Active Aging, Specializations

Hypnotherapy in Later Life: Part 5

Life in Harmony

Developed in the third quarter of the 20th century, the Ericksons’ Stages of Development end at age 65. Today if we live to 65, we have a 50% chance of living to 90. Given that nearly a third of life can be lived after retirement, we would expect to find stages on that journey into mortality. Indeed, after her husband’s death Joan added a ninth stage of development in which prior successes are challenged as the organism and mind weaken.

Louise Aronson (in “Elderhood”) applies a model arising from the medical community. It aligns with the ninth stage of development but distinguishes social and medical challenges. Retirement, as a social challenge, often occurs while we still have physical and mental vitality. As in Erickson’s model, these “seniors” (as Aronson labels them) are concerned with sustaining the integrity of a personality that slowly is cut off from the pillars that support its expression. It is only among the “old” that accommodation must be made for slacking vitality. Among the “elderly” medical concerns dominate, while the “aged” hope for dignity in the process of dying.

In both cases, of course, we have a sense that the final stage of life is a desperate gripping by the fingernails as the cliff tilts up and back over our heads.

To escape this dread, I add the liberating dimension of spirituality. The practices are:

  • Life review to remove limitations to personal growth.
  • Spiritual deepening as a loving management of the boundaries between “I” and “we.”
  • Inner peace as stillness and sensitivity that guide us into beneficial relationships.

The goal is a life lived in harmony and balance.

Let’s elaborate now on why that is hard. As a child we adapt to the culture defined by our parents. The middle stages of development are driven by conflict between those behaviors and society. To manage that conflict, the conscious mind evolves to engage society and validate experience. The subconscious – the original “naked” mind – continues to operate, but never fully integrates our social experience. Conversely, the conscious mind operates without full access to the physical and spiritual resources managed by the subconscious.

If to live in harmony is to expose those resources, then harmony requires that we heal the divide between the conscious and subconscious minds.

How does hypnotherapy facilitate this process? By helping seniors achieve the Stages of Development in their new living environment, thereby removing resistance to spiritual growth.

I myself began this journey in my adolescence. As a child of the ‘60s entering adulthood in the ‘70s I realized that our society needed to change. I choose love as the fulcrum for that change. In 2005, my exploration of that principle had revealed:

Love dissolves the barriers of time and space, allowing wisdom, understanding and energy to flow between us, and embracing us with the courage, clarity and calm that overcomes obstacles and creates opportunities.

One manifestation of this principle came as my unconscious father clung to life on his last day. I stood at the head of his bed to announce “Dad, a big brain party is waiting for you in heaven.” The hospice nurse, noticing the change in his face, announced “I think that he heard you.”

Seniors have a unique opportunity to cultivate such capabilities. As harmony grows, it becomes palpable to others as a presence of peace. Its effects include dissolving anger and fear, exposing hypocrisy, redirecting resistance, and encouraging collaboration. Those benefits unroll to shape the future. Reaching into the past, peace recovers parts of the personality trapped in sorrow or trauma. Through these gifts, the elder draws to them those less experienced or fortunate. They are beloved not for their ability to entertain, but for their abilities to heal and guide.

In a study of nuns in the Order of Notre Dame, another inexplicable benefit was seen. The academics saw the simplicity of the community as an asset, allowing them to expose the biological preconditions for dementia. As part of the study, the Sisters agreed to be autopsied after their death. The surprise came when the autopsies showed that women in their 90s, fully functional and active, had brains like those suffering from late-stage dementia.

How can this be? My sense is that when life and soul are fully aligned, the brain is no longer necessary to the expression of our intentions. The soul immerses itself directly into the tissues it needs to control. In exploring this new process of living, the soul surrenders fear of separation from the body. When the time comes, it lets go gracefully.

The last post in this series will consider the contrasting outcome – a long, debilitating decline into incoherence – and how hypnotherapy can minimize the associated trauma for both beloved and caregivers.

Part I || Part 4 | Part 6

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