Monday, January 16, 2012

my theory of the mind-body dysynchrony of aging

there is a common thread to my interactions with people as they age.  they say things like, 'why am i so tired?', 'why do i need to take a nap after lunch?,  'but i don't feel xx (insert any age over say 40 or so).'  when they use the term 'i' they are not referring to their physical selves, they are referring to everything else, call it your mind, your soul, your essence or being, or whatever else describes the non-physical you.  the older you become, the wider the chasm that seems to develop between your physical self and your non-physical self.

so here is my theory:  unlike our bodies, that are only ever one age at a given point in time, our non-body selves are every age we've ever been or at least can remember being.  even at eighty, when our bodies are clearly and irrevocably 80 years old (except maybe that knee replacement), we are still the flirty teenager that fell in love with her high school sweetheart, or the young man that went to war.  we actually forget at times what age our bodies have become, at least until they gently remind us.

as an extension of this, i believe it is a mistake, made easily in medicine when the focus of the work is so often in the here and now, so embedded in the physical self, to look at someone at 67 or 75 and see only the 67 year-old or the 75 year-old.  it is much more fun and interesting to see the deeper, broader person that they are, the every-year-old in them.  so that is what i try to do.  and i hope some day that someone will do the same for me.


  1. I love this post, Beth! I actually practice this thinking often. When I am in a meeting with a group of people. I like to think about who they were at 12 or 18. I can usually visualize their young selves - or so I think. I also do try to see more elderly people as younger than they are.

    Well written and I too, hope the same.

  2. Beth, you are absolutely right about this. In becoming who we are we incorporate all of what we were. Generally this is comforting and enabling, until the 18 year old soul tries to do something in a 70 year old body. But at 72, I wouldn't have it any other way.

  3. You see it when you engage people about what they've done in their life. Just yesterday one of my COPD patients, with oxygen going and trying to get better to be able to go home, talked to me a little about what he'd done for a living for over 30 years -- driving car haulers, those monster trucks that carry cars to dealers. He was a younger self right before my eyes.

  4. Connie Brunkow, DVMJanuary 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Awesome thoughts and they seem true to me as well. My 60 year old body is no way in sync with my ageless mind and spirit!!