Jung’s 7 Tasks of Aging – Task One

Jung’s 7 Tasks of Aging – Task One

Carl Jungs 7 Tasks of Aging Jung viewed the aging process as a “developmental stage”, not just the passing of time until death. Through work with his patients and his own experience of aging he came to see it is an important period of time during which we naturally draw away from the physical world and the conquering of externals to an inner process of “unifying the opposites”.  We move toward further individuation and the “gradual spiritualization of consciousness”. As such he believed that there are seven tasks of aging as outlined above.

Task One: Facing the reality of aging and dying

Aging gives us plenty of opportunity to face the reality of aging. As our body changes, our energy diminishes and we witness the passing of time in so many small ways we are often shocked into the awareness that youth is not forever and that death really is on our future “to do” list.  When we are young we pay no mind to these things, so focused on the task of creating a life and a future. It is likely, according to Jung and others, that our psychological awareness evolves with time. It  pushes us toward our own natural evolution and toward the development of an elevated consciousness.

We run into obstacles in today’s world that include the ever present message that youth is to be revered and the aging to be discarded. While this attitude has changed slightly over the last decade it is still ever present and if we are not careful we may fall into the trap, and think we’re supposed to avoid and postpone the challenges of aging. An avoidance mechanism kicks in and we find we are focusing on trying to stay young and active rather than embracing the important tasks of aging. It is also likely that we we do so, something doesn’t feel quite right. Deep inside we know we are avoiding or evading the essential reality of aging.

Aging offers us a delicious opportunity to go deep, to resolve painful issues, to figure out exactly what we believe and value, and to move to a place that is more accepting of all of life, it’s ups and downs, its ebbing and flowing, its living and dying. As we go deeper we open to something beyond ourselves and this world. Our attention naturally goes to these issues if we follow our inner guidance. The task of facing aging and dying is not always an easy task. It is a demanding one, and yet, pushing it away is ultimately more difficult, more taxing and less rewarding.

How does one go about facing the reality of aging and dying?

It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it. It has been my experience that facing aging means to have the courage to drop one’s defenses, to set aside one’s presuppositions, and to allow the questions to arise within us. This is a gradual process for most people. Selecting one or more of the following practices and incorporating them into our day to day life, helps us turn our attention toward the task at hand.

Quiet: Seek every opportunity to sit in the quiet. Turn down the volume on the external world. Turn down the inner voices that chatter relentlessly. Sit in the quiet and listen. Just listen.

Deep Breathing: Breath is our life force. When we focus on our breathing it brings our attention back to ourselves and an awareness of the inner world. Focus on the process of breathing and feel the breath of life move through your body. Slow and deepen your breathing and feel your body expand and your mind calm. Again, allow what thoughts and feelings arise to surface and exist. Notice them and let them go.

Journal Writing: Develop a practice of writing about the thoughts and feelings that arise. If there are unresolved issues or conflicts bubbling beneath the surface articulate them. Push the envelop of your thoughts and follow your feelings where they lead. Writing helps us resolve issues as it engages our rational mind in the process and organizing and evaluating. It’s an excellent tool for gaining understanding and perspective on our deepest concerns.

Get Back to Nature: Nature draws us naturally to more spiritual things. Move away from the man-made toward the natural and open your senses to what it has to offer. Spend your quiet time outside. Walk more. Turn off the phone and headphones. Listen and observe. 

Meditation: Develop a meditation practice. There are many different types of mediation and meditation methods. Choose one that feels comfortable to you or enlist the help of a meditation class or teacher. Buy a book on how to meditate. There are many.

These practices help us engage in the process that will allow us to face aging and ultimately death. They support us in our efforts to face our fears and overcome inhibiting obstacles to awareness and acceptance.

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If you would like support in this endeavor, reach out to me. I am available on a limited basis for Mentoring and Spiritual Direction. AgingAbundantly@gmail.com

There are also many books available that offer further support for the development of the practices mentioned and the process of facing life as we age.  See my reading list. I add to it regularly, so check back from time to time.

 

     This is a wonderful and instructive book on meditation. I highly recommend it for a deeper understanding of meditation and methods.

“Stress. It can sap our energy, undermine  our health if we let it, even shorten our lives. It makes us more vulnerable to anxiety and depression, disconnection and disease. Based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s renowned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, this classic, groundbreaking work—which gave rise to a whole new field in medicine and psychology—shows you how to use medically proven mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga to counteract stress, establish greater balance of body and mind, and stimulate well-being and healing. By engaging in these mindfulness practices and integrating them into your life from moment to moment and from day to day, you can learn to manage chronic pain, promote optimal healing, reduce anxiety and feelings of panic, and improve the overall quality of your life, relationships, and social networks. This second edition features results from recent studies on the science of mindfulness, a new Introduction, up-to-date statistics, and an extensive updated reading list. Full Catastrophe Living is a book for the young and the old, the well and the ill, and anyone trying to live a healthier and saner life in our fast-paced world.”

 

 

8 Replies to “Jung’s 7 Tasks of Aging – Task One”

  1. Dorothy, I have spent years doing all of those things on and off, but it is now in these later years that those tools are what I turn to every day. Allowing myself to banish the type A personality of my early years allows me time to stop and truly see what is before me. A robin nesting in the maple out back, a small child watching a spider build a web, or a bouquet of flowers fresh from the garden brings peace and helps me figure out where Is’ve been and how I’d like the rest of our journey to be.

    1. Yes, Joan. It seems that the midlife transformation and all it’s chaos and upheaval leads us right into the hands of a more reflective lifestyle. It is a blessing even as it is often mind blowing and difficult. I’m glad you’re back from your cyberspace sabbatical. I missed you!

  2. Thank you so much for this post, Dorothy. I am becoming ever more attracted to the issues of aging, a natural development after writing a childhood memoir. I need to reread Jung, but you have made it easy to recall his main points! Thank you.

    1. I’ve read most of Jung’s works over the years and taken more than my share of classes on his thought. I’d suggest reading what others have to say about his thought and how they’ve applied it rather than spending too much time reading the source, unless you love doing that sort of thing! Like most great minds their delivery sometimes complicates matters! I’ll be writing more on each task. So, stay tuned!

  3. Before I retired from teaching, I read George Vallaint’s book on aging based on a longitudinal study at Harvard. The thing I remember most from this book: Let go of self-importance (and office, a title, keys) and maintain self-esteem. For me, it was finding a new place to channel my energy – writing. Best advice ever, and I see it is very Jungian in principle.

    1. Yes, it is. So many of Jung’s principles are just intuitive – ideas we naturally come to on our own. The ego has it’s place but definitely takes a back seat to higher (or deeper) pursuits.

  4. I am 66. Retired for 9 years now. Had an extremely good government job. Did all the traveling I ever wanted to do, before I retired. Was a Hospice volunteer and volunteered for/with the homeless for 17 years (after my divorce — one of the best things that ever happened to me). A few years ago I read Lionel Fisher’s “Celebrating Time Alone”. Altho’ the writing was not very good, the book was extremely good. Since I thought it needed a sequel, I found Mr. Fisher on the Internet and asked him if he was going to write one. He replied, “No. I’m 72. I’m preparing to die. Is there anything more important than that?” And with his reply, he changed my life, greatly, for the better. I stopped volunteering. I made a bucket list. I shed friends who I had kept simply for the sake of saying that I had friends. I got my ‘papers in order’ for my children. I organized the family pictures and sent them to my oldest child. But I didn’t lie down and die either. I’m returning to college PT. But, mostly, I am by myself with my cat and simply enjoying being and reading. “No where to go; nothing to do; no one to be.” Not a bad way to live in old age. And now I’ve found your web site. 🙂 Thank you so much for doing this. I’ll be following your posts.

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