How Death Creates Meaning
Thread not for depressed emo shits
We all have to face it at some point; an event of such enormity that it can make everything else in our lives seem insignificant: death, the end of our existence, our departure from this world. Although largely unconscious, the awareness of our finite existence, the fact that we all must die, has a profound impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The fear and emotional anguish associated with anticipating the end of life are so painful that we must protect ourselves. People find it difficult to tolerate facing their mortality directly. Therefore, they repress the full realization of death and dying. Dealing with death is difficult, be it the death of a close relative or thoughts of your own mortality. Dying is an inevitable outcome of being human, but knowing that does not make most people happy, there are many rational things to worry about when we contemplate our own death—perhaps foremost among those is the concern about how our surviving loved ones will cope emotionally and materially without us. But many of our worst fears about death are less realistic and based more on how we imagine death to be, we are woefully misinformed about what is likely to kill us, overestimating the dramatic (e.g., airplane crashes and acts of terrorism) and underestimating the routine (chronic diseases, car accidents, or falling down the stairs at home). It has been said that the capacity to contemplate our own deaths is a distinguishing feature of human beings in comparison to other animals. However becuase of modern society, most people have little direct experience of death, and we don’t like to talk about the subject. Our society is organized in such a way that the dead are quickly removed from us, and those traditions that do encourage viewing the dead do so only after careful cosmetic preparation by specialized morticians, often resulting in the dead looking more like an elegant wax model replica of the living person. Attendance of children at funerals and cemeteries is generally not encouraged, adding to the sense of dreaded unfamiliarity with death with which many of us grow up.
Why we fear death
A large part of all human behaviour is generated by unconscious fear of death. This fear generates a fundamental anxiety and unease, which we try to offset with behaviour such as status-seeking. We feel threatened by death and so seek security and significance to defend ourselves against it. In general, the concept of death and the realization of a finite existence evolve gradually as we grow older. Many of us when we are two years old become aware of the fact of death—for example, when a pet dies or when they learn of the passing of a relative or close family friend. Between the age of three and six yeats of age we realize our parents are vulnerable to death, eventually we realize we cannot sustain our lives and we too will die one day. At this point, the world that they originally believed to be permanent is turned upside down. The dawning awareness and subsequent terror that they must die are intolerable and are necessarily repressed. Regardless of when this discovery occurs, it effectively destroys our usion of self-sufficiency. Even though defenses are instituted to block the awareness of death from consciousness, our fears are preserved in our entirety in the unconscious. Thereafter, the suppressed fear of death continues to exert a significant influence on our lives as we grow older. When death anixety is aroused, we tend to become increasingly defensive in ways that are harmful to ourselves and often to others as well. Even though we may initially respond positively by embracing life more fully, over time, most people usually retreat to a more defended posture. As we deny death to protect ourselves, we lose perspective, giving importance to insignificant issues in their lives while failing to value other relevant and meaningful influences. Many people tend to live life as though they will never die and can afford to squander their most valuable experiences. Defensive reactions to death have a demoralizing effect. Tragically, many people end up losing their spirit and excitement toward life. They gradually become more rigid and controlling, thereby diminishing their range of experiences. They begin to entertain cynical or hateful attitudes toward self and others, give up interests that once excited them, and become progressively less joyful and more depressed and futile about life. Most people embrace a religious dogma to maintain the hope or promise of an afterlife which is the biggest factor that makes people deny death.
Why we deny death
For most people, the terror of the actual process of dying probably involves a fear of physical pain, it can be thier first thought of when facing thier own mortality. It also probably involves fearful incomprehension of the seemingly mysterious process by which the consciousness that is our “self” is extinguished, or fades away. Let’s deal first with our fear of a painful death. We are all afraid of pain. We have all had much experience of physical pain, some more than others, and we are quite likely to have witnessed more extreme pain and agony in others than we have experienced ourselves. All this makes us fear pain. Physical pain arises from damage to our living tissue. Since death is the ultimate destruction of our living tissues, we naturally assume that death must be the ultimately painful experience. Since nobody who has actually died can tell us what it felt like physically, we naturally have a terror of dying. But in fact, rationally and from a medical point of view, there is no particular reason to suppose that the intensity of pain (or other forms of discomfort or impairment) from various causes of death is greater than the intensity of pain from various illnesses and injuries that we ourselves may already have previously experienced, or the pain that others have experienced and survived to tell the tale. Furthermore, dying in and of itself does not necessarily involve painful processes—some forms of death are painful and others are not. And many acute injuries are actually more painful afterward (in people who survive them) than they are at the moment of injury. However, not to sugar-coat this subject—certainly many of the people who have survived more extreme forms of agonizing injury or illness would never want to re-experience it, and some are psychologically traumatized by the experience for a long time afterward (bear with me—we are talking just for a moment about worst-case scenarios). There’s every reason to expect that the pain and suffering are just as bad if not worse for those who survived such injury or illness than those who died. Yet even the most traumatized survivors have in very many cases gone on to live fulfilling lives and are able to talk about the experience. So, while we certainly wish to never experience pain, even in the worst of our nightmarish death scenarios the actual pain in and of itself is something that can certainly be endured and survived, as shown by our fellow human beings. The extent of the human capacity to endure suffering is often very surprising. And what we have just spoken about are the most extreme cases of pain and suffering, not the more common scenarios. Another reason we deny death is becuase we deny that we have an finite existence. It manifests in two forms: in the pursuit of literal immortality and symbolic immortality. Literal immortality is sought in religion or religiosity and is the key defense that negates the obvious scientific conclusion that human beings die like other species and that there is no proof of an afterlife. Monotheistic religious beliefs as well as some pantheistic or monistic spiritual traditions offer their followers a creation myth and version of life after death, which relieve the death anxiety that is caused by the unknowable. Symbolic immortality is sought in living on through one’s creative productions, one’s investment in causes, and one’s children. The accumulation of power and wealth can also make us deny death. In business, politics, and organizational life in general, the drive to accumulate power and wealth is often motivated by a misguided belief that equates power and wealth with invincibility. People defend against death fears by attempting to gain control over others and by achieving financial success. Although conscious fears of death may be temporarily alleviated by these methods, the same fears still exist on an unconscious level and can actually increase in intensity as an peerson amasses greater power. It doesn’t nessariliy take the accumulation of power of and wealth to believe one is invincibile, it can be vanity or specialness and magicial thinking. Vanity is an exaggerated positive view of the self that an individual uses to compensate for feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. It represents remnants of the child’s imagined invincibility, omnipotence, and invulnerability that live on in the psyche. It acts as a survival mechanism at times of stress or when people become painfully conscious of the fallibility of their physical nature and the impermanence of life. It expresses itself in the universal belief that death happens to someone else, never to oneself. The sense of specialness makes the person feel immune to the fate that awaits “ordinary” human beings.
How we can face our death
to answer this we must look on why awareness of death have a positive effect on some people, but not others. To a large extent, it depends on the intensity of the encounter with our mortality. Anxiety usually occurs when we’re passively aware of death, thinking about it in a vague way rather than actually facing up to it. There’s certainly an important difference between being aware of death as a concept, and being confronted with the reality of it, and being forced to deal with it as an imminent prospect. To face death we must first plan ahead. When it comes to death, many prefer life-long denial. By giving serious thought to what you want (out of the limited options we all have), you may have a chance at experiencing the kind of dying scenario you’d prefer. The vast majority of us apparently get the opposite of what we hope for, living wills and “do-not-resuscitate orders” notwithstanding. This will help get used to the fact we all will die one day. The opposite of denial is to accustom yourself to the reality that everyone, absolutely without exception, regardless of dreams and hopes and faith, has to die, including you. Treat the dread like any other phobia and think about it so much, in a controlled way, that it eventually bores you a little and terrifies you a little less. We should also make an effort to not gather regrets. Make an effort to hit your deathbed without the added misery of feeling you’ve utterly screwed up. If you’re extra lucky, you may have a bit of time to tidy up loose ends and various kinds of remorse. But some of life’s better experiences can’t be delayed until the end. When we face up to death actively and directly, there’s a chance that we’ll transcend anxiety and insecurity, and experience its transformational potential. An attitude of acceptance is important too. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects. If you are saddled with death anxiety, it may be useful to consider the ways in which contemplation of death can be salutary and try to move your thinking to a more empowered place. Death need not be feared and can offer a perspective that may be helpful and even inspiring. Steve Jobs famously stated, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” Death awareness may indeed help us develop a larger vantage point that puts our present difficulties in perspective. It may even inspire us to use our time well during life. Right now, we don’t need to be reminded about the limitedness of our existence
How death can tranform us
Death awakens us to the briefness and uniqueness of our existence. Facing death can teach us the future and past are not as important as the present as life only ever takes place in the present moment. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects. It’s important for us to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves of our own mortality. We should spend a few minutes of every day thinking about our own death, contemplating the fact that we’re only on this planet for a certain amount of time, that death could strike us down at any moment. This may seem morbid to some, but it’s only really a question of facing up to reality. Ultimately, we’re all in the same position as a cancer patient who’s been told they only have a certain amount of time left to live – it’s just that we don’t know how much time we have left, and it’s likely that most of us will have more time than the cancer patient. Death is always present, and its transformational power is always accessible to us, so long as we’re courageous enough to face it. Awareness of our mortality can be a profound challenge to our self-image of being an all-important, indispensable, independent entity in the universe. Or it can fill us with a sense of the preciousness and fragility of this opportunity, the value of a life. It can inspire us and motivate us to live life to the fullest, with a sense that we should not waste our days—to experience, to learn, to grow, to connect, and to contribute to those around us and those who will follow us. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.
1. do you believe in the afterlife?
2. why do we deny death?
3. what is the biggest reason you fear death?
4. did you ever had a near death experince? [It can be any kind of near death experince not just physically but emotional, mental, sprtitual]
5. What makes us believe we can conquer death?
6. What us belive we are special? why are none of us special?
7. How are we equal under death?
To live is to risk it all; otherwise you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you