves, wandering about, unable to find a new source of spirit and guidance.
At the highest point in our career (maximum ego inflation and ego gratification) we are likely to fall from grace like Icarus, even if we don’t go “mad” like Howard Beale and seek out freedom. We fall from grace precisely because our success breeds envy and power plays. Our age suggests vulnerability to other people. They assume that we are now on our way “out”—or soon will be—or we have already departed and like the Jack Nicholson character in About Schmidt find that our carefully prepared recommendations and succession plans have been thrown in the garbage by our successors. Our long tenure in the organization may breed impatience among those who are younger and waiting their turn to take over. We may even come to realize, painfully, that our own egos and our own internal demons (unattended voices) breed mistakes, miscalculations, and a failure to grasp reality. Like Icarus, we fall back to Earth. We are forced to grovel and return to the mundane.
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