Week 9. Reflection: Death Copy

Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. It is an inevitable process, over 150,000 humans die each day. Death is an inevitable significant event in our lives, but we live in a culture that denies death, something we should try to forget as when thinking about it deeply, it can make individuals anxious and depressed. An attitude of acceptance is extremely important to allow for the positive effects of experiencing life. Death has a transformational power that is always accessible to us, as long as we are courageous enough to face it. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience encouraging us to live authentically to our true selves. 

Coping with death is something that is important for everyone to do, it can be harder for some people than others to find the correct coping mechanisms, as these feelings can manifest themselves in many different ways. Honouring your loved one’s memory and accepting your feelings can help deal with the pain of loss. The individual has to learn how to let go of their attachments following a significant loss. Loss can bring us closer to people who are still in our lives and provide us with a unique opportunity to find out more about ourselves. 

Humans grieve for those who pass away as they empathise with the great suffering and fear they could have felt. Research has suggested that people who believe they are close to death fear it much less than others, their reaction is much more positive than other individuals who are not in that situation.

Nostalgia is an important emotion associated with grief and can help you cope with your loss positively. It has both negative and positive effects, as it can involve longing and frustrated desires along with feelings of familiarity and happiness. Some researchers suggest that nostalgia increases our existential meaning, increasing our self esteem and perceptions of social connectedness. Nostalgia can act as a buffer against the death-related anxiety which plagues all humans.  

The Terror Management Theory is the main psychological theory that deals with the concept of death. It is an evolutionary trait, as humans naturally become aware of the dangers in their lives. The deep existential anxiety that comes with the knowledge of death is the unfortunate by-product of this evolutionary need to preserve their lives to continue their gene pool.

This theory suggests that a large part of all human behaviour is generated by unconscious fear of death. This fear generates a fundamental anxiety, which we try to offset with certain coping behaviours like strongly defending the values of our culture. Studies have shown that when people are made more aware of their own mortality, they tend to become more nationalistic. This is built on the need to reinforce cultural significant, to confirm their own self-importance by displaying prejudice beliefs to others. There are positive effects of terror management, especially if the individual is aware their actions are being influenced by the fear of death, they can consciously choose steps which will lead them to self-fulfilment and their true self.

Elizabeth Kuble-Ross highlights societies fear of death, it is treated as something shameful. She suggests that paying more attention to the feelings of the dying patient might get rid of some of this associated fear. She believed that patients who tended to die with the most success, are those who are religious and acknowledge a higher sense of power.

She identified the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These are the phases that most people go through when faced with bereavement and the prospect of their own death. These stages were inspired by Ross’ work with terminally ill patients and was written as a response to the lack of instruction in medical schools on how humans handle death. 

The first stage is denial, there is an assumption of a mistake in diagnosis. This denial should be accepted and doctors should not argue with them about their prospects. Anger is followed, as there is a realisation and acceptance of their fate. This stage should be dealt with by allowing the individual as much control as possible. The next stage is bargaining with a higher power like a doctor to prolong their life. This stems from feelings of guilt, and doctors should listen to their needs closely to help the individual find closure. Depression is next felt, as the patient realises death is inevitable, and the patients should open up about their fears and anxieties to deal with this feeling positively. The final stage is acceptance, which may be followed by a retreat or withdrawal. 

A near-death experience is when a person appears to be clinically dead for a short period of time, but report a continuation of consciousness. Scientific explanations for this, have been found to be highly problematic, so deemed to be more of a spiritual awakening rather than a change in brain. They are powerful transformative experiences. Research has shown that people who have near death experiences following suicide attempts very rarely attempt suicide again. 

This experience has repeatedly shown to have a positive effect on the individual who experiences a near-death experience. There are some repeatedly recorded personality changes of those that have experienced a near-death experience like an increased ability to be mindful of the present, increased sense of gratitude, greater appreciation for community-focused lifestyle, increased enjoyment in silence and solitude, increased awareness of the value of life, a more developed sense of purpose, increased compassion, a shift in spirituality thoughts, decreased interest in accumulating material wealth and increased sense of confidence. 

The term near-death experience was coined by Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life. He recorded ad compared 150 different peoples near-death experiences. He found 9 elements that generally occur during these experiences. 

The 9 elements start with a strange sound, a buzzing or ringing noise, while having a sense of being dead. Then feelings of peace and painlessness as the intense pain of dying leaves. Then the individual experiences an out of body experience, a sensation of rising up and floating above their own body and watching themselves. This is followed by a tunnel experience; the individual is drawn into darkness through a tunnel at a high speed until reaching a realm of radiant golden-white light. Some people describe a sudden rising into the Heavens instead of this tunnel. Once on the other side or risen, the individual meets people who glow with an inner light, like their past friends and family. They also often meet a powerful spiritual being, like God or another religious figure. Then comes the life review, where the individual relives every act they have ever done to other people.

The Being of Light presents the dying with a panoramic review of everything they have ever done, producing feelings of love. This being sometimes tells the dying that they must return to life, or they are given a choice of staying or returning. The people who choose to return do so only because of loved ones they do not wish to leave behind. 

This is an example from this book…

“I heard the doctors say that I was dead, and that’s when I began to feel as though I were tumbling, actually kind of floating, through this blackness, which was some kind of enclosure. There are not really words to describe this. Everything was very black, except that, way off from me, I could see this light. It was a very, very brilliant light, but not too large at first. It grew larger as I came nearer and nearer to it.

“I was trying to get to that light at the end, because I felt that it was Christ, and I was trying to reach that point. It was not a frightening experience. It was more or less a pleasant thing. For immediately, being a Christian, I had connected the light with Christ, who said, ‘I am the light of the world.’

“I said to myself, ‘If this is it, if I am to die, then I know who waits for me at the end, there in that light.'”

The afterlife is an existence in which the essential part of an individual’s identity or their stream of consciousness continues to have after the death of their physical body. It is only a theory some people believe in with different religions having different versions of this afterlife. The status of this individual in the afterlife tends to be based on how the individual behaved in their life, meaning they are either rewarded or punished. Reincarnation is central to Buddhism, and is the concept that an aspect of a living being starts a new life in a different physical form after each death, suggesting a rebirth. Christians believe in the concept of Heaven, a higher paradise, and Hell, a place of torment and punishment in the afterlife. 

Physical immortality is a debated concept surrounding the afterlife. It means no death of the physical body. It is the natural result of a mind filled with wisdom and aliveness. 

Leonard Orr (who invented the Rebirthing Breathwork) introduced the idea of people dying because they kill themselves, he believes physical death is optional and that mortality is based on body and mind mastery. The spirit is accepted as an immortal master. Death is caused by 3 basic causes, poor diet, emotional energy pollution and ignorance. To achieve physical immortality, the individual needs to learn the power of nutrition by becoming vegetarian, keep the emotional body and mind clean and master the idea of physical immortality by living from the spirit.

Modern science demonstrates the dependence of consciousness on the brain, verifying that the mind must die with the body. There are also issues surrounding illness and disease, uncaused by energy and poor diet that cause individuals to become very sick, through no fault of their own.

What are your thoughts on this?

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