Ideas that get old: a story to ponder
ideas that get old: Eight elderly people got off the bus. They used to always be covered by their relatives, but not this time. They had to carry the heavy suitcases to the rooms of that secluded house in the middle of the field. When they entered, the television and radio broadcast news from 1959. All the books had been published before that year. And the decoration also referred to that time. These men, in their late seventies and early eighties, began to talk as if they were really in those days. This happened in 1979, so they had traveled back 20 years.
That time travel was actually a research conducted by Ellen J. Langerprofessor of psychology at Harvard. His goal was to see if “turning back the clock” could rejuvenate really those people. These men were evaluated for different health parameters before and after their “stay” in 1959. The results were spectacular. They experienced improvements in hearing, memory, agility, appetite and in their general well-being.
Weeks ago, a woman of about 35 years He told me about his way of the cross. He had been suffering from a strange dermatitis for months. in the hands. Her pilgrimage to specialists hadn’t helped. Her hell was burning on several fronts. At work, she suffered clear mobbing from her new boss, with whom she had had a stormy relationship. When he had not worked for several weeks, his dermatitis subsided, but when he returned it reactivated. What struck me the most about the story was his final question: “Could it be psychological?” His question resonated with me because I think that it is not necessary to be a psychologist to deduce that her dermatitis had a clearly emotional component and yet she did not see it.
If it were discovered how to use the placebo effect, doctors would have a tool without side effects” (Gaspar Hernández)
Still today we differentiate between the mind and the body. As if the mind were outside the body. MRI allows us to see how the brain works. We can observe how different thoughts activate different parts of it. Thought also affects the hormonal and immune systems. A multitude of investigations demonstrate it, but it is not necessary to go to science. We all experience it every day. There are no psychosomatic illnesses, they all are.. Someone could argue that some are not because they are caused by viruses or bacteria, but even in these cases our thoughts play a key role. If we are stressed, our defenses drop and we are more likely to get infected.
The most spectacular thing is not that thoughts affect the body, but the precision with which they do so.
That is, the organism responds exactly to the idea generated by the brain. If a thought is: “These pills are going to make me cough,” we stop expectorating. The body reacts to the content of each belief. This phenomenon is called Placebo effect.
The nocebo effect refers to negative beliefs. For example, if we read the side effects of a drug, we are more likely to suffer them. In 1998, at a Tennessee school, a teacher noticed an odor “like gasoline.” From here he began to complain of headache, nausea, shortness of breath and dizziness. The school was evacuated and the following week over a hundred students and staff developed similar symptoms. Contrary to expectations, no medical explanation was found. Irving Kirsch, from the University of Hull, one of the leading experts on this subject, interpreted it as a large-scale nocebo effect.
To what extent does growing old have something of a mass suggestion? We take it for granted that older people have more ailments. We share the same belief consolidated by the data. Sometimes we find someone 90 years old with an impressive memory, but these cases do not shake our solidified certainty because for us they are “exceptions”.
If we start from the scientifically proven existence of the placebo and nocebo effect, that is, the influence of beliefs on our body, we can begin to think that our certainties about aging (loss of memory, hearing, flexibility…) can cause or accelerate it. Psychologist Becca Levy and her colleagues studied a group of more than 650 people from Oxford, who were asked to weigh in on positive and negative statements about aging. They could agree or not with ideas such as: “Things get worse as I get older”, “As you get older, you feel more useless”. More than two decades later they observed that those who perceived aging more positively lived seven and a half years longer on average.
It is not primarily our physical self that limits us, but our attitude towards our bodily limitations” (Ellen J. Langer)
Ellen J. Langer wanted to see if feeling young or old translates into physical changes. She investigated aspects that can make us feel older or younger. The age of the children affects how we see ourselves. they studied women who had given birth at a later age, who had a higher life expectancy. It was hypothesized that people married to older people would feel older and that the fact that your partner is younger takes years off you. The results indicated that if you feel older because you are married to someone older, your life expectancy is shorter and, on the contrary, it is longer if your partner is younger.
The passing of the years has its consequences, but so do our beliefs. It is difficult to know what percentage each of these two factors contributes to our aging. What is clear is that we can handle our ideas. By saying “I am losing my memory due to age”, “my body can’t take it anymore, it’s age”… we plunge down a great slope. If we attribute these changes to age and not to other factors, we will end up with resignation. There is nothing better to lose mobility, memory… than to stop using them.
“If we open our minds, a world of possibilities opens up” (Ellen J. Langer)
We have to be aware that the old people around us have a lot to do with what we think will be our old age. So better to broaden the margins of our ideas by observing those we believe to be exceptional. It is up to us not to fit the elderly into a narrow idea of old age, making them feel that their years weigh heavily. An advertising slogan read: “The years do not weigh, the kilos weigh.” We could tweak it: “Not only the years weigh, but also our beliefs.”
Source: Jenny Moix Queraltó www.elpais.com
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