Old Age

As the evening of life approaches, people experience a diminution of consciousness just as the light and warmth of the sun diminish at dusk. If people fear life during the early years, then they will ahnost certainly fear death during the later ones. Fear of death is often taken as normal, but Jung believed that death is the goal of life and that life can only be fulfilling when death is seen in this light. In 1934, during his 60th year, Jung wrote:

Ordinarily we cling to our past and remain stuck in the illusion of youthfulness. Being old is highly unpopular. Nobody seems to consider that not being able to grow old is just as absurd as not being able to outgrow child's-size shoes. A still infantile man of thirty is surely to be deplored, but a youthful septuagenarian— isn't that delightful? And yet both are perverse, lacking in style, psychological monstrosities. A young man who does not fight and conquer has missed the best part of his youth, and an old man who does not know how to listen to the secrets of the brooks, as they tumble down from the peaks to the valleys, makes no sense; he is a spiritual mummy who is nothing but a rigid relic of the past. (Jung, 1934/1960, p. 407)

Most of Jung's patients were middle aged or older, and many of them suffered from a backward orientation, clinging desperately to goals and lifestyles of the past and going through the motions of life aimlessly. Jung treated these people by helping them establish new goals and find meaning hi living by first finding meaning in death. He accomplished this treatment through dream interpretation, because the dreams of elderly people are often filled with symbols of rebirth, such as long jour-

Chapter 4 Jung: Analytical Psychology 123

neys or changes in location. Jung used these and other symbols to determine patients' unconscious attitudes toward death and to help them discover a meaningful philosophy of life (Jung, 1934/1960).

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