Hey everyone I wanted to share some of my blog posts from another blog I had to set up while taking a Psychology of Aging course where I attend school. The professor wanted us to post our papers as blog posts so we could have experience blogging and also making it academic in nature. I was the only student in class that had any serious interest in Depth Psychology and Jung in particular, so my professor allowed me to write on the topic of aging from a "Jungian" point of view. I began to doubt if anyone would actually stumble across my blog that I made for the class, and felt that perhaps members of this community would get a kick out of reading some of my thoughts. So the next couple posts will be reposts from my other blog. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I want to be clear that my knowledge of depth psychology is only that of a undergraduate majoring in psychology who reads Jung outside of class a lot, so please feel free to let me know what you think of my application of Jung's theories with regards to aging and the elderly. Thank you!
Becoming Like Children
In the documentary “Aging in America: the years ahead” one member of an RV group at the age of 70 articulated that she felt as if she was “becoming a child again.” This was in response to her being asked what it was like for her to have reached such an age and still be active. This idea of elderly people regressing to childlike behavior, both physically and mentally, is something that was depicted in the film in the RV group and in the Alabaman prison system. The former appeared to be healthy, their regression adding an extra spark to their lives. The latter was seen as miserable, the elderly inmates becoming nothing more than shells of their former selves, totally regressed to infancy.
Jungian Analytical psychology might be able to shed light on the subject of the inner child, psychologically speaking, and the concept of mental regression. One of the archetypes in the psyche is the Child. This archetype is the reasons for childhood recollections and emotions that stay with us as we mature. Embracing this archetype or completely ignoring it is one of the many experiences of the psyche.(Jung pg. 167)
Embracing the child archetype in an healthy context, as one can see int he RV members in the film, can be observed in two places. First, in the gospel of Matthew Jesus Christ states: “I tell you the truth, you must be as children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Another place is Wendy, one of the main characters in the novel “Peter Pan.” The psychological value of these two examples, is that even though one knows we are growing old, we must never forget the inner child within us, the source of bliss of wonder. Wendy knows that she cannot remain in Neverland with Peter, she recognizes that she must return home and grow old, even though she never forgets her childhood experiences. The healthy individual thus matures, but does not repress the child archetype.(Jung, Barrie)
The elderly prison inmates in Alabama, as depicted in the film, are dealing with an unhealthy embrace with childlike regression. Carl Jung described the natural “womb-like” mental experience that occurs when one is going through a mental transformation. It is almost regressive in nature, but the outcome is healthy and progressive. This is not the case with the inmates, who are being cut off from their inner child and stripped of individuality. This is an abnormal experience of the “Jonah in the whale-complex”. They are being submerged in the regression, not being allowed to progress. They become elderly infants, not even being able to care for themselves. The symbol of Captain Hook, attempting to kill Peter Pan (the child) who finally is eaten by the Crocodile, represents this mental regressive state.(Jung pg. 419)
What the film and the symbols make clear to us, is the idea that if we keep embracing our inner child, allowing wonder and joy to enhance our lives, we need not become empty shells. However when we ourselves, very much like Mr. Darling, Wendy’s father, believes we just need “to grow up and stop playing” we lose a huge part of our psyche. Individuals maintain an healthy connections with themselves, all the way to death. Being cut off from the child archetype can be have negative affects upon the psyche and result in being captured in the belly of the beast. Embracing the child, can lead us to the kingdom, the place of continual mental bliss.
Barrie, Sir James M. (1987). Peter Pan. New York: Random House
Jung, C.G. (1956). Symbols of Transformation. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C.G. (1959). The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.