Fear of Death
Joy comes preloaded with the fear that something good will not last…
What do you fear most in life? Our concerns are usually layered. Typically, we act out the top layer as obsessions. Washing our hands repeatedly, so we don’t catch the germ that will make us sick. Cleaning our home so that we can one day enjoy living in it. Creating a project to research insurance policies, making sure we protect our things or secure coverage for potential health problems. Being attached to someone who is emotionally abusive and unavailable in return. Incessantly checking our phone so we don’t miss an opportunity to feel connected with family, friends, and the world. The list is infinite. We all do something that distracts us from the moment. It is way too difficult to remain present, no matter how much we subscribe to the belief that doing so eliminates a lot of stress. We may sniff the roses, but we rarely stop to smell them. It is all easily justified. Much of what we use to distract ourselves has fallen under the umbrella of the 21st Century social norms.
Often our compulsions become addictions. Habits usually are identified with a substance, but they are often an action or a feeling — perpetuating a negative emotional state. Why would we be addicted to feeling bad? It is a better distraction than joy because joy comes preloaded with the fear that something good will not last. The real fear is buried so deep that we are not consciously aware of it.
What if I told you our real fear is death. No one feels ready to die or ready to lose someone they love because we are in line waiting to live while we busily distract ourselves from our fear of death. Death arouses fear of loss, separation, pain, and suffering. It is a powerful combination of what we don’t want. I imagine you get the idea. Life is a spiral of contradictions.
Naturally, fear can be a legitimate safety valve. It keeps the dangerous boundaries of living exposed. That type of fear we rarely have to consider. We know if we try to do a Cirque Du Soleil act untrained, we will fall to our death. It is the fear we can’t control that is always present. We can’t control when we die or when someone we love leaves the earth plane.
I wish I could tell you there is an antidote to the fear of death. There is no way to simplify the excruciatingly painful process of becoming more aware of the under layers of what surfaces as our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Sometimes the remedy is taking refuge in being human. We are all afraid, and we all do something to distract us from our fears. Perhaps, if we are kinder to ourselves, we can have more empathy for others.
Being a goal-oriented society, we can make it a goal to leverage these distractions, giving us something positive in return. For instance, working out is a distraction I use, but it also makes me feel better, on all levels. It feeds back the energy I put into it. On the other hand, when I double-check that the stove is off, or when I rehash someone else’s behavior as if thinking about it can control my feelings, I get nothing returned, but more stress. Some of the stress is from knowing these compulsions are stealing my time. Ultimately, it creates an internal battle where I end up feeling bad about myself.
We may not smell the roses, but if we can sniff them a little longer each day, that is huge. Becoming aware of what triggers our motivation to distract ourselves is living. By keeping the tip of the umbrella in our view, the collection of what we use to avoid seeing it no longer keeps us working against the flow of life.
Sofia Wellman is a filmmaker, author, and speaker. While she travels the country for her work, her home base is Atlanta. Her most recent creative works are the films, What’s Love Got To Do With It and Death as Life, and the book, If the Shoe Fits, Go Barefoot. You can contact Sofia through her website, sofiawellman.com.