From the Disease of Ageism to the Delight of Agelessness Part 2

Jul 14 2017

So, if ageism is a disease, a social contagion of our mind that damages us both individually and collectively, what is its cure?

Like any malady, we first need a diagnosis, an awareness that we indeed suffer from it... we need to own that we indeed have it. Next we need to understand how it infects us.

Ageism is a particular cancer of the mind that invades our personality by: 1) distorting our beliefs about aging, 2) blurring our perceptions of aging, 3) twisting our thoughts about old people, and 4) irritating our feelings about old people.

Beyond this we need some therapeutic tools to reverse ageism in us.
Ageism breeds depression, and depression breeds ageism. So we can borrow some therapeutic tools from our depression treatment arsenal and apply them to ageism.

Promote personal happiness. Happiness crowds out depression by replacing emotions of lifelessness with emotions of life and love. Positive psychology teaches us to look at what is good about ourselves instead of what may be wrong. Easier said than done of course, but in general this means looking at life through the lens of gratitude, resilience, and hope. Hope is that mental and spiritual gateway to something essentially good and something fundamentally healing.

2. Learn to smile. The positive effects of smiling are legion: improved immune function, increased tolerance for pain and frustration, lowered stress and blood pressure, and even higher levels of creativity. The power of smiling makes us more attractive, it changes our mood; smiling is contagious; smiling relieves stress; smiling releases natural painkillers; smiling injects more tone, freshness, and vibrancy into our appearance; smiling makes us more successful; and most of all smiling helps us stay positive. Smiling cuts through the morbidity of ageism.

  Become emotionally intelligent. Learn the dialect of emotion - the language of the heart. Expand your vocabulary of feelings words both positive and negative and use them to give definition to the many, many vague emotional sensations that can clog, confound, and/or become congealed in your heart. Just by identifying your feelings you can break negative patterns of thinking and provide a more grounded awareness of your emotions, both of which put you on a path to make the best decisions possible for your life.

NOTE:In my next blog I will offer of the 25 feelings that constitute the necessary and sufficient vocabulary for developing the most successful relationships where the life-giving quality of agelessness (relationships where age is a non-issue) can grow and flourish. Look for it! 

. Discover the source from which your true strength and energy spring. Plato wrote that happiness spreads among those who are moral and can harness their power responsibly. So what is your unique power, and where is its source?

Each of us has been endowed by God with certain unique signature strengths. These strengths or virtues make you the very special, never to be duplicated, you that you are. It is this set of virtues, this singular slice of divinity in you that is your key to happiness - your gateway to agelessness. When we become aware of your signature virtues, and tap into them as the fountain of youthfulness that they are, you discover a new bedrock of happiness, a solid foundation of hope that heals brokenness, whatever it may be, and especially, that so unnecessary and irrational social contagion of ageism.

My own signature strengths are: hope, simplicity, wisdom, empathy, transcendence, and inspiration. These six are my God-given deep well of strength, my Spirit-driven grace for a living a happy, healthy, and holy life. Of course each signature strength has both a shadow and a compulsion - each of which pull me away from my spiritual center of grace and healing. So I must realize that I am vulnerable to both despair and presumption; complexity and bluntedness; inadequacy and perfectionism; obtuseness and ingratiating behaviors; worldliness and unreality; lifelessness and excessive excitement. Any of these, alone or in dynamic combination, can push and pull me off my center of spiritual stability and throw me into some measure of the disease of depression and or the illness of ageism.

Should you wish to know your own signature strengths, shadows, and compulsions you might want to look at Johnson Institute Course 105.

Until next time, I wish you ever-keener awareness of God's caring, compassionate, and ever-flowing love.

Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D.

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