Death Anxiety

An analogy can be made between the physical sciences and the social ones. Quantum has replaced classical physics. Social sciences have a catching up to do. The point in social sciences is not there, it freeflows in a spectrum of possibilties, it is uncertain where the point or even what it is. You can’t pinpoint in uncertainty. And it adds to the angst. It’s feeds into its’s self.

Religious implications were meant to be strictly symbolic, as constructive rather than otherwise. A positive Ying to overcome a negative Yang.

When I was a kid I also had had a tremendous fear of Death and focused on it. It would also come mainly at night, generally when I was alone. It began to taper off as I got older, though I remember watching a Movie with a bunch of other people and the terror suddenly hit me and I immediately tried to get out of the room when a fan of the Movie stopped me, thinking I was not ‘getting the film.’ Pardon the tangent, but it was rather funny since I reallllllly was getting the film but needed to scream or cry.

Anyway. Right off the bat at I should admit that I Believe in reincarnation - not that this alleviates such fears, in fact the incident above included a terror of whatever might happen, oblivion, reincarnation, even eternal heaven. And however much I considered at that time oblivion the vastly most likely, the other two horrified me nearly as much. I mention my belief out front because it will likely seep into my responses, so it seems clearer to come out with it in the beginning.

First reaction is to connect his to myself and say that this extra focus on the fear of Death and Death was a reaction to the more direct sources of pain I had in Connection to my parents and my social World and one could say society - via school etc. I Think sometimes we focus on things we can do nothing about to avoid elephants in the room - you know, where it might be a good idea to crawl out a window or find a way to get along with the elephant. So I am not sure creating a kind of discipline about facing your fear is really a good idea. Or at least not necessarily. As horrible as it feels, it may actually be easier for you to face than something else or some things else.

I mean, some people will die of old age Before telling their neighbor that they have Always loved them.

Given that your version of the fear of Death includes what for you makes no sense this terror of being alone, perhaps there is a clue in that. Perhaps the aloneness is already present and Death would seem like the permanent state of what you are already suffering - perhaps people are around or not, but one can have poor Connections or something missing. I assume that existentialists may leap in and say we are alone, which is true but there are gradations and what is happening in specific lives matter. One might have other activities in the evening that would compete with focusing on Death and terror of it.

Perhaps it is something else. But my immediate reaction is to not go diving into the fear but rather into your desires and emotions. What do you want in Life that you do not have? What can you not stand about those you do have Contact with? What is missing? What do you stop yourself from doing that you at least in part want to do? And so on.
Pardon me if this all seems rather banal or even condescending. I am sure you have dealt with such issues and I ask the questions not because I want the answers or Think you need to hear them, but rather to give you a sense of the discipline I am suggesting you replace your potentially rather certain sect of Buddhism current discipline involves. I Think it is a dead end, puns intended, and designed to be one because parts of you want to protect you from real pain and perhaps from responsibility. If nothing else the fact of your Death, given your paradigm, is not your fault. Sometimes we will suffer unbelievable pain and terror about what is not our fault rather than suffer what in the end might be much less pain, but that pain will be (or actually will seem to be) our fault.

Just a middle disclaimer: I don’t know you and this is all rather presumptuous and I do realize it is speculative. But given the way we are encountering, speculation is kinda given.

From there, the reincarnation bit. I Think between lives experiences can be like what you mentioned. A kind of bardo nightmare.

(now I see that it barely seeped in and ended up being something lopped on, but there it is for what it’s Worth)

A last thought. People have official beliefs. What they Think they Believe and to some extent do. We could call this ego beliefs. But we also have other beliefs - call them id beliefs. When we tell people what we Believe we present out ego beliefs. Though in truth we may actually Believe our id beliefs that contradict these more. This kind of thing may be at the root of your seemingly irrational fear. (and I did mean that last Three Word term to be ironic)

And a post-last thought…it could relate to memories. Perhaps you were left alone as a baby. In the dark. I mean, of course you were, at some Point. But perhaps no one can when you cried, or something happened, or there was a pattern of neglect - a mother taking sleeping pills could do this. She misses when you cry.

So this memory is conflated with what will happen after dying.

Just got off work and the compelling thought occured to me that I left something unfinished before Moreno’s comment.

The continuum which has come of late, in recognition of a seeming conflation of ideas regarding issues of the inter and intrapsychicevents, which layers the so called secrets beyond the grave, has encompassed a similar process , brewing for a very long time.

That process, the evolutionary principle, is also one of a continuous development of changing adaptive morphological forms , and the point at which changes occur, are equally difficult or nay impossible to narrow down. They say, at some point in animal or human development, changes occured due to various sudden or inexplicable causes in the environment, on one hand, or because of slowly unfolding adaptive responses to changes to further species’ survivability.

It is noteworthy, how these two processes, rather than owing their genesis to a singular event, tend to metamorphose on series of changes.  

It could be said, that the psychosocial and psysical charecteristics of evolution are similarly constituted.  The ego, which manifests from the consciousness that is produced by the brain, itself has such characteristics, and and the ego becomes a reflexive tool by which consciousness acts to form reality and also  be formed by it.  This reflex motion can be, if the analogy to hold up, into the physical world of life and death.   

Death, the physical process, holds sway unto life, the conscious process, because death is not something we can ever intrinsically be conscious of.  Therefore death is a kind of reverse reflex on life.  This reflexivity is not a point in an awareness, it is a lifelong positing of an attitude.  

Since such a relationship exists, the positing, the act of it, is what becomes emotional baggage.  We become aware of something reversely reflexive, a something which may or may not even exist.  

The reincarnation I believe in is not of singular origin, my sense seems to indicate otherwise.  The backward reaction reflects societal attitudes, of human consciousness, animals do not really know death.  It is traumatic and often dangerous to those unprepared for it, but it is quite possible that the power behind conscious thought is not singular, and therefore, who we are is not what we think.  This is the misconception which creates the terror and the anxiety of living, of which Kierkegaard was very familiar with.  The terror over incompleteness.  

I think for those lucky enough, who are able to appreciate the plenum of existence, the fear diminishes in proportion to their disregard of their own incompleteness. Whether we will be born again, just like we are now, or, born again differently, does not matter for them. The fact is, and the requirement is, to be born again, and to be able to do this, is not to narrow down, but enviden the potentials of particularized life.

dead is dead… is another way of looking at it…but no one can really know anything about this…no one

This again concerns displacement and apprehension towards “change” and “new”, which are likely constitutive elements in many cases, but I’m not sure they’re universal catalysts for death anxiety. It is not newness or a change in state that I put the emphasis on, but rather the possibility of a state in which one experiences subjective psychical torture and yet has no formal reality, only as … an abstract object, maybe? … and thus no recourse to alleviate the pain.

I did a paper on the ethicality of posthumous sperm retrieval last semester in which the respectful treatment of the dead body was, as you might imagine, a chief concern. I write:

“In Hinduism, autopsy is prohibited except when required by law and organ donation is discouraged, both on the grounds that disturbing the body conflicts with the process of reincarnation, especially with the latter; by removing and preserving an organ, some of the patient’s karma is also displaced and prevented from its transmigration. The Shinto faith is similarly opposed. […] Just because I think the Abrahamic God is bogus doesn’t mean I’m right, and the ramifications of interfering with another’s spiritual path are pretty grave (for instance, existentially bifurcating a transmigrating Hindu); I will posit that the decedent’s intellectual values take priority.”

Most certainly, belief in reincarnation only exacerbates the fear, if anything. Now while I wouldn’t say I believe in reincarnation, I do entertain similar ideas, but none of them involve the preservation of one’s ego after death.

I’ve considered the social element extensively, and it is pertinent; I can connect the isolation, psychical torture, and lack of recourse to my self-perception as a somewhat oppressed intellectual with no asylum to seek. For instance, I was told numerous times by my English composition professor that my vocabulary and sentence structure should be pabulumized because it is the orator’s responsibility to make sure that the audience has understood him. Now I loathe obscurantism as much as the next man, but is that really what I’m doing? Is it really that difficult for educated people to make sense of these words? And I get the same thing from my parents: ‘You’re being condescending by using words you know the other person doesn’t know.’ I disagree—but even so, where do you draw the line? Am I not entitled to approach language artistically? Well, then we must burn all decent literature, poetry, and philosophy without delay!

“Self-esteem is a culturally derived construct that is dependent on social validation, essentially defensive in nature, and functions to protect against core human fears (Pyszycynski et al., 2004). High self-esteem has been associated with cultural belongingness, which in turn buffers against death anxiety (Pyszycynski et al., 2004; Tomer, 1992).” [Lehto, R. H., and Stein, K. F. Death Anxiety: An Analysis of an Evolving Concept. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice. 2009; 23 (1): 23-41. The article is a good summary of the current literature on the subject, and can be read for free at: … sequence=1]

Now that’s the odd thing, though: I consciously consider myself to be a rather exemplary individual, and the better part of my behavior is counter to the social norm—to my contemporary society—but my lack of social validation doubtlessly makes me question my merits (via the Asch effect) at least on some primal level, so then I’m forced to turn to the very thing I’m diverging from to validate my divergence from it, which is rather like asking the military to validate your defecting.

The social elements you describe are but again descriptions of possible scenario toward finding something more closely attuned to your personality vis a vis the anxiety toward and involving death. The movement toward change may not be a universal element in any description of what ever it is we are seeking, however certain things about torture and pain as related to the change of passage, can not be separated. I was going to say “at this point” , but that will be an insufficient, obscure idea of manifestations of change.

Esteem is at the crux of it, and it is the place where the societal and the personal try to make sense in varying universal senses of belief. When we try to fix it, or reify it or place it in a certain believable light, we become aware of the fact, that it is only a temporary fix. Just like a hit of narcotics, we hope it will be temporary, going in, we fear the helplessness entailed in not being able to come out of it. Like a bad dream, where you actually dream of not being able to wake up from a dream.

 If you are religious, You postpone the time when You hope to meet Jesus, because in the present time, if You would actually have that experience, in a living state, you'd be declared insane, just like Jesus was, ex post facto.  Incidentally he tried to make it easier for believers by declaring that he was not God, he was only the Son of God, and further, that we are all, of us, sons of god.

 If we can get through this painful stage of belief, then it is possible to dispense with all the ego games going on, and hold on to the belief, and the belief of the belief.  The fear of absurdity and the lack of validation and subsequent shame, will be lightened of the heavy load.

 The pain you carry, is a probable pain of self awareness, and the need for victimization, which you take upon yourself to deflect others trying this to You.  This is straight Kierkegaard.  The leap becomes non singular or insular, and the fear will mitigate, as you approach certain limits, whereby once you may have been desolated.  That's my experience, which I am willingly sharing with You, but please do not get me wrong, this is no necessary route to sainthood, only a way of becoming aware of what pain really is.

I don’t know man, it seems like you’re just being needlessly cryptic and vague. I can understand where some of this stuff comes in, but I’m trying to look at this from a psychoanalytic standpoint rather than some amorphous existentialist philosophy and religious dogma.

can you say more about the psychoanalytic standpoint…this is interesting…I see a psychoanalyst…he has been very helpful to me…

Psychoanalysis is what has been primarily going on here; myself and others are picking apart the psychological processes that constitute my anxiety.

is this discussion helping your problem…

If you don’t have anything substantial to contribute, please don’t clog the thread.

 Trying to take a stab at it too.  I was in a jungian analysis for about 4 years while in college, but am somewhat aware of the general principles upon which anxiety of this sort is related to.  The Thanatos and the Eros as principles relate through various structural filters and thus patterns are established to bring pleasure and pain into conjunction.  This complex  very broadly speaking, sets up the basis of civilization's approach and attitude toward life.

  Thanatos has a disintegrative, Eros, an integrative effect on the psyche.  

  Some examples, and not to be crude or prudish, Napoleon allegedly masturbated before battle, and criminals executed by hanging were seen to have erections.  The relation is of course more complex in the psyche, and here, runs a gamut of cognitive, emotional and behavioral complexes, the most foundamental being the Freudian Oedipus Complex. This complex covers the so called primary process' differentiation from the secondary, or lack of.  It has to do with successful detachment from primal objects of identification, and an unsuccessful detachment results in literal identification.  The implications of this are many fold, but the point is, that the anomalies between parent and child remains in tact, and it usually has a fear factor as causitive.  Melanie Klein was instrumental in bringing this Freudian concept to fruition by her work with children.

 So fear and sexuality are bound up, and Wilhelm Reich was a pioneer teaching that sexual liberation will go a long way toward reducing, or even eliminating basic fears.  So much for a starter.

 I realize, that You____________, are sophisticated in psychoanalysis to realize the foregoing, but if You are interested, and am not turning You off, this theme may be expanded.

Seems like fighting fire with fire. I’ve never seen the verb form of pabulum Before, though I can work out what it means from the noun.

But _________,
I am not sure how we got here. It seems we Went from isolation, etc., to being an intellectual, who in this case has a large vocabulary that might put some people off.

I am not sure if you are saying that people are put off by you and you Think this is based on the vocabulary you use, or if you just Went off on a tangent. If the former, in a sense it does not matter what led to the isolation as far as the topic at hand.

Exemplary individuals can have issues of validation from others, from themselves. Though again, this seems like perhaps a later on down the line step of the discussion.

If it is the case that you are isolated, then what you are experiencing in your fear of Death is likely to a large degree a Deep experience of what you are going through now. So investigation into and focus on your Death and what may come after is a distraction. But there is an interpersonal isolation AND an intra-personal isolation. I Think both issues are present here.

Imagine there is a portion of you that is not focused on language based ratiocination (a Little redundant but I want the process to be clear phenomenologically). It seems to me your Ego, your identified with self is very much centered in the ordering of Words and the accumulation of language based understanding. This is all rather at a distance from much of Life. (you may not be like this at all, but I am going by what you write here and in a way the oddness of the focus) That portion of you not so interested in this or satisfied by these intellectual and distanced processes may very well right now feel locked down in the dark isolated and experiencing just what you fear might come with Death. If true, then you are sort of flipping from being very intellectual to being overwhelmed by that portion of yourself and its experience, without being able to integrate it. That there would be childhood roots to this seems very likely to me, but in any case some sort of less binary, flipping, relationship needs to take Place between the intellectual and the emotional/sensation-focused/interpersonal interested part of you. Even if you work out all the correct answers in your head, the split will still cause you to suffer.

And again desires come to mind as the area to investigate and then problem solving satisfying them would be a good use for the intellectual mind, one that shows the other part of you you mean it good will.

I thought you had a problem…it is normal to have problems…I have a problem…the reality of life is awful…
can you say whether you have a problem…I am not going away

Turtle, I think that was the answer to your question. :sunglasses:

when I see a problem I want to fix it…if we are just shooting the shit I can do that…
dead is dead…suck it up…all talking about it does for some people…is make it a hobby…and I don’t like that because life is awful and we need to hold on to what in life is good…not death talk

I don’t find Turtle to be problematic. He says what I feel like saying - but don’t for a variety of reasons.

While I would defend Turtle’s right to opine, I also feel that the problem of awareness of inevitable death merits explanation as to how this affects one’s life in general and what problems it causes in the psyche.

it tears my psyche apart…death is not something I can accept…but it is reality…I need to suck it up…
all this talk of afterlife destroys what little life can give…we are here by no great plan…we are just here…life is all we got…what are we going to do with it…if we have the chance

Yeah, I was being an asshole, and I apologize for that–but, as you’ll see below, I don’t necessarily consider it a ‘problem’.

Napoleon’s masturbation need not be attributed to fear, but rather confidence (from the shutdown of fear and anxiety mechanisms). Priaprism (the medical condition of an erection that doesn’t subside) is associated with lesions of the spinal chord and need not imply a connection between eros and thanatos in the psychological context, but rather between the mode of death and its concomitant biological reactions. I dig some of the Psychopathy of Everyday Life, but the Oedipal triangle as a universal construct is just not quite right; everything is not Mommy-Daddy.

Now what you say about sexual liberation and all that may very well be true, but rather than reducing the fear—or eliminating it altogether—I’m hoping to accept and tolerate it qua Jungian individuation’s acceptance of the shadow. Death anxiety isn’t just a ‘problem’, but also a potential for growth, a motivator to achieve. The fear, when it isn’t completely arresting, compels me to create—and this current low has produced some very interesting concepts for my music, though my other work has suffered. If I lose the fear, I lose perhaps my greatest muse.

Well, being an ‘intellectual’ seems to be a leading cause of my not fitting in, the evidence of my divergence from social norms; ‘putting people off’ is the first step to alienating oneself.

I’m merely reporting one cause of my perceived isolation, and I do consider the cause to be of some importance; are social isolation because I live in Antarctica (or some similarly remote, desolate place) and social isolation due to a dramatic incompatibility of interests going to affect the same psychological reaction? It’s all the more frustrating because I’m isolated within a populace. Further, the isolation is also a function of perceiving an absence of like-minded individuals to turn to, an inability to communicate—which is where the orator-audience thing comes back in (‘is it me or them’ kind of thing).

I agree.

I think we’re on pretty much the same page here, except I would say my accumulation of language-understanding is primarily a communicative function, and a salient point of tension may very well be the language-understanding’s failure to adequately translate the emotive/pictorial self to others (I’m a visual-spatial genius, and it seems as if my clearest thought processes concern images which I must then translate into words). There are two incidents that come to mind that I know only from videos of myself before I acquired language:

In the first, I seem to want to play this set of little toy orchestra bells, but I can’t find (from what I gather) the proper mallets with which to play. I’m searching all about the yard and my grandmother tries to hand me a toy hammer or something, but I stare at it, seem to determine it’s not the right instrument, and continue my search. The video ends without my finding the mallets.

In the second, I’m playing with this red fire engine-shaped toy that I’m to sit on and scoot about. It has a siren and flashing red lights which I accidentally turn on; I stop dead in my tracks, get off it and stare at it without moving. The video ends with me staring. That I’m left on my own, with no knowledge of how to stop the siren and lights, while my parents just sit there with a camera seems relevant. Perhaps I should also mention that I had night terrors as a child, only one of which I remember (it was recurring), and this fire truck toy plays a prominent role. Also, I live in a city now, one block from the fire station and three from a children’s hospital, so sirens are a constant in my home environment. In case I haven’t made it clear, I live alone.

And you may object to the topic, but you’re by no means obliged to participate, and just because you see only negative value in the discussion doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same.