One significant shift for me in the aging process has been a move toward integration and synthesis. Not so much making the pieces fit as being with the pieces as an organic wholeness begins to emerge. One set of pieces are the ideas and insights of the people listed in this diagram. I have been reading in their vast literature for decades now. I first read Karl Rahner’s book, Encounters With Silence, and Carl Jung’s, Memories, Dreams and Reflections in the early 70’s!
Looked at one way, on the horizontal, Karl Rahner SJ and Carl Jung rooted themselves in their respective fields (theology and psychology). From there, they explored vistas of psyche/soma/Spirit that reached deep into the life of an individual and outward into the whole of creation. William Meissner SJ, the Eriksons, and Donald Winnicott, grounded in psychoanalytics, looked at human development in terms of the psycho–sexual, the psycho-social, and the psycho-spiritual.
On the vertical, Rahner and Meissner, were both immersed in the spiritual lineage of St. Ignatius of Loyola; also skilled at accompanying individuals in his Spiritual Exercises. Jung, the Eriksons, and Winnicott worked with Freud’s insights to expand our awareness of how individuals and cultures mature; looking at factors that might impede or facilitate the maturation process.
Right now, two catalysts for this organic coming together are Ignatian Spirituality and the concept of Gerotranscendence, developed by Swedish gerontologist Lars Tornstam. To quote Bill Thomas:
The core of the theory suggests that normal human aging includes a range of vital and commonly overlooked components. In brief… (1)
- There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and decreased interest in superfluous social interaction.
- There is also often a feeling of cosmic awareness, and a redefinition of time, space, life, and death.
- The individual becomes less self-occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities.
- The individual might also experience a decrease in interest in material things. Solitude becomes more attractive.
Each one of these creators has been pivotal in how I see myself and others; how I work with myself and others; how I can hold a vision for myself and others.