Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Face death and enjoy life more

memento mori
Dare it, do it, because an unconscious tuning mechanism of the human brain will help you. This is really exciting. You do not have to take painful efforts for reaching this goal. In people facing the inevitable fact that they must die, tuning thoughts from terror to joy works automatically, according to experiments that have been performed at the Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, in Lexington.

I have missed this study when it was published back in November, but thanks to the improved search strategy that is part of my 2008 blogging intentions, I have found it at last. It is never too late.

Fear of death completely different from fear of pain

In the Kentucky study, subjects have undergone three experiments. In two experiments, the accessibility of positive information has been measured. The third experiment was a word similarity test where subjects had to group words according to their meanings. This test can be used to assess whether a person is tuned to more positive or more negative emotions.

Prior to the tests, the subjects have been instructed, based on detailed information, to think about death or about dental pain.

In all three tests, the subjects exposed to death thoughts have been tuned more to positive emotions than those exposed to dental pain thoughts. This reaction has been detected immediately after the exposure to thoughts, but it also worked after a delay. Concluding from interviews with the participants, this reaction works on an unconscious level and is not a result of an effort.

Death denial is the wrong way of coping

In the light of this study, both religious denial of death by believing in an afterlife and suppression of death thoughts in a Freudian sense are bad ways of coping with the inevitable and ultimate fact of death.

A weak afterlife belief is not really a source of comfort, and a strong one is a source of suicide bombing. And suppressed thoughts, according to Freud, are a source of mental disorder.

In contrast, there is much reward in freethinking. Our life is so precious, so valuable and so beautiful because we have this one and only and limited life. The more limited, the higher the value. This is a fundamental law of economics. So let's enjoy every moment of it.

Suggested reading: Truly Alive, a site about "facing death in the prime of life" with many useful ideas and suggestions that are compatible with freethinking.

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