What do | mean with the title? What is our ‘Mortality Crisis’? It’s something that unites us all, it is that time in our life, when we become fearful and sometimes even crippled by the thought of our inevitable death!
Although this sounds like a less-than-upbeat blog, it’s something that we will all face at some point in our lives and so it’s important to talk about it.
As humans, we are rare in the fact
that we, unlike our neighbours in the animal kingdom, have the ability to comprehend our fragility, and we all know that there is only one way off this mortal coil!
When we are younger, are often able to ignore this fact, and even when we’re faced with the loss of others, we can generally avoid the connection to our own death- we grieve and keep on going.
We should take a pause here to consider the beauty of this - our developing brains know how to defend us while allowing us to feel an amount of pain we can handle. We are still able to keep calm and carry on, seeing the innocence and beauty in the world.
As we age, it could be argued that either our brain allows us to begin making that connection, as it knows when we mature that we can handle it, or that we just become more jaded by time! Still, as we become older, the connection between loss and our death becomes real. We consider our relationships and our achievements, and maybe this contributes to our developing fear.
Yet, we all know it’s going to happen at some point, so why do we feel this fear? What is that fear?
Well, the ‘fear’ can present lik
e anything in many, different, ways. I’ll use my own experience to try and give you an example.
My experience occurred over 10 years ago while I was training to be a therapist. Every day I would drive to my training placement, and I would either be singing along to music or sitting deep in thought.
When I was singing I would be fine, but it was at those times of deep contemplation when I sat in silence, that out of nowhere, I would be gripped by an utter sense of panic and dread! I could feel it in the pit of my stomach – a sheer dread of dying - I became so painfully aware of my own mortality. I became so distressed that several times that I had to pull over to catch my breath. It almost felt like a panic attack but focused solely on my own death.
These ‘attacks’ happened quite regularly for about three months. I used to think I was strange or broken. Do you know what? I began to realise that, actually, I wasn’t.
During my training and then throughout my ten years as a therapist, I have sat across from hundreds of clients who have described similar feelings, and I have done a great deal of research into this very crisis.
The number one thing I learned, that I want to share today, is that it happens to everyone. At some point, we all become more aware
of our own death!
So, knowing that, how do we resolve it? What can we do about it? Surprisingly, it's quite simple in concept but like many things in life, can be difficult to achieve.
The primary reason that this becomes an issue and ultimately leads people to seek therapy is that they try to ignore their thoughts – they try to use that childhood skill of repressing their problems. It’s the last this that we should do – whenever we push these things down, it isn’t resolved and can come back to cause problems for us later!
Although it can seem like a hard thing to do, and often counterintuitive, we must lean into our fear. Recognizing that we will suffer loss, that we will die and ultimately facing the fact that we don’t actually know what will happen when we do!
There is one certainty we have in this world we will die! We have no idea what will happen when it does come – this is what leads to the fear. It’s at this point that we need to find some faith. I’m not talking about faith from a religious standpoint necessarily, but faith in what we think will happen – making our peace with it. Whether your belief is in reincarnation, in heaven, the complete void of awareness, or something else entirely, we must find our belief.
This faith, this ‘knowledge’ allows the brain to resolve the fear and free you from the idea of the unknown, you can never be certain, but you can have hope and faith.
As humans, our fear generally comes
from the unknown. The fear is our mind and body trying to protect us. Unlike a lot of fearful situations in our life, death is unavoidable. There is beauty in that, too, the fact no matter who we are, we all share one common thing in our lives- death.
When this fear comes, remember to not run from or hide from it, but to embrace the feat and gain freedom through understanding your belief in what comes next.
If you do feel the need to talk about it, the team and I are always here, without judgement, to help.