Aging, while a natural part of the human experience, is something our culture attempts to deny. The myth exists that individuals can delay aging as they get older, or even evade it all together, by using measures such as diet, exercise, plastic surgery and Botox. As Baby Boomers age, they are bombarded with messages that they can feel, look, and live like they did ten, twenty, even thirty years earlier. Dr. Mary E. Doheny, Pdh, is available to discuss the psychological repercussions for Baby Boomers that result from denying aging.
All of these desperate attempts to retain unrealistic standards of youth and beauty can have powerful psychological repercussions. “Mortality is a given, but there’s an attempt to deny it,” says Dr. Doheny, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern, an organization whose mission is to strengthen and heal families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. “Focusing on the physical side of aging is a defense, a way to deny the implications of aging and death.”
Dr. Doheny states that the aging process provides an important, powerful transition into a life stage that allows individuals to let go of certain superficialities and take part in crucial self-evaluation. “Aging allows individuals the opportunity to take the time to reorder their values in ways that are deeply meaningful,” she says. “The transition allows for a mid-course correction if necessary, to live the later years of one’s life with a new wisdom and deeper sense of self.”
Denying oneself that transition, Dr. Doheny says, can lead to depression and anxiety. “Many of my Baby Boomer clients deny their own aging until a traumatic event brings it up: the death of a parent, the illness of a partner, or needing a hip or knee replacement. As a clinician, I see the other side of that denial, which is so often despair.” Clients who put off dealing with aging have a harder time dealing with it when it inevitably comes up. “At 60 you can’t deny the possibility of illness the way you can at thirty. However, facing those realities isn’t bleak — it provides a wonderful opportunity for growth and satisfaction.”
The perpetuation of the ever-ageless myth denies individuals the opportunity to process aging in healthy ways, and to transition into a phase of life that allows for important self reflection. Placing one’s emphasis on looking, feeling, and behaving decades younger distracts from the important process of dealing with mortality—and can have serious psychological repercussions.
To speak with Dr. Mary Doheny about the psychology of aging and Baby Boomers, or about The Family Institute, please contact Colleen O’Connor at 312-609-5300 ext. 485 or [email protected] or visit us at http://www.family-institute.org/.
ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY - The Family Institute at Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org) is committed to strengthening and healing families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a unique, innovative not-for-profit organization, governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Child and Family Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.