On Dying And Imaginary Traumas

I listen to the You Make It Weird podcast with Pete Holmes and while I really find it fascinating, it’s SUPER Not Safe For Work Or Children. He does long-form interviews – mostly with comedians – but sometimes with spiritual leaders and scientists as well. The name of the podcast is because he has really personal/uncomfortable conversations with people. He’s a comedian by trade, so he’s also funny, but every guest has to answer tough questions about their belief in god and an afterlife and drugs (he’s open about his use) and there is A LOT OF TALK ABOUT SEX. Like, A LOT. Some interviews more so than others. So, DO NOT LISTEN WITH YOUR KIDS IN THE CAR.

Anyway – I’m not sure if he’s everyone’s cup of tea or not – but I really like how wide ranging his interview answers can be and it often gets me thinking about how I fall on the spectrum of Things People Believe.

I told my therapists once that one of my super-powers is Empathy – which I think is why I’m able to let go of grudges really easily. However, I have a hard time with understanding other people’s concepts and beliefs of an afterlife. It’s funny, I can find myself understanding why someone might cheat on their spouse or embezzle funds from their company or want to vote for Trump. (That’s not a joke, I actually can understand it. I don’t agree with it. But I understand it.) But put me with someone who believes in Heaven or fears death and I really struggle connecting.

Granted – I’ve never been dying, so maybe if I got a terminal diagnosis of some sort it would be different. But, I do not fear death on any level. I fear pain, I fear, FEAR. So I don’t want to suffer painfully or be scared up to the moment of death, but death itself? I’m more like, “Thank god. At some point in time I can finally stop worrying.”

My therapist says that’s really common for the anxious atheist. She says anxious religious people tend to go the other direction and death becomes one of their anxieties, but for the atheist? She says it’s common for them not to fear death and too look at it as finally getting a break.

(I felt the need to add that last paragraph in case you think “I don’t fear death” is a scary statement. It’s not! I promise! My therapist says so! It’s not being suicidal! No matter how bad it sounds!)

My Dad went into death so peacefully and so unafraid, I think it was a great final lesson to give me. And the idea of an afterlife actually FREAKS ME OUT. I know that the various religious teachings don’t say that you’ll be the SAME person you are now, but the idea of continue forever to worry about the people still alive that I love seems TERRIBLE and if I’m not worrying about them, then I’m not really ME am I? Nope. I have a hard time relating to the idea that Heaven is something people look forward to. I really do. The idea of spiritual immortality FREAKS ME OUT and it’s like the one part of religion I just can not understand how people like it. Maybe I just can’t understand how a “me” without my anxieties is still “me” but I have no desire to live forever in any form.

Some of the interviews people talk about hoping there’s a “cure for death” in their lifetime so they can live forever. I’m like, “NO WAY. DO NOT SIGN ME UP FOR THAT SHIT.”

It’s just strange. I can totally understand transubstantiation in the Catholic church and fasting for the Islamic Ramadan or for the Jewish Yom Kippur. I can totally understand monotheism and polytheism in various degrees. Earthly beliefs from most religions traditions I can usually get behind. But once death arrives? The rest I just can’t relate to and it doesn’t seem appealing to me in the slightest. When Pete asks people about the afterlife and they say, “There has to be something, right?” I’m like, “Please, No.”

I blame a lot of my practical anxieties on the occurrence of vivid dreams/nightmares that cause traumas. I’ve had more Death By Car Wreck nightmares in my life than one human should have to have and they’re vivid and terrifying and I often blame them for my intense driving anxieties. But I also – weirdly – feel like they’re also responsible for my lack of fear of death. I’ve had dozens and dozens of car wreck dreams/nightmares where I’m plummeting off a bridge or a cliff or plowing towards a head-on collision and in my dream, I know death is coming, and I don’t fear it. It’s a very weird sensation. I always wake up feeling strange from those dreams/nightmares. The fear the moment before the crash is always gone and I just settle in like, “Alrighty then. Here we go.”

Those dreams have increased my fears of driving because I’m constantly having flashbacks to terrible wrecks I never actually had, but they have eliminated any fear of death I might have had.

The mind is a very weird thing, don’t you agree?

4 Comments

  • Jessy

    I have similar dreams. Every time I think, “oh so this is what it is like to die,” but I am calm. I don’t fear death either. The possibility of slowing dying, yes, but not actually being dead.

  • Beth

    I do believe in Heaven and God do not believe that it has to be earned. I have a hard time believing in Satan and in Hell.I also believe that in Heaven our pain is gone. Both physical and mental pain. I also believe in Angels and Guardian Angels (mine is busy all the time) I am not at all afraid of death, but don’t want the process to be long. My beliefs do not match others or the tenets of my particular denomination, but they don’t have to.

  • EJ

    Thank you! I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, “If there’s an afterlife, there better be an opt-out clause. I am NOT living forever!” I would much rather my energy/matter disperse and re-join the stardust.
    Also, thank you Zoot’s therapist, from another anxious non-believer. As someone with depression, it is VERY reassuring to know my view of death is not uncommon. šŸ™‚