How You Age is Your Choice–Part 2

We of the baby boom generation, are often dealing with aging parents, even while becoming “seniors” ourselves. We have had to take the car keys away; refurbish homes with new safety railings and ramps; worry about what our parents are eating; and, if we don’t live nearby, to hire aids and nurses to help with the dispensing of prescriptions and to drive parents to doctor appointments. Probably the worst thing for our aged parents is loneliness. For those who are fortunate to still have friends and family that they can see and talk with regularly, life is better, no matter what their physical or even mental restrictions.

Because of worry, we often view all the changes in our parents  as problems. Sometimes the busyness of life gives us an excuse not to slow down enough to interact with our parents at their own speed. But just because our parents can’t move around as quickly as before does not mean that they have turned into different people or that they cannot enjoy a new experience.

When an individual becomes older . . . the focus for that particular kind of concentration [intellect and critical thinking] is no longer so immediately available. The mind actually becomes more itself, freer to use more of its abilities, allowed to stray from restricted areas, to assimilate, to acknowledge and create. (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 256)

As someone very familiar with Seth’s words, I tried to think of what he had advised about aging while I dealt with my own father’s situation. My Dad had a pretty routine life for someone of his generation, which included naval service during WWII, a long-term marriage and fatherhood, a lifetime blue-collar job, and a certain amount of ups and downs, like anyone else.

When he was in his early 50s, he had a massive heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery, which set him back for about a year. However, he recovered physically and mentally and was able to carry on. When he was 77 my Mom died. Within a few months of her death, my father’s home of 50 years was taken by eminent domain and he found himself having to move to a strange place. This made him extremely angry and he felt betrayed. Two such major life setbacks in a short time affected him greatly. It was no surprise to me when he was suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. While living alone in a new, strange place, he had to go for radiation treatments and take himself to all kinds of appointments. There were nurses, aids, and social workers coming to his house. He took at least a dozen pills every day and had to fend for himself for meals, since he didn’t cook. As he got older there were other health issues, surgeries, and so forth–all this as my father aged into his 80s.

Meanwhile, Dad showed signs of increasing dementia. I took him for a geriatric evaluation and was told that he had early stage Alzheimer’s disease, as well as signs of depression, and that he should not be living alone. The office suggested a very nice assisted living center with specialized memory care. We were able to make this change, which my father agreed to. In the first few weeks he did not seem to adjust well, but soon after he began to thrive. He made friends, participated in lots of activities, had a girlfriend, ate regular meals again, and had a trained staff member to dispense his prescriptions.

Once the stress of living alone was removed, I began to get to know my father in a whole new way. As we spoke daily, I learned a lot about his outlook on life and the things that he was curious about. Soon, aspects of his much younger personality began to emerge. This must have been what he was like before marriage and family. He came across as much more of a risk-taker than I remembered. He showed great curiosity about progress and changes in the world, especially technology. And he frequently explained to me that people ought to stay positive and believe in themselves if they expected to be happy and successful in life.

One somewhat shocking thing that happened was that I received a call from the assisted living staff to say that my father was acting in a “sexually inappropriate” manner by saying suggestive things and even groping at staff and residents. I found this so out of character for my father, who had always seemed to me a proper gentleman, conservative in his ways. I also heard about how he finagled extra drinks for himself during Happy Hour and was the life of the party at social gatherings! What explanation could there be for this alternative side of my father’s personality?

I should not have been so surprised. Seth says:

As the mind within the body clearly sees its earthly time coming to an end, mental and psychic accelerations take place. These are in many ways like adolescent experiences in their great bursts of creative activity, with the resulting formation of questions, and the preparation for a completely new kind of personality growth and fulfillment. (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 253)

Seth said that, unfortunately, these new aspects of personality make those around the elderly uncomfortable and are often viewed as “grotesque” because they don’t fit the stereotypes we have of old people. Their behavior is simply attributed to mental deterioration. But Seth says that:

In old age. . . it is here, as in adolescence, that the greatest creativity may emerge but go unrecognized. This era could be more advantageous to the individual and to the race than any other period, were it recognized for what it is and understood. (The Nature of Personal Reality, p. 255)

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How You Age is Your Choice- Part 1

Seth often gave advice to his readers about how to apply his ideas to everyday life situations, both large and small. One of those situations is aging and it’s one that has been on my mind a lot lately.

I turned 60 this year; my husband is thinking of retiring; friends in our own age group have died in the past few years; we became grandparents; and my 93 year old Dad’s situation requires me to deal with age- and health-related issues all the time.

Seth offers some interesting and even surprising insights with respect to aging, age-related diseases, and senility. So let’s start first with the general and then get to some specifics.

Early on in the sessions, Seth said that “Aging . . . is not a primary [construction] . . . It must be recognized as secondary.” (The Early Sessions, Book 5 of The Seth Material. New Awareness Network, 1999, p. 70.)

What does this mean? Primary constructions are formed by your entity or soul. Essentially, your entity consciously projects into space/time a material replica of some degree of its own inner essence. I say some degree because, as you know, the entity/ soul or Self is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted; each portion will reflect some of the inner essence. Projections are not one-time events. Your Self continually keeps the projections going, which makes it appear that your body has duration in time. So, primary constructions are what allow you to be perceived in the world of matter. Seth reinforced repeatedly that the psychological structure precedes the material in all cases.

As an example, the physical body/mind is a primary constructions. The flexibility and free choice we have once we are here in body is where secondary constructions come in.

Secondary constructions are formed by consciousness “branching outward, constructing secondary images of other consciousnesses (beings and things) with whom it comes in contact” (ES2, p. 241) We make secondary constructions all the time. It is through secondary constructions that we experience life with other people and in the environment. Secondary constructions seem to have something to do with our perceptions, expectations, and beliefs, as well as with consensus opinions held with others. And Seth said that we have more control over these secondary constructions than we think. So, if a physical body is a primary construction, a secondary construction might be a belief that with old age comes sickness and fragility. Secondary constructions do not affect the inner self since it is outside of our system.

A recognition of the differences between primary and secondary conditions can . . . allow you to minimize the effect of the secondary conditions to some considerable degree.

Two men for example, of precisely the same physical age, of precisely the same physical condition, will be in completely different states of mind, of competence, of effectiveness and of strength, as a direct result of their inner beliefs as to their relative freedom within the framework of the physical existence in which they exist.

The man who does not realize his basic independence from the physical system will not have the same freedom within it. (ES5, p.70)

Seth spends some time discussing how we pick up ideas about aging from society and cultural beliefs. This cultural conditioning starts in childhood and continues throughout life. We can, however,  un-learn erroneous beliefs. But make no mistake, the physical body will conform to whichever belief an individual takes on.

You may have a belief that . . . age automatically makes you less a person, turning you into an individual who can no longer relate in the daily pattern of environment. The belief, you see, would work to insure the materialization of that state. On the other hand you may believe that wisdom grows with age, that self-understanding brings a peace of mind not earlier known, that the keen mind is actually far better able to assess the environment, and that the physical senses are much more appreciative of all stimuli. And so those conditions will be physically met in your experience. The physical apparatus itself, following your beliefs, will continue in health. (The Nature of Personal Reality. Amber-Allen Publishing, 1974/1994, p. 103)

 

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Idealists, Fanatics, Fundamentalists, and Donald Trump

The 2016 campaign for President in the U.S. has me feeling alternately amazed, dismayed, energized, and disgusted. Today I’m going to look at the Trump campaign, since this is the one that is causing my reactions and I think Seth offers quite a lot in the way of an explanation.

When the campaign began and Trump and his supporters almost immediately started garnering asymmetrical attention, the news reports focused a lot on the demographics of Trump’s followers: mostly white, blue-collar, skewing male, high-school educated, middle to lower-middle class socio-economic status. As time went on psychological descriptors were added: angry, frustrated, fearful, and some volatile or even dangerous. Of late, Trump’s supporters are called xenophobic, isolationist, racist, and nationalistic.

What about the candidate himself? He has been called sexist, racist, bombastic, narcissistic, arrogant, shallow, materialistic, and ignorant, among other things. Trump seems to view every problem or opportunity from the viewpoint of a salesman, deal-maker, or celebrity; it makes no difference if it is foreign policy, dealing with allies or enemies, the economy, trade, or budget issues–his approach is pretty one-dimensional and based on “power over” or as he might say, strength.

Trump evades substantive questions about policy and pre-empts any bad news that might befall his candidacy by stirring up controversy to change the subject, whenever possible.

Although Donald Trump has upended the status quo–not necessarily a bad thing–it is almost unimaginable to me that he could be the President of the United States, standing for American values at home and in the wider world. It was in thinking about the values that Trump does espouse and those attributed to his supporters that I thought about Seth, remembering that he had a lot to say about worldviews. When I dug into “The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events”* once again, I found Seth’s remarks almost tailor-made to today’s political situation. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given simultaneous time and Seth’s vantage point outside of physical reality!

Worldviews are important, according to Seth, because “The organization of your feelings, beliefs, and intents directs the focus about which your physical reality  is built. This follows with impeccable spontaneity and order. . . You organize your mental world in such a way that you attract to yourself events that. . . will confirm your beliefs.” (p. 164) If we follow this line of thought, then we Americans have created Donald Trump, his campaign, and the way it is going.

Seth calls the American experiment with democracy heroic, bold, and innovative and said Americans, although never really achieving the “equality” that is the hallmark of democracy, still hold on to that American Dream in which everyone has the opportunity to achieve their goals and be happy, which is the “ideal.” Seth noted, however, that American society was disrupted when an older, predominantly religious worldview was overtaken by a newer, scientific and materialistic worldview. In the religion-grounded worldview “The individual lived out his or her life almost automatically structuring personal experience so that it fit within the accepted norm.” (p. 156) That is because in a religious context order is provided from on high. That which is moral and good is clearly spelled out, as is evil. There are established rules, and people with this worldview are happy to abide by them.

When modern society began to emphasize science, technology, and individualism, the boundaries shifted for those with a religious worldview. Darwin’s theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest” affected peoples’ sense of safety and place in the universe. Seth said that after Darwin, “You take it for granted that the species is aggressively combative. You must out-think the enemy nation before you yourself are destroyed. These paranoiac tendencies are largely hidden beneath man’s nationalistic banners.” (p. 177) The so-called improvements that were to be the result of scientific and technological advancements have not necessarily improved these peoples’ lives either. The result is a rebellion against scientific intellectualism. There are many examples of this, but a good example is the skepticism about climate change in the fundamentalist religious community.

With changing worldviews, Seth says, “The individual must make his or her own way through a barrage of different value systems, making decisions that were largely unthought-of when a son followed his father’s trade automatically, for example, or when marriages were made largely for economic reasons.” (p. 156)

According to Seth, the “improvements” of the materialistic/scientific worldview, while convenient, robbed humanity of its heroic impulses and true instinct, which Seth describes as the need to feel that life has purpose and meaning.

In the wake of these sea changes, “some people. . . are looking for some authority–any authority– to make their decisions for them, for the world seems increasingly dangerous and they, because of their beliefs, feel increasingly powerless. They yearn toward the old ways. . . Their idealism finds no particular outlet.” (p. 210)

It is understandable that Trump supporters feel put out. They find themselves in a society now where marriage may be between two people of the same sex, where a Muslim may move into their workplace and be excused several times a day to answer the “call to prayer,” or where they are turned down for jobs which are then given to immigrants. On top of that, the order they once relied on has either imploded or been corrupted somehow. The financial crisis of 2008 was especially rough for them; they lost homes, retirement accounts, life savings, and jobs. At the same time, globalization resulted in many of their jobs being moved to countries with low-wage workers. The world around them changed very quickly, with new technologies, new ways of communicating through social media and the Web, and many social changes that seemed to fly in the face of the religious and moral values they hold. Without higher education or the ability and desire to “reinvent themselves” they did not prosper as once was possible. So, where before they could be “idealists” about what it meant to be an American, now they see that whole way of life threatened. It is no wonder that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” appeals to them.

According to Seth, a frustrated idealist “projects his betrayal outward until betrayal is all that he sees in the socio-political world. . . They demand immediate action. They want to make the world over in their own images. They cannot  bear the expression of tolerance or opposing ideas.” (pp. 214-215) Rather than projecting everything bad onto others, the better antidote, Seth says, would be if every person worked on actualizing his ideals through his own private life. “When you fulfill your own abilities, when you express your personal idealism through acting it out to the best of your ability in your daily life, then you are changing the world for the better.” (p. 215)

Instead, some of these thwarted idealists become what Seth called “fanatics” or they turn to fanatics for answers. Seth says:

A fanatic believes that he is powerless. He does not trust his own self-structure, or his ability to act effectively. Joint action seems the only course, but a joint action in which each individual must actually be forced to act, driven by frenzy, or fear or hatred, incensed and provoked, for otherwise the fanatic fears that no action at all will be taken toward ‘the ideal’ (p. 229)

This is where Trump masterfully channels the outrage of the group and brazenly promises that things will be different once he is in charge. He castigates “the establishment,” the liars, the hypocrites, and the sell-outs. His rallies consist of chants, threats, and litanies of problems caused by all kinds of groups and people. The rally takes on a life of its own.

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