Getting Older – Part 2by Dr Emma Gray - 11th November, 2014
In the first part of this blog we identified the key psychological traits that enable us to deal with the passing of time. In this second and third part we will explore these in detail.
Our self esteem is vital in dealing with all kinds of challenges, ageing being just one of them. This is because the nature of our self esteem determines how we process and interpret information, it influences the meaning that we attach to event, the choices that we make and ultimately how we feel and what we do. High self esteem is dependent upon a belief that we are ‘good enough’, that we have the resources to cope and an ability to accept and appreciate ourselves.
Low self esteem is a direct result of a belief that we are in some way inadequate or defective, that we can’t cope and a tendency to underestimate and undermine ourselves. When armed with the first we are able to embrace and adapt to chance, when saddled with the latter everything is difficult and frightening, particularly those things that we can’t control, the passing of time being at the top of this list.
Regret is a normal human emotion and like all emotions it serves an important function; it alerts us to missed opportunities so that they are not missed again. If managed and responded to appropriately and adaptively (i.e. past mistakes are accepted and learned from) regret is fleeting, once its purpose is served it dissipates. However, if we respond to regret with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, it not only fails to dissipate but overtime builds and sticks.
Regret of this kind taints our memories making up vulnerable to depression and anxiety. As the past expands and the future shrinks we spend an increasing amount of time looking backwards rather than forwards, meaning that as time passes, if we are unable to manage regret adaptively we become increasingly exposed to the discomfort and distress that it creates.
Learning to respond appropriately to regret is therefore pivotal if we are to deal well with getting older.
Click below to navigate to the first and third part of this multi part article.