The fear of dying is one of the psychological phenomena that most worries a good number of people undergoing psychotherapy.
The fear of physical pain and the very idea of dying sometimes produce anxiety attacks (more or less intense) that are difficult to manage, and sometimes become obsessive thoughts.
Why does the fear of death appear?
The idea of death is associated with physical pain, which in some cases arises when this moment in life occurs. however, what produces the most rejection is the existential anguish of thinking about the disappearance of oneself or of those close to them. Why is this happening?
Almost everything we know about who we are and what relates to our autobiographical memory, which is the organized collection of memories about what we have been through. The idea of death, on the other hand, forces us to think of reality as if it were something that neither we nor our loved ones count too much on. In other words, that is to say it makes us think of a planet on which our entire life trajectory has been denied.
The idea that our life trajectories are not one of the fundamental pillars of reality and that this lifestyle full of elements that are familiar to us will disappear at some point collides with the way we have learned to interpret things. Time flies, whether we like it or not, and we are getting smaller and smaller.
Living in the present
Everything that has been said before may sound very sad, but it is only so if we understand our existence as something that depends on how long it is. Of course, thinking about the future and the past when death is near can cause pain, but … What if we focused on the present?
If we focus our attention on the unique experiences we are having at each moment, what we are experiencing ceases to be a degraded copy of our past or a beginning of the end that will come sooner or later. The trick to dealing with fear of death is therefore to stop taking the past and the future as benchmarks from which to assess things.
Either way, we can’t know the future and if we are sad or depressed we probably imagine it worse than it will be, nor do we remember the past perfectly; moreover, we are constantly reinventing it. Focusing on the present is not an illusion., Since this is the only time when we can know directly and truly. In fact, what is wrong is believing that what we know about who we are and have done is pure and perfectly true.
Mindfulness is one of the tools used to prevent relapses in times of depression, which is common when the fear of death becomes an inseparable companion in our lives.
Interesting way, this simple form of meditation is based among other things on the omission of hasty judgments about the past and the future; it is about experimenting on the spot. It allows a kind of attentional management that brings us to experience memories as they are, something that we have experienced. It kind of takes us away from the drama of the idea of death, because the further we are able to move away from our life trajectory, the less emotional impact the idea of the end has.
Acceptance in the face of death
Another factor that can be used to deal with the fear of death is to work on acceptance. Stop thinking about unrealistic expectations it helps to live much better experiences related to death.
And how often much of the psychological pain we experience is a result of comparing our interpretation of what is happening to us with what we would expect to happen to us in an ideal life. In this sense, death should be part of our plans.
In fact, this is something author Atul Gawande already points out in his book Being Mortal: Often, accepting death and forgoing very aggressive medical measures that extend life a bit is the best option in terms of well- be patient. The last moments of life pass with more serenity and well-being when death is accepted and one ceases to think that fighting for the preservation of one’s life is the priority. Believing that everything is a battle and that we are responsible for our own death it is something that can make us suffer much more.
So the question is learn not to take responsibility for impossible tasks (how to live forever) and getting used to living each moment as something precious in itself by spending time in the present in addition to having the company of loved ones and enjoying relationships that go beyond words.