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An Elders’ Liberation Workshop

I led an Elders’ Liberation Workshop in Virginia (USA). It was preceded by a gather-in on “health and well-being.” I was pleased with what we accomplished.

The gather-in was open to both elders and allies (anyone under fifty). In one demonstration, someone who had dealt with chronic physical pain ended up discharging on early distresses. I talked about how the weakest parts of our bodies “soak up”1 distresses and how discharge can relieve or get rid of pain. Because elders’ oppression is often discouraging in many ways, I aimed for lightness, and lots of laughter resulted.

At the workshop, I said that the following were some key issues in elders’ liberation:

• elders’ oppression and internalized oppression

• health

• fear of dementia

• fear of death and dying

• developing younger allies

In the Saturday morning class we dealt with health issues the participants had brought to discharge on. We focused on building strong relationships (instead of being isolated with our hurts), fighting for ourselves with someone’s attention, and knowing when to discharge and when to seek medical help (while continuing to discharge).

When in pain, many people seek pain pills, a temporary “solution” that only masks the pain. (People in the United States spend more on pain medications than on any other kind. Pain is also the second-most common reason for visiting a doctor.) Pain is mostly fear. When the fear is discharged, not only do our bodies feel better but we also reclaim better functioning. Consistent discharge can sometimes permanently change chronic conditions. (However, it’s not our job as counselors to expect that someone can heal a disability.)

FEAR OF DYING

We accumulate feelings by not discharging thoroughly on deaths, starting from our childhood, and by watching others older than ourselves grieve only partially—never enough.

I asked the question, “If you could imagine for a few minutes that you would never die or have dementia, what goals would you set now?” This brought us to focus on living our lives in the present instead of giving in to the oppressive feeling that “we are getting old and closer to death.” If we live as if we will live forever, not fear or plan for death, our lives will change. We can plan for and live the biggest possible lives in the present. This can include doing work to save and heal the planet. I’ve personally decided to live as full a life as I can every day and not focus (with distress) on the future, except to keep doing what I love. So far it is working well.

FUN

After creativity2 we had a “sock hop”3 dance to the music of the 1950s and 1960s. That brought everyone’s attention way out.4 Faces looked different for the rest of the weekend.

INTERRUPTING ELDERS’ OPPRESSION

Every day we experience elders’ oppression, which can leave us isolated and believing our distress. Nearly everyone has been conditioned by elders’ oppression, so usually no one interrupts it. I talked about the importance of building relationships with younger allies. It’s to their advantage5 to understand and discharge on elders’ oppression, as they are future elders. And it is definitely to our benefit6 to have relationships with people younger than ourselves.

We spent some time figuring out ways to interrupt elders’ oppression. I presented some samples of what people in the wide world utter without thought, and answers that might jiggle7 people’s distresses and hopefully make them think a bit differently. We worked on these in groups of four, and I was pleased when I heard laughter throughout the building. Here are a few examples:

Comment: “You’re seventy (or whatever age)? You don’t look seventy.”

Replies (said in a light and upbeat tone):

 “Yes, I’m in the prime of my life!”

 “Yes, I’m seventy, going on to a healthy and productive hundred and twenty.”

 “Yes, and someday you will get to be seventy!”

 “Seventy is a fabulous age.”

 “I wouldn’t trade my age for anything!

“ . . . and I have more confidence, knowledge, compassion, (and so on), than ever.”

Comment: “I’m getting old.”

Replies:

“I live as if I will never die.”

“My life improves every day as I use all my accumulated knowledge.”

 “These are the best days of my life.”

 “I expect to have a life that continues to move forward in health and productivity.”

Comment: “Here you are, (sweetie, honey, young lady).”

Replies (said lightly and with a smile):

“Do you address men by those same names?”

“Oh, I didn’t know we were in that kind of relationship!”

And we tried taking this direction: I will disregard the negative images, beliefs, and impressions I have been given about ageing and will live my life the way I was intended to—happily, healthily, and productively, now and forever.

Then we had mini-sessions in which we answered the question, “What is the biggest picture of yourself in your future, outside the distress?” and set goals.

Pam Geyer
International Liberation
Reference Person for Elders
Bellaire, Texas, USA


1 “Soak up” means absorb.
2 During creativity, participants share their music, art, writing, and other creative expressions with the workshop.
3 ”Sock hop”: in the 1960s in the United States, teens would get together and dance to popular music in their socks.
4 “Way out” means far away from distress.
5 “To their advantage” means advantageous to them.
6 “To our benefit” means beneficial to us.
7 “Jiggle” means interrupt and contradict.


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00