Last week, on a post titled What is Successful Ageing?, I wrote this about reflecting upon our lives:
”This takes quiet time, alone time. Make notes, write a memoir even if it's only for yourself. These years are the time to remember, recall and work out what it all has meant..”
A few days later, a TGB reader who I don't remember hearing from before emailed to say:
”What an idea for an eventful life!! Writing a memoir to myself. I think by 70, everybody has had an interesting life, as the obits always show. A personal memoir, though, is something I have never thought of.
“No legalities or deadlines, just a history of an interesting life. It does not have to be published, so it could be 'bare all'. Thank you for a great idea.”
After such a kind email, it would be nice if I could take credit for the idea but I first read about it decades ago. It is contained in psychologist Carl Jung's Seven Tasks of Aging which, in short form, are:
- Facing the reality of aging and dying
- Life review
- Defining life realistically
- Letting go of the ego
- Finding new rooting in the Self
- Determining the meaning of one’s life
- Rebirth – dying with life
In the earliest days of this blog, I was lucky to come across David Wolfe, a brilliant man, a visionary really, who wrote an important blog called Ageless Marketing. (He wrote a book with that title too)
You would not think that a blog from a consultant about how to market consumer products – even to people 50-plus - would be on my radar and generally you would be right. But David was different.
David didn't just study consumer behavior, he studied people's behavior and then applied what he learned to marketing. For me, it was his writing about how old people come to be and are different from younger people that kept me going back to his blog.
David died in 2011 but the email note from that TGB reader reminded me of a series of posts David wrote in 2007, about Jung's seven tasks of ageing. I excerpted short points from each before linking to his full exposition of each task. Now, nine years later it is every bit as relevant so I am repeating them for you today.
Here is my introduction to the excerpts as I wrote it in 2007:
”David’s purpose in his series on Jung is to convince marketers that elders are not ordinary consumers. Our mindsets are different from midlife and unless marketing and advertising people understand these differences, their products will not sell.
“If you are reading Time Goes By, you are probably not a marketing professional, but that should not deter you from David’s series where you will find the clearest explanation of Jung’s tasks I’ve read anywhere among the general commentary.
"To nudge you toward doing so, below are links and short excerpts from David for each of the tasks.”
The title of each task links to the full version at David's blog.
Task No. 1: Facing the Reality of Aging and Dying
“Those who have successfully carried out Jung’s first task of aging have grown ageless in their outlook. Moreover, they have discovered that the last quarter of life is not as lousy an experience as they might have anticipated at age 40.
“One benefit of reaching this state is an almost adolescent feeling of being beyond harm’s way. Abraham Maslow saw this arising from a lifestyle in which “A day is a minute, a minute is a day.” It’s about living in the moment in a constructive way.”
Task No. 2: Life Review
“…the second of Carl Jung’s Seven Tasks of Aging – life review – can have a deeper effect on many people than nostalgia does, especially the older they are.
“Life review involves a critical examination of one’s life leading toward reconciliation between the sweet and the sour in life. It is a process for removing regret and anger from one’s worldview.”
Task No. 3: Defining Life Realistically
“In Winter, the primary developmental objective is to develop a sense of oneness with all and reconcile the sweet and the bitter in life. The main life focus is reconciliation – finding harmony and peace with ourselves, others and life in general.
“Winter’s mythic theme is irony, reflecting a persistent anticipation that the unexpected is always around the corner – though not necessarily in a negative sense. In fact, the unexpected often delights the older person as much as it does a child. Irony is particularly therapeutic in how it helps us cope with what we can’t change. And, it often provides us with a certain comedic twist to ease the burdens of old age.”
Task No. 4: Letting Go of the Ego
“Letting go of the ego enhances personal well being by taking one to new and higher levels of life satisfaction. Beyond that, research indicates that getting beyond the self to turn more attention to helping others improves the efficiency of the immune system. People who help others tend to live longer and healthier than those who stay wrapped up inside themselves.”
Task No. 5: Finding a New Rooting in the Self
“The worldviews of people in the first half of life are generally rooted in the external world. In contrast, the worldviews of people in the second half of life tend to be rooted less in the physical or mundane and increasingly in the nonphysical or metaphysical (or spiritual).”
Task No. 6: Determining the Meaning of One’s Life
“Life meaning among the young is framed by styles of appearance, language, material acquisitions, and social affiliations in the quest for a solid footing in the external world...
“However, the search for life meaning undergoes a major shift in the second half of life. Whatever people’s material success, many find less and less meaning from 'things.' So, they begin to look inward rather than to the outer world in their search for life meaning.”
Task No. 7: Rebirth – Dying With Life
“Jung’s last task of aging, 'Rebirth — dying with life,' is a familiar theme throughout the religious genre, but he was not thinking religion when he framed that task. Success in prosecuting this task leads to loss fear of life and death alike. Rebirth after dying with life transports a person into the timeless domains of an artist lost in his or her work or a child absorbed in play when living in the time of a delicious moment is all that matters.”
Ronni here again:
As you can see even from the short excerpts, these are no ordinary tasks. Rather than doing, they require being and a conscious contemplation of unconscious changes that take place within us.
Perhaps I came to studying and writing about old age in my own old age from reading Jung when I was young.