Sunday, August 15, 2021

Review of The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul by Connie Zweig

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Persecuted and The Persecutors

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Elaborate Review
This book acts as a practical guide to do the inner work of age.  To know how to orient oneself when faced or facing age.  To do inner work of self-reflection that facilitates awareness and overcoming inner obstacles.  Humans used to have shorter life spans with many years of decline and loss of capacities.  But now humans have an extended life span with decades of good health until sudden decline before death.  Cultural messages and media marketing discriminate against age, or are ageist.  Projecting negative stereotypes of elderly as frail, senile, or needy.  This is a devaluation of elders who have obtained a lifetime of skill and wisdom.  Elders have a bountiful of experience.  Which can be shared and be used by future generations.

The early 20th and 21st century culture has no guides for transitioning to older years and becoming Elders.  Denying reality is easy in an anti-aging culture, until the problems drag the individual to the inevitable reality.  Aging has complex and opposite dimensions such as freedom and dependency, vitality and fatigue, gains and losses, beginnings and endings.  Aging is different in different bodies and different cultures, but eventually, the fate of the human being is death.

Neither the promises or perils to aging should be denied, as focusing on either or places the other into a blind spot.  The gifts and struggles allow for developmental possibilities and overcoming challenges.  It is an age that is unnamed, making it difficult to discuss and conceptualize.   Becoming an Elder needs a rite of passage, to make it a conscious process.  People’s longevity increased, but with it changed the form and meaning of life, and changed how communities and families develop.  Teaching and passing on that experience allowed everyone to benefit from the experience.

Creativity does not end in youth.  The wisdom, longing, and mortality awareness provide powerful ingredients for creative thought.  Work ageism dictates that older worker are less productive, harder to teach, and cost more.  But turns out that there are many benefits to having older workers as they can be high performing in many ways, and create stability.  Many people want to keep working because it gives them meaning, purpose, and structure.  Some cannot afford to retire.  Companies founded by older people have a much higher chance to be successful.

Because of the negative stereotypes, the elderly themselves choose to act as if they are younger.  Being a target of ageism affects health, more so when the ageist is internalized.  Culture has segregated age.  From a lack of mutigenerational homes to young, middle-age, and older people not sharing any time together because they inhabit different places.  There is a lot of efficiency in having mutigenerational homes.  Sharing time together also shares experiences.  The age segregation means that elders are often not seen and become very lonely.  Loneliness creates negative health outcomes. 

Aging is sometimes seen as either being successful vs failed, which results in self-blame and shame when the individual does not live up to society’s standards.  The perceived failures of aging such as illness, needs to be placed in context of its complexity and mystery.  The emotional, social, existential, and spiritual dimensions of a person’s life should not be ignored when they are ill, while conventional language adds more suffering to illness by ignoring those dimensions. 

The Shadow is a reference to the subconscious.  Containing the traits and feelings that are rejected or unacceptable.  But because so much is buried in the Shadow, it also contains many valuable hidden gifts and talents.  Denial of age through various means prevents development by creating internal obstacles.  Resisting transition prevents the discovery of hidden power in late life.  Those inner obstacles need to be handled internally, to age from the inside out.  By consciously examining denial, an individual can live in the present.  Reinvention from the outside in can create the same persona but in new roles.

Psychological and spiritual practices facilitate a discovery of human development. It’s not about what is or is not done.  It’s about the process of getting things done.  The state of mind arising from the inner work of age.  Releasing former heroic efforts and values, wounds and regrets, allows the individual to understand from a higher vantage.  Discovering renewed purpose and meaning which creates a transition from Hero to Elder.  It requires effort to shift from role to soul.  Cultivating the Elder by intentional inner work.  This means freedom from the past, having a presence, awareness of shadow, and service to the common good. 

Obstacles to finding the hidden values include being unaware of internal ageism by denying age.  Being beholden to former values which are no longer appropriate, lack self-reflection, ignoring physical or cognitive symptoms which prevent opportunities for self-care, regret or victimize personal history are all signs of the inner ageist.  Denial of age, illness, and death prevent triggers for change.  The messengers of age, illness, and death provide awareness of nature’s fragility and the quality of time.  They reorient priorities to what is essential, and away from the trivial.  Values that are gifts of mortality awareness.

Keys to value are hiding in darkness, beneath awareness.  The three qualities of awareness are shadow, pure, and mortality.  Awareness of the shadows results in self-knowledge about missed opportunities that can be used.  Pure awareness comes about through reflection and silence.  A way and place to calm the noisy mind.  Resulting in recovery and rejuvenation of the mind.  The preciousness of life and available time only comes about after looking at death.  Death can be a teacher, if the individual allows it to be.  

A life review facilitates seeing from deep and wide vantage.  It can help release the past and allow the individual to live in the moment.  Self-reflection that increased insight, and allows the repair the past and pass on what was learned.  

Each chapter contains shadow character, and practices that can be guideposts on the way to becoming away of the shadows and living a more fulfilling life.  The practices need to customized for what the reader resonates with, but also to avoid customizing them for dogma, projection, and other sacrifices of essential parts that make individual.  

Although the book is going against ageism there is a bit of ageism in it.  There are many attributes which are given to the Elders, but focusing on only the Elders, it appears that the attributes apply only to Elders.  The lessons from aging and generally this book, can be applied no matter one’s age.  There seems to be a lot of requirements and obstacle to become an Elders.  The attributes seem virtues, but they may not be fully applicable to everyone.  The obstacles seem like vices, but they can enable many positive outcomes given the context.  Another problem with the book is assuming that being an Elder means having a lot of experience that can be shared.  But just having experience does not make it in and of itself useful.  Experience needs to be put in appropriate context.  Relating experience may be completely inappropriate given that it comes from a different time and context.  This can be overcome by sharing values which leads to an understanding appropriate context.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What is the inner work of age?
•What is the Shadow and what does it contain?
•Why is awareness part of the process? 
•What qualities of awareness are there?
•What are the inner obstacles?
•How has being human changed?  How has being older changed?
•What does culture and media project unto elders?
•Why do people discriminate against age?
•What values do elders have?
•What are the gifts and struggles with age? 
•What use would a rite of passage for age have?
•How does social engagement change with age?
•What are some work ageism’s?
•What are the benefits of having Elders at work?
•Why do some Elders want to stay at work?
•What are the benefits of meditation?
•Why is there age segregation? 
•What does a life review do? 
•What can be learned from failure? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  Digital Review
Pages to read:   378
Publication:     2021
1st Edition:      2021
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5