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Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Transformation of Concerns Over the Lifespan


The human lifespan can be seen as one of endless, though transforming, concern. Such concern presents as problems that just as easily can be viewed as opportunities. Taking the lifespan, then, the following is a description of typical concerns, noting the transformative phenomena.
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When a baby is born all its wants and needs and desires are directed at its parent(s). The carer has primary responsibility. The infant’s concern is physical—nourishment is primary, as is shelter, and most of all—implying a higher concern—love.
From toddling to early school-age there is the growing social concern. Fitting in becomes important, and this concern is a broad one that will transform for the rest of the person’s life. This is multi-dimensional. Family, community, and the interaction with authority—these are just three that this child must learn to incorporate. So much capacity for the incorporation of ensuing concerns is set at this time period.
School-age may be the first period where the social concern meets with rocky ground. There are encounters with the bully, with the hard-to-please teacher or coach (who have too many concerns for themselves), and situations of competition that cause stress. Increasing through the years, at this point, is the propensity for exposure. The child within may grow to resent times of embarrassment and humiliation to which all are exposed.
The teenage years are a mixture of concerns; these are the first of the truly confusing years. There is the juggling of notions for maturity and immaturity, for the growing brain and those complexities, particularly behavioural ones, and the growing fight between compliance and rebellion. The first demands of the world so far as employment now need to be conceived. There are dynamics of changing relationships with parents, with friends, the culture and world, and even with partners. Concerns are many, varied, large and complex.
The early adult years may be the culmination of these teen-period concerns. Already comparisons are made regarding success and failure. But the concern of competition may endure, more or less, for the rest of the lifespan, and can perhaps be seen better, now, in retrospect. Satisfying an employer and creating a life are primary concerns. Balancing budgets and satisfying a multiplicity of life stakeholders—bosses, banks, parents and friends, and our independent needs, to name a few.
The mid-adult years are where the concern for ambition gains traction. At the peak of our performance—with the brain now fully wired/mature for performance—we sense that now is the time—in our 28–35 age bracket—to take the world by storm. Often, paradoxically, this is the time of burnout. We begin to prove to ourselves, at the end of this period, we are not superhuman after all.
As the midlife years commence the growing concern is for meaning in life; not just “what have we achieved?” but “what purpose do we have?” Family concerns become more fully formed as our children grow and gradually become adults themselves. At this stage we might be on our third or fourth career. Work seems, perhaps, a little less important. Life is a little more balanced, or it least the concern for balance receives more hearing. About this time there is a concern for change-of-life; both genders, male and female, are involved. This is not just a physical process.
The later midlife years can be seen, by many, as the best years of life. Concern has transformed again from the direct concerns of one’s own life to the superintending concern, for instance, in grandparenthood. With an indirect level of concern within the family there are direct concerns for health; cancer is an obvious threat. Ill-health and more acquaintance with the medical fraternity, perhaps, become the norm. We begin going to more funerals than weddings.
The senior years can be a real mixed bag, as is life in general. The need of the senior—their primary concern—is now family. As life swings full circle the nurture of family and the needs of harmony are crucial now. Health, again, is the overriding concern. How much more life can be extracted? Are great-grandchildren a possibility, and, can they be enjoyed? Is there a last opportunity to do those things we wish to do before incapacity overcomes us? These are also the evaluative years: how well have our lives stacked up? Hopefully we will not be too cruel in our assessment; kind enough to understand we did the best we could with what we had.
Old-age is the place of withering and shrivelling, as the person prepares to become one with the earth (physically) and at one with eternity (spiritually). The concern is preparation for death, and this concern is shared, in different ways, for the person and their family affected. Children of the old-aged bear the burden of their parents if they are responsible and loving, just as their parents bore the burden of their children if they were responsible and loving. The family dynamic is the key concern. There are results sprinkled all through the continuum from full support to total neglect.
When death comes concerns, of this life, end. Yet, there is always a concern left behind. The one that loves will think of these concerns left behind and leave what legacy they can.
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Concern is an everlasting theme through the lifespan. Never do we feel totally free of worldly concerns that weigh us down. These concerns just transform through the years and periods of our lives.
Taking gently the concerns of our existence is the key to enjoying life. The concerns we may not escape, but we can accept them in our humour and in our love.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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