Most of us try not to think too much about death. We compartmentalize, put it in the back of our minds, and go about our lives. We know it is inevitable, but we don’t want to dwell on it. Why think about that which we can’t control when there’s so much living to do?
While focusing on living as opposed to death benefits our mental health, there are some individuals who cannot avoid thinking of death. These people are not necessarily afraid of dying because they have already experienced it once before. They may have had a close encounter with death that permanently changed their outlook on life and the priorities they have. While the rest of us may not wish to focus on death, we can certainly learn from those who have been close to the other side. Here are some top life lessons people learned from near death experiences.
1. Recognize the Value in Our Existence
Too often, we take life for granted. We are used to waking up every day, rolling out of bed, and getting ready for work or school. The humdrum monotony of our little lives keeps our brains occupied. Occasionally we may contemplate our existence or even have an existential crisis, but we try to protect ourselves from the fear of the unknown by avoiding the topic of death all together.
Those who have had a close encounter with death may think differently. They were once like us, focused on the everyday experiences of living. Yet one day, they were faced with the possibility that those experiences would come to an end. This often gives the person a brand-new outlook on life and living in general. The individual may stop taking things for granted, or may focus on what’s important (i.e., relationships, family, religion, etc.). They may also be less careless or take fewer silly risks that put them in danger. In short, they begin valuing the miracle of life more than they did before the near-death experience.
2. Shatters Our Perception of Self
Experiencing a near death encounter can force an individual to go through a shock. The person may reevaluate the way they look at themselves and others they care about. Too often, we put ourselves in neat little boxes. We believe we are good at X, Y, and Z, and bad at A, B, and C. We believe internalized messages given to us from the time we were children. In fact, we limit ourselves with this way of thinking.
When we experience cancer or a car accident, we recognize that many of these beliefs are just that: beliefs. They aren’t necessarily true. We may challenge ourselves and explore new opportunities. We may relinquish our fears and gain courage to try something new. We aren’t as afraid of failure anymore because we know our worth is more than our job, our education, or our social status.
3. Fear Dissipates
Most of us avoid talking about death because we are afraid of it. When we face it, it becomes much less scary. While some individuals have had terrifying near-death experiences, others have said that dying provided a peace they never knew about. Many of these survivors lose their fear of death entirely, which allows them to set new priorities and relinquish old fears. It’s not that they want to die or do not want to survive, but that they see death or what it is: a process that occurs as a result of life. Death is no longer the unknown, but the known, which makes it much less terrifying.
4. Pick Up New Spiritual Habits
Many people who have had brushes with death claim their experience made them more religious. Atheists or agnostics may become overnight believers, shocking their friends and family. Or you may notice a survivor pursuing various religious paths that never interested them before. Again, our mundane lives and required tasks typically overtake our capacity to think of spiritual matters.
Even religious people who attend church will often get caught up in the world’s requirements. After a near-death experience, a person may reevaluate their take on God and/or religion. This can shock friends of the survivor, but it should not be that surprising. Spiritual matters become more important when one encounters the spiritual realm. It’s really that simple.
5.Grow More Authentic
Someone who faced death doesn’t have time for games or lies. This is particularly true if the individual is still sick from an illness or has a long way to go towards recovery. When we start recognizing that time is limited, we give up on trying to please others. We start asking for what we want in life and let go of emotions based in ego, such as pride or anger.
We may give up relationships or jobs that we know are bad for us, even if we held on to them for 20 years before the near-death experience. We start becoming our authentic self, or we merge our inwards with our outwards. As a result, we are much more satisfied and less anxious.
Did you or a loved one go through a near death experience? Has it impacted your mental health? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.