How we sacrifice our lives to our unconscious anxiety of dying
Do you know this quote from Norman Cousins ?
„Death is not the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
I would even say that the greatest loss in life are the things, we let die inside us while we live. Is not that a paradox? Our anxiety and fear of dying is so big, that we do not even notice, that we already produce what we fear so much in our lives. We sacrifice our lives on the altar of anxiety and thus become the living dead – zombies – trying not to take any risk. Otherwise, we could really die. But where is the difference between living dead and really dead? Have you asked yourself this question before?
And so we create ourselves a life of mediocrity and with a lot of loopholes. And the system – our current culture – is drawing as much benefit and profit as possible from this fact. A large part of our economy and our social systems are built on this unconscious anxiety. The insurance industry, the bank system, the real estate industry, but also our labor market and the system of dependent work between employer and employee just work on this struggle for survival – to name just a few examples. Living dead people can be just much easier be controlled and manipulated – either by advertising or by politics.
What are the things we let die in us? During our school days there are a lot of things, that die, because our school system is not designed to produce creative and independent thinking, unique people. At this time we are already trained on survival in an environment of competition and judgement. The fear of dying is always at our side – but unconsciously. Because if you do not have good grades, you don’t get a degree and then you don’t get a job, you’ll have no money and thus end under a bridge. And from there it is only a small step into … nothingness. So we let our creativity die, our light-heartedness, our uniqueness, and our courage, to ask WHY …
After school and study it goes on and it ‘s all about getting a good job. ‘Good’ in this game means a safe job and well paid, including all benefits. Good does not mean that this job has anything to do with our talents, our passion or our calling. If the work halfway lines up with our talents, it is a blessing, but this factor is not in the first place. The fear of dying is always at our side – but unconsciously. After all, we have to pay our rent and feed our family. And if you do not have a safe, well paid job, you eventually run out of money and will end under a bridge – along with your family. And from there it is only a small step into … nothingness. So we let our vision and our enthusiasm die, our calling, our desire for adventure and our curiosity and pass our authority to our boss or Uncle Sam.
In my coaching practice, I work out with my clients, what their true calling is. Together we create a clear vision of what they really want to bring into this world and due to their given talents would also be able to do. At the end of the coaching we have even a clear plan on how they can implement their vision step by step. But despite of this clarity and the desire to follow this vision, many of my clients prefer to stay in their safe comfort zone, because the unconscious fear of dying is so much bigger.
„Fight and you may die.
Run and you’ll live. At least a while.
And dying in your bed, many years from now, would you not be willing tho trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance to come back and stand here …“ Braveheart, 20th Century Fox
And to be able to endure all this inner dying, we also need to let our feelings die. We become numb – the living dead. Otherwise, the pain of all the dying would overwhelm us. Our homes – bought or rented – become prisons and graves. All the things that we buy, to feel safe begin to possess us, because they absorb our attention, our time and our money. We are working not out of enthusiasm or to provide our unique contribution to something bigger than ourselves, but only in order to survive.
At the same time, we no longer perceive what is dying around us. The numbness that we have created in regard of ourselves, makes us deaf to the dying that is actually going on on planet earth. A fact that on the long run can be a real threat and produce a real struggle for survival for all of us.
What’s really missing, is our willingness to die. We waste all our energy on getting a feeling of safety, not noticing that we are chasing an illusion. It’s even worse: we sell our souls to this illusion. Death is an inevitable part of life. We will die – sooner or later. So, why not use the time to make a difference? In most indigenous cultures, there is a rite of passage into adulthood, where the young people really put their lives at risk. They spend for example one week alone in the wilderness, without food or extra clothes. They make the experience how it is, to act with death as a constant and natural companion of life. This is what it means to be adult. If they make it and come back to their village, they are asked which contribution they will provide for the community and are welcomed as adult human beings.
In our modern western culture, we don’t have this experience. We do not have the experience that, despite of fear and the danger of dying, we are able to live our full potential and to follow our unique vision. As we don’t have this experience, we just do not believe that it is possible. But we can change, what we believe. We can make new experiences. There are already a lot of people, who have done that.
This – in the first step – only requires a decision. If we really want to live our full potential, our vocation, a deep and intense relationship, 100% vitality and a life full of meaningfulness and enthusiasm, we need to make this decision. Are you really willing to die?
- What did you let die in you, since you are in the world?
- What are you denying right now by pretending that you are dead?
- What could you do, if you really would be willing to die?
- Imagine yourself at the age of 80, 90 or 100 years, lying on your deathbed – which things in your life would you really regret that you have not done them?
- What do you think, has to happen, before you begin living your full potential?