UK Council for Psychotherapy

UKCP

Accredited Psychotherapist

British Association for
Counselling & Psychotherapy

BACP

Accredited Counsellor

Counselling & Psychotherapy
Central London, Camden, Kings Cross, London NW1
Glen Gibson - Dip. Counselling, MA Psychotherapy, Dip. Psychotherapy
UKCP & mBACP Accredited male Therapist, Counsellor & Psychotherapist

therapy@counselling-london.org.uk 020 7916 1342

Ageing & Maturity

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Counselling For Older People

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Attitudes Of Society & Of Us Fear of ageing may be something we experience. Society often seems to value & even obsess with youth, and as we become older, we may be affected by people's attitudes, beliefs & behaviours. Unable to recognise that we all have fragile & subtle bodies, whatever our age, society can sometimes value how we look (the body beautiful), youthfulness & age (whatever that may subjectively be), more than our intrinsic worth, who we are - with all our qualities. At its worst, the person behind the label e.g. "pensioner" can be written off, segregated or unseen. Life experience can be undervalued. Society can put people (e.g. teenagers, pensioners) into homogeneous groups, as if each "group" behaves stereotypically, without personal differences. With plenty of positive role models, the negative stereotype of "old age" in society is changing. Yet we too may have absorbed some of these disempowering beliefs, attitudes and behaviours, so growing old becomes something to fear, rather than embrace, value or possibly celebrate. We may have genuine concerns & fears, e.g. our health, aloneness and loneliness and may be questioning what quality of life means for us.

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You've got to get to the stage in life, where going for it is more important than winning or losing. Arthur Ashe
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Retirement Concerns Some of us may struggle how to embrace our own identity other than our familiar work identity. Letting go of our work & employment can be enormous for some. Anxiety, fear & relief may be present. It may be important for our body & mind to remain active in ways, which are meaningful for us.

Our Role Our roles and how we see ourselves evolve throughout our life - a natural process. Counselling & psychotherapy can be used to explore what roles now are important to you. Some people may also want to discuss their role in the family and personal sense of identity.

Ageing Concerns The impact of ageing can be emotive for many of us. We may fear growing old, isolation or abandonment, or have our own personal fears, anxieties. Physically, as our bodies change, our quality of sleep may decline. We may see or experience the world around us as reducing, e.g. friends, socialising, etc. We may be grieving or letting go of a stage of life - what was or might have been, we may have wished we had done more. Self-acceptance may be in short supply. The counselling and psychotherapy can offer a space to talk about our own concerns around ageing.

Coping With Ill Health We may become more vulnerable to health problems as we age. We may experience declining physical health, pain or illness. One of us may have taken on and extensive caring role for the other. It can be very challenging to find our way to learn to live with our symptoms, health condition. Each of us cope with pain & illness differently & come up against personal challenges & responses. The therapy can support you in this.

Our Own Attitudes Towards Ageing Ageing is a natural process. And what our own family think or expect of older people - what they say & how they relate, alongside our own personal attitude, narrative of what we tell ourself and our own expectations affects us. We may have a feared image of ageing. We may believe that everything is in the past, or that we have nothing to look forward to. Some may be in touch with the fullness of life, others - the emptiness, and may be a little depressed. Whatever our age, it may be important for us not to lose our sense of self in the process, our beingness. These considerations can also be discussed in the therapy.

Who knows where the time goes. Sandy Denny

The Impact Of Ageing As we enter, or are already in, a later phase of life, we may well need to make adjustments. For some, this may involve being flexible, challenging our own views about ageing, reviewing what illness, pain, vitality & wellbeing mean for us. Some of us may fight longevity, others may embrace it. A challenge may be whether to harden, fighting against our ageing process (as if we view it as tragic, failing or illness), or soften, opening to this and what it brings. Our perspective of what matters, what's important and what we value may evolve. As we become maturer and reflect, we may often come up against existential concerns, existential grief or regrets, meaninglessness - questioning what has meaning & what doesn't. This may include struggling in a world which seems out of synchronisation & alienating of the soul. We may be grieving for what was or might have been. Some of us may struggle socialising, meeting others, and we may have become a prisoner in our own home. What we do with our aloneness, loneliness, may be a challenge, connected to our being as well as our doing. Companionship & being with others may be important to us. Living to our full potential may take on new meaning for us now.

Earth's Imprints
Imprints leaving their trace
Lines designing a face
Trees ingrained by rings
'Tis wisdoms' sufferings.

Embracing Our Maturity How we gather our years, incorporating our experiences, have a subjective experience of our current time and transition, adjusting to this time of our life, belonging and making space for ourself, valuing what we are doing (without pushing ourselves to always do better), enjoying a simpler life may be considerations for us. Embracing our emotional maturity, compassionate love, may be important to us.

Youth is wasted on the young. George Bernard Shaw

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Loss Losing friends, a loved one or if our partner has dementia, may take its toll (see also Grief & Bereavement Counselling). Also living with and adapting to any loss and new beginnings, opportunities, can be a real challenge - the loss of control we used to have, loss of our looks, certain faculties, maybe our memory. Loss of being valued, loss of status may also have an impact on us. Acknowledging these losses, yet being in touch with our qualities within, intrinsic self-worth, alongside what's now emerging for us, may be important for us.

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Life Reflection Much water has flowed under the bridge. We may be nostalgic about the past maybe having deep love, value some treasured memories, have some nostalgia, regrets, unfulfilled aspirations or dreams. We may have had missed opportunities, knowing what we do now. (For some, pursued by time or believing we don't have enough time, our image of who we were & who we are now may be in conflict.) We may have existential concerns, grieve many things in our life, need to mourn our losses alongside extracting simple happy memories, cherished moments, times of wisdom. Some of us may stay focused on what we don't have, struggling to embrace what we do. We may also want to turn to therapy in order to reflect upon what life means for us (see also Contemplation, Creating Space & Quiet Time, Taking Pauses - Self-Awareness, Observation & Reflection). Some of us may also be drawn to a spiritual realm or religious faith.

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Reflecting Upon Our Mortality At a certain stage of life, we may be aware of our own mortality, especially around times of transition. We may be at a phase when some of our dearest friends, relatives, die. Our sense of self may struggle to assimilate death, contemplate the world continuing without us. Some of us may or have believed that death won't come to us - it is something that happens to others, not us. Believing we are immortal we may have been sleepwalking through life. (There are only a finite number of experiences, sunsets.) Questioning what matters to us, we may have some anxieties about our own mortality, fragility, life's impermanence and this can sit on our shoulder throughout our life. Our own mortality, death anxiety or fear of dying may also point to an existential anxiety. We may wonder whether there is life after death and want to talk about what mortality & vulnerability means for us. We may be questioning what's mortal, what's eternal and our notions of time. Facing our own mortality, we may also wonder what happens after death: "What happens when we pass away? Do we transition into the non-physical world and understand there is no lapse of consciousenss, separation between what is physical and the non-physical? Do we pass from this dimension to another, re-emerging into source energy? Are we resurrected? Do we reincarnate, is there life after death, past lives, future lives? Do we pass through something, transform to the non-physical and does our soul live as spirit?" Others may wonder about the legacy they leave behind. Our responses & reactions to any fears, grief, anger may reduce how we live and are alive in the world now. When we allow our awareness of life being finite it can be easier for some of us to face death and actually feel more alive, give our life meaning, make our life a good story. Preparing to feel right about death and let go may be a need for some and we may want to prepare for death in our own practical way allowing for any spiritual or religious preference. Counselling & psychotherapy can offer a supportive space to talk about our thoughts, anxiety, fears and concerns about our own mortality and death.

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You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now. Joan Baez

Fear Of Death Or Dying - Thanatophobia Counselling We may want to approach death with more openness. Our culture and those around us may fear death and it can be taboo to talk about it. We have all at some point in our life feared death or dying - what some people label death anxiety, fear of dying, which is natural healthy and normal. (When our fear of dying becomes acute, it can turn into thanatophobia.) How we die and whether we will be in pain, alone, the burdens we may leave behind may be understandable concerns for some. Others may be afraid to die with regrets. The therapy may explore our fears, anxiety, whether it is actually a fear of dying, wondering what happens when we die or more about not being at all - non-being, nothingness, a void. We may worry or speculate who attends or what is said at our funeral. For others, our anxiety may not be about death, but about how fragile we are as human beings, that life is temporary, uncertain, unpredictable and often unknown - something we are out of control of. Death is a given, yet we may be so preoccupied that we may die at any time or sometime, that we struggle to value the preciousness of life, the uniqueness of each moment, our and others' aliveness if we fear living. Questioning our own eternity, some of us may fear death so much, and its doorway into the unknown, that we withdraw, avoid risking things, living routinely or habitually, where spontaneity, new things & surprises, living for today, embracing happiness now (see also Pursuing Happiness) may be absent and we may turn to counselling for thanatophobia, to talk about what death and dying personally means for us. We may struggle to embrace this unknown, let go of control, reassure ourselves, move towards issues of life. We may want to have plans around death and breakdown our future into realistic blocks of time and the therapy can supportively explore the reality of death, nature's intrinsically linked re-birthing, cycles of life and death can remind us that we are part of life itself, which includes dying.

Death is certain. The time is not. Jaqen H'ghar

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Change & Transformation Mourning what was in our life, and allowing "what is", may support us in being in touch with what might be transforming in our life, what we value and what's important, as we live our life through a current stage of existence. We may for example no longer get excited as we did in our youth, yet being in the moment, relishing moments, gaining a different depth & quality to how we relate with others, making the most of what's important, may matter to us. Valuing life's changes, transitions, little deaths, adjusting, being in touch with and experiencing our desire, joys however small, encountering and embracing new challenges may be our task.

Now the years are rolling by me, they are rockin' even me
I am older than I once was, and younger than I'll be, that's not unusual
No it isn't strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same ...
Paul Simon - "The Boxer"

Reassessing The Present & Looking Ahead Some of us may not quite know how we've got here (see also Reflective, Existential Concerns). We may be re-evaluating our life - questioning, or curious about our past, present, future - for it can seem as if all three at times conflate into one. We may want to heal our relationships & manage any unfinished business, have peace of mind or more excitement, speaking our mind without fear. We may also want to rejuvenate ourselves or rediscover what we enjoy or are good at, address our aspirations, hopes, dreams and what is in the way of expressing love and finding peace. We may want to feel valued, give something back, have more control over our life. As we evolve, so too may our interests, interactions, companionship & what matters to us, alongside getting our changing needs met. Developing and building existing and new relationships, engaging deeply, whether with our peers, younger people, grandchildren, students, etc, and supporting others may be important for us. Celebrating growing older maybe our challenge. Our routines may be important to us, yet at times limit us (as may holding on to some limiting beliefs, e.g. "It's too late"), where changing some of them may benefit us. Taking new risks, making fresh connections, being curious, having good nutrition, with a love of learning, in touch with what we enjoy, our passions, discovering and developing our hidden talents, being in touch with our life energy, being present, getting the most out of our life, doing new or different things, having structures, may be considerations. What we do with our wealth of experience, creativity, wisdom, insight, softened edges & compassion, evolving consciousness, longing and yearning, facing life with dignity and courage, may be a further challenges.

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. Bob Dylan

Relationships, Marriage, Sex, Companionship Being firmly connected to friends and family may be important to us. And many of us may not only want to continue enjoying sex, but also the ties that bind us to our partner, valuing the companionship, care & love over the years. (See also Maturity As A Couple)

In the counselling & psychotherapy we may simply want to come along and be heard, reflect. We may also want to address specific challenges:

It takes a long time to become young. Pablo Picasso
Older people counselling in London, psychotherapy for elderly in London, Camden counsellor & psychotherapist - ageing
"The Snail" (painted aged 84)Henri Matisse

Counselling London Psychotherapy Central London

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