Musings on the Term “Death Wish”

“It’s a good day to die.” If you read that statement or hear those words uttered, what impact does it have on your emotional state? Do you worry for the person who says it? Does this indicate a lack of mental health? Or could it simply mean the person who understands that phrase lives a life without fear of what comes next?

Is it wrong to have a “death wish?”

A glance at the dictionary doesn’t lend a favorable or positive result. You’ll see terms thrown around like “mental illness,” “callous disregard of one’s well being,” “suicidal,” and “depression.” This most likely comes from a fear of death rather than negative associations with someone professing a death wish. This is understandable, since most love life and have no desire to leave the world behind. That’s a good thing. Humans are creatures with an interest in self preservation. Without that I’d question someone’s sanity.

What if a “death wish” signals no fear of death?

Death is inevitable for all humans. Despite our advances in technology and work towards preservation of life we will all one day perish. I don’t state this to sound morbid. I examine this as a way of asking why we worry about or fear something that’s going to happen but hasn’t happened yet. Fear is natural, but it can be controlled.

Psychologist Paul Ekman once characterized fear as an internal response to external stimuli. If, Ekman noted, you drive your car into a guard rail during a rainy night while attempting a turn you might notice yourself tense up and begin to sweat, see your pulse race, and your breathing quicken. That’s fear in a nutshell. Once you recognize this you can be mindful of the situations in which you experience fear and develop new methods of beating these fears.

How would you respond to imminent death?

It’s easy enough to tell yourself or others you don’t fear death. If you face the potential of dying, would you act differently? Would you beg and plead for your life? Would you go through the time tested stages of grief? Or would you shrug, knowing there’s no need to fear an inevitability? If you fear death, why does it scare you?

Are you afraid you didn’t accomplish enough?

This isn’t surprising. Many harbor deep seated beliefs they didn’t do enough or weren’t accomplished in their lives. These are suggestions of a mindset that includes “fail,” “wrong,” and “hurt.” If you believe in yourself and regularly engage in positive self talk this won’t be as much of an issue for you.

Are you afraid of what will happen to your loved ones?

This is also a common fear, and not entirely unfounded. Final expenses are steep, and no preparation or advance planning will definitely cause an impact. If you don’t have a will it’s going to cause problems and potentially start an estate fight. On the other hand, our species is remarkably resilient despite all the dumb stuff you read about in the news daily. Most likely your friends and family will carry on just fine if you pass. There will be grief, and they will be sad, but life will go on.

Are you scared of potential pain from dying?

Have you actually experienced a close call with death? If the answer to that question is “no” then you are expressing a fear of something you don’t even know will happen. Why worry over pain anyway? If you’re reading this and haven’t lived in a bubble all your life you’ve most likely experienced pain and gotten past it. There’s no need to fear pain.

There’s other justifications people use when describing a fear of death. Most all revolve around a lack of information or concern over something in the future. Take time to live in the present day, see the world in a positive light, and you won’t fear death. When your time comes, you’ll reflect on life and say “It’s been a great ride.”

If today you’ve lived life how you wanted and are happy, then today is a good day to die indeed. Don’t fear death, embrace a love of life.

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