Fear of Death
Photo of Will Ross


With Will Ross


Overcoming the Fear of Death

Think of a light bulb. You flick a switch and the light goes on. You flick the switch again and the light disappears. You flick it one more time and the light returns. Where did the light go in the meantime?

Obviously it didn't go anywhere; it ceased to exist. Light is emitted from a light bulb when an electric current is directed through the filament. When there is no electrical stimulation of the filament, there is no light. No stimulation = no light.

The brain is analogous to the light bulb. You have a thought when you stimulate certain neurons (brain cells). A small electro-chemical charge flows from one group of neurons to another group resulting in the personal experience of a thought or memory. If those brain cells are not stimulated, you don't have the thought. No stimulation = no thought.

Your brain is constantly being stimulated in one area or another. When the same area is stimulated over and over, you have the same experience over and over. If a different part of your brain is stimulated, you have a different experience.

When you deliberately force yourself to remember something, say when you got up this morning, you trigger an electro-chemical flow that stimulates a group of neurons in your brain. You experience this stimulation as a memory of your actions this morning. When you change the thought, say to one of the last time you had a drink, you stimulate a different set of neurons and the first group takes a rest. Your memory of the morning hasn't gone anywhere, it ceases to exist but it can come back to life by your restimulating the correct neurons.

I have used the example of memory, but the same applies to all experiences: seeing, smelling tasting, feeling, imagining, etc. All are brought on by the stimulation of neurons.

When you die, the neurons in your brain cannot be stimulated so you are unable to experience any thoughts (or other sensory perceptions). Your thoughts don't go anywhere, they cease to exist. Remember that no stimulation = no thoughts.

Imagine lying on your bed listening to your favourite piece of music. You are so absorbed in the music that you are totally unaware of your surroundings. As you listen to the music, you forget about all your worries, and all your fears. You're even unaware of your own body; all sensation is gone. You forget about the time; you don't even know if it's day or night. Nothing else matters, except the music.

Does this sound like a frightening experience? The answer is probably no. Well that is exactly what death is like - except without the music. You need not be afraid of death. It is painless and worry-free.

You could do worse than to recall the words of Epicurus: "Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?"

The implication of this is that you can't perceive what is going on around you once you are dead. In other words, there is no such thing as life after death. When you are dead, you are dead. So enjoy this life as much as you can, it's the only one that you're going to have. To waste your life is the closest thing there is to a sin.

Printer Friendly Version here

Will Answers Your Questions:
Ask Will a question or read his answers to other readers' questions.
Private Consultation:
Talk to Will by phone. No matter where you are in the world, you can have a private consultation with Will to discuss your personal development.