I was spanked as a child. Probably not as often as I needed it, (and less than my brothers), but my mother regularly “put it to me.” I especially remember coming home from church one Sunday after misbehaving. I knew I was going to “get it!” I told my mom, “I won’t do that again.” She responded, “I know you won’t, and I’m going to make sure of it.” And you can imagine what happened after that….
During the course of our life, we have specific tasks that we must accomplish. For example, in childhood our task is to learn CONTROL. We must learn to control our bodily functions; we must learn to sit still and be quiet in church and school. In adolescence, our task is to REBEL. The spankings I received eventually got my attention, and by the time I reached adolescence, I was too afraid to rebel. If we do not accomplish our life tasks at the appropriate stage of life, those tasks will come back to haunt us in later life. (I eventually rebelled when I was in my 40s…and I had the time of my life!)
As we age and our social controls weaken, we become more vulnerable to these unfinished, uncompleted, life tasks. Naomi Feil, who developed the communication method of Validation, has identified a final life task – one she calls RESOLUTION. When we reach old-old age (85+ years), it is a time of reflection. Often, when social controls weaken, and painful memories surface, unfinished business comes to the forefront. In order to accomplish RESOLUTION, a disoriented older adult may substitute other objects or individuals in the present as a representation of events and people from the past. For example, an adult child in the present may “become” a mother from the past.
If that should happen, it’s okay. It is not necessary to correct the aging parent, rather it could be an opportunity to both explore relationships from the past as well as assist Mom in completing her unfinished business. It is not advisable to enter the fantasy, but rather ask questions about the person you have become. (“Tell me about your mom.” “What did you learn from your mom?” “Did your mom ever hurt your feelings?”)
Remember: It is not our job to FIX the disoriented older adult(s) in our lives. It IS our job to LOVE them.
To learn more about Validation Therapy, click here.