Ageism-Loss of Self

According to Nouwen, as debilitating as segregation and desolation are in  creating “severe alienation in the elderly…the most destructive, is self-rejection.  This is the inner ostracism by which the elderly not only feel they are no longer welcome in the society of profit, or able to keep their small circle of intimate friends together, but by which they also feel stripped of their own feeling of self-worth and longer at home in their most inner life”. This seems the most destructive to me since this last insult is self directed.  That makes this conversation all the more relevant to each generation, since if not recognized by each individual no matter their age, it has the potential to infiltrate their thinking.  Nouwen says the signs are easily recognized in individuals whose identity is absorbed by the past and have little satisfaction in the present.  Nouwen states, “there can hardly be a more alienating feeling than that which believes, ‘I am who I was’.”   The late great Robert Butler who coined the definition of ageism observed that, “this preoccupation with the past imprisons old people in anxiety, guilt, despair and depression”  Butler further postulates that they, “become victims of a society which identifies their humanity with their productivity, and prisoners of others who made them believe that their self-worth was determined by their friends.  Both Nouwen and Butler recognize this potential for every individual who ages.  WAKE UP PEOPLE, THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU WITHOUT CHOOSING SOMETHING DIFFERENT!   Education and self-awareness are the way out.  Nouwen states that in this place where people lose their self worth: “When people have lost their own ‘self” they are without hope… this darkness can be filled with resentment, anger, jealousy and sometimes violent rage.”  I put out a challenge…reach out to an individual you know in this state and affirm their value.  This will benefit you in return to identify your own potential to fall into a black pit.   Let me know if you have reached out.  Were you successful?  TO BE CONTINUED!

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