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Maturity and psychological age
The development of a person in adulthood is closely related to the dynamics of his psychological age.
There are three interconnected, but not coincidental ages: chronological (passport), physical (or biological) and psychological. It is well known that the physical age of a person is often very different from the passport. For example, at the age of 40, it may look and, most importantly, have the state of all body systems like a young person, but you can detect all signs of aging, withering.
Psychological age characterizes how a person feels and realizes. It largely affects the physical age, although it also does not always coincide in everything with it.
Above (Chapter 5, Section I), we drew attention to the fact that the boundaries of age periods are relative. B. G. Ananiev believed that the later the age period is, the less definite its beginning and end become. Individual scatter increases with age. In childhood and adolescence there is a similarity for different children living conditions: „in the family, kindergarten, school. After leaving school, development is much more determined by the individual life path.
Psychological age is age identification, which can be of varying degrees of awareness. A person, relating himself to a certain age (feeling or realizing himself young, mature or old), focuses not so much on age limits as on the content of the period - his specific area of social relations, lifestyle (nature of activity, interests, life rhythm, etc. .) acquired personality neoplasms.
Psychological age, age-related identification is an aspect of self-awareness associated with ideas about time. The perception of time, the formation of ideas about age, albeit at first and inadequate, is impossible without the inclusion of memory in the structure of personality. Recall that up to 3 years the child lives in the “real moment”, emotionally reacts only to what he directly perceives. Memory and imagination become the most important moment in the development of a person from preschool age. From 3-4 years, the first childhood memories appear. The formation of complex forms of imagination also falls on this time. The child acquires, in addition to the present, the past and the future, i.e. holistic time perspective.
The time perspective, according to Kurt Levin, is the inclusion of the future and the past, the real and ideal plan of life in the plan of the moment. The psychological past and future are parts of the psychological field in the present, affecting human behavior.
The time perspective expands with age. III.1. shows the living space of a small child (a) and an older child (b). Age development in childhood gives a great differentiation of space in three parameters: the range of time perspectives, as well as the number of areas of the life world and the distinction between the real and the ideal.
In maturity, changes in the time perspective are associated with a different sensation of the passage of time, which can subjectively accelerate and decelerate, contract and stretch, and be experienced as a continuous and intermittent “torn” into separate segments.
Differentiation of living space at different stages of ontogenesis
With age, the value of time changes, “personal time” becomes more and more important due to the development of self-awareness, awareness of the finiteness of one’s existence and the need to realize one’s potential over a not-so-long life. Psychological time is filled with events, future goals, motives developed in the present activity. The time, which contains a lot of impressions, achievements, events, etc., is perceived as quickly flowing then, becoming a psychological past, seems long. Conversely, a small occupancy of time leads to a slowdown in its speed in the present and brevity in the past. It is also important how events in a person’s living space are connected, whether they have already realized, or potential, or actual connections, connecting the psychological past, present and future. Here, of course, there are a variety of individual options.
The psychological age directly depends on the time perspective that has developed in a person; he does not exist outside of it. When the past tense is not perceived as saturated, the psychological past is small in volume, and the psychological future is seen to be much longer (vital goals have yet to be achieved and “all life is ahead”), the psychological age will correspond to an earlier age stage. When the psychological past is significant, eventful, and the psychological future is foggy and not too long, an identification with a later age period will appear. Thus, the model of K. Levin presented in Fig. III. 1, can contract on one side and stretch on the other. In addition to individual characteristics, these deformations are caused primarily by general age trends. As noted above, the latter are more significant, the smaller the age.
In the pre-school and subsequent primary school age, the psychological past and the distant future are still very few. Apparently, due to this, the psychological age in childhood is adequate. Their age for children with undeveloped personal reflection is the same significant, but external characteristic, as the growth, color of hair and eyes, with which they usually begin to describe themselves.
A teenager is guided by a youth subculture, claims to be equal with his parents, although he is economically dependent on them and has a social status as a student; even physically does not correspond to the age for which it claims. The emergence of feelings of adulthood and a tendency toward adulthood during this period cause a sharp increase in psychological age.
Youth is distinguished by aspiration for the future, more substantial and realistic than in adolescence. In early adolescence, at the age of 16-17, the first serious life plans are created, the time perspective is recognized in a new way and becomes an important factor in personal development. Young people perceive time as contradictory. He feels himself very young, even small, now old, who has experienced everything. A keen sense of the irreversibility of time is combined with the feeling that time has stopped.
In youth, which has a great subjective appeal, the likelihood of a psychological age matching the chronological age is very high. At the same time, age-related identification may depend on social status; did you manage to get an education, get married, and so on in time to achieve “standard” life goals? If a socially significant goal is not achieved, the psychological age may lag behind the chronological.
In maturity, psychological age to a much greater extent depends on the individual characteristics of a person, on the orientation of his personality, the specifics of life goals and their implementation. At the same time, the further development of personality is largely determined, as was noted, by the dynamics of psychological age.
At maturity, all three options are possible, the ratio of psychological age to chronological: adequacy, lag and advancing. However, it should be borne in mind that the content of each of these concepts in relation to maturity is very different from their content in previous ages. At earlier stages of development, adequacy and lagging and advancing are linked with “reliving and living” (A.V. Tolstykh) of a given age, i.e. with completeness of the solution of specific final tasks for him. Not to mention earlier ages, the tasks of both youth (personal and professional self-determination) and youth (mastery of a chosen profession, creating a family) are finite.
Here, the lag of everything is negative, this is a delay in development, and advancing, with rare exceptions (children are “little old people”), has a beneficial effect on personality development. In adulthood, the situation is more complicated and ambiguous. This is due both to the general specificity of the age within which biological aging begins from a certain moment, and to a sharp increase in the importance of individual-personality characteristics.
Anticipating the psychological age chronological at maturity usually means premature aging. Most often this is due to the finiteness of the set and realized life goals, which selects distant prospects. Let us turn to the novel by L.N. Tolstoy "War and Peace."
“There was an oak on the edge of the road ... It was a huge oak tree with two girths, with broken off, long seen females and broken off bark, overgrown with old sores ... He stood between smiling birches by an old, angry and contemptuous freak. Only he alone did not want to submit to charm and did not want to see either spring or the sun.
“Spring, and love, and happiness! - as if this oak spoke. - And how you will not get tired of all the same stupid and senseless deception. All the same, and all deception! There is no spring, no sun, no happiness ... "
Prince Andrei glanced several times at this oak tree, driving through the forest, as if he were expecting something from him. Flowers and grass were under the oak, but he still, frowning, motionless, ugly and stubbornly, stood in the middle of them.
“Yes, he is right, this oak tree is right a thousand times,” thought Prince Andrei, “let others, young ones, succumb to this deception again, and we know life, - our life is over!” A whole new series of thoughts, hopeless, but sad and pleasant in connection with this oak tree arose in the soul of Prince Andrey. During this journey, he seemed to rethink his whole life and came to the same former, reassuring and hopeless conclusion that he did not need to start anything, that he should live out his life without doing evil, without worrying and not wanting anything ".
This passage unusually accurately shows not only the mental state of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, but also the identification phenomenon: the hero, in his 30s, identifies himself with an old oak tree, which has experienced a lot and has no strength for a new heyday. This is precisely age-related identification associated with the assessment of the path traveled (a large psychological past) and the absence of significant prospects (a small psychological future). The psychological age here is much more chronological.
Premature aging is often associated with misfortune - the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, a natural or social disaster (including earthquakes and wars), etc. The novel "War and Peace" shows a sharp and irreversible aging of the mother after the death of her son:
“The countess was lying on a chair, stretching strangely awkwardly, and banging her head against the wall. Sonya and the girls held her hands.
- Natasha! Natasha! .. - the countess shouted. - Not true, not true ... He is lying ... Natasha! She screamed, pushing others away from herself. - Give away everything, untruth! Killed!., Ha ha ha! .. not true!
Natasha knelt on a chair, bent over her mother, hugged her, raised her with unexpected strength, turned her face to herself and pressed herself against her ...
The countess squeezed her daughter's hand, closed her eyes, and fell silent for a moment. Suddenly, she got up with unusual speed, looked around senselessly and, seeing Natasha, began to squeeze her head with all her might. Then she turned her face, wrinkled with pain, and peered at him for a long time.
“Natasha, you love me,” she said in a low, gullible whisper. - Natasha, you will not deceive me? Will you tell me the whole truth? ..
And again, in a powerless struggle with reality, her mother, refusing to believe that she could live when her beloved boy was killed by a blooming life, was saved from reality in a world of madness.
... For three weeks Natasha lived hopelessly with her mother, slept on an armchair in her room, watered, fed her and kept talking to her, she said, because one gentle, caressing voice soothed the countess.
The emotional wound of the mother could not heal. Petit's death tore off half of her life. A month after the news of the death of Petya, who made her a fresh and vigorous fifty-year-old woman, she left her room half dead and not taking part in life - an old woman. ”
Love, creative achievements, in some people - the successes of a loved one or even climbing the career ladder can lead to a movement in the opposite direction - towards psychological youth. A literary illustration of this phenomenon can be the decrease in the psychological age of the same Andrei Bolkonsky, which began after meeting with Natasha, gaining love.
The lag of the psychological age from the chronological can have a different character in maturity.
The type of “eternal youth” is known, which cannot and does not want to grow up. For example, a strong and prolonged lag in psychological age can occur in the case of the symbiotic relationship described above between a mother and an only child. As an adult, he remains passive, helpless and requiring constant care from a loved one - a mother or wife (husband), if he dares to start a family.
People with mature passport age with pronounced features of infantility are most fully and interestingly described by C. Jung: “Very common neurotic disorders of adulthood have something in common: they try to transfer the psychology of the phase of youth through the threshold of adulthood. Who does not know those touching elderly gentlemen, mired in hopeless philistinism, who again and again bring forth the long forgotten student years and, only returning to the past, to their heroic Homeric time, are able to ignite the flame of life? However, they usually have an advantage that cannot be underestimated - they are not neurotics, but for the most part they are just boring and stereotyped people.
Rather, the neurotic is one who has never succeeded in realizing in the present what he would like, and who therefore cannot be happy about the past. Just as before, he could not get rid of his childhood, and now he is not able to get rid of the phase of youth. Probably, he cannot find himself in the gloomy thoughts of aging, and therefore he is looking intensely backward, since looking forward is unbearable for him ... ”
In such cases, the lag of the psychological age leads to the implementation of infantile attitudes of the personality, and the orientation toward long-established stereotypes, the artificial extension of the lifestyle typical of the previous age period, acquires the functions of a protective mechanism.
The nature of the feeling of being younger among active, creative people is completely different. Here, the preservation of a sense of youth is connected with real productive work in the present and significant plans for the future.
If a person “surrenders to the work to which he devoted himself” (V. Frankl), then his work is not connected with the ultimate goals; accordingly, the psychological past, no matter how great, is always smaller than the psychological future. With a creative attitude to his work, new perspectives constantly open up before a person, because the creative process is endless.
In this second case, the “lagging” of psychological age from the passport age, in fact, is not lagging behind: maintaining the traits of youth (long-term prospects, continuous improvement in productivity) does not at all deny the adequacy of psychological age to the main task of maturity - the most complete realization of oneself, the most complete productivity of one’s life . On the contrary, it is performed much more successfully. There is every reason to speak in this case of a higher level of maturity than with just an adequate psychological age.
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