The Terror of Death and Mortality

“Every day is a new beginning.

Take a deep breath,

Smile and start the day.” author unknown

The purpose of this blog article is not to be morbid but to remind all of us of the importance of living life fully.

Human Beings are unique in being self-aware and therefore understand the inevitability of death. That awareness presents us with an existential crisis. 

From the beginning of time, people have asked themselves the existential question, “If I am doomed to die, what is the point of my life?” It is a terrifying question, and different people have attempted to answer it differently.

Those who are deeply religious deny there is an existential crisis because faith brings the achievement of an afterlife. For these people, life is not limited but continues for all eternity. 

According to Ernest Becker, in his book “The Denial of Death,” most people put the notion of death out of their awareness and go about living without thinking about their mortality. However, sometimes the fact of death breaks through to their conscious minds. When that happens, they become temporarily terrified until the crisis passes and they achieve a new balance. What causes mortality to break through to consciousness? The death of friends, relatives, and loved ones confronts even the greatest deniers that life is finite.

Depression and Anxiety

Some seem to have difficulty denying the fact of death. Among these are individuals who struggle with panic and anxiety disorders and various types of depression. Today, we can look at many of the causes of these disorders and find such factors as chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatizing childhoods and adulthoods, and such problems as neglect, abuse, and addictions.

Because of a better understanding of the causes of emotional disorders, we have significantly improved treatments with medications and more precise types of psychotherapies.

Yet, we overlook the importance and even reality of each person’s existential crisis. I believe this crisis lies at the roots of depression and anxiety, besides those factors already mentioned. If this is true, what can we do about it besides medication and psychotherapy?

We each need to find meaning in our lives. As Irvin Yalom, MD states in many of his writings, meaning comes to us through interpersonal relationships.

Yalom states that the realization and knowledge that we positively influence others can provide a sense of meaning in our lives. However, many people do not realize that they have an enormous influence on the lives of others. Whether they are friends or family, they are essential to us, and we are important to them. There are also the relationships with those at work and those we casually meet while walking in the street, riding the bus or train, and shopping in the supermarket and clothing store. That is why loneliness is so deadly.

The pursuit of materialism is one activity many people engage in to fill themselves with a sense of gratification. However, though temporarily exciting, feelings of emptiness return. The unquenchable thirst for buying unnecessary items comes from a sense of meaninglessness, which then causes the feeling of inner emptiness.

 Each of us is unique, and we are loved and valued by the important people in our lives.

As John Donne said it centuries ago:

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Donne meant three things:

1. That none of us are isolated because we are all interconnected,

2. We are all aware of death,

3. One man’s death diminishes all humanity.

 

The Optimist, Pessimist, Realist

Being realistic is the best way to go.

The Optimist vs. The Pessimist vs. The Realist

“A pessimist sees a dark tunnel.

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

A realist sees a freight train.

A train driver sees three idiots standing on the tracks.”

Everyone knows the proverbial question: Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The optimist would state that it’s half full and probably predict it will soon be full of water again. The pessimist would state that it’s half-empty and is in danger of soon becoming empty. It’s all a matter of perspective, mood and personality.

Pessimism:

“When the sun finally shines through after the rain, and someone comments on how nice it is, the pessimist will complain about how everyone will crowd the streets to soak in the sun.”

Pessimism is an explanatory style in which individuals expect a negative outcome when facing events of unknown emotional impact.

A mother and father have a three-year-old little girl. When she gets a sore throat, the father becomes alarmed and worries that she has strep throat. He fears it could turn into scarlet fever, resulting in damage to her heart. The mother is sure she has a bad cold and is fine. However, to relieve her husband’s anxiety, the mother takes the girl to the pediatrician, who reports that this is a cold virus and there is no need to worry. When she lets her husband know about this, he feels better but continues to worry. Was he right to worry?

Optimism:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different good weather.”

Optimists have a different way of looking at life than pessimists. The optimist believes problems are temporary and will get better. The pessimist is sure that the problem is here to say and can only get worse. In the cases above, both optimists and pessimists believe that their view of the glass is correct. The pessimist would predict that there will be no water available to replace the glass once the glass is empty.

The father worries himself unnecessarily in the second case, even after the doctor examines the little girl. His personality is such that he sees only clouds and rarely notices sunny days.

Some psychologists state that optimists and pessimists have opposite ways of thinking. As a result, pessimists are prone to depression. In addition, they experience more health problems and do not live as long as the optimists.

There is a place for both optimists and pessimists. Unchecked optimism can be unrealistic and result in lots of trouble. An overly optimistic person may make unrealistic plans that they do not have time for and cannot afford. The pessimist helps bring reality to the situation by reminding everyone of the limited possibilities of specific plans that may not be practical or even dangerous. Too much pessimism leads to depression.

Realism:

“While an optimist might call the rain the sweet nectar that bathes the earth, the realist will call the precipitation a liquid.”

A realist will see things the way they are and not by the negative or the positive scheme. He will take each day as it comes, learning to cope with anything negative and enjoying the positive. Even the thinking is that the optimists are the most optimally adjusted individuals. In reality, the realists are more so. While optimists may look at and concentrate on only the positive things in life, they often view the world with rose-tinted glasses, refusing to see the bad at all. Which often leads to extreme disappointments. To put it simply, a realist hopes for the best and is prepared for the worst.

A realist only forms an opinion after analyzing all the data and information that is available to him. He does not let expectations decide the way he feels. Thus, his opinions, decisions, and outlook are usually unbiased.

Contact Dr. Schwartz at dransphd@aol.com

Aging and Learning From Life

Aging, Learning, Wisdom

This is too good not to share.
I asked a friend who has crossed 70 and is heading towards 80 what changes he feels in himself? He sent me this:
Humanity.

1. After loving my parents, siblings, spouse, children, and friends, I have now started loving myself.

2. I have realized that I am not “Superman.” The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3. I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more will not break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4. I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already told that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.

6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7. I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the receiver but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”

8. I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10. I remain calm when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat, and neither am I in any race.

11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas, with relationships, I will never be alone.

13. I have learned to live each day as if it were the last. After all, it might be the last.

14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Just choose to be! You can be happy.
Happiness is a choice.

I decided to share this with all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80? Why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?