Advertisement

Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 155–165 | Cite as

Complex Thought and Construction of the Self in the Face of Aging and Death

  • Jan D. Sinnott
Article

Abstract

Awareness of our own aging and eventual death demands a re-construction of our sense of self. This article offers a theoretical exploration of the process by which this adaptive re-construction might take place to avoid a potential developmental crisis. The discussion utilizes ideas from study on existential psychology, ambiguous loss, complex thought, and wisdom and spiritual traditions.

Keywords

Cognition Aging Identity Adult development Death 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Much of this study was based on the years of research I performed with the support of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), beginning with my postdoctoral training there. I am grateful to the Gerontology Research Center (GRC) there, and the volunteers of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and others who were my research respondents.

References

  1. Boss, P. (1999). Ambiguous loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Boss, P. (2006). Loss, trauma and resilience: Therapeutic work with ambiguous loss. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  3. Cartwright, K. B., Galupo, M. P., Tyree, S. D., & Jennings, J. G. (2009). Reliability and validity of the Complex Postformal Thought Questionnaire: Assessing adults’ cognitive development. Journal of Adult Development, this issue, doi: 10.1007/s10804-009-9055-1.
  4. Dennett, D., & Hofstadter, D. (Eds.). (2000). The mind’s “I”. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  5. Erikson, E. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  6. Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s search for meaning. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Frankl, V., & Kimble, M. (1989). A conversation with Dr. Frankl. Chicago: Terra Nova Films (Videorecording).Google Scholar
  8. Galupo, M. P., Cartwright, K. B., & Savage, L. S. (2009). Cross-category friendships as a context for Postformal cognitive development. Journal of Adult Development, this issue.Google Scholar
  9. Hofstadter, D. (2007). I am a strange loop. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. (1958). The growth of logical thinking from childhood to adolescence. New York: Basic Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jennings, J. L. G., Galupo, M. P., & Cartwright, K. B. (2009). The role of Postformal cognitive development in death acceptance. Journal of Adult Development, this issue.Google Scholar
  12. Johnson, L. (1991). Bridging paradigms: The role of a change agent in an international technical transfer project. In J. Sinnott & J. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Bridging paradigms: Positive development in adulthood and cognitive aging (pp. 59–72). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, L. (1994). Nonformal adult learning in international development projects. In J. D. Sinnott (Ed.), Interdisciplinary handbook of adult lifespan learning (pp. 203–217). Connecticut: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  14. Johnson, L. (2004). Postformal thinking in the workplace. Invited monograph, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  15. Jung, C. (1930/1971). The stages of life. In J. Campbell (Ed.), The portable Jung. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  16. Jung, C. G. (1943). On the psychology of the unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, & G. Adler (Eds.), Jung, collected works (Vol. 7). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Laurel.Google Scholar
  18. Rogers, D. R. B. (1989). The effect of dyadic interaction and marital adjustment on cognitive performance in everyday logical problem solving. Doctoral dissertation, Utah State University, Logan.Google Scholar
  19. Rogers, D., Sinnott, J., & Van Dusen, L. (1991, July). Marital adjustment and social cognitive performance in everyday logical problem solving. Paper presented at the Sixth Adult Development Conference, Boston.Google Scholar
  20. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sinnott, J. D. (1981). The theory of relativity: A metatheory for development? Human Development, 24, 293–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sinnott, J. D. (1984). Postformal reasoning: The relativistic stage. In M. Commons, F. Richards, & C. Armon (Eds.), Beyond formal operations (pp. 298–325). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  23. Sinnott, J. D. (1989). Lifespan relativistic Postformal Thought. In M. Commons, J. Sinnott, F. Richards, & C. Armon (Eds.), Beyond formal operations I (pp. 239–278). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  24. Sinnott, J. D. (1991a). Limits to problem solving: Emotion, intention, goal clarity, health, and other factors in Postformal Thought. In J. D. Sinnott & J. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Bridging paradigms: Positive development in adulthood and cognitive aging. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  25. Sinnott, J. D. (1991b). What do we do to help John? A case study of everyday problem solving in a family making decisions about an acutely psychotic member. In J. D. Sinnott & J. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Bridging paradigms: Positive development in adulthood and cognitive aging (pp. 203–220). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  26. Sinnott, J. D. (1993). Use of complex thought and resolving intragroup conflicts: A means to conscious adult development in the workplace. In J. Demick & P. M. Miller (Eds.), Development in the workplace (pp. 155–175). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  27. Sinnott, J. D. (1994a). Development and yearning: Cognitive aspects of spiritual development. Journal of Adult Development, 1, 91–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sinnott, J. D. (1994b). Interdisciplinary handbook of adult life span learning. Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  29. Sinnott, J. D. (1996). The development of complex reasoning: Postformal Thought. In F. Blanchard-Fields & T. Hess (Eds.), Perspectives on cognitive change in adulthood and aging. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  30. Sinnott, J. D. (1997). Brief report: Complex Postformal Thought in skilled research administrators. Journal of Adult Development, 4(1), 45–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sinnott, J. D. (1998a). Creativity and Postformal Thought. In C. Adams-Price (Ed.), Creativity and aging: Theoretical and empirical approaches. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Sinnott, J. D. (1998b). The development of logic in adulthood: Postformal Thought and its applications (Plenum Series on Adult Development, J. Demick, Ed.). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  33. Sinnott, J. D. (2000). Cognitive aspects of unitative states: Spiritual self-realization, intimacy, and knowing the unknowable. In M. E. Miller & A. N. West (Eds.), Spirituality, ethics, and relationship in adulthood: Clinical and theoretical explorations (pp. 177–198). Madison, CN: Psychosocial Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sinnott, J. D. (2002). Postformal Thought and adult development: Living in balance. In J. Demick & C. Andreoletti (Eds.), Adult development. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  35. Sinnott, J. D. (2003). Teaching as nourishment for complex thought. In N. L. Diekelmann (Ed.), Teaching the practitioners of care: New pedagogies for the health professions (pp. 232–271). Interpretive studies in healthcare and the human services series. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sinnott, J. D. (2004a, March). Feeling connected, spirituality, and adult development: A new theory of their interrelationships. Invited paper presented at the Annual Conference on Research and Spirituality, Loyola College, Columbia, MD.Google Scholar
  37. Sinnott, J. D. (2004b). Learning as a humanistic dialogue with reality; new theories that help us teach the whole person: Context of learning and complex thought: Implications for modern life. Invited monograph, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  38. Sinnott, J. D. (2004c). Learning as a humanistic dialogue with reality; new theories that help us teach the whole person: Complex Postformal Thought and its relation to adult learning, life span development, and the new sciences. Invited monograph, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  39. Sinnott, J. D. (2005). The dance of the transforming self: Both feelings of connection and complex thought are needed for learning. In M. A. Wolf (Ed.), Adulthood: New terrain (pp. 27–37). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  40. Sinnott, J. D. (2006). Spirituality as “feeling connected with the transcendent”: Outline of a transpersonal psychology of adult development of self. Religion, Spirituality, and the Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 287–308.Google Scholar
  41. Sinnott, J. D. (2008a). Cognitive and representation development in adults. In K. B. Cartwright (Ed.), Literacy processes: Cognitive flexibility in learning and teaching (pp. 42–70). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  42. Sinnott, J. D. (2008b). Humanistic psychology, learning, and teaching the “whole person”. I-manager’s Journal of Educational Psychology, 1(4), 55–63.Google Scholar
  43. Sinnott, J. D. (2009a). Cognitive development as the dance of adaptive transformation. In M. C. Smith & N. DeFratis-Densch (Eds.), Handbook of research on adult development and learning (pp. 103–134). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Sinnott, J. D. (2009b). Coherent themes: Individuals’ relationships with God, their early childhood experiences, their bonds with significant others, and their relational delusions during psychotic episodes all have similar holistic, existential and relational themes. Journal of Adult Development, this issue.Google Scholar
  45. Sinnott, J. D., & Berlanstein, D. (2006). The importance of feeling whole: Learning to “feel connected”, community, and adult development. In C. H. Hoare (Ed.), Oxford handbook of adult development and learning. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Sinnott, J. D., & Cavanaugh, J. (Eds.). (1991). Bridging paradigms: Positive development in adulthood and cognitive aging. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  47. Sinnott, J. D., & Johnson, L. (1996). Reinventing the university: A radical proposal for a problem focused university. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  48. Smith, H. (1991). The world’s religions. San Francisco: Harper.Google Scholar
  49. Smith, H. (1994). The illustrated world’s religions. San Francisco: Harper.Google Scholar
  50. Smith, H. (1995). Religions of the world. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Recordings.Google Scholar
  51. Sternberg, R. (2003). Wisdom, intelligence and creativity synthesized. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (2001). Wisdom and creativity. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging (5th ed., pp. 500–522). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  53. Welwood, J. (1996). Love and awakening. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  54. Yan, B. (1995). Nonabsolute/relativistic (N/R) thinking: A possible unifying commonality underlying models of postformal reasoning. Unpublished PHD dissertation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  55. Yan, B., & Arlin, P. K. (1995). Nonabsolute/relativistic thinking: A common factor underlying models of postformal reasoning? Journal of Adult Development, 2, 223–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentTowson UniversityTowsonUSA

Personalised recommendations