Monday, February 15, 2016

The Tasks of Ageing: Life Review

Life review involves a critical examination of one’s life leading toward reconciliation between the good and the bad we have had in our life. If we do this review truthfully we can start on a process for removing regret and anger from our worldview.

But representing the past in the context of Jung’s task of life review is a matter quite different from wallowing in nostalgic reverie. Making a decision to purse this task is not about turning over in one's mind our own wonderful depictions of our youth, Instead, it's about reflections on life and lessons learned as we age. Our mandate for this task is not to relive the past, but to seek a deeper understanding of who we are by viewing the past through a transparent lens ground our life experiences.

Over time we have created a story of our life that fits our purpose and our understanding of who we are or who we want to become. We come to know ourselves only through stories, we listen to the stories of others, we inherit the stories of those who came before, and we make sense of our own experiences by constructing a narrative that holds them, and holds us, together. Our stories are how we make sense of our lives. When we undertake our life review, one of our goals is to understand if our stories actually reflect the real us.

Given the luxury of our years, we bring a perspective on not only our life that was not possible to use when we were young and of even less interest to us when we were middle aged when life was consumed with concern for security and achievement.

Instead the we can look back on the twists and turns of our life with a more measured gaze. Some things, we thought had great value at one age, now we know have little value. Over time we have come to know that what lasts in life, what counts in life, what remains in life after all the work has been completed are the relationships that sustained us, not the trophies we collected on the way. Our Life Review highlights which relationships we value most.

For the first time in life, we have time to enjoy the present. The morning air is filled with the promise of a wonderful day; the park become our observation deck on the world. The library is now the crossroads of the world, small children a new delight and a companion, we delight as we watch they explore their way through life again.

We experience a form of liberation that comes with being age. The competition and stress that comes with trying to find a place in today's highly impersonal economy fade away as I can do what I like, wear what I like, say what I like without bartering my very survival for it.

For the first time in years it is possible simply to be a person in search of a life. The need to reek of competence and approval gives way to the need to enjoy life. As we examine our Life review we can appreciate this freedom even more.

We have the luxury of attending to people now rather than to things. And out of that attention comes a new sense of being really important to the world. One of the great blessings of being our age is not that it isolates us but that, ironically, it ties us more tightly to the people around us

Finally, we have a responsibility to distill for those close to us, the real meaning of life. The quality of our reflections on life are so different than those younger and if we through our examination of our life review or true to ourselves our reflections will, certainly be listened to. We have a responsibility to show those that are younger that behind all the hustles of life lies a deep pool of peace 

We can do this by our devotion to solitude, to prayer, to reading, to the arts, to the simple work of gardening, to the great questions of the age. 

Through our life review we show our continuing commitment to building a city, a country, a world that will be better for all when we move on. This  may be the greatest lesson of life we can give the younger generation; it may be the greatest insight they every have, and it starts with our life review.

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