New Year or One Year Older?

On January first we ring in the ‘new year’ but actually, when we take a moment to look at the numbers moving from 2014 to 2015, doesn’t it seem that it’s just one more year being added to history, rather than being new again? The concept of one year older is often fraught with different perspectives, different ideas, and different assessments – which affects the subconscious mind, as well as our life as each new year greets us.

Older = wiser?

With each day that passes we have an opportunity to develop new skills, hone the strengths we have, learn from our mistakes and redirect ourselves in a way that may serve us better, and how we take or let these opportunities pass accelerate or slow our experience and wisdom. Sometimes we assume that we have gained insight from just ‘being around’ for years and years, yet I’ve been taught by those far younger in years than me, who are ahead of me on the learning curve in certain areas. Fortunately, even these ‘younger sourced’ exposures add to my growing knowledge and understanding.

The subconscious mind absorbs all of the world around us, including our direct and indirect experiences. However, this powerful part of the mind builds its storehouse in simple and literal ways. It tends to define us by ‘oh, that’s what we’ve been doing, so I guess that’s what we’ll do more of in the future’ rather than critically question ‘it seems that the result of that action didn’t work out quite as well as expected, so maybe we should try something new’. For example, we see this with serial damaging relationships that may start out exciting and romantic yet end badly, again and again. Or the diets seem so promising at the beginning of the year, but fall by the wayside before spring. Without learning the lessons of past experience and looking to change the faulty approach or components, we continue to experience the same thing over and over and over. We may have years under our belts, but our ability to ‘wise up’ is arrested.

The good news is that we aren’t victims of our past – we can build on it. When we stay curious and compassionate, we can more clearly see and learn from what doesn’t work, and practice different ways that may work better. We can encourage repetition of our strengths, ability and resources, so that they can support and guide us with greater ease and certainty.

Sometimes we need to make explicit what is implicitly running in the subconscious. If there are parts of your life that need improvement, the deeper part of the mind holds many strengths that sometimes turn into weaknesses. For example, what are the assumptions? The subconscious is where our belief system is situated. Looking at your trouble spots and teasing out statements that include ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘only’ and ‘forever’ may uncover the notions on which the mind is basing habits.

We can extend our successes by fashioning one pattern in another area of our life. We can imagine funneling our gifts to the places we need them most. We can pretend ‘as if’ it had already happened, so we can tweak the pictures of ourselves within the imaginative subconscious mind.

And while our emotional subconscious loves the action of any feelings – including the informative ‘negative’ ones including anger, shame, fear, sadness etc. – one of the greatest benefits of wisdom (gathered from some of the wisest people I know around the world), is that ability to give self-love and self-compassion during the down times. It appears, in that state, that learning the sometimes hard lessons is easier, and that there’s a greater motivation or inspiration to move forward. Adding a sense of humour to this seems to lead to fast-tracking and ability to become wiser.

Don’t get older just to get wiser. If you get older, you will be wiser, I believe that – if you dare. But get older because it’s fun! Maya Angelou

Older = what was I saying?

I recently spoke with a number of therapists on working with ‘older adults’ and it was amazing to hear of the similar and special needs of this part of the population. “Elderly”, “golden age”, “seniors”, “third age”, “mature adults”, “old”… they were all synonyms that held different meaning and emotion to them. My mother, who is sharp as a tack in her mid-70s, detests getting ‘senior moment’ cartoons that paint older adults as doddering, forgetful has-beens.

Other than focusing on continued physical, mental, emotional and social functioning, and supporting aspects of loss that age tends to bring us into contact with more, the idea of memory, or loss of it, is one that pops up over and over in my practice.

How many times have I heard, “what was his name, guess I’m just getting older…” That’s a suggestion that sinks into the subconscious mind and is believed. Over time, the repetition tends to create an expectation in the mind that information will be forgotten. It’s a negative hypnotic suggestion we might not even realise we’re giving ourselves. The conscious mind can only hold on to a limited number of things at once, so when we’re juggling a lot, or are under some stress, we tend to pull from that smaller store, so there’s no surprise that some of the facts or details that we want to recall happen to fall off the edge. But it’s temporary, and with the positive hypnotic suggestion of “what was his name, it’ll come to me soon…” the mind is given different directions that lead to recall.

The ideas that our brains are limited in their ability to make new and different connections is being overturned in neuroscience research, and our understanding of both the brain and mind’s ability to grow is increasingly expanding. While there is a chance of atrophy when we stop thinking, feeling, learning, experimenting and growing, our ability to challenge our minds and make new connections is present all around us.

I’m not afraid of aging, but more afraid of people’s reactions to my aging. Barbara Hershey

Older = younger/ ____er next year?

If the mind is where the action is and the body is where the reaction is, can we augment our physical health with mental wellbeing? People are more likely to catch ailments when they are stressed or under emotional duress, so could we improve our vitality with our mind? Would that improvement positively affect not only our physical health, but also have an effect on different aspects of our lives? If you could expand on the generalized ‘better’ in the adage “I’m not getting older, I’m getting better” what would it be?

Retirement, often associated with aging tends to have negative synonyms in the thesaurus, including retreat, withdraw, leave, be put out to pasture, or give up. My father, now in his eighties always said that if you have motivation, resources and energy, you’ll never retire (not tied to a career path, but all aspects of self and life). Even if the focus of these three valuable essences may change over time, whenever we can get the subconscious mind involved, it can be a powerhouse for whatever we need and want.

So, as all of us are getting older, let’s focus on getting ____er for 2015. What do you want? What do you need? Do you have the motivation to get there (or what do you need to find that motivation)? What are the resources you have or need to acquire to make it easier to reach that goal? And how will you find the energy to do so (finding the activities, people and areas that add to rather than subtract from it)?

You can free yourself from aging by reinterpreting your body and grasping the link between belief and biology. Deepak Chopra

The power of your mind and its ability to construct your future health and wellbeing is under your control. You may want help with this important task yet it is available to you wherever you are, whenever you wish to start. As this new, older year comes into being it seems like the perfect time for positive change!

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