One night I was watching a very old black and white film from the 1940’s and noticed that graying, older actors were portraying characters who were supposed to be in their fifties. Fifty was considered old age back then. Of course back in the 40’s Botox hadn’t been invented and not as many women colored their hair or had plastic surgery. However the characters who were supposed to be fifty acted like and dressed like “older folks” rather than the vital fifty-year-olds of today.
A lot has happened since those black and white movies were made. A seventy-year-old friend told me that when she went to her fiftieth college reunion, their motto was “Seventy is the New Fifty!” Her college friends looked great, felt great and were active in mind and body. I recently read an article about aging that reported that the largest growing segment of our population is the group over eighty-five, now labeled the “Old Old.”
Walking on my treadmill a while ago, I noticed that although my body wasn’t able to walk as fast as I used to, my mind felt as young and creative as I did at forty. Looking in the mirror sometimes shocks me because I spend a lot of time feeling much younger than I am and get a jolt when I see my wrinkles. I told myself that if I feel that way, chances are that other aging Seniors must be going through the same challenge.
One of my specialties is working with people over sixty-five, seventy-five or even ninety who are also trying to come to terms with having a young mind in an old body. But one of the issues that are not talked about much is how to keep sexuality alive when the body slows down.
Barbara, a seventy-year old married woman who still worked part time had been married for 35 years to Tom who was seventy-five. Although they were very happy together, one of Barbara’s complaints all through their marriage had been that her husband rarely initiated sex. Tom had a stronger sex drive than she did, and although she enjoyed sex, she resented feeling responsible for being in charge of their sex life since he often felt let down because she wasn’t in the mood as much.
Her frustration increased in her fifties during her menopause when her sex drive disappeared almost completely. Tom still wanted to make love and she was rarely interested. However, because she loved him she was willing to make it happen. She discovered that once she and Tom began foreplay she was able to enjoy herself, yet she rarely thought about making love otherwise. Finally Barbara and Tom sought sex therapy, but nothing changed.
By the time I saw her Barbara had given up on her hope that she would ever feel spontaneous desire for her spouse again, although she continued to create sexual opportunities to please Tom even when she didn’t feel turned on. Tom was happy for the times they were together but would have loved to have much more sex. His age had not dulled his desire, yet he couldn’t overcome his inability to ask for what he wanted. What a sad state of affairs.
I introduced the Phoenix Effect Process to Barbara and asked her to think about her problem with Tom and to share how it made her feel. When Barbara considered the pattern that had been going on for so many years she realized that she felt angry, resentful, guilty, ashamed, powerless, frustrated and hopeless. I asked her to spotlight each emotion separately while performing the Phoenix Effect energy focusing process on that negative emotion until it disappeared completely.
Amazingly, this took less than an hour to do. When we finished, Barbara was surprised that her anger and resentment toward Tom had dissolved without a trace. She found that it was replaced by acceptance of him as he was. She felt great compassion and love for him. Barbara didn’t know what else to expect since the Phoenix Effect Process heals emotions and negative beliefs at a deep level without digging or probing and the outcome might be subtle. Self-defeating behaviors often change too, without effort.
Soon after our session Barbara was astonished when her sex drive reawakened. She felt aroused more often and wanted sex. When she initiated a romantic interlude with her husband she really meant it and didn’t have to try to feel passionate. She was happily surprised that a seventy-year-old could feel so young again. Of course her husband is smiling a lot more these days.
Aging is a challenge if we have pre-existing negative expectations that as we age we become decrepit in our attitudes, desires, and emotions. The Phoenix Effect Process can eliminate them and allow you to truly be young at heart.
I will be presenting a one day Phoenix Effect Process training on June 2, 2011 at the ACEP Energy Psychology Conference in Reston VA.