Gerben J. Westerhof
University of Nijmegen, Department of Psychogerontology, The Netherlands

E-mail:westerhof@psych.kun.nl

 

VOICES FROM THE PAST IN THE PROCESS OF SELF-DEVELOPMENT:
THE CASE OF RETIREMENT

 

One's personal past is often seen as an inhibition to self-development. In this paper it is argued that a constructive confrontation with one's own past can serve as an impetus for further development. Dialogue with voices from the past can provide new insights in the self and new ways of realizing one's own potentials. Such a dialogue is particularly stimulated in times of transition. The case of retirement provides a socially structured closure of certain developmental trajectories of the self and an opening to new trajectories. Interviews with persons around retirement age disclose a number of ways in which the past serves the adaptation to retirement. Voices which were dormant for quite some time can be revived, old voices which were never fully realized get a new chance, voices which have become too dominant in the past can be backtracked, or voices which provide further potential for self-development can be continued. Each trajectory of voices from the past is accompanied by an innovation of its meaning. It is concluded that a dialogue with the past can provide new opportunities for self-development, also in later stages of the life course.