Social Question

seawulf575's avatar

Why do people fear death?

Asked by seawulf575 (10829points) 2 months ago

Death is the natural end to all life. It is inevitable. Why do people fear the inevitable? What is scary about it?

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50 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Because no one really knows what happens when one’s conscious being loses the corporeal. And anyone that says they do, for sure, is making it up.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Because it’s the unknown.
Then there are things leading up to death like shark attacks, hungry grizzly bears and people like Ted Bundy.
It makes dying alone in a hospital bed way more appealing.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Because lt hurts. I would like to die surrounded by loved ones holding my hand and no pain at the ripe age of 120 or more years old.
Everytime I die I have to go back to start and relive all the crap in university and relive all the pain.

SmashTheState's avatar

@zenvelo Not true. Have you taken the heroic dose? After you’ve experienced ego-death, you will understand that the conscious identity is illusory, a mask we wear to hide our true selves. Once you’ve experienced the reality that there is so much more of you still there after the ego-self is gone, you will know for an absolute certainty that (a) the conscious identity is an illusion, and (b) the loss of the ego-self means no more than the loss of a fingernail. Maybe less.

Demosthenes's avatar

I think people fear it because they don’t want to die; it’s not easy to imagine not being alive when all you’ve known is being alive. It’s also feared because death may be painful and unpleasant. And finally people fear the unknown and we don’t know what happens after we die (afterlife, etc.), if anything.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Because we are made to fear it by means of natural selection.

ucme's avatar

I blame the salmon mousse.

seawulf575's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I think you need to explain that. Animals of all sorts die all the time and don’t seem to have the fear that we humans do. Yes, they fight (or flight) to avoid dying, but they don’t seem to show the fear.

seawulf575's avatar

@ucme If it was made with frozen salmon, I think you have a real fear. If you are afraid of coming back as a salmon mousse….well…not so much.

zenvelo's avatar

@SmashTheState I am well versed in ego death and uncovering the true self. That isn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about corporeal death.

ucme's avatar

I am afraid of nowt.

JLeslie's avatar

The people who fear it have various reasons, but I think the main one is fear of the unknown.

The grandfather of a dear friend of mine feared that he was going to burn in hell forever, because he hadn’t always been the nicest person. He was terrified until his last breath.

I think most people don’t want to leave life more than they are afraid of death. If they are in enough pain or misery that begins to switch, and then leaving life start to be become a reasonable option for them.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I don’t fear death at all, that said I do fear a long pain filled dying , but actual death not at all.

Demosthenes's avatar

@JLeslie That makes me sad. The psychological damage religious conceptions of the afterlife can cause… (motivating suicide bombers, making people seek conversion therapy, list goes on).

Patty_Melt's avatar

It is the sense of loss we feel when thinking of death. We don’t want to lose kids, spouse, various opportunities. Once dead, none of that will matter, but most people just can’t grasp that the sense of loss only happens when alive.

JLeslie's avatar

@Demosthenes Most people I know who are very religious seem very at peace with the idea of dying. This one particular person it was very sad. My girlfriend was only about 19 or 20 when her grandfather was under hospice care. He was in tremendous pain from cancer. She happened to be visiting when a hospice person, maybe a doctor, was there and telling them how much morphine could kill him. There was a conversation either during that time or immediately after, I don’t remember the exact detail, and the grandfather was basically being asked if he wanted to hasten death and screamed out no, that he was terrified. He used that word terrified, I will never forget it, because I could see how it shook my friend to witness her grandfather in that state.

@Patty_Melt Exactly, that is what I meant by people don’t want to leave life.

kritiper's avatar

They fear it because it is the cessation of life and experience/awareness. There are some that think they’ll go on to better things…or not. Basically, it is the fear of not knowing what lies beyond.

SmashTheState's avatar

@JLeslie When my mother was in hospice dying, I sat with her for hours. She would struggle up from deep coma to something near consciousness, clawing at her oxygen tubes, and hoarsely whisper, “help me,” then sink back into a coma. It made the little hairs on the back of my neck prickle because I knew she was aware she was dying and was clearly terrified, and there wasn’t a thing I could do for her except be present.

After she died, I sat with her for over an hour and let her know I was there, because we know that brain scans on the recently dead show activity consistent with consciousness for up to ten minutes, and then slowly shutting down piece by piece for up to two hours. Vision is the first sense to go, hearing the last. If you are ever present when someone dies, make sure you stay with them for at least an hour and preferably two to make sure they aren’t left to deal with the most existentially terrifying moment of their entire life totally alone, knowing they are already dead.

anniereborn's avatar

@SmashTheState If t hey die in a hospital they won’t let you sit there with them for an hour or two.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Like I said death aint scary, dying is.

SmashTheState's avatar

@anniereborn The hospice where my mother died was in the hospital. They have special “dying” rooms where the patients are moved for privacy so family and friends can be there with them, and get to stay for however long people want to stay with them.

In my case, I stayed after my father and brother left, and sat while the Catholic priest came to give my mother the final blessing. (They apparently no longer do last rites.) Funny thing, the priest asked me if I was a Catholic and I told him that I’d been baptized, but I’m an atheist and I don’t go to church. His response? “So you’re a Catholic.”

JLeslie's avatar

@SmashTheState Did your mom want help to hasten death?

What you speak of is part of why nurses are so upset right now during Covid. They see people dying alone, it’s very traumatic for them. Some do their best to sit with the patient. My sister (she’s a nurse) used to sit with patients when they were dying if they were alone, I think a lot of nurses try to do it for their patients.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SmashTheState…the reality that there is so much more of you still there after the ego-self is gone…” Is it the same for a cat or a dog or a worm? If it doesn’t happen to other animals, it doesn’t happen to humans.

SmashTheState's avatar

@JLeslie My mother was a Catholic, so I don’t think she’d be comfortable hastening death; I think suicides are still banned from being buried in Catholic cemeteries.

@Dutchess_III They don’t need to, since they never had an ego-self to begin with. Julian Jaynes bicameral mind theory holds that consciousness in the sense we recognize it today is only about 4000 years old, and was invented as a way to differentiate individuals due to the movement from hunter-gatherer to agrarian society, where specialization became necessary. In fact, to this day our last names often reflect the specialized occupation of our ancestors. Jaynes points out that studies of modern stone age tribes show none of them have a first-person in their native language, suggesting they lack the same sense of individual ego-self of modern humans.

Jaynes hypothesizes that the gods took the place of the ego-self originally, speaking to us as voices from inside our heads or appearing to us in visions. He points out that stories written prior to the rise of consciousness (such as Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, the Pentateuch, and the Baghavad Gita) had the gods making constant appearances.in everyday life, and that these were intended as histories, not fictional accounts. The Westworld series is based on Jaynes’ theories, actually.

In any case, it means animals had and have no need to invent an ego-self, and so don’t need to experience its removal to understand their true nature.

JLeslie's avatar

@SmashTheState I see. I just wasn’t sure what she meant by help me. I would guess you are right that she was not suicidal. I’m glad she had you there with her.

I read an article about a woman who was on a ventilator a long time, not COVID related, and she said if it had not been for family being with her she doesn’t think she would have lived. It is different than your mom’s situation, but I think kind of the same in terms of being half in a coma and near death and knowing of someone’s presence there with you.

I think most people are more afraid of the process of dying than death. Maybe I am projecting.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I just don’t believe in any kind of superstition.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Dutchess_III None of what I wrote has anything to do with the supernatural or “superstition.” It’s all applied psychology. I recommend Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Jung’s Man and His Symbols.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You can’t apply psychology to something that has no brain.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Dutchess_III Why not? The brain-in-a-jar model of the 19th century has been largely discarded for decades. It’s not just the brain which thinks; it’s the entire nervous system plus many other organs which release glandular squeezings. It’s called the “body-mind.”

Just as a practical example, to demonstrate that this isn’t just a hypothesis, there has recently been a breakthrough in getting people with severed spinal cords to walk again. It turns out that the spinal cord itself can trigger walking behaviour without any connection to the brain, and that electrical stimulation is enough to allow some otherwise paralyzed people to walk again. The spinal cord is thinking.

Beyond that, Roger Penrose’s quantum brain theory suggests that any sufficiently complex, self-referential system produces consciousness as a side effect. The stock market, for example, shows the same kind of stochastic, mathematically chaotic heuristics that one finds in the human brain—and might therefore be conscious despite not even having a physical body, much less a brain.

Modern computer simulation has shown us the highest-scale structures of filaments of superclusters of galactic clusters, and numerous physicists have remarked on the amazing simularity in shape to human neurons. It may be that the physical laws which underlie reality itself are inherently connected to the phenomenon of thinking, and that a brain is only one way of manifesting it.

Personally, I’m partial to biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic field hypothesis in which RNA and DNA acts as a sort of antenna to tune into an energy field which contains data such as racial memory and patterns for creating life. This fits neatly into the holographic Universe theory that our three-dimensional Universe is actually a simulation originating from a two-dimensional data matrix expressed on the surface of a hypermass the same way a video game is a simulation of data expressed on the surface of a hard drive.

KNOWITALL's avatar

No fear here. This is a sick ugly world with moments of extreme beauty.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SmashTheState “Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. Psychology is a multifaceted discipline and includes many sub-fields of study such areas as human development, sports, health, clinical, social behavior and cognitive processes. An empty, b rain dead body does none of the above. Unless you’ve made up your own definition of “psychology.”

SmashTheState's avatar

@Dutchess_III “Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior…”

Did you even read what I wrote? The speed of your response and the absence of any specific objections tells me you didn’t. You will note that nowhere in that definition you quoted does it make any reference to the brain. It references “mind and behaviour.” I just spent a good bit of time explaining why “brain” and “mind” are not synonymous.

Furthermore, your original post referenced animals without a brain, not “an empty, brain-dead body.” If the human spinal cord is capable of thinking, then there’s every reason to believe a notocord (for example) can too.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The brain controls the mind and the behavior. Dead people have no behavior.

The human spinal cord is not capable of thinking. Only the brain is.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Dutchess_III All you’re doing is making demonstratably wrong axiomatic assertions at me without understanding or even reading what I’ve written. There’s no point in continuing this discussion. Some suggested reading.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You can believe what you want to believe. It’s nothing that can be tested and proven, and that makes it a superstition, albeit a fancy one.

SmashTheState's avatar

Dunning. Kruger.

And now I really am done.

mazingerz88's avatar

Some people don’t fear inevitable death but premature sometimes avoidable deaths.

SmashTheState's avatar

@mazingerz88 “One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”Kurt Vonnegut

mazingerz88's avatar

Sometimes I’m more angry than fearful that I could die at any moment and that I am definitely hurtling closer to that point especially now at middle-age where I could almost see the “finish line.”

Darth_Algar's avatar

Because all animals fear death. Humans are no different.

cookieman's avatar

Fear of the unknown (hence the belief in heaven).

Fear of horrific pain (hence the widely held desire to die peacefully in our sleep).

Fear of leaving those you love (hence life insurance, wills, the desire to photograph and document life).

seawulf575's avatar

Is the fear of death brought about by our upbringing? Do those we love put that fear into us because they fear the loss of someone they love?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@seawulf575

No, it’s completely natural. Without the fear of death there is no survival instinct.

kritiper's avatar

@Darth_Algar ^ Well said.
But it’s not the fear of death that gives animals that survival instinct, for they know nothing of death. But they do understand pain.

Patty_Melt's avatar

“they know nothing of death.”

That’s debatable.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Dutchess_III's avatar

@kritiper they instinctively know it’s something to be avoided at almost all cost.

mazingerz88's avatar

Animals know nothing of death? Not even those who saw their kind being eaten by their predators?

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III Death? They don’t have the mental capabilities to understand the concept as it applies to themselves since they (animals) have never experienced it.
( Humans can understand it without experiencing it because we understand the concept. Remember that we humans have a reasoning, conscious mind as well as a subconscious, where animals have only the subconscious, reactionary mind.)

Darth_Algar's avatar

Oh they understand it just fine. Probably better than most people. They just don’t come up with fables about what happens after.

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