The irrationality of fear

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! [Franklin D. Roosevelt]

The fear of death, which I acknowledge as being a wholly normal and natural human condition, is nonetheless irrational for most of us in 2020. In the modern world, the vast majority of us are relatively safe from detrimental harm whereas our survival instinct was once primal and based on a reasonable fear of death in the wild west of prehistory. Fear kept us alive!

Like a clock on the wall, ticking out the seconds of your life, the brain which you use to reach the conclusion that you are afraid of death (and the infinite nature of the void after your death) is the same brain that stops ‘ticking’ the instant you take your last breath.

Conversely, it is altogether rational to fear the actual process of dying because your brain is still conscious of your existence while you are dying. But, it is equally irrational to fear something of which you will not be consciously aware after it has already happened.

You didn’t think, ‘Oh look, I’m about to be born!’ Similarly, you will never catch yourself saying, ‘Oh look, I’m dead!’

Consciousness is a function of the brain and facilitates awareness of our existence but only while there is oxygen available to feed it i.e. it can only operate while we are alive and breathing air. The conscious mind wasn’t aware before we were born. It is reasonable to postulate that it won’t be after we are dead either.

‘Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care’. [Macbeth, William Shakespeare]

Sleep is analogous to death. We often have difficulty falling asleep and can become very stressed and anxious around bedtime, fearing that sleep will not come. However, once we actually fall asleep we are no longer aware that we had any difficulty getting there. The conscious functionality of our mind switches off, the subconscious cogs kick in and the stresses and anxieties of the day are all but forgotten while we sleep. Whether they re-emerge the following day has a lot to do with how efficiently the brain repairs itself overnight. Certainly, a good night’s sleep has been shown to optimise the repair work but other factors may play a part in the healing equation.

So, by all means, admit you are afraid of the process of dying but – do not be afraid of actually being dead. When you get there you won’t actually be aware of it. The fear is irrational and almost certainly holding you back from reaching your full potential in life – just as the three monotheistic religions have done to humanity for centuries and continue to wilfully do to this day!

Religious institutions knowingly rely on the fear of death to keep their faithful coming back for further forgiveness, consolation and hope but, for their deceit – and a host of other crimes against humanity – all religions of the world must be wholeheartedly and perpetually condemned. I’ll get back to that – soon…

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