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Awakening Spring in Autumn – A Sample Chapter

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Geraldine may had been drowning the inner voice, she thought she could put aside her needs to be loved and cared for, to maintain a perfect family on the surface. When she attended to the inner voice of care, she recognised her authentic self, it helped her to stand up to her husband, reconnected with her friends and relooked at her life. Her drinking became manageable. She travelled out of her country alone for the first time and restarted teaching professional music, which she found herself revelling in both. She was initially unsure if she could travel on her own, dreading feeling lonely and sad looking at families.

Psychologists use the term “denial” in describing this defensive process of inattention. The extensive use of this primitive defence leads directly to many of the psychological maladies of our time, particularly among mature women and men. The denied voices will eventually gain our attention or be heard by the world around us. We must determine, during our Autumnal years, if these voices will be addressed in a constructive and generative manner or in a very destructive way.

A particularly persuasive description of the crippling effects of massive denial and repression on fifty year old men is offered by George Vaillant in Adaptation to Life [1998)—his first report based on his longitudinal study of Harvard graduates. They were in their Fifties at this point in the study (and were in their seventies when Vaillant reported on them in Triumph of Experience). This description is further reinforced and expanded in Vaillant’s second report, Aging Well (2003). Vaillant. In these later reports (2003 and 2012) we find that some of the Harvard men were able to move beyond the denial and make some major changes in their later life. Others were not able to do so and usually had passed away by the time Vaillant was conducting his last set of interviews for Triumph of Experience.

. . . .Our rational arguments often are senseless and the senses we do command are irrational when we are in massive denial. We say to ourselves that one illicit sexual affair really won’t upset the apple cart; that we can fool around at the edge of sexual intercourse without engaging in the “real thing”; or that we can have intercourse with someone other than our life partner without really getting “involved.” Perhaps it is something other than sex. We wait for the next opportunity to explore our hobbies because we are busy now, we postpone our desire to start a business because the economy is recovering. We resist resigning from our job, because we want to apply what we have recently learned about the management of conflict. We are tempted by the prospects of finally doing our job better. We deceive ourselves. . . . Each of us can similarly find justification in our own traditions and selective advice offered by lifestyle “experts” (with whom we agree). “Bliss” comes in many forms – only some of which are actually authentic and generative.

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