Tag: life review

A Life Review

A Life Review

Fleurs - Jean Claude Papeix
Fleurs – Jean Claude Papeix

When my mother was in her nineties, she became obsessed with telling me stories of her life. I heard about people, places and experiences that she had never shared with me, or perhaps anyone, before. I understood her need to go back and revisit her life in light of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development. The last stage, “Ego Integrity vs. Despair”, he considered the stage when an individual developed the virtue of wisdom. He contended that during this stage an individual reflects on his or her life and makes a determination as to whether or not it was of value. Their conclusion leads them either to despair and to the belief that their life was wasted or to the conclusion that life was meaningful and of value to society. 

Mom often repeated the same story again and again, almost word for word, as if she had been rehearsing it for a lifetime, but needed to share it one more time, to make it “right”, or make sense of it somehow. It was clear to me that she was struggling to reach a place of acceptance and affirmation. Many times she ended her stories with the wrap up, “It’s been a good life”.  I worried whether or not she actually believed this affirmation as she was so prone to despair throughout her life. 

Now, as the years add up for me, I have already begun to see this process taking place. I am thirty years younger than she was at the time. Had she been thinking about these things for some time, but had never been able to quite resolve the conflict?  Or did I start the process early? Or perhaps, is there another way to look at it.

Carl Jung’s second task in his Seven Tasks of Aging is a “Life Review”. Life tasks seem to arise on cue in most individuals, but we still have the choice as to whether or not we accept the challenge. We decided when and how to step into, and engage, the process in order to be prepared for the next step the task must be taken on.  We learn from a life review as we wrestle with our mistakes, our regrets and disappointments and realign ourselves with our beliefs and our values. Perhaps that is why memoirs are such a popular genre these days. People have more time and freedom to take on this lengthy review process.

we all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves

More by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

It is in the process of a life review that we find our answers. Through participation in the tasks of aging we grow in wisdom and become increasingly congruent. it is important to remember that though we are called to undertake these tasks, it might be better to think of them as on-going processes.  We learn and grow when we embrace them, but they ebb and flow, sometimes urgently calling us, sometimes slipping out of sight for a time. Rising to greet the urging when it appears rather than shying away from it will enrich our lives as we age. 

Have you begun the task of a “Life Review”? What have you discovered?

Aging Is An Inside Job

Aging Is An Inside Job

Aging Is an Inside JobIt seems like a hundred years ago that Sophie Lumen of The Art of Aging began to amass her spectacular following on Facebook. We stumbled across each other and immediately recognized that we were kindred spirits. We joined forces in heart and mind to take on the challenges of aging. An artist and spiritual guru she spread love and acceptance everywhere she went.  Even though Sophie has been on a bit of a sabbatical, The Art of Aging is still gathering followers, and she posts from time to time on her website Feed the Beauty. I have a feeling that she’ll show up again one day shining even brighter than before. I tell you about Sophie because one of my favorite quotes of hers has always been “Beauty is an inside job.” How very right she is!

I also believe that aging is an inside job. As we get older everything in and around us pushes us, and not so very gently I might add, away from externals and toward getting right with ourselves. We are being directed to start facing our fears, healing our wounds and traumas, figuring out what we truly believe and value and learning to start living congruently…aligning our insides with our outsides. We can’t do this by obsessing about our gray hair, our sagging breasts, our wrinkles, our decreasing strength. We can’t do this by focusing on externals. External concerns are only a diversion, an escape, a habit of avoiding the real issue at hand.

Are there real life concerns? Of course. They, however, must take a back seat to the inner work that needs to be done. The inner work will make the outer work more manageable and clear. Carl Jung outlines this process in his 7 tasks of aging. It’s a good place to start to see the basics of this process.

Carl Jung’s 7 tasks of aging

  1. Facing the reality of aging and dying
  2. Life review
  3. Defining life realistically
  4. Letting go of the ego
  5. Finding new rooting in the Self
  6. Determining the meaning of one’s life
  7. Rebirth – dying with life

These are no light weight tasks! Then again, we always complain about not wanting to waste our lives! The inner journey can appear daunting. No wonder we shy away from it. It doesn’t make it any less compelling or necessary. I’m pretty sure the alternative isn’t any better. We just think it is.

In the coming weeks, I will begin to address each of these tasks in more detail.  I hope you’ll hang around and offer our experience and insights.

Have you tackled any of Jung’s tasks? Where are you in this process? Where are you getting stuck? Please leave a comment if you have time. We have so much to learn from one another.