ZOOMER Magazine - - VITALITY -

FOR REA­SONS I don’t fully com­pre­hend, I have al­ways been in­trigued by the sud­den and dra­matic per­son­al­ity change sto­ry­line (though only one in which the changee is ul­ti­mately re­deemed). Re­gard­ing Henry and The Doc­tor were two ob­jec­tively medi­ocre movies that were re­leased in 1991 and had sim­i­lar plots: busy/cut­throat/ heart­less lawyer/doc­tor (Har­ri­son Ford and Wil­liam Hurt, re­spec­tively) finds his heart/soul/mean­ing of life/true love after a gun­shot to the head/life-threat­en­ing tu­mour.

Maybe it was the mes­sage of these sto­ries – trite as they may have been – that ap­pealed to me: that all is not lost; we’re not cast in stone. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. But when it comes to fun­da­men­tal change in mid­dle age and be­yond, is any­thing pos­si­ble? Sig­mund Freud cer­tainly didn’t think so, claim­ing that peo­ple over 50 weren’t ca­pa­ble of it as their brains lack the plas­tic­ity of youth. Wil­liam James didn’t think so. In his 1890 book, The Prin­ci­ples of Psy­chol­ogy, the Har­vard psy­chol­o­gist fa­mously stated, “In most of us, by the age of 30, the char­ac­ter has set like plas­ter and will never soften again.”

Nat­u­rally, most char­ac­ter for­ma­tion oc­curs in the ear­lier stages of life. The brain is its most plas­tic and con­tin­ues to form un­til about the mid-20s. By the age of 30, we’re pretty much who we’re go­ing to be, as James in­di­cated. Who that is has been partly de­ter­mined by our genes and partly by the en­vi­ron­ment we’ve in­hab­ited – re­mem­ber that whole na­ture-ver­sus-nur­ture de­bate? The jury’s still out on how much of us is a re­sult of which, but both in­flu­ence who we be­come.

Ob­vi­ously, there are changes that oc­cur in mid­dle age and be­yond as our cir­cum­stances change. When the kids move out, when we cut back on work, when we go through menopause and an­dropause, when our par­ents die, when we face health prob­lems of our own – all of the

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