My heart was in the right place

When I was young in my early twenties and first began to work in my then chosen career as a social worker, I resented my youthful appearance. I wanted to look older so that people might take me seriously.

‘I would never go to see someone as young as you,’ my mother said repeatedly. She was then not far from the age I am now, and I can understand her point of view better now than I did then.

Then I thought that my youth should not matter at all. Straight out of university and full of good ideas about what might be helpful for other people, I was determined to make my mark on the world.

From where I stand now, I can look back on this young woman and snigger, but I refuse to do so. My heart was in the right place. It still is for the most part, at least I like to think it is, but I have grown wiser, as most of us do with age, and now I know there’s more to a person than their age, despite an almost universal tendency to judge ourselves on the basis of age, among other obvious things, like beauty, race and gender.

Whenever I meet a person I size them up for age almost instantly. I size them up for age almost as soon as I size them up for aspects, such as kindness or cruelty. Is it the look in the eyes, that comes first perhaps, the curve of the mouth, the set of the jaw, subtle hints of how that person might be feeling towards me, and no accounting for how I might be feeling towards them?

I’m often less clear of the vibes I send out. I tend to think they are invisible and that only I know about my internal world, but I know I am wrong in this. At least to some extent.

We all give off vibes to one anther and they travel in both directions. ‘Projections’ is the technical term and of course it all goes back to Freud and his followers, as most of these terms do, though people often want to discount Freud’s work these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a strict Freudian, and there are many things Freud said that have long troubled me, like the suppression of the seduction theory, and his patronising attitudes towards women. But he was a man of his times, Sigmund Freud, and we must not judge the past by present standards, though I often wonder, how else are we to judge them?

64 thoughts on “My heart was in the right place”

  1. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was always mistaken for someone much younger. I also remember people snickering at my ideas. I pledged then that I would never judge a person based on being young. A woman of 20 has just as much to offer as a woman of 60. They both have a story. A young woman may offer fresh ideas and excitement. An older woman may offer experience and sound ideas.
    Judging also holds us back from so much.

  2. I think we can judge Freud by his usefulness to us NOW, as we can judge any other wisdom-of-its-time from the past. And Freud's theories as applied to the world now are pretty much discredited. He's definitely worth reading, but now more as literature rather than as a guide to psychology. Jung has endured and become if anything more relevant, Freud less so.

    As for age, I tend to look at a person's experience rather than their calendar age. I have long been aware that emotional age and calendar age are frequently not in congruence. I know some old souls who are wise even at a young calendar age, and I know plenty of old fools who have lived long years but are still foolish and childish and never grew up. I watch a person's actions. I watch their responses to situations, including crises of various sorts. That tells me a lot more about them than how old they physically are.

    I've met some counseling therapists who are older who I'd trust a lot less than their younger peers, therefore. Age isn't everything.

  3. I agree, Birdie. I try hard not to judge, but sometimes it's instinctive, those questions that tumble through my mind, who are you and where do you fit?

    Thanks, Birdie.

  4. Age isn't everything, Art, as you say, but it's something and it comes into play in uncanny ways.

    There's a subtle ageism that applies in both directions I reckon: the old and the young and so many others in between.

    I have a good friend and I remember years ago when she was in her early fifties, she talked of having become invisible. She is an attractive woman -stunning in her younger days, striking in her eighties.

    She was used to being admired but to her mind it all stopped when she hit fifty.

    This of course is a case of mixing the age myth with the beauty myth.

    I agree with you, Art, calendar age often bears little resemblance to emotional age.

    As for Freud and Jung, I'm not sure that they are in a race for relevance today. To my way of thinking both hold sway, and both are remembered.

    Thanks, Art.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Yolanda.

    Poor old Freud. People either tend to revere him or heckle. But essentially his ideas now matter and they are open to interpretation and re-interpretation. In Freud's day, they were radical.

  6. From a rather dirty old male chauvinist poet (with tongue in cheek): Judging from that very enticing photograph,I would say you were just what the doctor ordered!:)

  7. It's a good idea to think for oneself. Freud is no doubt useful and I read what most people have of him but basically [these philosophers and others are often just too complicated and or airy fairy and abstract] the ticket is to just to think as logically as you can. And to feel, and go with your (one's) feelings..

    If you feel something is right or wrong for you, act accordingly.

    As a young man (in fact I was only about 13 I think) I sometimes envied older people. I remember wanting to have a more wrinkled face as then I would have that mysterious thing called "experience" and "character"! I don't know how long that stage lasted.

    I read something by a psychotherapist. She pointed out that even a very old person, if still in health, and wanting to do so, should treat her or himself to a treat. it could be anything. Even buy new car or plant some more flower, or refurnish ones home, buy some nice clothes, or whatever. Not to think, oh I will be dead in a few years, so what does it matter. It never doesn't matter! Don't buy insurance, buy for yourself: (for me it could be more books! Or possibly a new car (or a new house if I won the Lotto!) or something if I could afford it..) something and keep living as long as you can!

    And you can forget "the striving millions", or all the "disasters", that will never change…

    As to being young, you were beautiful! But that isn't you. You are, as we all are, so much more.

    I think I've cheered myself up!

  8. Thanks for enabling me to see this – really interesting. At my age (62) I realise that I am both better and worse at different aspects of my life than when I was young. For example I'm both more and less patient, depending on the situation. I'm more creative but less inclined to believe in myself about my creativity. I'm more discerning, but less adventurous. I guess that's why I set myself the challenge of doing something different every day for a year.
    By the way the word verification for this post has come up as "galywalm" – what a wonderful word – there must be a definition of it somewhere!

  9. Hello Elisabeth, you look sweet and adorable with a touch of maturity. I had to wiki Sigmund Frued and found him to be most interesting. Today, I wish I look younger than my age!

  10. I think that judgment of people in the first few moments is an automatic, instinctual one, Freud-inspired or otherwise.

    I'm not even sure how or what I'm assessing – be it age, attractiveness, face shape, physical stance etc – yet somehow a basic opinion is formed almost immediately.

    What intrigues me is how those first inklings are more often than not the right ones…..

  11. I think a lot of woman-older, younger and in-between–would kill to look the way you did in that picture. Yes, yes, I know looks aren't everything, and in your case you obviously have brains to go with the looks. I'm just sayin'.

    As for whether Freud should be judged by today's standards or not, well, if you want him to remain RELEVANT, then, yeah, he should.

  12. Ah, that age-old worry of being too young or too old for our age and being judged on that criterion alone. Just knowing how much younger people can do with technology keeps me from jumping to conclusions.

    I saw first hand last July, after my son's death, how all those young people came together to build something out of nothing, organized themselves with one request on Facebook, and off they went to make the project come together in just a week! Yes, I could see that they were young and inexperienced in many things; but, what they lacked in experience, they made up with communication skills and sheer energy!

    A very important topic.

  13. The trouble is that the older I get the younger everyone else looks. There was a Police Superintendent (woman) on TV the other day and she looked as though she was still in the sixth form. Age is all in the mind anyway. (and the knees in my case)

    The word verification is cogityboo which somehow has a Freudian ring to it don't you think?

  14. As I once said when my husband and I were trying to kiss and our three year old daughter was standing between us with a hand on each of our groin areas trying to push us apart: "That old Freud got SOME things right."

  15. I'm not an authority on it, but I do believe I get back what I give, in terms of vibes, and I do enjoy the spark of life in the eyes of others, whatever their age. Your young eyes had that spark.

  16. My DIL(20's)is a social worker and sometimes I worry that she is a bit too fragile. She has the heart and soul of a carer and advocate and was raised with a keen social conscience, but I worry about some of the stories she will need to hear and wish she could wait a few more lifetimes before taking it on.
    I will admit that somewhere along the way (not too sure when) I have become very ageist in my attitudes and doubt the ability of someone much younger to be able to wear my shoes.
    I have found it particularly difficult to talk about my family and childhood with my children, yet I know it must be done. They are slowly taking on pieces of information and I know eventually the whole picture will appear.
    Karen C

  17. Oh I remember feeling too young to be a nurse. The men asking for the more mature staff made me feel useless at times. Then I learned to listen more than speak and found my niche. The patients learned to trust me and my actions.

    I tend to sit back and watch how others treat their fellow man. Then I dismiss or befriend.

  18. You know, Vassilis, when I was the person portrayed in my photograph, at some 23 years of age, I felt nothing like what the doctor had ordered.

    Strange how perception can change over time.

    Not so bad, my younger self, I think now, but, as I say that's not how I thought then. Ugly I thought then. Sad to remember that perception now.

    Thanks Vassilis.

  19. I'm glad you cheered yourself up with your bountiful post, Richard. You cheered me up, too. All this talk of youth and beauty in preference to age is so sad and pointless.

    It's all skin deep, and as you say there's so much more to us as people.

    The idea of treating ourselves from time to time in spite of our age is also a valuable reminder that we should not wither too much in our minds at least even as our bodies begin to give way.

    Thanks, Richard.

  20. The last psychologist I went to see was probably about forty and admitted – quite unprofessionally in my opinion – that I intimidated her. Because of her admission I judged her and found her wanting. (I paused at this juncture to ask Carrie and she agrees I am judgemental, of everything, especially myself, and am invariably disappointed with most things because, before I ever get round to judging anything, I have already set standards that will ensure its failure.) I don’t suffer fools gladly; court jesters excepted. I expect a professional to be professional be they in the psychiatric field or a TV repairman. The bloke who came to upgrade our TV and Internet service this week knew his stuff even if he didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘series’ properly – every time he said ‘serious’ for some reason. My wife and I found that an amusing mannerism but the important thing, the thing he was there to do, he did efficiently with minimum disruption and maximum courtesy.

    I would like to think that I don’t make snap judgements. Of course we all make preliminary judgements but they’re open to subsequent revision once all (or sufficient) facts are known and I’m never too proud to say my initial assessment was wrong.

    My last doctor was a young woman who was doing her first year as a GP – our practice is a teaching practice and every year we have a new batch of rookies – but I took to her immediately even though it was obvious that she lacked experience and confidence and I was gutted when she left; it was she who treated me at the beginning of my illness and I couldn’t have asked for more sensitive treatment. My doctor now is one of the permanent staff members with years of experience and there’s nothing wrong with him but I preferred her. So there are obviously some extenuating circumstances where I’ll not go for the jugular. I have to hold my hand up and confess that I have in the past been swayed by a pretty face or curvaceous figure but that was not the case here and, frankly, I’m getting a bit old for all of that now.

    I’m not sure about how good I am picking up on vibes. Apparently one of my trainees had the hots for me and it took Carrie to tell me; I was oblivious to the signs. I knew she liked me – I liked her (she was very likeable) – but it’s always surprised me when women have looked at me that way. I suppose a vainer guy might veer the other way and assume that everyone fancies him. Either way despite being a sensitive person my vibe-o-meter is not calibrated that way; I’m not attuned to subtlety. I’m a plain speaker and I expect others to be. As I’ve said so many times: Say what you have to say and get off the page.

  21. More or less patient, Huriena, more creative, less confident in your creativity, more discerning and less adventurous: all these mixtures over time.

    That's the way it is for all of us I expect, but if you can see it you have not ossified the way some do.

    And the intention to do something new every day is quite a challenge. I'm not sure I could manage it.

    I also enjoy the way our word verification constellation can come up with new and exciting words that by some uncanny coincidence can sometimes match our moods, thoughts or ideas for each particular post.

    Thanks, Huriena.

  22. I agree: it is so hard to eliminate or at least to relax judgement as you say, Steven but it is often the only way to arrive at new perspectives, as you seem to do regularly in your blog.

    Thanks, Steven.

  23. Now Freud is an interesting man, Fazlisa, commonly recognised in the so-called Western world.

    It's quite something for me to talk to someone who chooses to wiki him.

    It's one of those basic and false assumptions I can easily make, namely that everyone knows of Freud and of course there are zillions who don't. And you're not alone in wishing you looked younger.

    Thanks, Fazlisa.

  24. I suppose, Kirk we need to think again about Freud's ideas and not just judge them as they stood years ago. His society was so different from today's societies, across the board.

    But one thing that Freud brought to the fore, for which I continue to admire him is the notion that we all have unconscious parts of our minds that are hard if not impossible to access. Not that he was the first to consider this, but in the western world, as far as I know, he began to pay it particular attention.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  25. I agree, Kath, our first inklings of people are often the ones we stick with over time. And I'm sure that there are many things, often unconscious, and not just age, on which we base our judgments, including those good old pheromones.

    Thanks, Kath.

  26. The age and generation divide is important, Rosaria, as you say, and it can get in the way.

    As for your experience after your son's death, I'm glad you were able to see first hand how helpful those who are so much younger than us can be in a crisis and in times of grief.

    Very good friends of ours lost their son when he was only twenty three, without warning and his friends have continued to be in contact with the parents of this lovely boy ever since. More than five years later these young people have continued to support their friend's parents in ways none of us oldies have been able to do. They give them hope for the future.

    Thanks for reminding us, Rosaria, of the things that really matter.

  27. Most of the word verification constellations can have a Freudian ring, Pat. To me they are something like Rorschach tests to me. You know, those old ink blots into which we project all manner of imaginings that are supposed to say something about us

    I know what you mean about people who are young continuing to look even younger. It's the stuff of aging, but it's okay. We all get a turn if we're lucky to live long enough.

    Thanks, Pat.

  28. I'm inclined to agree Ms Moon about the significance of the so-called oedipal conflicts we all go through in relation to our parents. The terrible triangles that can leave us feeling excluded if we're not part of the couple, if we feel we are the third wheel. To me it's inevitable to some extent.

    Thanks, Ms Moon.

  29. There is a nobility to social work but I'm still taken by my husband's joke to me when we first met and I told him I was a social worker.

    'Social workers are mawkish dabblers in the dirty washing of others,' he said.

    I suspect there are some who might agree, but still I think it deserves some qualification as do all the generalisations and jokes that people make about any professional group.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  30. It's late. I'm tired and I meant to address the comment above to the redoubtable, Laoch, who I believe, like my husband was/is a lawyer.

    Therefore, Laoch, I repeat my husband's joke when we first met: 'Social workers are mawkish dabblers in the dirty washing of others,' he said.

    I suspect there are some who might agree, but still I think it deserves some qualification as do all the generalisations and jokes that people make about any professional group.

    Thanks, Laoch.

  31. One day, Karen, while I was still a young social worker I told one of my older brothers about the fact that I made home visits as part of my job. He was horrified. What happens if i met someone dangerous. I was too young to consider the potential dangers myself at the time. I do now.

    I think of this when you mention the possible fragility of your DIL, and your own reservations about the innocence of those younger than ourselves.

    But our children, Karen, especially as adults are a different kettle of fish. I'm of the view that they need to know about their parents' pasts as far as is possible because otherwise it can have untold effects that creep across generations in subtle and often unclear ways.

    Good on you for beginning to attempt that important communication. Hopefully your children will be able to receive it in the spirit you intend.

    Thanks, Karen.

  32. It's a horrible feeling, isn't it, Glynis, when we are told we are too young to be of assistance.

    It's equally horrible when we are told, not necessarily in words though in other ways, that we are too old.

    Ageism cuts both ways.

    Thanks, Glynis.

  33. I enjoy frankness in a person, Jim. I prefer to know where I stand, but I don't like cruel and gratuitous insults for the purpose of intimidating others.

    I agree it was probably not helpful of your psychologist or any other health professional who's trying to relate to you to say that you intimidate him or her. It's like blaming you for some difficulty instead of perhaps looking at the difficulties if they did in fact exist as a function of the two of you.

    Certainly there are those who intimidate me and I'd let myself know about it but as for how I'd relay the intimidation I'd think it'd be more helpful to wonder about what might be going on in the relationship that causes such anxiety in the room.

    Intimidation exists between people. Bullies and the bullied are closely connected in strange ways and it takes outsiders to intervene, and put a stop to bullying. Not that you were bullying your psychologist, though you in turn might have felt bullied by her and the accusation of intimidation.

    As for making judgements about people that turn out to be made too soon, and incorrectly, I've often done that.

    I tell myself now to delay deciding whether someone is worth connecting with or not. I often find people change for the better or the worse on getting to know them. More often though in my experience they change for the better.

    It does not surprise me that Carrie reckons you're judgmental. As I've said before you remind me of Gerald Murnane and he, too, does not suffer fools gladly, though underneath the occasional gruffness he has a soft heart and is also very vulnerable.

    Thanks, Jim.

  34. I'd agree, Christine, my husband's sense of humour is one of his first ways of trying to connect with people, especially when he likes them. And, needless to say, he did manage to impress me.

    Thanks, Christine.

  35. Some people are old when they're children, others are still child-like in their mature years. A lively intelligence keeps the brain elastic and makes the inevitable wrinkles less obvious.

  36. I love this post and I laughed. When I first began to teach … I was mistaken for a pupil I looked so young … and the pupils were about eight years old!!

  37. enjoyed your perspective. thinking our vibes are invisible is an interenting thought. When I focus I focus totally, when I read the computer screen I squint, these two aspects (and probably other invisible ones) have gotten me into so much trouble – at work coworkers who came to me with a problem thought I was 'angry' at them… finally I had to learn to take my hands off the keyboard, turn my focus outward, put a smile on my face – then turn towards them to give an answer….

  38. Peggy left teaching and became a nurse because teenage boys were more interested in dating her than in learning from her. (She was even asked to leave two teachers' lounges by teachers who thought she was a student.) Such things are unfair yet understandable. Of course, age prejudice is even harsher in the other direction–especially in the case of women due to the fact that their perceived worth is, in many quarters, more dependent upon a youthful appearance.

  39. Janice, I agree in that strange process whereby some folks are old as children and others never seem to age, at least not in their minds, and not necessarily as a bad thing.

    Thanks, Janice.

  40. To be mistaken for an eight year old suggests you looked very young, Aguja. It must have been hard then, but presumably time has caught up with you as it has with me. No one mistakes us for youngsters anymore.

    Thanks, Aguja.

  41. It's extraordinary, Ginger how a squint can become a frown and then be mistaken as a sign of anger.

    We can get the vibes we give and that others send very wrong, as you say. I suspect that it takes time to really get to know one another, however accurate first hunches might be.

    Thanks, Ginger.

  42. There is a deep unfairness in judging people on the basis of age, Snow, whatever direction we go in – too old or too young. And I agree with you, in may ways women have a harder time as a rule because of the myth of feminine beauty, though that might be changing.

    Thanks, Snow.

  43. How else are we to judge them?

    That is a really good question.

    There used to be so much prejudice towards women, other races, religions etc . . . that I think it's hard for someone like me to fully understand how it was.

    In short, it's all too easy to judge historical figures by my modern values. And it really isn't fair.

  44. Hi Elisabeth,

    Thanks for visiting my blog ! I think I got Popps sea sick when he too came to visit 🙂

    There is something perplexing about how body language, facial expression, and mannerisms project a tell to others. Good poker players are very good at reading others little idiosyncrasies and gestures. Avoiding deception by insincere actors requires not only observing carefully but also the use of experience which is where age becomes an advantage as long as the mind and senses stay sharp. There are also instincts at work to help decipher the subtle cues of the visible and invisible world in front of us .


  45. Good to see you here, Angela. I think it's so hard to put ourselves into the shoes of those who are unfamiliar to us both over time and in temperament.

    To me it's one of the reasons why blogging is a useful endeavour and also the exploration of our history however biased, our own and others.

    Thanks, Angela.

  46. It's good to see you here, Greg. I'm not sure how long it took me to detect a note of insincerity in Serge's email. About thirty seconds perhaps. I wanted to believe it was true: all that flattery.

    But as you suggest, age and experience can help us to be wary of such foolhardiness.

    Thanks, Greg.

  47. Thank you Elisabeth for your comment on my blogg! You are very talented with words. Funny, that Serge brought people from different parts of the world together. Wonder if he's aware of this?

  48. I noticed a too perfect structure to Serge's email which sent me straight to google for a search. It took only seconds to discover the same email had been sent to many blogs in an effort to promote an employment web sight. Artificial intelligence is starting to scare me a little. Kind of like Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Serge's software author knows how to use flattery to massage the ego. It is sort of neat in an odd way how electronic cyber randomness connected our blogs.

  49. Hi dear Elisabeth How are you? What a gorgeous young woman you were and with the passion young people should have. I love teenagers. Although they are hard work. It is through we become wiser over the years but we also loose a bit of the passion of youth which is a petty. I agree with you that there is more than a person than age. I am for example amazed with my daughter She is so wise and mature. The opposite of what I was on that age. I think age a just a small factor. About projections I think it is a big thing People do it all the time. Thanks for your interesting post

  50. Somehow, Cecilia, I doubt that Serge – if he really exists – has noticed the folks he has brought together from all over the world. I suspect that he or his representatives, even those that are computer-driven are off in other parts of the world trying to drum up more business.

    It's lovely to see you here. Thanks, Cecilia.

  51. I agree, Greg, artificial intelligence is scary in the sense that we humans can be seduced by it, but you and I and others it seems can tell almost instantly that there is a formulaic quality to Serge's words. They lack the touch of human disorder, however convincing they might seem a first glance.

    Thanks again, Greg.

  52. I agree, Greg, artificial intelligence is scary in the sense that we humans can be seduced by it, but you and I and others it seems can tell almost instantly that there is a formulaic quality to Serge's words. They lack the touch of human disorder, however convincing they might seem a first glance.

    Thanks again, Greg.

  53. Good to see you again, Marja. Age is just one of those things we all learn to live with, and, as you say, it can be deceptive. I too am amazed by the maturity of my daughters compared to how I was at their age.

    Thanks, Marja.

  54. Nice to meet you too! I like and can relate to this piece. "My heart was in the right place" Being useful and
    helpful is important! Thanks.

  55. I vaguely remember the same thoughts. I used to hate it when men would whistle and stare. "Look me in the eye, asshole!" Now I wonder what I was thinking. The trick is to keep the idealism along with the wisdom. And I am a great believer in intuition. Thanks for visiting me, Elisabeth.

  56. There are some who think it's not enough that 'your heart is in the right place' Izzy, but to me it's akin to the notion that it's good enough if we do our best in what ever trying circumstances we might find ourselves.

    Thanks, Izzy.

  57. When I was a young girl on the cusp of woman hood, Yvonne, I hated those wolf whistles. they frightened me, but through some corner of my mind I also felt the compliment. The worst was when i walked along the street with my mother and felt her disapproval. Was it of me or of them?

    These can be troublesome issues in our youth but then as we age, as you say, they can take on different shapes and forms.

    Thanks, Yvonne.

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