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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Price of the Fear of Fading: Some Thoughts on Resistance to Taking the Role of Female Elder from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

The future of our work rests completely in the hands, minds and hearts of our next generation. In my mind, the role of elder is critical to the development, support and care of this aspect of future through the transmissions of wisdom and authority within formal prote?ge? relationships. Transmission also occurs through an elder attitude and stance, which can empower 'accidental proteges,' who are learning by observing how we take up a key role in their development. Like any intergenerational transmission, what we teach will have consequences in what they teach.This paper suggests that the role of elder is a developmental stage competency that most of us, women and men alike, approach in a state of ambivalence. The stage is associated with an unwelcome return of identity crises, which we fear may overwhelm and diminish the delights that seniority and eldership can bring. One can find one's self in the state of resistance to engaging the complexities and challenges involved in inhabiting the role of elder, and can become more preoccupied with staving off shifts in self-perception - with indifferent, muted or no awareness of the intergenerational impact of this developmental struggle. My experience of working with female patients, female clients, as well as my experience of close friends and myself, tells me that some of us women may exhibit and experience this role resistance in a particular way. A woman patient of mine coined a phrase for this state some years ago. It had tremendous resonance with me, and it clarified some fuzzy thinking that I was having about patients and clients who were and are my age mates. She described the state as: Being in the throes of a 'Fear of Fading' Unlike other fears associated with senior development, 'Fear of Fading' can be thought of as a 'fear of living,' a dread of having to continue on with an altered sense of self, as regarded by oneself and from altered cues coming from the rest of one's external world. The fear manifestations, themselves, can have tremendous impact on actual proteges and can be a significant deterrent to one's being alive to opportunities to transmit wisdom or to transmit authority to 'accidental' proteges.This paper attempts to tease out the issues, and to demonstrate the effects of a 'fear of fading' through avignette from consulting practice and from my personal experience; To develop some hypotheses to normalize understanding of the transitions through thisstage-related resistance to growth and to develop some thoughts on working through the resistance to being a womanelder that we may use for ourselves and throughout our work with women; and where it might apply, to our work with men.