Nancy Day — The 2010 census showed that there are more people in the United States who are 65 and older than ever before in US history. It is reported that there are 40.3 million people in this age category, with an increase of over 5 million since the 2000 census was taken. It is also being said that the future growth of the older population is both highly probable and unprecedented in the US.
There are obvious signs of aging in the body, particularly around age 50, or a little earlier for some, when women go through menopause and men experience various changes in their bodies and how they function. Botox and Viagra have made drug companies rich, as both women and men try to stay forever young. Aging of the body will occur, and no one can stop it; but what about the spirit? How does our spiritual outlook affect the aging process of body and mind, hope and healing?
Hope: According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, “hope” is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair, which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. To have a consistent level of hope, a person needs to be operating at a level of complacency or higher. Below complacency, there’s too much doubt and uncertainty to maintain a feeling of hopefulness.
The good news is that maintaining hope may be easier for a person of advanced age than it is for the young. To explore this viewpoint, let’s consider the three levels of human responsibility, which Dr. Gerbode also presents in his 1995 treatise. For the purpose of this exploration, let’s agree that:
Responsibility is the ability to cause things or to help cause things. With this definition of responsibility in mind, the three levels of human responsibility are:
Other-determinism is the consideration that someone else is responsible for one’s actions. When we are children, our parents play a large role in directing our actions, to help us learn things and to keep us safe from harm. Thus, we are generally “other-determined” as children. Obviously, this is an appropriate way of being from birth into our teenage years, when we begin making important decisions of our own, such as who our true friends are and what we really want for our future.
However, a person who does not grow out of an other-determinism level of responsibility generally ends up being a victim of circumstances. She is always looking for someone to tell her what she should be doing, and with that, she doesn’t have to take the blame when things don’t turn out well because she was just following orders. Other-determined people are easy to manipulate and control but they rarely achieve any real success or fully enjoy it when they do.
Self-determinism is where an individual is taking charge of her life and making sure that things turn out well for #1. A self-determined individual often finds herself in opposition with others, as she is competitive, in a “zero sum” game where others lose when she wins. A person who is self-determined is very concerned with her appearance being that of someone who is strong, forceful, intelligent, and generally superior. She wants to be “a winner.” When someone else wins – or even does a little better than she – she may feel quite upset.
While it is good for a person to grow out of being other-determined to being self-determined, and while being self-determined may bring about success in business, it can be devastating for relationships. A person operating at this level of responsibility is often tolerated but not loved; obeyed but not supported. A person can be self-determined some of the time and, when things are going well, easily move up to being multi-determined. A self-determined person may be an “acceptable” partner in business, but she generally struggles in maintaining personal relationships.
Multi-determinism is the cream of the crop. A truly superior person can take responsibility for the well-being of everyone concerned, in family, in community, in business, etc. A person who is operating at a multi-determined level is concerned with everyone’s intentions and actions when engaging in an activity. When one wins, everybody wins. As an example, when a self-determined person plays a game of tennis, she is happy when she wins and unhappy when her opponent wins. A person who plays the game in order to provide an enjoyable experience for both players transcends her self-determinism and becomes multi-determined.
What we hope to see in our children is that they transition as they get older, from being other-determined, to being self-determined, to being multi-determined much of the time. By the time a person reaches age 65, we would hope that she would be operating at the multi-determined level. A person operating at any level of responsibility may achieve a degree of happiness in life, but it will be limited and very short lived if there’s no one to share it with. Creating and maintaining personal relationships is easy for a person who operates with multi-determinism, whereas relationships can be very difficult to maintain for an adult operating at a lower level of responsibility.
Happiness is the knowledge that one is being successful in fulfilling one’s intentions. In other words, when a person is making progress as she works toward a meaningful goal, she is happy.
Thus, it sounds like “happiness” shouldn’t be hard to find. Just set a goal and work toward achieving it. While this is true, how many people do you know who do not have a meaningful goal, have never had a meaningful goal, and who don’t have the faintest idea of how to create one? A university education may provide data that one can use to achieve a goal, but one must have an intention/goal before that data is useful. Some of this country’s highest achievers had the intention that brought about achievement of the goal, without a university degree. So, if you are past the point where you might go back to school, that doesn’t need to be a deterrent to being happy and productive.
A senior citizen may have had failures in achieving goals and, thus, be low on the emotional scale and lacking happiness. However, it’s never too late to create an intention and to work toward the goal of achieving it and being happy, regardless of how large or small the goal might be. Creating a flower garden at age 65 has brought me a wonderful feeling of happiness, as I pull weeds and water and watch things that I’ve planted grow and flower. The herb garden I’ve planted in pots is giving me more of a challenge but I have hope that those wimpy little sprouts will eventually look like the picture on the seed package.
Health & Healing: A psychologically healthy person will fluctuate up and down the emotional scale, appropriate to what is happening in one’s life and environment. Striving to be more multi-determined is a good goal but it’s important to also set some goals that have specific, observable end points. Achieving a tangible goal creates hope that the next one can also be achieved. Being healthy psychologically enhances a person’s physical health and thus one’s ability to make the most of, and enjoy “the golden years”.
About the Author
Nancy Day is a Certified Trauma Specialist with the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists (ATSS). She has studied the philosophy of Applied Metapsychology and she has been engaged in the practical application of the subject since 1990. Nancy may be contacted by email at email@example.com and she enjoys sharing her knowledge and skills.