The Death of the Fear of Death
A 17-year old reader has recently been diagnosed with depression and OCD and is being treated for them. She is obsessed with the fear of death, so much so that she is uncomfortable around the elderly or anyone who brings up the subject of death or the brevity of life. She writes:
“What if the thing that you fear is not something that your imagination irrationally creates? How can you learn not to fear the inevitable and instead to embrace it and live life to the full?”
Many youngsters have the opposite problem. That is, rather than fearing death, they believe they are invincible and will live ‘forever.’ This is a problem because they are not afraid to take unnecessary risks such as taking drugs, driving while intoxicated, and exposing themselves to sexually transmitted diseases. Also, many don’t concern themselves with doing well at school and developing good habits that will bring success, such as self-discipline.
The good news for our reader is she doesn’t have any of those problems. On the contrary, she is already on the path to success.
So, once she overcomes her fear of death, she’ll be poised to enjoy life fully, which may then dissipate her depression and OCD.
The secret to enjoying life is to realize it is a great adventure. Missing this simple point can have disastrous effects.
For example, imagine you and a stranger are strapped into a roller coaster. The stranger was plucked out of a primitive society and knows nothing about modern life. Afterf the ride, how will his experience differ from yours? In his eyes, the ride was a devilish form of torture. During the entire ride he was bewildered and in fear. And you? You enjoyed every thrilling moment!
Can you see how the failure to understand the nature of a roller coaster prevented the primitive native from enjoying the ride? It is no different with life. Those who have yet to learn that life is an adventure mistakenly believe they are victims of circumstances, condemned to a life of suffering.
Our reader’s state of mind is similar to that of the primitive man in the roller coaster. She was placed into the roller coaster of life after being taken from the primitive land called YOUTH.
But as she grows in experience, she will start to unravel the mysteries of life, discovering beauty and joy. (For more about the ‘roller coaster of life,’ see my article “Is life an adventure or misadventure?” at: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/nature-of-life.htm
Since the subject is fear, let me define it. Fear is nothing more than the expectation that something bad will happen. The opposite of fear, by the way, is not courage, but the expectation that something good will happen. In other words, the opposite of fear is FAITH (trust in the future).
To understand our fears, it helps to probe into them more deeply.
For example, what do we really mean by “the fear of death”? It simply means that one who fears death believes it is synonymous with the extinction or annihilation of the self. In other words, once we die – poof! – we no longer exist; we’re gone forever.
Our young reader understands there are rational and irrational fears. But what about her fear? Which is it, rational or irrational? Well, to her it’s rational. Here is her line of thinking. “I’m afraid of extinction. I will die and disappear forever. Therefore, my fear is rational.”
Well, her fear is rational only if her assumption that death is synonymous with extinction is correct. Here are three reasons to question that assumption.
1. Near Death Experiences. For example, after a series of eight heart attacks and a clinical death in 1964, Peter Sellers had the following experience. “Well, I felt myself leave my body. I just floated out of my physical form and I saw them cart my body away to the hospital. I went with it … I wasn’t frightened or anything like that because I was fine; and it was my body that was in trouble. I looked around myself and I saw an incredibly beautiful bright loving white light above me. I wanted to go to that white light more than anything. I’ve never wanted anything more. I know there was love, real love, on the other side of the light which was attracting me so much. It was kind and loving and I remember thinking That’s God. Then I saw a hand reach through the light. I tried to touch it, to grab onto it, to clasp it so it could sweep me up and pull me through it. But the hand’s voice said, ‘It’s not time. Go back and finish. It’s not time.'”
(Doctors massaged his heart and revived him.) There are thousands of such cases reported by respected experts and eminent institutions. So, we certainly have a reason to question whether death is the end of personal existence. Interestingly, none of those who had a NDE was afraid or wanted to return.
2. Many brilliant thinkers, including philosophers, mystics, poets, and scientists believe in eternal life. It doesn’t make sense to dismiss their conclusions without further investigation.
At the very least it opens up the possibility that our assumption that death is the end of our existence may be incorrect. One recent book worthy of mention is THE LANGUAGE OF GOD, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The book is published by Free Press, 2006.
3. The more we study life, the more we will awaken to the possibility, probability, or indeed likelihood of life after life. To help our reader in this regard, I am assigning her some homework: Read THE SEVEN MYSTERIES OF LIFE: An Exploration of Science and Philosophy by Guy Murchie, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
Now we are ready to consider how to conquer fear. The best way is to change the negative expectation to a positive one. That is, we want to direct the harmful energy of irrational fear into the helpful belief and emotion of FAITH. This process is called sublimation. Another way to look at it is to say we want to alter the state of an emotion from negative (irrational FEAR) to positive (FAITH). This process is called transmutation. Let’s look at five ways our reader can change her negative expectation to a positive one.
1. If after careful reflection and study our reader concludes that we in fact have eternal life, she will have conquered her fear. Indian gurus have much wisdom to offer on the nature of life, and many excellent videos can be viewed at http://video.google.com . Two gurus you can do a search on for videos are Paramahamsa Nithyananda and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. To find many more gurus (Eastern and Western), do a video search for “spiritual enlightenment.”
2. Focus on how fortunate you are to have your fear shield you from foolish and destructive behaviour, such as taking drugs or driving under the influence.
3. Use your fear of the apparent brevity of life to do and enjoy as much as possible. Use your ‘weakness’ of fear as a strength by squeezing the most out of life. Since you fear the loss of life, that means you value it. So, cherish it; embrace it, and take advantage of every moment.
4. Rather than viewing your fear as uncomfortable and almost crippling (negative), see it as a wonderful opportunity to learn how to cope at such an early age (positive). You may have to pay to join a gym, but life is a free playground that provides the opportunity to practice and develop important life skills.
5. Redirect the energy consumed by fear into positive activities.
For instance, use that energy to express your feelings in poetry, keep a journal, write essays, or study spirituality.
Another valuable tool in self-mastery is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment. The ironic thing about the fear of death is it denies you of the very thing you fear losing. Whenever you experience fear, you are not living. Life is only experienced in the present moment. When you are fearful, you are not living, but drifting off into some imaginary nightmare. At that moment, the sounds, fragrances, textures, colors, and tastes of life that surround you pass by unnoticed. You are asleep at the wheel. Wake up!
Fear cannot exist in the present moment; it exists only in the expectation of a future event. As soon as you return to the present, fear is absent. The present moment is a wonderful place to be. It is the only place you can discover how magnificent you are through the process of meditation. Your college education would be incomplete without the study of mindfulness and meditation. There are many excellent books written on these subjects. Also, many hospitals offer free mindfulness and meditation classes. Since you are being treated for depression, ask your doctors about such classes.
All right, I made you wait long enough. So, I am going to transmute your fear for you. I’m going to change your negative expectation to a positive one. Read this slowly and carefully.
Relax and get excited because you are going to be free from that terrible fear that’s been dragging you down. Within six weeks, most likely less than that, you will be free of fear. Here’s how.
The field of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has greatly contributed to the methodology of eliminating fear. Today, there is no need to find a qualified NLP practitioner to help you or to study complicated manuals. Instead, you can take a home study program to conquer the fear of death. The name of the program is “Vanquish Fear & Anxiety in Just 24 Hours” and is published by CTRN, Change That’s Right Now, which is a reputable, established company with a record of success.
The program consists of 3 CD’s, booklet, and workbook and comes with a Lifetime Guarantee. The guarantee states, “If at any time in your life you don’t think the material in this program is worth ten times the purchase price, contact us for an immediate refund… you won’t even have to pay for return shipping!” How much does it cost? It costs $147 (after $50 rebate), a small price to pay for the rewards it brings. To learn all about this program, borrow mom’s or dad’s credit card and visit them here.P.S. After finishing the course, write back to tell us how you are finding the adventure of life.