The Stigma of Being Aged

The Little Boy and the Old Man

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”

Said the old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”

I do that too,” laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, “I often cry.”

The old man nodded, “So do I.”

But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems

Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.

I know what you mean,” said the little old man.”

Shel Silverstein

Encapsulated in this quote are some issues with which the elderly, such as those in their seventies, eighties, and nineties, must cope. For most, aging brings diminished physical strength and capability, loss of loved ones, feelings of no longer being relevant or connected to the real world, and fears of being ignored. The many unresolved conflicts and struggles earlier in their lives are also brought into old age. The result of this is that many older people become depressed. Many people who are younger and depressing attempt to self-medicate their problems through alcohol and drug abuse.

The aged can become addicted to drugs and alcohol, and it’s insidious because people believe that it’s not possible incorrectly. Therefore, they drink and abuse drugs secretly and alone.

For many years, it was the belief that psychotherapy could not work for the elderly because they are set in their ways and find therapy stigmatizing. After all, that was the attitude towards psychology when they were young. However, attitudes toward mental illness have changed, including among older persons. 

Today, many older people are more than willing to enter psychotherapy. They are seeking psychological help late in life. They want help on how to cope with age and their relationships with family and still unresolved issues from the past. In addition, some older adults want therapy to help them deal with the present and behavior. Psychotherapy works for the elderly because of wanting to be free of depression and relieve social isolation. Group therapy benefits those who feel alone and derives benefits from talking with others. 

It is essential to know that aged people are not necessarily miserable and sick. Today, more people not only live longer than ever before but remain vital and involved in life.

Examining some ways older people are stereotyped and stigmatized is essential.

Marriage and the Blame Game

Playing the Blame Game

There is a joke that captures many problems experienced by couples during an argument. A man complained to his therapist that his wife was awful and that he had a bad marriage. The therapist told him it’s not just his wife’s fault; he has to look more profound because it takes two people to create a toxic relationship. The patient cried out, “I knew it! It’s the fault of both her and her mother!”

Relationships and The Role of Mutual Blame

What is essential to understand about mutual blame is that it never works. During an argument, couples blame one another for mistakes made in the present time to those from many years ago. Usually, in an argument, a couple engages in the process of mutual blame. Once that happens couple becomes defensive and angrier than at the start. Being told you are to blame for something is being told you are incompetent, at fault, and lacking. No one wants to feel backed into a corner and forced to confess to being wrong.

Because everyone’s pride and ego are involved, it becomes necessary to prove the other person wrong and then blame them. Even knowing they are to blame for something, a partner will deny they are responsible. He probably was asked to buy a milk container in the case above. However, because they were amid an argument, he probably denied that he had forgotten and blamed her.

The nature of relationships is such that everyone is at fault because everyone contributes to the problem. People in a relationship impact each other in dozens of ways. That they affect one another provides an easy reason to engage in blame. In reality, it is rare anyone is totally to blame for many things.

Intimate relating means that interactions are going on between two people who have a history and a future together. Interaction does not mean that one partner caused something to happen to the other. Each individual handles their behaviors separate from the other. For example, if I had a bad day, it does not mean that my partner caused it. Another example might be that “I withdraw from interacting because of your criticisms” means, “I feel like I want to withdraw when I hear criticism.”

An age-old example is “you gave me a headache.” In reality, I have a headache.” Why blame it on another person?

In the end, it is better, when in a conflict, to find solutions to the disagreement. Sometimes it is as simple as finding a better way to phrase things. Communication means listening first and then responding in non-defensive ways. For example, using the pronoun “I” when speaking is far better than the accusatory “you.” Also, “why,” as in “why do you,” is accusatory. It sounds much better to say, “I am so angry that I got laid off that I want to blame everyone.” Another example is to say, “I wish we could find a solution that you would find acceptable. The choice of words is always important.

In a permanent relationship, the goal should not be to win an argument at the other person’s expense, not if you value that person. In close relations, winning an argument can mean losing the relationship.
Rather than blame, find solutions.

Self Awareness:

Self-awareness means that each partner in the intimate relationship believes that a problem is a combination of “some things I did wrong” and “some stuff you did wrong.”

Self-awareness means the couple can catch themselves as they fight back or run away and try again to listen to the feedback with an open heart.

The Terror of Death and Mortality

“Every day is a new beginning.

Take a deep breath,

Smile and start the day.” author unknown

The purpose of this blog article is not to be morbid but to remind all of us of the importance of living life fully.

Human Beings are unique in being self-aware and therefore understand the inevitability of death. That awareness presents us with an existential crisis. 

From the beginning of time, people have asked themselves the existential question, “If I am doomed to die, what is the point of my life?” It is a terrifying question, and different people have attempted to answer it differently.

Those who are deeply religious deny there is an existential crisis because faith brings the achievement of an afterlife. For these people, life is not limited but continues for all eternity. 

According to Ernest Becker, in his book “The Denial of Death,” most people put the notion of death out of their awareness and go about living without thinking about their mortality. However, sometimes the fact of death breaks through to their conscious minds. When that happens, they become temporarily terrified until the crisis passes and they achieve a new balance. What causes mortality to break through to consciousness? The death of friends, relatives, and loved ones confronts even the greatest deniers that life is finite.

Depression and Anxiety

Some seem to have difficulty denying the fact of death. Among these are individuals who struggle with panic and anxiety disorders and various types of depression. Today, we can look at many of the causes of these disorders and find such factors as chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatizing childhoods and adulthoods, and such problems as neglect, abuse, and addictions.

Because of a better understanding of the causes of emotional disorders, we have significantly improved treatments with medications and more precise types of psychotherapies.

Yet, we overlook the importance and even reality of each person’s existential crisis. I believe this crisis lies at the roots of depression and anxiety, besides those factors already mentioned. If this is true, what can we do about it besides medication and psychotherapy?

We each need to find meaning in our lives. As Irvin Yalom, MD states in many of his writings, meaning comes to us through interpersonal relationships.

Yalom states that the realization and knowledge that we positively influence others can provide a sense of meaning in our lives. However, many people do not realize that they have an enormous influence on the lives of others. Whether they are friends or family, they are essential to us, and we are important to them. There are also the relationships with those at work and those we casually meet while walking in the street, riding the bus or train, and shopping in the supermarket and clothing store. That is why loneliness is so deadly.

The pursuit of materialism is one activity many people engage in to fill themselves with a sense of gratification. However, though temporarily exciting, feelings of emptiness return. The unquenchable thirst for buying unnecessary items comes from a sense of meaninglessness, which then causes the feeling of inner emptiness.

 Each of us is unique, and we are loved and valued by the important people in our lives.

As John Donne said it centuries ago:

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Donne meant three things:

1. That none of us are isolated because we are all interconnected,

2. We are all aware of death,

3. One man’s death diminishes all humanity.

 

The Optimist, Pessimist, Realist

Being realistic is the best way to go.

The Optimist vs. The Pessimist vs. The Realist

“A pessimist sees a dark tunnel.

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

A realist sees a freight train.

A train driver sees three idiots standing on the tracks.”

Everyone knows the proverbial question: Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The optimist would state that it’s half full and probably predict it will soon be full of water again. The pessimist would state that it’s half-empty and is in danger of soon becoming empty. It’s all a matter of perspective, mood and personality.

Pessimism:

“When the sun finally shines through after the rain, and someone comments on how nice it is, the pessimist will complain about how everyone will crowd the streets to soak in the sun.”

Pessimism is an explanatory style in which individuals expect a negative outcome when facing events of unknown emotional impact.

A mother and father have a three-year-old little girl. When she gets a sore throat, the father becomes alarmed and worries that she has strep throat. He fears it could turn into scarlet fever, resulting in damage to her heart. The mother is sure she has a bad cold and is fine. However, to relieve her husband’s anxiety, the mother takes the girl to the pediatrician, who reports that this is a cold virus and there is no need to worry. When she lets her husband know about this, he feels better but continues to worry. Was he right to worry?

Optimism:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different good weather.”

Optimists have a different way of looking at life than pessimists. The optimist believes problems are temporary and will get better. The pessimist is sure that the problem is here to say and can only get worse. In the cases above, both optimists and pessimists believe that their view of the glass is correct. The pessimist would predict that there will be no water available to replace the glass once the glass is empty.

The father worries himself unnecessarily in the second case, even after the doctor examines the little girl. His personality is such that he sees only clouds and rarely notices sunny days.

Some psychologists state that optimists and pessimists have opposite ways of thinking. As a result, pessimists are prone to depression. In addition, they experience more health problems and do not live as long as the optimists.

There is a place for both optimists and pessimists. Unchecked optimism can be unrealistic and result in lots of trouble. An overly optimistic person may make unrealistic plans that they do not have time for and cannot afford. The pessimist helps bring reality to the situation by reminding everyone of the limited possibilities of specific plans that may not be practical or even dangerous. Too much pessimism leads to depression.

Realism:

“While an optimist might call the rain the sweet nectar that bathes the earth, the realist will call the precipitation a liquid.”

A realist will see things the way they are and not by the negative or the positive scheme. He will take each day as it comes, learning to cope with anything negative and enjoying the positive. Even the thinking is that the optimists are the most optimally adjusted individuals. In reality, the realists are more so. While optimists may look at and concentrate on only the positive things in life, they often view the world with rose-tinted glasses, refusing to see the bad at all. Which often leads to extreme disappointments. To put it simply, a realist hopes for the best and is prepared for the worst.

A realist only forms an opinion after analyzing all the data and information that is available to him. He does not let expectations decide the way he feels. Thus, his opinions, decisions, and outlook are usually unbiased.

Contact Dr. Schwartz at dransphd@aol.com

Aging and Learning From Life

Aging, Learning, Wisdom

This is too good not to share.
I asked a friend who has crossed 70 and is heading towards 80 what changes he feels in himself? He sent me this:
Humanity.

1. After loving my parents, siblings, spouse, children, and friends, I have now started loving myself.

2. I have realized that I am not “Superman.” The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3. I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more will not break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4. I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already told that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.

6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7. I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the receiver but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”

8. I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10. I remain calm when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat, and neither am I in any race.

11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas, with relationships, I will never be alone.

13. I have learned to live each day as if it were the last. After all, it might be the last.

14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Just choose to be! You can be happy.
Happiness is a choice.

I decided to share this with all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80? Why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?