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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Controlling Our Lives

Researchers have discovered that among life’s pressures, one of the dominant ones is our fear of losing control over our lives.  This may lead to deterioration of our coping strategies and contributes to the reduction of our sense of self-esteem and self-concepts.  A lot of seniors react by excessive alcohol consumption and substance abuse, particularly prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.  Some specific areas influencing our behavior are how we will cope with large amounts of unstructured time following retirement and loneliness from lack of friends due to their death or moving away from each other.
 Many older women who have not engaged in paid labor outside of home and have spent most of their life in domestic activities, when asked about the their current life after child rearing, often talk about their children or grandchildren and ignore their own life activities.
 But each stage of life has alternatives. Erick Erickson, an outstanding developmental psychologist, viewed the last stage of life as one of Integrity Versus Despair.  With integrity an individual views his or her whole of life with relative satisfaction and contentment. The quality that emerges from a positive resolution of life’s activities is wisdom.
 A summary of despair thoughts is expressed in the following statements:
1. Life has passed me by.
2. If only I hadn’t remained in that job so long.
3. Why didn’t I travel?
4. Why didn’t I try something new?
5. Why me?
6. What did it all mean?

Along with the above statements may be some irrational beliefs such as:
1.   I’m too old to change.
2.   I am too old to learn anything new?
3.   I must inevitably suffer because of my reduced mobility and/or health status.
4.   Now that I am old, I have no control over my life
5.   I am a worthwhile person only insofar as I can hold down a job.  Since I am retired, I am worthless.
6.   I am too old to get married
7.   If I am dependent on others, I am a worthless person.
8.   I am no longer capable of decision-making.
9.   Senility is inevitable
10.    Since I am old I should no longer have a sex drive. If I do have  one something is wrong with me.
11.    If I do end up in a nursing home, that would be unbearable.
12.    Even though I am older, I should be able to do everything I could do when I was twenty, and it is horrible if I cannot,

On The Other Hand we are just as likely to develop Wisdom
Wisdom can be seen as the understanding of life relationships and their development over time. It leads to greater understanding about the differences in values and life goals and knowledge about the relative uncertainty of life and its management.
The following questions may be seen as a contrast to the beliefs and comments illustrating despair:

1.   What brings me happiness?
2.   How have I overcome anxiety in my life?  Would it work now?
3.   When do I do my best work?
4.   What advice would I give to others to help them achieve success?
5.   Do I see myself as a creative person?  If so how do I express my creativity?
6.   What do I think is the best way to resolve conflicts?
7.   What has made my marriage successful?
8.   What advice would I give parents who are still raising children?


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